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May 21, 2005
French Riviera

Two years had flown by and we were taking our final trip in Europe, so it had to be somewhere great. Since Barbie and I had always wanted to go to the French Riviera, aka Cote d'Azur, it was the most obvious choice. We took the early morning flight out on Wednesday (May 5th) to Nice, France, and then took a bus to Monaco. Monaco is a small country on the French coastline, and when I say small, I am talking about 300 acres or so. It is the second smallest country next to the Vatican in Italy. Anyways, Monaco is basically known for two things...Monte Carlo and if you are into car racing, the Monaco Grand Prix. Unfortunately, we were about a week to early for the Grand Prix, but we got to see them setting everything up. Wednesday morning we took a quick nap, and then went to lunch at Cafe Paris next to the Casino in Monte Carlo where Barbie was able to get her beloved Tarte aux fraise, which is a strawberry pastry for all you non-French speakers. Afterwards, we basically just walked around here and there seeing half of the entire country of Monaco in one afternoon, and ended up having a drink on the beach before dinner. We had planned on going to the Casino that night, and we thought I would need a tux (which I had brought), but someone told us that would be overkill, so we had to go and buy me a jacket, shirt and tie instead at a local shop. The outfit ended up being pretty sweet, so needless to say I was happy with the unexpected purchase opportunity.

That evening we went back to Cafe Paris for dinner and then to the Casino. Unfornutely the Casino was basically empty, and only offered Baccarat, which I don't know how to play, BlackJack and Roulette, both of which I do know. So we took our seat at the Roulette table, and after about 30 minutes we were up 5 euros, so we decided to cash out and head to another casino that had craps. This new casino was a little more lively, but only had 10 euro craps, so we didn't last long there before we hit our limit for the night. Either way, it was a good time and worth it.

The next morning we went for another walk towards the other side of Monaco around the boat docks to check out all the multimillion dollar yachts that had driven in for the Grand Prix the next week. One of these days it would be nice to be able to afford one of these boats, but for now I am just happy on any boat. Perhaps we can settle for an in between solution in the future and charter one of the boats with about 8 other people and cruise up and down the French Riviera...any takers?
Thursday afternoon we took the train back to Nice and immediately went to our hotel and checked in. After getting checked in, we went for a nice walk along the beach, followed by dinner and getting lost. It took about an hour to find our way back to the hotel, when it should have taken only 15 minutes! The reason is because our hotel was on a street called Gounod, which apparantely changes names about 2 blocks from the beach. Therefore, when we walked by and saw a street called Meringerbeer, how were we supposed to know it was actually Gounod? This seems to happen in a lot of cities, especially San Francisco. My question is why would a city planner do something like this? There is no logic behind it other than to mess with the tourists. So, if any of you have any thoughts on the logic behind this, let me know.

Well, back to the Nice story. Saturday morning rolled around, and we headed off to Cannes. For those that live under a rock, this is where the famous film festival is held every year (again a week after we leave!). This year it was location for the Star Wars premiere...so that would have been cool to see. Well, other than that, Cannes seemed to offer more beach than Monaco and Nice, but it really didn't seem to fit us. Perhaps that is because it was quite hot, and everything was about 3 times more expensive than it should be...and that says a lot when travelling with Barbie. :) We ended only spending the morning and afternoon in Cannes, and headed back to Nice for the evening. We decided on a somewhat early dinner since we were scuba diving the next morning, so not much to tell here. :)

Sunday morning we were up early and at the dive shop by 9am...yes, early takes on a different meaning when on vacation. We ended up doing one dive, and other than seeing an octupus and eel, it wasn't the most exciting dive I have ever had. It was the first time I have had to wear a thick wetsuit and hood, but that is what happens when you have only dove in Miami, Hawaii and Barbados. After the dive, we decided to walk back along the beach to our hotel, and I must say it was a gorgeous day. I have never seen water that blue in my life! It was just one of those things that you have to be there to appreciate. Of course, it would help if I had a picture to show you, but I am about to tell why that is not possible. After lunch, we took a tour ride on the 'Petite Train' which drives around old Nice, and up to the top of a hill where you can get a good view of the city. At the top of the hill I took a great pic of Barbie, then we got back in the train, went down the hill (about 10 minutes total time), and got off and walked to our hotel. I don't remember getting off the train with the camera, and neither does Barbie, so somewhere b/t taking a picture of Barbie on top of the hill, and getting off the train, our camera became lost. There was no where to put the camera down and leave it, so I don't think I left it anywhere. I think someone stole it, but I am taking the blame for it being lost. The hard part is that it had all of our Berlin pictures and the pictures from this trip on it. The camera you can replace, but not the pics of our last two trips in Europe. :( Needless to say the rest of the afternoon and evening was kind of a downer, but that is life.

Monday was beech day! Actually Nice doesn't have beeches with sand, but instead they are all covered in rocks, so you have a lot of private area with lounge chairs, umbrellas and of course some sort of bar and food. Another thing is that women are allowed to go topless. Barbie has become completely comfortable with this whole topless thing in the appropriate situation...so she was more than happy to get a tan with no tan lines. Well, there is not much more to say about beech day, other than we sat there and read and drank and ate while letting sun cause all sorts of wonderful cancer at the same time while darkening our skin. Barbie did make a good point about how times have changed though. Back in the day, someone with a tan meant you were a laborer b/c you had to be outside working all the time. Now, someone with a tan means you are wealthy enough to go outside and catch a tan while everyone else has to stay indoors and work.

Tuesday morning we headed back to good old Munich, thus ending our European travels for the time being. It's been a great ride though and I am amazed when I look at all the magnets I have collected from the various cities around Europe, and to think this all happened within a two year timeframe. Hopefully we can continue to travel in the USA, but of course with the price of housing in the Bay Area, that may not be a reality for a while.

Posted by Don at 05:04 PM
May 12, 2005
Berlin

Hi all, sorry for the delay in posts, but we've doing a ton of travelling, mixed together with catching up on work and trying to get things ready for our move back to the States. Anyways, here is our Berlin trip.

We arrived in Berlin on Saturday, April 30th, in the morning. Now, just to let you know, this trip was planned by me, which meant I was on the hook for finding flights, hotels, things to do, basically everything that Barbie thrives on doing normally...and I might add, does very well! So to make sure everything was perfect, we stayed at the Swissotel. This place was top notch, the only downside being we couldn't check in early. Therefore, we dropped our bags off and headed out to lunch. The first thing we noticed about Berlin was that people just dressed differently, and the average age seemed to be about late teens or early twenties. When you think of a person from Germany who dresses kinda funky (excluding ledhosen), this is what we were seeing. After lunch, and still not being able to check in, we headed to the Berlin Zoo. I don't remember, and neither did Barbie, the last time that either one of us had been to a Zoo. We saw all sorts of animals (elephants, bears, tigers, panthers, bobcats, chimps, gorillas, snakes, fish, etc.), but the coolest had to be the White Wolves and the Polar Bears. The wolves just looked like bigger versions of Kymba, and the Polar Bears are just sweet. They look innocent and fun, but are basically one of the meanest animals out there.

After the zoo, we headed back to the hotel and finally got checked in. Of course, it was then time for the standard afternoon nap...which is a must on vacations. After that, we headed to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, which is a museum dedicated to all those people who tried to escape East Berlin, or Communist controlled countries for that matter. The museum is located next to one of the famous checkpoints that separated the American side and East Berlin. A lot of history is in this museum, and it was actually opened while the wall was still up, and used as a headquarters for planning escapes. As you can tell, we had had a long day, and it was time for some dinner. We headed down the street to Bocca di Bacco, which is an Italian restaurant. Well, I ended up getting a Thuna Steak, and Barbie got a Filet, but thanks to the fact that Barbie wasn't that hungry, I ended up getting both for a great Surf and Turf meal! Ah...the joys of having a wife, although my weight scale and triathlon training are not to appreciative. :)

Sunday we awoke to another beautiful sunny day, and decided to do the City-Circle Bus Tour, which is basically one of those sightseeing tours on a bus where you can get on and off all day. The tour was cool with lots of info., and we got off here and there, but the best and most interesting stop was definitely the Brandenburger Tor (aka. The Brandenburg Gate). The gate itself is impressive, and represents the split in Berlin as the westerners could see it, but couldn't get to it b/c it was on the East Side. What made this place extra cool was an exhibit that showed pictures with great descriptions from the WW II. First it showed pictures of 4 cities that the Germans had absolutely leveled during the war, then it proceeded to show how Hitler came to power, and then it showed what Berlin looked like after the Allies had bombed it. I think it was something like only 15% of the buildings remained standing after the bombing. Anyways, the exhibit finished by showing the original 4 cities that had been bombed, and what they look like today, and how they have rebuilt. The exhibit was outside, so everyone could see it, but it was nice to see that it wasn't trying to just show you how badly Berlin was damaged, but instead showed you why Berlin had to be destroyed, ie. by showing the 4 other cities completely demolished.

After seeing all the sights, including a small portion of what still exists from the original Berlin Wall, we headed to Potsdamer Platz to catch a movie. I know most of you would say why see a movie while vacationing, but let's be honest, you get tired and don't want to see anything anymore, and a movie is a great way to relax without feeling cooped up in a hotel room. We ended up seeing "<a href="http://www.theinterpretermovie.com/" target="_blank"The Interpretor", which happened to fairly good. Finally, after all of this we had dinner and headed back to the hotel to call it a night, and Monday morning we flew back to Munich. All in all a cool city to see with tons of history, but I still prefer to live Munich.

I am sad to say we have no pictures from Berlin, as I lost our camera on our trip to Nice this past weekend before we had downloaded the pictures.

Posted by Don at 02:02 PM
April 27, 2005
Luxor, Egypt

So, just a couple of days after arriving back from Miami, Barbie and I headed to Luxor in Egypt (April 15th). Barbie was there to give a presentation for work, and I was there to site see. :) Well, if there was a direct flight from Munich to Luxor, the total travel time would be about 4 hours. Unfortunately, we had to go through Frankfurt, then Cairo, then finally Luxor. And to top things off, we had a 4 hour layover in Cairo, that was extended an additional 4 hours for a total of 8 for some unknown reason. The Egypt Air employee just came out and said our plane was delayed, then left with no explanation. Anyways, to make a long story short, we got up at about 4:30am to catch a 7am flight to Frankfurt, and didn't arrive into Luxor until Midnight!

Luckily for us, that was the worst of the trip. For those that know Vegas, you know that the Luxor Hotel is in the shape of a pyramid. Funny thing about that is that there are no pyramids in Luxor. All the pyramids are up in Giza, which is a town outside of Cairo. Back in the day, the Egyptians were tired of having looters raid the pyramids for treasure, so they decided to have tombs hidden in the mountains in Luxor. Unfortunately all the tombs except one were still found and looted, but at least they figured out that they shouldn't build pyramids which basically say "Hey thieves and looters, all of our treasure is hidden here!"

So, Saturday morning we all went to the "Valley of the Kings", which is where all the king's tombs are. As I mentioned before, only one tomb was not looted, and this was the infamous King Tut's tomb. King Tut died unexpectedly at an early age, probably early 20's, so his tomb wasn't finished being built. Therefore, they had to quickly (within 40 days) build another smaller one and ended up just shoving all his treasure in there. Since the tomb was so small, another king later on accidentally ended up building his tomb on top of King Tut's, and thus why King Tut's tomb took until the 1920's to be found. Anyways, his body was still there in the large casket looking thing (I forget the name of it), but the original head piece is actually in a museum in Cairo.
After King Tut's tomb, we went into the Tomb of Ramses IV. This was an extremely larger tomb than King Tut's, and the walls we completely decorated with all sorts of heiroglyphics. Amazingly enough, the heiroglyphics all still had their color...red, blue, green, etc., and it didn't even look that faded. Scientists are still in the process of trying to figure out what chemicals the Egyptians used to have the paint last for 7000+ years!
After the Valley of the Kings, we drove to an old temple on the other side of the mountain, which actually had a tunnel that went through the mountain so they could transport the King's bodies through the tunnel to the tombs on the other side. Not quite as cool as the tombs, but still interesting.

We ended up getting back to the hotel around 1pm, and they began their meetings. I was actually required to attend the meetings in the beginning, b/c they had bought a birthday cake for Barbie, and they wanted me there. I must say the cake was gooooood! After the short intro, I ended up going back up to the room and relaxing since I was fighting a cold. That evening they had all of us go to a small island on the Nile for a dinner with some festivities...including belly dancers, a band, some other dancers, and this guy who spins/twirls. However, the highlight of the night was in the beginning. We were sitting at our table, and someone decided to bet on when this guy named Mark would first get on the floor and dance. So everyone threw in some money and put their times on the paper. Barbie, being the last person, saw that the current time was about 8:45pm, and the earliest guess was 9:15pm. So, being the "Price is Right" fan that she is, she put 9:14pm. At about 9pm, this guy Mark comes to our table to see how everyone is doing, and Barbie nonchalantly asks "So Mark, when are you going to dance?" Mark, not being the bashful type, says "Why don't we go now!" Of course Barbie stood right up, went to the dance floor for a little while, then came back and promptly collected her winnings. Needless to say our entire table was shocked and stunned, especially b/c this was the ethics lady of the company! I must say I was proud. :)

The next day we went to the Karnak temple, which is the largest temple in Luxor, and is also about 7500 years old. The heiroglyphics on the pillars and obelisks were again quite impressive, and in some cases you could still the color that they were. The thing that is most amazing is that when you are walking around, you have to imagine seeing all of this built up, and being someone that had to come and meet the Pharoah. You must have just been awe struck by the size of this place. Remember, this all before the Romans and of course Christ. That night we actually headed back to the Karnak temple for a "light" show, where they explain some things and light up the pillars in Obelisks, not with lasers, but with flood lights. Overall it was just cool to see.

Monday morning we headed back to Munich for some much needed rest, as Barbie had caught my cold, and I wasn't 100% healthy yet. Luckily for us we didn't have any plane delays this time. We actually tried to stay in Cairo for a night so I could see the museum and Pyramids, but the plane schedule didn't work out. Egypt is definitely very interesting to see, but not sure I would want to live there, as you have to go through metal detectors and bomb searches everywhere you go, plus it gets to be about 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Remember though, it's not the heat that kills you, it's the humidity...and Egypt is quite dry. :)

Pictures from Luxor

Posted by Don at 12:03 PM
March 29, 2005
What's up with Germans lately

Apparantely I have been doing something wrong as of late, b/c I seem to keep upsetting the Germans.

Case #1: The Shower Incidents
For those that have been to our place, you know that we have a great pool, sauna and shower indoors for the entire complex to use, and you also know that the show is a thousand times better than ours. For those that didn't know...now you know. :) Well, there is the clock that you are supposed to put on the door when entering this area, and it tells the time you are going to be finished using the facilities. So, the other morning, I got down there, and set the clock to 9:30 (little hand on the 9, big hand on the 6). As I'm showering, I hear a voice outside the door! What the heck, I had only been in there for 5-10 minutes, what was going on. I quickly grabbed my towel before the lady opened the door. She proceed to tell me (in German), that my time was up, as the clock outside said I was to be done at 8:30 and not 9:30. Needless to say I was still shocked that she was there, plus I was only in a towel. I told her I would be done shortly, and she said "Guten Bad" (have a good bath), and proceeded to wait outside the door until I was done. As I left, I checked the clock, and the little hand was definitely on the 9, and the big hand on the 6. Apparantely she wanted precise measure like a real clock, therefore the little hand slightly past the 9.

The second shower incident came a couple mornings later. Again, I set the clock (exact this time), and proceeded to the shower room. The only difference was I did not turn on the light in the pool area b/c I wasn't using it, so might as well save electricity. Well, I finish my shower and proceed to leave, and another lady is just coming in through the door. She goes on to tell me she thought the area wasn't being used b/c the light in the pool area wasn't on. What the heck, the clock was on the door outside and was unlocked...meaning someone set the clock and unlocked the door. Apparantely I must have missed the home owners meeting when all of the rules were covered. The funny part is, both ladies thought it was my fault, and felt they were completely justified to come in and take a peek...which is only allowed by Barbie. :)

Case #2: The Buses
Here's how it works in Germany...a Bus puts their right blinker on when they are stopping to pick someone up, and their left blinker when they are done and are going to continue going straight. Well, when the right blinker is on, you are allowed to pass, when the left blinker is on, the Bus has the right of way. When I say right of way, I mean RIGHT OF WAY! Two times within the past couple of weeks, I have started to pass a bus (bus' right blinker was on), and as soon as I am about a quarter of the way through passing, the bus flicks his left blinker on and guns it to try and cut me off. There is absolutely no let's wait and let the cars that are already passing go by before the Bus starts. The first time it happened I had to slam on my brakes before going directly into the side of the bus. The second time there wasn't anyone in the oncoming lane, so I veered over there to continue the pass. Of course the bus driver was pissed about this, probably thinking to himself "I am King of Road, No one pass me!" (broken English). Therefore, he actually gunned it even more, coming all the way into the oncoming lane to try and cut me off! Luckily I made it, and he proceeded to start flashing me with his brights. Somehow I think these guys feel that if they get passed it will cause them to show up at their next bus stop at 8:53 instead of 8:52, and we all know how much the Germans like to be punctual. :)

Posted by Don at 11:06 AM
March 25, 2005
Die Toten Hosen

So, in case you are a big music fan, and are curious who is #1 Rock Band in Europe...well...it is the "Die Toten Hosen," which translates as "The Dead Pants." They seem to be the Metallica of the U.S., and actually have their own show on MTV where they follow them around on their concert tour. Unfortunately it is all in German, so I only catch bits and pieces of what they are saying. Either way, consider yourself informed, and who knows, maybe they'll be popular in the States one day as some of their songs are in English.

Posted by Don at 10:22 AM
March 21, 2005
Finally went skiing

We finally went skiing in the Alps, and it only took us 2 years to do it! It was both Kristen and mine's first time, so there was bound to be plenty of sore muscles and butts afterwards. We arrived on Thursday night, with plans to ski on both Friday and Saturday. Thanks to the advice from a friend, we ended up going to Hochfuegen for our skiing adventure, and of course thanks to Barbie for finding a great hotel right at the bottom of slopes 9 and 9a (see link above). We could literally ski down to the lifts from target="_blank">right outside our hotel!

Anways, Friday morning came bright and early, and we all bundled up for what we expected to be a somewhat cold day of skiing. However, the sun was out and by lunch we were skiing (or at least trying to) in our t-shirts. Well, I was in a T-Shirt, and Kristen wore overalls. :) As you can tell from the picture, Kristen had a rougher time than I did learning the whole skiing thing, but after our lessons, she was "snow plowing" her way down the mountain with no problems. For me, it took a little less time, and once I figured out to turn and stop, I was looking for the higher lifts. My strategy was simple...make sharp turns that my speed stayed slow...thus preventing any major accidents. After a while I was flying down the mountain...not really, but the picture is cool so I had to work it into the story somehow.

After our long day of skiing we headed back to the hotel and got some dinner with the plans to ski Saturday until about 1pm, and head out early to beat the traffic. Unfortunately, mother nature had other plans and she opened up the skies, and since it was nice and warm, instead of sow we got cold rain. Needless to say we decided to cancel our ski day and headed back to Munich. Apparantely everyone was thinking th e same thing though, since a ride that is supposed to only take 2 hours, actually ended up taking 4 hours! Despite the traffic, our ski weekend was a GREAT SUCCESS! We had the time of our lives, and I am only disappointed that I didn't get a picture of Barbie skiing...maybe next time I'll be good enough to ski and carry the camera at the same time!

Skiing in Alps pictures

Posted by Don at 10:37 PM
March 19, 2005
Venice with Kristen

Once again, a weekend can't go by without us going somewhere with Kristen. This time we headed to Venice, Italy for the weekend. Barbie had already been there twice, and I had been once, but it was one of the places that Kristen had always wanted to go, so being the gracious Uncle Donnie and Auntie Barbie that we are, she got her wish.

we arrived on Friday (Mar. 11th), and after much searching finally found our hotel. In case you don't know, you have to park at a Parking Garage outside the city, then take a water taxi or bus to the island(s). If you are wealthy enough to afford a taxi, they can take you right next to your hotel, otherwise, when you take the water bus, it drops you off somewhere (Rialto bridge for us), then you get to find your hotel through all the small alleyways lined by canals . Anyways, we get to our hotel and the guy proceeds to show us our room. Unfortunately there is only one king size bed, and since there are 3 of us, Barbie and I of course start giving strange looks to each other. When we ask about the 2nd bed, he says you can go upstairs and use that room. At first we thought this meant an entirely new room, but instead it was all one massive suite with a separate living room and two twin beds in another room upstairs. Needless to say we were thoroughly thrilled. Come to find out, the lady who runs the place was so impressed that we, actually Barbie, called to say we were going to be checking in later than expected that she upgraded us before she changed shifts!

Saturday morning we headed to San Marco Square to see the Church, and then Kristen and I went to the top of the Bell Tower, which had a cool view of all of Venice. While we were up in the tower, Barbie was kind enough to buy us some corn kernels so we could feed the pigeons. Although some of you may consider this nasty, it ended up being one of the more enjoyable things we did while we were there. Barbie, being one of those who consider it disgusting, stayed away taking pictures of the birds literally flocking all over us for the food. The pigeons had absolutely no fear, and Kristen absolutely loved it. Afterwards, we took a taxi gondola across the Grand Canal and saw the Church of the Santa Maria della Salute, which was apparently built as a thanks to God for letting them live through a plague back in 1630. Afterwards, we had Lunch on the Grand Canal(actually we washed our hands first...darn pigeons), then
went to see the Accadamia museum. After such a busy morning and early afternoon we went back to the hotel for a power nap, then went to some fancy Italian place for dinner. Food was good, but portions were small for the price.

Sunday we headed to Scuola di San Rocco, which is where back in the 1500's two brothers held a competition of painters to paint there church. Tintoretto won the competition and spent the next 23 years painting in this building. The artwork is amazing, and the audio guide was very informative, but really too informative since you couldn't jump from painting to painting, but instead had to listen to everything all at once...with no fast forward! After about an hour and a half of viewing these awesome paintings, we went to lunch, followed by Kristen and I trying to feed the pigeons again in San Marco. Unfortunately, they weren't as brave this time, probably b/c of all the people that were now in the square. So, we headed back to the hotel for yet another power nap, followed by some shopping and just walking all around Venice taking in the atmosphere and sites. That evening we just had a simple dinner, and went back to the hotel to watch a movie since Barbie had to get up early to catch a 7:30am flight.

Monday morning arrived bright and early, and Barbie was gone, but she had taken the parking garage ticket, but luckily realized it so she had time to fax it to me at the hotel before we left. Unfortunately the parking garage people wanted the original, or some sort of proof that the car was mine. However, since we had to leave the car key at the garage the whole time, we took, actually Barbie took, the glove compartment key with us so we could lock up some things while we were away. Too bad the documents for the car were in there also! So I spent the next hour with them trying to get them to let me have the car, and it finally came down to Cisco having to fax me a letter of approval to take the car since it was a company car. Long story short...it took us about an extra hour to get out of there.

All in all, despite the fact we had already been to Venice, it was a great time. We got to see some new things on the trip, and Venice is just one of those cities that is cool to see and be in for a little while. We also got a sweet looking flower Vase made from Murano glass, along with some matching juice glasses to boot! So, we now have something (other than a magnet, which is what I usually collect) to remember Venice.

More Pictures from Venice

Posted by Don at 06:19 PM
March 09, 2005
10 meter Diving

I'm not sure how many of you have ever done this or not, but this past Sunday I went off the HIGH DIVE, which is the highest diving platform and is 10 meters high, or about 33 feet. In my 2 years here, I have never seen them let people go off this platform, but the last two times I have gone swimming, it has been open for the kids to jump off (yes, I am still a kid).

Anyways, Kristen first went off the 7.5 meter platform, which is the 2nd highest one. She was definitely nervous and took a good 10-20 seconds before jumping after moving up to the edge. After the 7.5 meter jump, we went up to the 10 meter platform. In order to show Kristen it wasn't that bad, I decided to just take charge and push my way to front and jump off without really thinking about it. Sure enough, the kids moved and I was in front about to go, then I looked over the edge. All I could say was 'Geeeeeeeeez!!' Of course, after getting to the front, and having Kristen watching, I had no choice but to take the plunge. The free fall, as I would find out later, takes about 1.7 seconds, which is a long time to be falling. After hitting the water I just basically started tumbling until I came to a stop, and had to figure out which way was up again.

Sure enough I had done it, and went back up to get Kristen to go, but she was having none of it and ended up making her way back down the stairs. However, since I was already there, what the heck, let's go for Round 2. Unfortunately this time I tensed up a split second before hitting the water, so it kinda hurt. Either way, it was a rush. The only other time I remember jumping off something near as high (although I don't think it was 10m), was in Barbados off a cliff.

Posted by Don at 06:45 PM
March 01, 2005
The London times

Well, another week gone by, and another country visited with Kristen. Last week we were in London, England...as opposed to the equally popular London, Kentucky, or London, Ohio, or London, Texas, or London, Arkansas or London, West Virginia. Kinda makes you wonder what the city planners were thinking when naming their city..."Geez...let's name our city London, that way no matter how big or popular we get, we will always be in the shadow of that other city in the UK...or heck, maybe we'll get a few stupid tourists stopping by."

Anyways, sorry for the tangeant, we had a great time in London. Unfortunately, Barbie and I didn't get to do all the tourist stuff with Kristen b/c we had to work during the week, but she was able to go along with Joan...so at least she was with family. Barbie actually got to spend Monday site seeing instead of working, I guess that is reasonable since I spent a good 2 months in London not working and touring the sites. Well, I know you are curious what we saw, so here goes.

With me: Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum, Imperial War Museum, saw Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey from the outside.

Without me but with Barbie: Don't remember :)

Just Joan and Kristen: Natural History Museum, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, McDonalds

Well, we also got to see a few shows while we were in town. We saw "The Producers", which was excellent, and "Chicago," which left much to be desired. "The Producers" was funny, had different sets, and just some good all around lines. What made it even more funny, was that they would speak and sometimes sing in Deutsch, but it seemed only Barbie, Kristen and I understood. The reason for this is b/c it is about a couple of broadway producers, who decide to make a show that will bomb, and thus be able to keep all the money the raised to produce the show. Therefore, they pick "Springtime for Hitler" as their theme. Well, I won't tell you what happens after that, but it is hilarious, especially if you've spent any good amount of time with some Germans.

"Chicago" on the other hand had no costume changes, no set changes, and seemed more like a dance show at times than a musical. So...stick with the movie, and you will be left with a good taste in your mouth about the show. Since I stayed an extra night in London, I actually got to see an extra play by The Reduced Shakespeare Company, which does all of Shakespeare's play in a slap stick way, and condensed to fit within an hour and a half. It was a fun show and kept me entertained, so I'd have to give it the DG thumbs up.

So, all in all, we had a good, if not great time. I especially enjoyed the War museums b/c I had just finished reading a book on FDR and Churchill and their relationship during the War, so everything was fresh in my mind. I'm sure I would have enjoyed them without the book, but it made it an extra little special , for me anyways. So...go to London, and try not to think about the exchange rate of the dollar to pound, and you will have a good time.

Posted by Don at 01:32 PM
February 19, 2005
Paris in February

Sorry for the late update, but last week we headed to Paris where we met the one and only Mimi! Ok, for those of you who don't know who that is, it is Kristen's grandmother and Barbie's mom, and Mimi is the French word for grandmother, and what is Kristen and Trevor always call her (Her real name is Jeanne). Well, we expected the worse weather wise, but ended up getting some of the best weather you could really ask for in the winter. About 10-12 degrees Celsius (you do the conversion), and bright sunny skies. Barbie, Kristen and I arrived Saturday evening and picked up Mimi on Sunday morning.

Of course since Barbie was planning the trip, we had one of the perfect locations for a hotel (my choice was good last time also) that was about 100 yards from Cafe Flore and Cafe Le Deux Magot, both of which are considered the top cafes in all of Paris. So, every morning we would head there for a croissant or strawberry tart and a hot chocolate or coffee...depending on your preference. Afterwards we would head out and see the numerous sites.

This time we actually decided to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and I must say it made you catch your breath as the main elevator to the top made its rise. I mean, you have to think this thing is around 100+ years old, so who knows what they were thinking back then when it came to safety. :) Anyways, the view made it worth it, and Paris is just a beautiful city. We also went back to the Louvre, Napolean's tomb, Champs Elysees street, Arc de Triumph, Notre Dame cathedral, Basilique due Sacre-Coeur, and for the first time visited their Pantheon.

After Paris we headed to Versailles for the day, followed to heading to Normandy. Normandy is one of those places that just makes you stop and think, and also thank God that we were able to win the war. The American cemetary made you fully appreciate all those who died in Normandy, most of which came from D-Day itself. Overall the American cemetary had just under 10,000 marble white crosses.

Overall the trip was a blast. Although we had been to Paris, this trip was still very much enjoyable, not only b/c Paris is just a great city, but b/c it is cool to see it through the eyes of those who have never been there. It makes you appreciate it all over again.

p.s. For those who care, I was able to watch the Superbowl live on Sunday night at an Irish Bar, and I must say that there were a decent amount of people there despite the fact the game started at 12:30am.

So, be sure to check out our wonderful Pictures from France that Barbie has uploaded...enjoy.

Posted by Don at 07:38 PM
January 23, 2005
Prague

It's taken us some time, but we finally made it up to Prague for a weekend! Prague is actually the one city in Europe that I have always wanted to see since I was younger...don't ask me why, but it is. After being there, I must say it is one of the coolest looking cities we have been to. When standing out on one of the bridges at night, the city's buildings are completely lit up, making for a spectacular view. We only spent a couple of days there, but we definitely made the most of our time. Saturday night we spent the entire morning, and part of the early afternoon walking around the old town following a self-guided tour book. The architecture in Prague is absolutely amazing. As my one friend said, if you are there when the weather is good, you will love the architecture. However, if you are there when it is raining, the city will just look old and dirty. Luckily for us, the weather was bright and sunny on Saturday and Sunday morning (about 32 degrees though), with tons of snow on Sunday afternoon. Hence, when you look at the pictures, you will see us wearing some of our warmer clothes...and me wearing my infamous "Tigger" hat. :) So, it is hard to say what all we saw, and they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to check out our "Prague Gallery", and read the great captions by Barbie which will let you know what you are looking at. So, in conclusion, Prague is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen...rivaling even Paris. I wish we could of spent more time there to see some of the museums, and some of the bars/clubs, but who's to say we won't go back up with one of you if you come on out!

Posted by Don at 08:54 PM
January 15, 2005
Henry Rollins

This past Thursday night I drove up to Frankfurt to watch a man by the name of Henry Rollins. If you don't know who he is, don't feel bad. You may actually recognize him from his pictures, but maybe not the name unless you are into music. He is basically a hard rocker type of guy who also does some stand up comedian talks. I can't say I've ever listened to his music, but my friend that I drove up with had some of his talk CD's, and the man is hilarious. He is a shorter, but very thick muscular type of guy who seems to have some rage issues, but he can be seriously funny.
So, the show ended up seating a few hundred people, and was held at Frankfurt University, which I came to find out was where a lot of the U.S. troops used to be before we moved most everyone out of Frankfurt. Well, he starts the show with none other than ripping on Bush. I guess you have to play to your audience, but a good third of the two and a half hours was about ripping on Bush, which got old pretty quick. A man is entitled to his opinion, so state it and move on. After listening to him you would think all of America hated Bush, but as we now know, that is not the case. And people wonder why Europe has a distorted view of what Americans think. Anyways, the rest of his stuff was quite good. There were definitely some stories that were better, but the overall show I would give a thumbs up. I think the best way to listen to this guy is on the CD's though since it takes his best stuff. Although, there is something to be said for being there in person. One interesting side note, the man went 2 1/2 hours without taking a sip of water...I can't even speak for a 1/2 hour without getting a dry throat.

Posted by Don at 11:58 AM
December 16, 2004
Glad to be going home

So today is just flat out COLD! I know it has been colder here in Munich before, but for some reason the chill in the air is just eating away at me. It is currently -4 degrees Celsius (25 degrees Fahrenheit), but know snow. The trees are completely frozen, which makes for kind of a cool site since all the branches are white, but the ground doesn't have any snow. Either way, it'll be nice to get some warm(relatively) California sun shortly!

Posted by Don at 01:35 PM
December 14, 2004
Challenger World

This past weekend I was invited by some colleagues to join them in the World Challenge...which is basically an adventure race consisting of 5 stages over two days. To get here, you had to qualify at one of the previous races, which my colleagues had already done. Unfortunately, some of their previous teammates couldn't make so I got invited. :) The event took place about an hour outside of Valencia, Spain...which should be warm this time of year, but it pretty much stayed overcast the entire time while we were there. Anyways, here is what happened.

Stage 1
Mountain bike race in Tollos...ie. the mountains! You had to basically read a map, and go to different embassy points and get a visa, then go to the corresponding "Wonder of the World" point and show the visa card to get the bonus. Bonuses are time bonuses...therefore, 25 minutes per bonus, with 7 in total possible. All of this had to be done within 3 hours, but you did not get a penalty if you didn't reach a bonus point.
So the race starts, we look at the map and decide our best route. We split up into teams of two and will meet up at certain Bonus Point on the map after a while. Unfortunately for us, both of our teams got lost trying to read the map. Me and the guy I was with actually ended up starting completely over after over an hour b/c we couldn't find the way! Needless to say we met up with our team members way too late, and didn't get back in the 3 hour cutoff time, so we had major penalties enforced...including a 2 hour penalty for using a mobile phone, which was prohibited, but the volunteer said it was ok for my colleague to use it to call a customer. Either way the hills killed me and us!

Stage 2
Take a bunch of pieces of wood, nails, bolts, bungy cord, etc., and build a machine to launch oranges into designated areas. There were three 6 feet deep areas where you could land your orange for bonus points, the first being about 20 yards, the second about 40 yards, and the final about 55-60 yards away. If your orange landed within the 6 foot area you got either a 5, 10 or 20 minute bonus (depending on which area).
Well, there were basically two ways to build a machine...one was a catapult style, the other was a slingshot style. After much discussion we went with the catapult. We only had 2 hours to design, build and fire off two oranges from this thing. After finally getting everything ready, we gave it a blank test fire, and wouldn't you know it, the catapult arm snapped in half from the force of hitting the ground on the way down! So, after creating another catapult arm, and using the work gloves as cushions, we were ready to go.
Our first orange fell a few feet short of the first bonus area, so we tightened up the bungy cord for more strength, and wuala, we nailed the 2nd orange. Unfortunately the 3rd orange didn't make it, so we made a minor adjustment to the catapult...basically getting rid of the only thing that could possibly change from one shot to another...and fired off our 4th round which ended up being a little short. After some tightening of the bungy again, we nailed the 5th, and subsequently the rest of our oranges for a total of 7 of 10! We ended up winning this stage, unfortunately it only gave us a total of 35 minutes bonus time.

Stage 3
This stage you had to run along the beach at night and pick up questions/puzzles, each of which was located 1km apart. There were 5 questions, with the furthest being 5 km away and also worth 5 points. After getting the questions you had to run back and onto the golf course where you would run to different points to submit your answers. The goal was to do this as fast as possible. Questions were valued at 1-5, and you got penalties or bonuses depending on how many you were able to answer. Therefore, if you got questions 1-4 right, you got 4+3+2+1= 10 points, which was worth a 30 minute bonus. This is the route we went, deciding not to run for the 5th question. We actually ended up finishing around 12th in this stage, so we were happy. Kinda fun running along the beach with head lamps, then having to run all the way back and go running around a golf course to answer these riddles. Luckily one of my colleagues was very good at these. There was actually one with a word search, and I couldn't help but think how good it would be have Kathie with us for that...since she is the queen of word search.

Stage 4
This stage was a hike through the mountains where there were checkpoints and bonus points. The checkpoints were required otherwise you got an hour penalty for each one you missed. Unfortunately this stage required reading a map again, and after finding the first checkpoint and 2 bonus points we ended up getting completely lost! We ended up finding another bonus point, but we didn't know which one it was, so it really didn't help too much until someone figured it out. Either way getting lost caused us to only get one check point, and thus finish near the bottom of this stage also. :-(

Stage 5
This stage had a little bit of everything. There were 4 checkpoints like in stage 4, question and answer points like in stage 3, canoeing, swimming and running. We broke off into teams of two and began trying to collect as many of the points as possible. First Raphael and I went for a swim in the mediterranean to get one of the questions...and lets just say it wasn't Florida warm. Plus you had to wear these outfits for the entire race, and mine was a little big, so everytime I kicked my pants would end up down by my feet. Either way, after the 20 minute swim, we got in the canoe and paddled to the other side of the harbor and began running along the beach stopping at check points and answer points. Unfortunately, we forgot that both people had to check in (or dip as they call it) for the bonus and check points to count. So after about an hour of this we headed to the canoe and realized our mistake, but it was too late, since we didn't have any more time to go back. Therefore, despite all of our running around and doing everything, we got no bonus, and penalized for not visiting the checkpoints. Plus, our other teammates didn't run to one of the checkpoints b/c they thought we would be back sooner, so we didn't get that checkpoint either. In the end, we came in last place on this stage to b/c of another stupid mistake.

Conclusion
I had a blast! It doesn't matter that we came in last place...well, yes it does, but it was still fun. If it were not for some seriously dumb mistakes we would have finished in the top 10. But, as Nick used to say..."If if's and but's were candy and nuts, we'd all have a very Merry Christmas!"

Example Questions

  1. A rich aristocrat decided that he would give every man $45 and every woman $60. Only one ninth of the men and only one twelfth of the women collected their dues. Can you tell me how much money the aristocrat spent if there were 3553 people in total?

  2. If it costs 20 cents for an orange, 6 cents for an apple and 28 cents for a mango, what will a coconut, fig and lettuce cost?

Posted by Don at 04:33 PM
December 08, 2004
Nuernberg

Barbie and I headed up to Nuernberg this past weekend to enjoy the Christkindlmarkt, which is a tradition here in Germany. The Markt is the largest one in Germany, and people come from all over to see it. Unfortunately this meant thousands upon thousands of people crowded into a relatively small area.

We actually got there on Friday night, with the plan of hanging out and relaxing until Saturday afternoon when our other friends would join us at the Markt. However, at dinner on Friday night, we met a couple of German guys who decided they needed to show us the their town. Needless to say we, or at least me, had a decent amount to drink, and the only damper on the evening was that one of the guys' girlfriend just found out she was moving, so the one guy got pretty depressed and left early. Anyways, by the end of the night we had some Gluehwein, Long Island Ice Tea, shared a Meter of beer (which is basically about 12 .2 liters) while playing Liars Dice, and eventually started playing poker! Where are the gambling people in Munich?

Saturday morning was our relaxation time, which meant getting a massage. However, it became a necessity as the stress levels of dealing with all the people at the Christkindlmarkt were enough to even upset the holiest of saints. Either way it was a good time, and well worth the two day trip!

Posted by Don at 03:26 PM
November 16, 2004
Best and Worst move

This past weekend I helped a friend and his wife move to a new apartment. Normally, moving is a big deal with hours of pain staking work, and just enough frustration to kill a small animal. However, this is Deutschland, and things here are very organized. So...I'm basically used to it being me, and maybe another guy helping a friend move, but this time there were like 6 guys and a couple of women who got suckered into this whole ordeal with me. I woke up Saturday morning to quite possibly the worst weather you could ask for for being outside...right on the borderline of freezing, with rain, snow and sleet coming down. When I got to their place, everything was already in boxes, except for the furniture and stuff, and they had a big breakfast waiting for us. After breakfast, it literally took us 4 hours, including 30 minutes for lunch, to move everything from a 2 bedroom apartment to the new place....which, if you have never moved someone, is extremely fast. We managed to only break one thing...which in the end didn't matter anyways. :) We had the whole assembly line thing going, and every box was labeled where it was supposed to go in the new apartment, including naming the boxes and tagging the rooms A, B, and C so we knew exactly where to put them. All in all, a great, but very cold and wet move.

So...if you take anything away from this post, remember this:


  • Sucker as many friends as you can into helping you move

  • Box everything before the movers get there

  • Tag the boxes and new place, so they know where to put it

  • And finally, take all the small valuable/breakable stuff by yourself!

Posted by Don at 04:16 PM
October 29, 2004
She's a German Shepherd

Well Kymba is all German Shepherd! For those that have met her, you know she can be very sweet and cuddly...a little crazy at times...but still a very sweet dog. However, she has now seemed to have taken on the protector role as well. This morning I was woken up by a quick bark and growl. Of course I immediately got up and saw that Kymba was at our bedroom door, anxiously wanting to get out. So I got up, let her out and followed her through the rest of the house. She gave the living room, dining room, and kitchen a quick look, then fixated herself at the front door and began growling! I was a little anxious about opening the door, but curiousity got to me ... could have been the best example of how "curiousity killed the cat!" Well, as you know, I am writing this, so I am still alive. :) As I opened the door I held onto Kymba, and slowly peered out. Sure enough, our neighbour, an elderly man you many times need to lean on the wall for support to walk, was right there. Apparentely, he had touched our door or door handle, and Kymba was able to hear it all the way from our bedroom! I must say, as sweet as she looks in this picture, she would look very intimidating if she were growling at you!

p.s. Here is another article by barbie about a recent Kymba protection morning.

Posted by Don at 08:56 AM
September 25, 2004
Rome with the Knudsens

Our busy August and September continues...hence why I haven't been posting a lot of things as of late. Well, after Athens, about 5 days later the Knudsens came into town. Needless to say Kymba was ecstatic being able to have her own kids in the house. As Keith quickly recognized, Trevor and Kristen were no longer his kids, but were now Kymba's. She took to them like "white on rice", and wouldn't let them out of her sight. If we tried to pick them up, Kymba's shepherding instincts would kick in, and she would quickly inform us that they were hers, and not to mess with them.

Anyways, the day after they arrived, we all headed to Rome for a week. Rome is known for its pick pockets, gypsies, etc., and it didn't take but 5 minutes off the train for someone to try and take Barbie's computer from me. It was attached to another piece of luggage, so I guess he thought he could take it without me noticing...bad idea. I basically just gave him a look and we continued on our way... no sense in whooping some Italian butt on my first night. :) Barbie had arranged for us to stay at an apartment by the Trevi Fountain, so we were in a great location. The first evening we just hung out and went to see the Trevi Fountain, which I must say ended up being my favorite thing to see. Unfortunately it is always packed with tourists, unless you go early in the morning, which we were able to do the following morning.

The next day was our big tourist day. We actually got up and started off with the Coliseum. I've always seen the postcards and pictures, but I had never seen what it was supposed to look like back in the day. During our tour they let us know that the entire Coliseum was covered with marble, which would have made for an absolutely amazing sight in this era, but can you imagine what people would have thought back in 500ad.

After the Coliseum we headed to the Roman Forum and Palentine Hill, which are basically archaeological ruins of the ancient city of Rome. Not as impressive as the Coliseum, but still worth it. We then made our way to the Pantheon, which was, and partly still is, an architectural wonder. It was built over 1800 years ago, and was the largest free standing dome of its type in the world until the Superdome in New Orleans! Can you imagine building something that could not be repeated for another 1800 years? That's an amazing accomplishment.

As if all this wasn't enough we then proceeded to see the "Fountain of the Four Rivers", which if you have read Angels and Demons, probably means a little more. It was a fountain built by Bernini, and was made to represent the four rivers that lead through Rome (Nile, Danube, Ganges, and The Rio della Plata.) Well, we finally deserved a break, so we headed back to the apartment for an afternoon nap for some, or card playing for others, of which I was the Hearts champion. (Just don't ask Keith or Kristen to verify that) :)

That evening we headed out for dinner, but first decided to go the Spanish Steps. We tried to get a "Where's Waldo" type photo, but I think it is pretty easy to find us all, although Keith is the really tough one to find since he was the one taking the picture. Well, we ended up getting some dinner by the Steps, and went back to the apartment for a relaxing early evening. Well, it was early for some, and late for others...as Keith, Kristen and I ended up playing Hearts until late.

The next day, being a Sunday, was a relaxing day. We slept in late, and went to the Castle that is about a mile away from the Vatican. It was used as a fortress back in the day, and supposedly has a hidden underground passage that was used to transfer the Pope in case of an attack on the Vatican. Although it was a relaxing day, it ended up being a very memorable evening. We decided to get some Gelato and hang out by the Trevi fountain. While eating our Gelato, we watched the "Rose guys" try and force sales upon unsuspecting tourists. There idea was to get a girl to grab a rose that was literally shoved in their face, and once she took it, they would start hitting up the guy for money. If the girl tried to return it, they would simply refuse until they were paid. They were absolutely hilarious to watch, simply b/c they had no fear and would not take No for an answer.

Monday was Vatican day. We first started off with the Vatican museum, whose most famous site is obviously the "Sistine Chapel" by Michelangelo. I think I expected the paintings to be larger on the roof of the chapel based on what I have seen in books, but they were actually quite small. This is not to say it wasn't impressive and awe inspiring, just not what I had expected. Another highlight, for me at least, was to see a painting/drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci...mainly b/c I didn't know it was there. This is what happens when you read a book on someone...you actually start to appreciate the little things of their life. Too bad I didn't read a book on Michelangelo before hand.

After the museum we headed to St. Peter's church, which is the biggest church in the world, and probably should be since it is the home of Catholicism. Unbeknownst to me, men are now required to wear pants. I was actually refused entrance and had to go buy some "paper pants" for five euros. I wasn't about to go all the way to Rome and not pay 5 euros to get in. So, upon entering we went to the top of the dome which overlooks all of Rome. An very impressive site to see everything in that perspective. After the dome we walked around the church not really knowing the details about what we were seeing, but still amazed by the enormity of all the sculptures and paintings...which was a running theme at the Vatican.

Our last day, Tuesday, was basically another relaxing day, but we did go see the "Face of Truth" and "Circus Maximus". The myth behind the "Face of Truth" is that you must put your hand in its mouth, and only those who are Truthful and Honest will keep their hand...all others will have their hand bitten off. I think Trevor may be a little unhonest, b/c he wasn't so sure about putting his hand in there. :) "Circus Maximus" is where they held many of the infamous chariot races, and it also where they persecuted many of the Christians. Now it is basically an empty lot, but the essence of history is still there.

Well, we had a great time in Rome, and it is definitely one of the many highlights we have had since living in Europe. Obviously our company was great, so that helps, but the sheer history of Rome is something that makes one wish he knew more. Therefore, if we ever go again, I definitely plan on reading a couple of books on some of the famous sculptors and painters that helped make Rome a city of such great treasures.

Of course Barbie has so kindly uploaded our Roman Pictures.

Posted by Don at 11:45 PM
September 07, 2004
Athens 2004

What an experience. My quest to go to an Olympics started way back in 1996 when the Olympics had come and gone in Atlanta, and I just stayed in Tallahassee watching them on TV. Back then my friend Tom and I decided we were going to go to Sydney 2000, but as we all know, that never materialized. So when I heard that the Olympics were in Athens, the birthplace of the modern Games, and I was only a 2 hour flight away...well, needless to say, I wasn't going to miss the chance. Athens 2004 was a great experience!!

Barbie and I arrived in Athens on Tuesday the 24th, and our friends Tom (a different one) and Yasmine had arrived the night before. The first thing that struck us about Athens was how poor it actually was. The city was very old and not very well kept, except for those areas where the Olympic venues had been built. Anyways, our Hotel (Ela Mesa) was on one the Greek island of Aegina, which meant we had to take a ferry from Athens to get there. Originally we thought this would be bad, but it was actually great for the days that we didn't go to the games b/c we could just sit by the pool and relax, and didn't have to go deal with the city of Athens.

Well our first event was the Women's Triathlon on Wednesday morning. Of course no one would have chosen to go to this event, but since I booked the tickets, they didn't really have a choice. :) Anyways, the expectations were low, b/c normally all you can see in a triathlon are the swim, the transitions, and the finish line. Luckily, whoever set up the event did it perfect. The transition area had a huge grand stand for people to sit and watch the swim and transitions, and also a huge TV screen with commentary so we could watch the race all the time. To top things off, the bike course was 5 laps and the run course 3 laps, so we got to see the competitors come by the grandstand 8 different times...which made for some good pictures. Anyways, the event ended up being the best one of the week since after 2 hours of competing, it came down to a sprint in the last 200 meters. An Austrian girl, Kate Allen, came from over 2:30 minutes behind when starting the run, to pass about 10-15 people and finally pass the first place girl, who had led for nearly the entire race, the last 200 meters, and right in front of us. It was just an amazing race.
That afternoon Yasmine had gotten us some Diving tickets for the 3 meter springboard prelims. Since you never really get to watch the prelims on TV, it was quite interesting. The reason for this being that on TV, you only the best of the best, but in the prelims you get to see the average people...so to speak. It really makes you appreciate how good the Medalists are, and how hard it actually is to perform at such a high level. That evening we went to the Gold and Bronze medal match for the Men's Beach Volleyball. Talk about an exciting venue. The entire time people are hollering and the DJ, whoever that was, plays rock music in between points. The bronze medal match ended up being the better match of the two, with the Swiss topping the Austrians in 3 sets. In the gold medal match the Brazilians were too good, and closed it out in only 2 sets. Either way, the venue was a great time.
The next day we only had tickets to the quarter-final matches of basketball, which started around 8pm, so we decided to go to the Acropolis and see the Parthenon that afternoon. While walking up to see the Parthenon, a lady asked us if we would like a guided tour, and against Tom's and mine suggestions, the ladies one and we had our own personal tour guide. It ended up being the right move b/c we learned a ton and it probably made it a much more enjoyable experience...so thanks ladies. Afterwards we headed down to the Olympic Village for the Baskeball game. Unfortunately for us, there are two games, and the first game starts at 8pm, which means the second game won't end until at least midnight. The last ferry to our island left at 1am, and it takes a minimum of one and a half hours to get from Olympic Village to the Port. This was probably the only bad thing about the Olympic venues...was the distance between them. You had to allocate at least 2 hours between events, not because of poor transportation, but because of distance. Anyways, the great part about the basketball games that night, was that Greece was playing in the second game, the fans were going crazy once that game started. Literally booing everytime Argentina touched the ball, and cheering every Greece had the ball. We had to leave at half time with Greece up, but they eventually ended up losing, and Argentina went on to beat the US in the semis, only to claim gold in the Finals.
The following day was our rest day, where we could just stay on the island, hang out by the pool and catch some rays...which we literally did. Grant it, we weren't getting up til around 11 or 12pm b/c we didn't get to bed until 3am b/c of the ferry. Either way we fully enjoyed ourselves, and ended up going to one of the marinas on the island that evening for dinner and some drinks. All in all...a good relaxing day.
The next day only Barbie and I went to Athens, b/c we had tickets to the gold and bronze medal match for mens basketball, which of course started at 8pm again, so we would have to miss the gold medal match anyways. We were planning on selling them, and if Greece had made it, we would have had no problem, but instead, we were hard pressed for a sell. Upon arriving at Olympic Village, we went and did some merchandise shopping, and then noticed that the US Women's Basketball were currently playing for the gold. We ended up scalping some very cheap tickets and caught the last quarter of the game, in which the women were able to open up a decent lead after being tied at the end of the third quarter, to win the gold. It ended up being the only event where we saw the US flag being raised and the national anthem played, so it was great even though we only caught the last quarter.
Afterwards we went and got a quick bite to eat and came back to watch the US men play for the bronze medal in basketball. The game ended up being a close one, with the US pulling it out in the end. Of course, we couldn't stay for the gold medal game or medal ceremony, but as I said earlier, the Argentina men won. We actually met a nice couple who just had a baby (5 months), and were living in Naples, Italy as part of the armed forces. Perhaps we'll meet up again on one of our future European adventures.
The next couple of days were again relaxation days, with us all just hanging out on the island. We ended up going back to the same bar on one of the evenings and watching the closing ceremony. The olympics were officially over, and we were already talking about going to China for the next Summer games. Who knows where will be in 2008, but I wouldn't rule it out. :)

As always, Barbie has been so genorous to upload our Olympic Pictures for your viewing pleasur.

Posted by Don at 09:32 PM
July 26, 2004
Tour de France 2004

This past weekend we headed to Besancon, France to watch the 19th Stage of the Tour de France. This was the 2nd to last stage of the race, and was basically the final hoorah for those trying to catch the infamous Lance since it was a Time Trial (ie. you ride by yourself with no drafting), and also because the final stage is normally just a victory ride for whoever is in first.
I had originally planned to go see the Tour de France last year, but with the Ironman race, I had basically put off anything that was after it until after the race. Hence, by the time I got around to trying to schedule a hotel for the Tour, they were all booked. Luckily I am married to Barbie, and she was able to find us a hotel within about 10 minutes of starting her search. Originally it was just going to be Barbie, myself, and Steffen from work, but on Friday afternoon, another colleague decided to join, and he brought his friend, so we now had a crew of five. Unfortunately they weren't all Lance fans, but instead were pulling for the Germans Jan Ullrich and Andréas KLÖDEN...who were in 3rd and 4th place.
We arrived Friday night around 1am after a miserable, traffic filled, 6.5 hours worth of driving...should of been about 5 hours. Well, the hotel was basically a hostel, and left much to be desired. At first I thought Barbie was going to go sleep in the car, but she was a trooper and didn't complain...although she did keep saying "If I have nothing nice to say, then I shouldn't say anything at all." :)
Saturday morning we all got up and headed down to the city of Besancon (about a 15 minute walk), and began searching for a place for breakfast. The first rider was scheduled to start around 11am, then every two minutes, another rider would start. Basically, there would riders departing every 2 minutes for about 5 hours straight...Lance being the last since he was currently in first. Anyways, we ended up finding a nice little outdoor pastery shop and had some excellent Croissants (actually 2 for me), then headed back to the starting line to watch the first rider.
While we were waiting for the first rider to depart, mother nature decided to step in, and the rain started coming down in droves! It was literally pouring! Luckily we had our ponchos, and some of us bought some umbrellas, so we didn't get soaked, but we sure weren't dry either. The first rider finally took off around 11:25am. We stayed watching the first 10 or riders depart from the raised platform, then headed down the street by about a mile so we could watch them climb a hill...which is really good since they are going a little slower and you can get some better photos. We basically hung out there for another 30 or 40 minutes watching the riders go by and taking a ton of pictures, and basically just enjoying the day...especially since it had stopped raining.
After this we headed back into the heart of the city for some lunch, and then back out to the race course to hang out and wait for Lance. We probably finished with lunch and back out to the hill by around 2ish, so we still had a good two and a half hours before Lance would come by. After a while, the other guys decided they were going to head down to the finish area...which is basically very uncharacteristic of the Tour de France to be able to go from the start to the finish line just by walking. This is what made this stage of the tour very appealing because it was a time trial, so riders were constantly going by every couple of minutes, and you could also see your favorite riders start the race, then walk about 30 minutes down the road and see them also finish!
Anyways, Barbie and I decided to stay near the starting line and wait for Lance on the hill. Luckily we found a lady who had all the starting times for the riders, so we were able to plan out our photos to try and get the main guys, as well as the US Postal team riders. After a couple of hours the main riders started coming by...the polka dot jersey rider (which is the guy who is the best on the hills), some US Postal guys, then the top 5...Jose Acevedo, Jan Ullrich, Klöden, Ivan Basso...and finally Lance Armstrong!! Since Barbie was taken the pictures, we got an excellent shot of Lance...of course she had tons of riders to practice on, but still...it was a split second that she had, and she nailed it. It was great being able to wave our American Flags and go nuts when he came by...just an awesome experience.
After Lance went by we headed down to the finish line to try and watch the riders come in, but the place was absolutely packed, so there wasn't much chance of actually seeing the riders. Luckily they had a big TV projection screen so we could see how everyone was doing. About 20-30 minutes after we arrived the top guys were flying through the finish line...and sure enough Lance had beaten everyone...besting the runner-up (Jan Ullrich) by 1:01. We then got to watch the traditional awards ceremony where they honor the winner of the stage...then hand out the different color jerseys (yellow for the leader, green for the best sprinter, polka dot for the best climber, and white for the best young rider). This was just cool to see, although we were packed in like sardines and having to balance ourselves on a hill.
After all the fun and festivities we headed back to the hotel, showered and went out to dinner. Volkmar and Olivie headed back to Munich that night, but Barbie, myself and Steffen decided to wait til the morning because we were all pretty tired and didn't feel like making the drive. All in all it was a great weekend, and definitely have a look at our Tour de Frande photos...thanks to Barbie of course!

Posted by Don at 10:34 AM
June 04, 2004
Great Vacation!!

Well my folks left back for Miami on Wednesday, so it back to the real world again. No more fun in the sun, and boy did they get some really good weather while they were here. No matter where we went, the weather was only bright and sunny, and never really cold or hot. Unfortunately they took it with them since it has been raining here in Munich ever since. Ok...onto the highlights...

The folks arrived Thursday morning (May 20) bright and early (8:30am)...and for any of you who are thinking it is better to arrive in the morning...you are wrong. It is by far better to arrive in the afternoon, otherwise the Jetlag will hit you pretty hard. In order to keep them awake until at least the early afternoon I took them to Nymphenburg Palace, where you can walk around the gardens and the palace. This time I finally got to see the Stage Coaches of the former Bavarian royalty. The carriages were quite impressive, especially considering they were made over a 100 years ago. Anyways, after this we headed back to the house and to the Grüntal (Green Valley) for lunch, which is a good local restaurant down the street from us. Afterwards, it was nap time for my parents...although they are allowed 1.5-2 hours, then we wake them up. I think we got this whole Jetlag thing down, so if you come, you have to listen to us, even though your body is telling you to smack us and go back to sleep. :)

We headed to Paris on Friday morning. A fairly uneventful drive until we got to the inner city of Paris and couldn't find the hotel because of all the one way streets. Once we finally arrived (after at least 45 minutes of searching), they told us there were no rooms available even though we had reservations. So I basically told them to put us up in the Hilton down the street (4 or 5 stars) for the same price...then amazingly enough another room became availabe. It was actually a Suite, so my parents got to stay in that room, and we stayed in a normal size room.
Saturday my parents went shopping for antiques (what else), and Barbie did our usual bike tour around the city....which included seeing the Eiffel Tower, the outside of the Louvre, Napoleon's tomb, the Alexander Bridge (exact replica of a bridge in St. Petersburg Russia), the plaza where the Guillotine was used during the French Revolution and many other random things around the city.
That evening we all got together and went and saw the "Sacred Heart" church, which sits on the top of a hill overlooking Paris. Afterwards we went for a nice dinner, and then went to the infamous Moulin Rouge. The show was great and it was just interesting being there. After the show, we got the cab ride of our lives. This guy, who I don't think was a real cab driver, convinced us to have him take us back to the hotel, since his car was right there, and we wouldn't have to fight the masses to find a cab of our own. Anyways, this guy was just a talker and gave my dad a hard time for not looking happy. The cab driver said he was happy all the time...heck, he was even happy in his sleep!
Sunday was the day where we actually walked around and went into all the tourist places instead of just seeing them from the outside. We all went to the Museum Dorcee, Napoleon's tomb, the garden where the Thinker resides, and a few other highlights of Paris. Needless to say we were exhausted after all the walking so we took it easy that night.
Monday we all went to the Louvre, which is an event in and of itself. There are thousands upon thousands of paintings and sculptures, along with the apartments of Napolean. Back in Napoleon's day it was actually an old royalty building where the homeless stayed since the overthrow of the French royalty during the French Revolution. Napoleon had them all excavated, and brought it back to its current amazing state. The Louvre contains paintings such as the Mona Lisa, Madonna on the Rocks, Napoleon's Coronation of Josephine, and many others. The coronation painting is quite enormous, and come to find out, it was a pre-cursor (i.e. trial) for the same painting which is painted on the wall of one of the rooms in Versailles. The Louvre also contains the infamous sculpture Venus de Milo, which is no where near as impressive as Michelangelo's David, but still cool to see.
After spending the entire morning, and better part of the afternoon in the Louvre, Barbie and I headed to Notre Dame church. This is the church where Quasimoto was based. Unfortunately the church wasn't the most impressive we have seen. Afterwards we all got back together and tried to go to watch the French Open. Unfortunately, the matches were finished by the time we got there, so we couldn't even get in. Needless to say I was quite disappointed, but it is my fault since I didn't plan better.
Tuesday we actually tried to go back to the French Open, but this time we drove and ended up getting lost. Again, we didn't make it to the Open, and had to settle for heading to the Palace of Versailles...rough life, I know. Anyways, the palace of Versailles is by far the largest palace I have ever seen. It is absolutely enormous, and the gardens expand farther than the eye can see. The palace itself was very nice, but they were doing some construction, so I think we missed out on one of the best rooms...the Hall of Mirrors. Since it had already been such a long day, we didn't feel like walking around the gardens, so we headed down to a city called Beaune, which is in the Burgundy wine region of France. This was a very quaint walled city, and our hotel was absolutely great. The entire hotel was furnished with antiques, and our rooms were enormous...especially for Europe. We ended up staying there for a couple of days, one of which we went on a Wine tour through the vineyards. Unfortunately there wasn't a lot of wine tasting, but a lot of driving through the vineyards and talking about how the vineyards are maintained and regulated. We did get to have a few tastes, but I don't think we found the Burgundy wine all that impressive...we like the Bourdeaux's better.
After Beaune, we headed to Strassburg for an evening. It is a cute little city, but really only has a main cathedral, which I found fairly good...especially the Astronomical type clock within it.
Over a week later we arrived back to Munich on Friday...where my parents immediately went Antique shopping, and to there amazement, there were a lot of great shops within our hometown! Unfortunately they only had a few hours on Friday, but made up for it on Saturday, when they spent almost the entire day scowering the city for antiques. It actually worked out good for me b/c I was able to go out for about a 4-5 hour bike ride. That evening we headed to Barbie and I's favorite restaurant...Trader Vic's. The are actually a chain around the world, but they have by far the best food in Munich. And now, it is my parent's favorite restaurant also. :)
Sunday morning I went for 2 hour run (13.1 miles), then we all walked over the Seehaus for lunch...which has become a customary thing to do with our visitors. That afternoon we all went on Mike's Bike Tours...which gave my parents a good/humorous history of Munich.
Monday morning my parents and I headed out to Neuschwanstein Castle (i.e. Disney castle). I must say I was expecting the castle to be higher up on the hill based on the pictures I had seen, but instead it was about 1/2 way up, and the pictures were taken from above it which made it look like it was on top. Anyways, the castle was built on the top of two old Knight's castle's ruins. It had by far the most elaborate rooms of any of the castles/palaces I have ever seen, and that includes Versailles. Unfortunately the castle's interior was only 1/3rd completed b/c of King Ludwig II's death. 6 weeks after his death the castle was turned into a museum and is now the largest tourist attraction within all of Europe. Well, after our journey to Neuschwanstein, we all went back to Trader Vic's for dinner again...I told you it was our favorite place!!
Tuesday Barbie had to leave town for work, and my parents went back to shopping. I ended up meeting them for lunch at the Spatenhaus (another place we take all our visitors!), then went back home and went on a bike ride. That evening we just relaxed and hung out.
Wednesday was the dreaded day where my parents had to fly back to Miami. Luckily everything went great on the flight and they made it safely back. Barbie and I had an absolutely great 2 weeks, and we can't wait to do it again...hint hint.

Posted by Don at 11:50 AM
May 14, 2004
Vienna

Last weekned we headed to Vienna, Austria for the weekend. Other than the weather, it was a pretty good time. We got there Friday afternoon, so we ended up just seeing the main church in town. However, that night we went to watch a musical symphony. They played Mozart and Strass, and also had some people dancing on a tiny dance floor. The music was nice, but the dancers could have been left out.
Saturday morning I started my day with a 10 mile run along the Danube river. I didn't have my heart rate monitor so I used my Timex GPS watch to tell me how far I was going and at what speed. I was quite surprised at my overall speed for not really pushing it hard. I ran the first 5 miles at a pace of 8:05/mile and the second 5 miles at a 8:23/mile pace. I expected something around a 9:00/mile pace, so I quite happy. That afternoon we ended up walking around town and also went to the Palace where the royalty of Vienna used to live. Nice place, but I must say it is not my thing. I prefer the art museums as opposed to seeing old desks that someone famous used to sit at. The cool thing about the area where the Royalty used to live is that it is not just one building. they basically have an entire section of the city with many different gardens, buildings, statues, etc...so it is quite impressive to see. That evening we went a little outside Vienna to a town called Grinzing, which is where they are supposed to have good wine and food. Well, the wine and food was OK, but we still had a good time.
Sunday morning I got up and had a 5 mile relaxing recovery run...something around a 9:00/mile pace. Since we didn't feel like walking everywhere, we decided to take the city tour bus and let it show us everything. This bus was a lot better than the one in Munich, and it gave us a great overview of the city. Unfortunately it started to pour down rain in the afternoon so we couldn't get off and get many pictures. We ended up heading back to Munich that evening.
All in all Vienna has some good potential as a city worth seeing. Unfortunately the rain hindered some our adventures, but it was still fun.

Posted by Don at 01:37 PM
May 05, 2004
Getting squeezed out...

I would like to say that I have helped two small businesses get started here in Munich in the last 6 months, but now I don't know if I like it. Back in November I went to a new haircut lady down our street when she had only been open for like a week. It ended up being one of the best haircuts I have ever gotten, and it was great b/c the store was just down the street and I could just stop in on my way home whenever I felt like it. The other business is for a chiropractor. I probably went to him about the same time, 1 week after he opened his own practice...heck, he even still had the old shops sign in the window.
Anyways, now being about 6 months later, both these two shops seem to be thriving, which means I am not nearly as important anymore. Instead of being able to stop in and get a haircut anytime I want, I now have to call and make an appointment, which totally kills the convenient factor and also forces me to learn how to say all this haircut stuff in Deutsch. Also, instead of having nice 30-45 minute chiropractic sessions where he takes time to test every little thing just for the fun of it, I now feel as if I'm slightly rushed in and out within 15 minutes. I guess that is price a customer has to pay when businesses become successful. Just to note, if I ever start a business that ends up being successful, I will not forget those who got me there. :)

Posted by Don at 04:04 AM
April 23, 2004
One of those mornings...

I got home last night around 11pm from swimming and Barbie tells me I have to get up early tomorrow and workout since I have been slacking on the morning workouts. Perhaps she didn't notice I just finished swimming 3km (~ 2 miles), my longest to date. Anyways, she is right, and since she is "my coach" during my training, I had to listen. She did, however, offer to make eggs if I got up and worked out...so I now have some good incentive.

The next morning arrives, and I sleep in about a 1/2 hour longer than I was supposed to, but I get up and get my workout in. However, she is now in a rush with work (what's new :) ), so I end up having to make eggs and toast...not a big deal, but not what I felt like doing. Then I go down to the car and try to start it up, but the battery is dead. I had left the parking lights on all night so there is no hope of starting it. Luckily our neighbour informed us we could call the taxi to come and give us a jump, which I proceeded to do...all in Deutsch I might add!!
So we got the car running now, and head to work. However, since we are running late, I have to drop Barbie off first, then head to the Hunde Pension to drop off Kymba. I get to the Pension, and Kymba decides she isn't ready to go inside the room and starts running up and down the hallway. Unfortunately I had just opened the door where a puppy lab and puppy retriever are anxiously trying to get out. So now I have Kymba running down the hall, and I am fighting off two dogs while trying to shut the door, but the lab apparantely has a thing for leashes and grabs the leash and won't let go. I then have to give up the leash, shut the door, and track down Kymba. Finally I get Kymba, put her inside, and then try to get the leash back, but the lab won't budge, and keeps jumping on me with his dirty paws. Eventually I just pry open his mouth and take it, which causes him to jump on me more. After all this, I finally get out of the Pension, more dirty and more frustrated. But that is why there are such things as good mornings, and bad mornings.

Posted by Don at 11:23 AM
March 24, 2004
St. Paddy's in Dublin

So we left for Dublin last Tuesday to go and celebrate St. Paddy's Day in Ireland with our friend Barry and his girlfriend Carmel in Ireland. Lucky for us his apartment is right in the center of Dublin, so we could basically walk everywhere we wanted to go. Tuesday night we were pretty tired after the late night flight, so we just went to a nice little bar called Oceans for a quick drink, but we had to catch some Z's since Wednesday (St. Paddy's Day) was going to be a long day. Wednesday morning we headed out to the center of Munich to try and find a place to watch the parade, but unlike the parade in Munich, there were thousands of people along the parade route, so each spot was about 10 persons deep. Barry then decided to head to a bar that he thought we could watch the parade from since it was on the 2nd floor, and sure enough we got a good spot and the Guiness started flowing. After about a good 5-6 hours hanging out in the bar, we headed home and then back to Oceans for dinner...which actually ended up being really good.
Thursday was just me and Carmel since both Barry and Barbie had to work. We ended up walking all over town, and went to the National Art Museum for Irish artists (or something like that). It was free, so I can't complain. That afternoon we pretty much just relaxed since the weather was on and off with rain. On Friday, both Barry and Barbie were able to get off work and join us for some tourist festivities. We ended up going to St. Patrick's cathedral (which isn't a Catholic church), the outskirts of Dublin castle, and the Guiness factory. The Guiness factory was cool, but the obvious best part is the Gravity Bar which is a bar on top of the brewery with glass all around so you can look out over the city of Dublin. This is where I got my first Guiness with a clover inscribed in it...you'll have to look at the Guiness picture to understand what I mean. Anyways, Saturday ended up being a pretty relaxing day as we were all pretty spent, and Barry wanted to watch the Ireland vs. Italy Rugby game. We ended up just heading to the movies after the game and saw '21 Grams', which I don't recommend anyone going to see.
All in all we had a great time and can now say we celebrated St. Paddy's Day(not St. Patty's as some english speakers think) in Dublin, Ireland. As always we have a ton of pictures, so just follow the link to view them: Dublin Pictures

Posted by Don at 07:01 PM
March 10, 2004
Last day in Amsterdam

Barbie and I came to Amsterdam Saturday morning, and today is our last day here. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here doing all sorts of things...everything being interesting in its own way. the first afternoon we did some walking around and eventually found the house of Rembrandt, unfortunatley it is just his house and some of his etchings...nothing worth seeing...just a tourist trap. That night we went to Boom Chicago which is a comedy club. Everything is done in English and it is mainly full of Americans...which they took full advantage of by ripping on Americans left and right. It is basically a mix of "Who's line is it anyways" and "Saturday Night Live", and we definitely recommend it...although the food is nothing to write home about. After Boom Chicago we headed over to the infamous Red Light District. Let's just say it is an experience and probably worth checking out just for fun.

Sunday night we did some more tourist stuff like going to house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Germans, and also going to original Heineken brewery. The brewery is a good time...you get 3 beers and a free gift with your entrance fee...nothing like giving your visitors alcohol to keep them happy. That night we went to the "Supper Club", which is basically a restaurant where you lay down on beds and eat your meal. The food was great and the atmosphere was pretty cool. There was a guy doing Henna Tattoos and a masseus would come by and give you a massage if you wanted one. The whole place is in white and there is a DJ in the middle.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were work days, so we couldn't do too much, but we did get to go see the Van Gogh museum on Monday evening, which was fairly impressive. His art style is very unique, although not particularly my taste. He did have some paintings which I liked, although they weren't the ones that everyone knows about..."Portrait of Camille Roulin" and "Wheat Fields with Reaper at Sunrise". Well, that is all from Amsterdam.

Posted by Don at 06:21 PM
February 16, 2004
Momentous weekend for Kymba

Well Saturday is a big day for many couples around the world, although Valentine's day seems to be celebrated more in the U.S. than here in Deutschland. However, it is even a bigger day for Kymba...since it is the day she was born. We got her some new toys, and actually went to the pound to see if we wanted a new dog, but they were closed so she will have to wait for a new puppy to play with.
On Sunday she actually got to go with me for a pretty long run (her longest so far). I was going to be running b/t 10-11 miles, so I took her for 7 miles of the run. She actually stayed in the lead the entire time except for the last quarter mile or so. Needless to say we had a tired Schäferhund that night.

Posted by Don at 01:02 PM
February 15, 2004
Grocery Store fun

On Friday morning I decided to go to the grocery store relatively early in the morning to avoid the crowds. In case you haven't heard, all stores close at 8pm everyday, and nothing is open on Sundays except for restaurants and certain other places like gas stations. Therefore, the grocery stores are absolutely packed on Friday evening and all day Saturday. However, what I didn't know was that grocery stores are also packed on mornings since all the retirees (spelling?) are there. I was probably the youngest person there by a good 30-40 years! Obviously there is nothing wrong with retirees, but I was expecting a nice relaxing shopping experience with no people...instead I get a store packed...although not as bad as on a Saturday. I guess next time I am going to have to go during lunch.

p.s. Did I mention I hate going to the grocery store anyways?

Posted by Don at 10:05 AM
January 28, 2004
Italy Part III

After our power nap (don't you just love those), we headed to the infamous Uffizi. The Uffizi is basically the best and largest art gallery in Italy, and houses some of the worlds finest paintings. Anyways, you have to have reservations to get in otherwise you are sitting in a line that can take a few hours. However, our line didn't seem to be moving much faster even though we had reservations...and it ended up taking about 45 minutes for us to get in. After we finally got in it was time to admire the artwork and how old some of the stuff actually was. It amazes me that they can have artwork that is nearly 1000 years old, and yet some of it looks like it was just made yesterday.

The Uffizi is set up with a bunch of separate rooms that are connected by a "U" shaped hallway. Each room seems to focus either on a particular time period or an artist. I must admit there was only a few paintings that I really wanted to see, mainly b/c I had just finished reading a book on Leonardo Da Vinci. However, some of the other art was very interesting and shouldn't be overlooked. It was actually interesting to see some of the artwork of people that I had read about in the Da Vinci book, and be able to understand who they were and what their life was partially about.

So, there are 3 main pieces of artwork by Da Vinci in the Uffizi, and they are all in the same room. The first one painted was "The Baptism of Christ". This painting was actually mainly painted by Verrochio, whom Leonardo was an apprentice for many years. According to the book, Leonardo only painted the angel on the far left, but research using ultra-violet lights has shown that he also painted a portion of Christ. Anyways, back in the day when it was painted people were absolutely in awe by this one angel since it stood out from the rest. Looking at the painting today you can't tell much of a difference b/t it and the rest, but it was one of Leonardo's first public displays of talent.

The second piece of artwork is "The Annunciation". This is an impressive painting. According to the book all the flowers/shrubs that are under the angel are precise and very detailed. Leonardo was into details and spent countless hours studying the exact shapes and sizes of things in nature. Also, the wings of the angel were considered to be one of the first realistic paintins of how an angels wings would actually attach to a human frame. Leonardo studied human anatomy indefinitely and wanted to make the wings seem like they were actually a part of the body and not just something that was glued on. However, despite his efforts, apparantely somebody actually altered the wings slightly and made them look less realistic. However, this painting is still very detailed and impressive.

The third piece of artwork is the "Adoration of the Magi". This is an unfinished painting (much like many of Leonardo's works) that was commissioned by some monks in a monastary. However, what was unusual about the commission is that they didn't want to pay with money, but instead they would give up some land. Therefore, there could be no upfront payment, and no payments during the course of the painting, so Leonardo was basically poor during this time. The details of this painting are that Mary and baby are surrounded, although not crowded as there is plenty of space which was uncommon at the time, by a bunch of people in complete "adoration", however there seem to be two people who do not care...an older man (hand on his chin) on the left and a younger man to the right (looking away). Unfortunately I forget the theories behind why Leonardo put them in. Also, if you look in the background of the painting, although not finished, Leonardo was planning on putting fighting scenes with men on horses to show the chaos of the city and the world at that time, yet there was still this adoration of this one baby.

There is another sketch by Leonardo in the Uffizi named "Arno Landscape". From what I remember this is a sketch of the landscape that Leonardo would have seen if he had gone into the hills near his hometown. I am not certain of this, but that is what I somewhat remember.

Finally, there is one painting by Michelangelo named "The Holy Family with St. John the Baptist", and is one of his few paitings on canvas since he did not particularly like to do it. However, this painting absolutely stands out above the rest of the paintings in the room where it sits. The vibrant colors and details are amazing, and to think he considered himself a sculpture.

The Uffizi was definitely an enjoyable time, and shouldn't be missed if you go to Florence. After the Uffizi we ended up heading to dinner, and then left back to Munich the following morning. Italy was great, and I can't wait to head to Rome sometime in the future.

Posted by Don at 10:57 AM
January 16, 2004
Italy Part II

So, we arrived in Florence on Friday (Jan. 2nd) evening. Unfortunately we couldn't find our hotel despite the great navigational skills of Barbie. Basically, downtown Florence is a bunch of one way streets where there are no designated lanes. Everyone just fights for a spot, and you just hope the car next to you sees you. Eventually we just pulled over, and someone from the hotel came by and we followed them. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Minerva...which is located right next to the Santa Maria Novella church and hospital. The hospital is actually where Da Vinci did most of his studies (ie. autopsies) of human bodies. He was considered to be the first one to be able to accurately document (with 3-dimensional drawings) the human body. Anyways, our first night we were somewhat tired from the driving so we didn't do too much and just ended up going to some local restaurant and walking by the duomo.

Saturday we got up and decided to see the Santa Maria Novella church and then head to the main duomo of Florence known as Santa Maria del Fiore. Now this is an impressive church that made entirely of marble (white, red and green), and painted on the inside of the dome is a huge fresco of the "Last Judgement". Here is a link with pictures of both the inside and outside...Duomo Pictures. Anyways, we waited in line for about an hour to be able to walk up to the top of the duomo and look out over Florence. Unfortunately it was absolutely freezing b/c the wind was really gusting and we were on the shaded side of the church. It was all worth it though b/c of the great view. It was an absolutely clear day, so much so that we could even see the snow topped Alps in the background. After our little sight seeing adventure we settled down for most of the rest of the day which included Lunch, a nap, a good dinner, and more rest.
Sunday was our BIG day since Barbie had reservations for us at the museum Galleria dell'Accademia and the Uffizi museum. The Accademia is where Michelangelo's David is located. I had always heard how big it is, but I must say I was still awestruck by it's enormous size. And to think, the Michelangelo created this out of a piece of marble that no one else wanted. Anyways, David was more than impressive, but the rest of the museum didn't have much else to offer. After the Accademia we headed to the Baptistry which is considered to be the oldest building in Florence and is right next to the Duomo. It is mainly known for it's bronze doors that are on three sides of its octaganal shape and portray different scenes from the Bible. Here is list of links regarding the Bronze Doors. Also, there are some statues that stand on top of one of the doors that were partly created by Da Vinci...here is me standing in front of the baptistry's statues. Inside is another array of frescoes on the roof that portrays the Bible starting with Adam and Eve all the way to the "Last Judgement". After the Baptistry we still had a couple of hours before our reservations at the Uffizi so we grabbed some lunch and headed back to the room for a nap. More on our Uffizi trip in "Italy Part III".

Posted by Don at 04:12 PM
January 09, 2004
Italy trip (part 1)

After arriving back from Miami, Barbie decided we should throw caution to the wind and head to Italy for almost a week. Actually, the whole trip was planned b/c I had just finished a book on Leonardo da Vinci called "Leonardo: The Artist and the Man", about which I will write later. So, on New Year's Day we headed south for the winter. Our first stop was in Milan. Our only reason for going to Milan was so that we could see the Last Supper by Leonardo. So, on New Year's Day evening we arrived in Milan, but we couldn't see the Last Supper until the following day when we had reservations. So we decided to just walk around Milan and see what we saw...which ended up being a pretty cool looking castle. Unfortunately the interior of the castle was closed, so all we could do was just walk around the outside and in the courtyards, but still good to see. The following day we woke up a little bit early and headed out to the Duomo of Milan...which just happened to be undergoing some facade work, so pictures were a no go. However, we did a couple on the way, including one of me next to Leonardo's statue.

Afterwards we headed to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie where the Last Supper was painted. The Last Supper is actually a frescoe (i.e. painted on a wall), which I didn't know until reading the book since my grandmother had a replica hanging in the inside of her house. Anyways, the painting was pretty cool, although you could tell it had gone through it fair share of degradation despite the restoration attempts, but what can you expect from something that was painted in 1495. Interesting story about this painting is that Leonardo left the painting unfinished for over a year with just the face of Judas missing (every face except for Jesus was from someone he had seen). After a while, the church friar or priest began to complain that Leonardo was no longer working on the painting, but in fact he was just searching for someone that looked like they could be Judas (ie. someone that would betray Jesus). After many complaints by the friar, Leonardo finally found his man...although it is rumoured that he incorporated many of the facial features of the church's friar into the face of Judas. :) Moral of the story: don't mess with an artist at work.

The other curious thing about the Last Supper was trying to decipher what the book "The Da Vinci Code" was referring to when it says there is an extra hand in the painting. If you look to the left of Judas (guy to Jesus' right with his elbow on the table), there is hand there holding a knife. According to the theory portrayed in the 'the da Vinci Code', this is an extra hand as the angle of it cannot possibly be from any of the apostles. Although, upon my close inspection it looks like it should, or could, belong to the guy leaning over Judas...but it is still a weird angle. In any case, I like Barbie's take on the hand with the knife...she says it was Leonardo's way of showing that Judas was a 'back stabber'. Use this link and the Image Viewer to get a detailed view of the Last Supper.

After Milan we headed south to spend the next few days in one of Barbie's favorite cities, Florence (a.k.a. Firenze in Italian), and regions, Tuscany. However, I will have to write about that in the next post.

Posted by Don at 01:52 PM
December 18, 2003
Busy last few days

It all started Monday when we woke up to a snow covered Munich! Barbie awoke me by saying it is beautiful outside, so I figured it was nice and clear and sunny...but what she meant was that everything was white. This is the first time that I have ever lived where it snows...kinda strange, but it just doesn't snow in Miami. :) Anyways, that afternoon the snow continued to pour down. Barbie and I both said it was the most snow we had ever seen fall, but I wasn't about to tell my co-workers that...knowing I would just get ridiculed. Anyways, the night was pretty uneventful...except for more snow.
Tuesday we woke up to completely iced over streets again and snow everywhere. By mid-morning I took Kymba to the English Garten for some fun in the snow. She absolutely loved just playing around in it and chasing her ball. Lucky for me it wasn't that cold...so I was able to enjoy it also. Anyways, the fun really began that night. To start off, I watched the Dolphins game that evening (it's delayed over here) while riding my bike for an hour on the rollers. Needless to say I was pretty upset about the outcome, especially since they probably won't make the playoffs now! Afterwards, I decided to take Kymba for a walk back to the english garten b/c I couldn't find her leash, and figured I may have dropped it somewhere the last time. It was actually pretty cool being able to follow my own footsteps in the snow and track where I had been earlier. Unfortunately...no leash. To give you a little background, normally Kymba is only off the leash when she is at the park b/c she chases bikes, but it was around 8:30pm, dark and snow everywhere...so there weren't a lot of people out...much less bikers. So, we are about 200 meters from our house and are still right next to the Isar (not a street, but a path), and jogger comes by that Kymba decides she wants to run with. She goes, but then comes back when I call her. When she gets to me (jogger now 200 meters away), she decides I am boring and takes off after the jogger again. So I start walking towards them calling Kymba to come back, but to no avail. (jogger now 500 meters away). I start jogging after the Kymba and the non-stopping jogger thinking the jogger will eventually realize he has someone elses dog and either stop or run back towards me. Well, eventually they get to the point where the path splits in like 4 different directions, but since it is dark and they are still a good ways off I can't determine which way they went. Now becomes the worst part...I HAD LOST KYMBA! I end up asking people where they went, but they weren't sure except that one person saw them go across the bridge/dam to the English Garten, so I am jogging looking for them. Eventually, I have jogged about 2+ miles looking for her, but nothing. So, I get to the house, get on my bike and start looking again...but nothing and no one has seen them. Around 9:15pm I call Barbie, and she comes home and starts helping. Long story short, I was out til 2am riding around in the snow looking for Kymba and posting flyers. All in all I would say I got about 4 hours worth of biking...plus my original hour workout, plus the 2+ miles of jogging when I first lost her. Amazingly enough, Barbie handled everything really well (didn't divorce me). I was expecting to beaten over the head with everything in the house, but she was calm and just worried since it was snowing! Anyways, the next morning we found out the dog pound had gotten her and checked her in around 9:30pm. So I spent the better part of 4+ hours looking for a dog that wasn't there and was nice in cozy in some kennel somewhere. What we figured happened is that the jogger ran all the way home, realized that Kymba's owner wasn't there, and immediately called someone to come get the dog...but why didn't he stop or run back in the first place. I know beating your personal times while jogging is important, but come on...you've got someones dog!
So, on to Wednesday...other than getting Kymba back it was pretty uneventful other than I went for a 45 minute run that absolutely exhausting. Unfortunately it was not b/c I was running hard, but b/c of my workout the night before. I guess 2+ miles of jogging and 5+ hours of biking will do that to you.

Posted by Don at 12:48 PM
December 13, 2003
Finally, a decent haircut

As some of you know who have read this site in the past, I have had a very hard time getting a halfway decent haircut (see Bad Haircut). To give a little history on my haircut experiences, here is how it first started. A girl from the Berlitz school told me to try this one place, but when I got there they were about 35 or 40 euro...which is way too much for me. So I headed to the local Macy's type place which had a salon also. Luckily they were only about 20 euro and gave a halfway decent haircut, but it wasn't close enough for me. So then for my next time I saw that there was a haircut place by our grocery store. the first time there wasn't that bad...the the 2nd time was an absolute nightmare. This girl must have been in her first week or something. Of course me being the loyalist, I gave that place another shot and got absolutely butchered for a second time. Needless to say Barbie laughed and told me I was an idiot...and I must say I agreed with her after looking in the mirror. The next time I found a place that was also close and they gave the best head massage in the world. For someone that is used to just a cut, and not the wash and cut...I was in awe. However, the lady who cut my hair wasn't great...but she wasn't a butcher either. So I decided last night to try them again but they were booked for the night. I then remembered seeing a haircut place on the street that I run on...but I knew it couldn't have been there for long. So, with no other option I gave it a shot. The lady was great and the haircut was awesome! I know it weird to talk about your hair looking good, but if I can say it then you know she had to be good. Afterwards I realized why Barbie is always wanting to go out and party after her haircuts...somehow when you get a good one you want to go party. Luckily for me the place is less than a mile away, and there is only one person that works there...so more having to hope I get someone good...it'll always be the same person. Geez...that was a long post about my haircuts.

Posted by Don at 09:19 PM
December 12, 2003
Learning the ways of winter

Growing up in the sunshine state and spending the last few years in Northern California I have never been subjected to a cold winter where everything freezes and you can actually get your tongue stuck on a pole. Sure Tallahassee had it moments of temperatures in the teens...but nothing that lasted for too long. Anyways, this has been a pretty chilly week here in Munich, and today is actually considered quite warm...temp is about 35 degrees. Well, last week I watered down the yard with our hose, and at the end turned the water off and headed inside. Most of you think this is normal, but apparantely it is not a good idea when it is winter time. For example, this week (specifically two days ago) I needed to water something down again, but when I went to turn on the water it took all my strength just to turn the knob. Not thinking too much of it other than it was a little cold so things had shrunk, I went to the spray handle and couldn't even squeeze it. Sure enough, the water that was left over in the hose from the previous week was completely solid now! Basically I had an entire hose that was filled to the rim with ice, and no water was getting through even if I could squeeze the spray handle. Luckily it warmed up yesterday and today so nothing is frozen anymore, and I can drain the hose after I shut off the water valve. As they say...You live, you learn!

Posted by Don at 01:57 PM
December 07, 2003
Where have I been?

Well, I have definitely been M.I.A. from my website lately, but I promise this week I am going to get things going again. First of all, I need to update the site with a new Christmas look, then I have some cool optical illusions that I will post in our gallery (don't worry, I will provide the link).

So, to get you caught up as to what has been going on here...Lisa left last Sunday to head back to Cali. She stayed for about a week and got to do all the tourist stuff with Barbie this time instead of me. When she came to London I wasn't working yet, so I was the tour guide. Needless to say Barbie was quite happy to have her out here and be able to show her around.
This past week I have been doing a good amount of Triathlon training with a guy from work...more details in a future post. On Friday Barbie got to head back to Cali for work, so she has been the spending the weekend with her family in Motown (a.k.a. Modesto). She is going to be doing a ton of travelling this month, so I expect her to be a little grumpy at times. :) She is in Cali for this whole week, has to fly to London for a day or two next week, then we both head to Miami at the end of next week for the Christmas holidays. Talk about Jetlag!! She's a trooper, so I am sure we will be fine. So, you may be wondering what I am going to do with all this alone time with Kymba...well, let's just say I'll be in pretty good shape since I will be doing a ton of triathlon training. OK...enough for now...more to come later.

Posted by Don at 07:57 PM
November 13, 2003
Sometimes it just doesn't translate

Yesterday I was talking with a co-worker about how some shows that are funny in one language just don't translate well into Deutsch. We were specifically talking about the show Friends, which he used to not like until he saw the english version. He also says that they do a lot of different translations when trying to get Germans to understand what is being referred to. Therefore, if the show refers a common TV series in America, the Deutsch version will refer to a common TV series in Deutschland instead...I guess it makes sense.

Anyways, yesterday evening I was home and about to go to bed when I saw that Ocean's Eleven was on TV. I decided to give myself a little Deutsch practice by watching it in Deutsch instead of english. I have seen this movie enough times that I pretty much know every scene and what they are saying...so I would just try to understand in Deutsch what I knew they should be saying. So I am doing average to poor on my understanding, but then a scene comes up where they are stealing a Pinch from the Cal institute, and there are two guys in the front of the van playing 'Guess who'. Basically it's a game where one person asks a bunch of yes/no questions until they can guess what celebrity the other guy is thinking of. So the english version in the moive goes something like this (note: Guy B is very smart):
Guy A: Ok I am thinking about someone...
Guy B: Is it a man??
Guy A: Yes
Guy B: Is he over 18??
Guy A: Yes
Guy B: Evil Knieval!!

So...I am listening to this conversation in Deutsch, and the punchline at the end is not Evil Knieval!! Instead he says David Hasselhoff!! Apparantely Evil is not such a popular celebrity over here in Deutschland! And we all know David is huge b/c of Baywatch! Just thought it was funny and that I should share.

Posted by Don at 02:41 PM
November 06, 2003
Just to catch up...

So this past Saturday I went on a pretty long run as part of my training for my Ironman. The run was 9.5 miles, and I can't remember how long it took, but I was happy with it. I wasn't trying to push myself, just getting the miles in now...Speed training comes later on. That evening Barbie and I headed over to Jerry's house to try and watch the FSU vs. Notre Dame game. Unfortunately the AFN (Armed Forces Network) was only showing games aired by ABC, and since NBC owns the rights to all ND games we were out of luck. We did get to watch the last half of the Michigan State vs. Michigan game, which ended up being a really good game. It looked as Michigan was about to blow them out, but MSU kept coming back. In the end Michigan did win 27-20. We headed home after that so I could listen the FSU game on the radio...or at least what was left of the game since FSU basically blew them out 37-0. I did manage to stay up for the 1st half of the UM vs. Va. Tech game, but couldn't hold out to listen to the blowout. I knew UM was struggling in the first half, but they must have just collapsed in the 2nd half to lose by 24. Anyways, it helped FSU so that is always a good thing, but now I have to worry about USC losing.

Sunday morning Barbie and I went to see Intolerable Cruelty, the new movie with George Clooney and Catherine Zeta Jones. The move was entertaining, but much more silly comedy than I had expected...especially those two big actors. That afternoon we didn't do to much, but I went on about a 2 hour bike ride along the Isar (on Barbie's bike). The ride was really nice since you are basically riding in the woods the whole time. I did end up finding a basketball gym that I am hoping to play at one day, although the kid I met couldn't give me too much information on the exact time/date that it would be open. Anyways, that evening I got to watch the Dolphins play that night...and I must say they keep shooting themselves in the foot. They could easily be undefeated. I didn't see the first game against Houston, but I am assuming they should have won. They should have definitely beat New England and could have beat Indy. It's like this every year, but that is what being a fin fan is all about.

Posted by Don at 09:20 AM
October 31, 2003
No love for Halloween

Apparantely the Germans don't care too much for Halloween. We have a ton of candy, and so far only one trick-or-treater. From what Barbie and I can gather, Halloween is one of those holidays that is slowly filtering its way into Deutschland, but there is still a ton of hesitancy. For instance, our neighbour upstairs (who has a kid) asked me this morning how to do Halloween b/c her kids wanted to do it. I had to explain to her the whole thing and how it works, even what to say (Trick-or-Treat) when they come to someone's door. It is only about 5:30pm right now, but it's dark outside, and there doesn't seem to be anyone on the streets :-(. Hopefully they will all come around, otherwise I have to eat all the candy...and I know I can't resist it. :)

Posted by Don at 05:48 PM
October 29, 2003
Barcelona (a.k.a. "Var-the-lona")

This past weekend Barbie and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary in Barcelona, Spain...where they speak Castillian (an altered Spanish where 'B' is pronounced like a 'V', and 'C' is pronounced like 'th'). We had always heard great things about Barcelona, so why not visit...plus they have a Mike's Bike Tours there (bonus!). Anyways, the weather was great the Thursday thru Saturday, with some rain on Sunday and Monday morning. It was actually supposed to rain the entire weekend, so we lucked out. Anyways, Thursday evening we arrived and basically didn't do too much except walk around a little and visit a very old Gothic looking church, and then went for a pretty nice dinner. Barbie wasn't feeling too well most of the trip so we usually took it pretty easy in the evenings. Anyways, Friday morning I get up and it absolutely pitch dark, so I'm thinking it is about 5 or 6am, but I look at the clock and it is 10am! Apparantely Barbie had put down the shutters on our window, so the room got absolutely no sunlight in the morning...which made sleeping in really easy. That afternoon we headed to the Picasso museum, which was pretty interesting. It was nice to see that he wasn't always strange since they had a lot of his early works that were normal. It was also nice to see that there was some thought put into his works, and that it wasn't just a weird looking character with a funny nose and mouth. He would take a picture and re-create it with his own twist, so when you saw the original picture and his painting it made some sort of sense...although still strange. After Picasso, we headed out and did the little walking tour that our book had, so we got to see a good amount that way. The evening again was relaxed as we went to a little Italian place on La Rambla (the main street in Barcelona), and then headed back to the hotel.
Saturday morning I woke up and went for a nice hour long run down La Rambla, along the Pier and Beaches, and then back to the hotel. The weather was cool so it was enjoyable. That afternoon we headed to Mike's Bike Tours, which is always fun. We got to see where Queen Isabelle and King Ferdinand lived, the Columbus Statue, Gothic churches, the beaches, and of course a bunch of Antonio Gaudi things...most impressively "La Sagrada Familia". This church is old and "gaudi looking" (gaudi was named after him), but it still has another 120 years before it is finished. Gaudi started it, then died, now another group is finishing it, and you can definitely tell what is from Gaudi and what is the new stuff. Anyways, the tour was fun and enjoyable and we couldn't have asked for better weather. That evening we went to a Spanish place where I got to enjoy some excellent paella, which included shrimp, fish and clams...EXCELLENT!
The next day we basically spent reading our books in the hotel since the weather was bad, but we did go to a new restaurant called "The Attic" which was also very good. It has only been opened for 3 weeks, but everything was great. Monday we came home...and we both ended up finishing our books that day (me on the plane and barbie sometime late that evening...she gets sucked in and can't put it down :) ).
Of course we have Barcelona Pictures thanks to Barbie....although she did include her trip to Madrid which didn't include me.

Posted by Don at 11:22 AM
October 13, 2003
Hurricane fans arrive in Munich

Once again the rains poured down and the Seminoles offense could do absolutely nothing. Last year it was against Louisville on a Thursday night when FSU suffered it first defeat of the season. This year it was in Tallahassee against the Hurricanes. FSU did absolutely nothing on offense, and the defense played exceptionally well given the fact the Canes go 5 turnovers...most of which landed them in our own territory. The FSU defense only gave up one TD, the other coming on a 44 yd. interception return by the Miami defense. This was the first game I actually got to watch of the season...actually it was the first snap I had ever seen this year of FSU. I mean I haven't even seen a highlight or anything. The reason I was able to watch it this time was b/c Jon (who happened to be in town) found out the doorman at the Marriott is ex-military and was able to get the AFN (Armed Forces Network)....which shows american TV. I have been here for almost 4 months and I can't find anything, Jon is in town for 3 hours and finds the game...what the heck?
Anyways, enough about the game. Jon, Jan, Rich, Tamara and the soon to be new Richards (Tamara is pregnant) were in town for the weekend before they head to Italy for a wedding. I think we all had a pretty good time (excluding Friday for them since they had to suffer through jetlag). Saturday we walked through the Englisch Garten and stopped for lunch, then headed to see the surfers of Munich ride the Isar, and then to Nyphemburg palace. After all of this we headed to Jerry's house (ex-military guy) to watch the miserable rain soaked game (but I said we are not going to talk about that anymore). The next day was sort of a relaxing day as we went to Odeonsplatz and stopped for lunch at some traditional Bavarian place, then headed to the Hofbrau house for some beer. They had to leave that evening, so there wasn't much more we could do...but it was a good time none the less. Pictures will be available soon I am sure.

Posted by Don at 09:45 AM
October 07, 2003
A weeks worth of info...

So I have been slacking on the updates to the site, but you will all live so please forgive those of us who do try to keep people updated to our life's happenings. :) Anyways, here is a rundown of the last week's activities:

Monday:
Barbie had recently informed me that I was to pick up her co-worker and her husband from the airport in the morning. That's right, she sold them out, so I was left to go to the airport and stand there with a sign that had the name of the lucky couple who was about to join for me a ride. Lucky for me I had the sign, b/c there was no way I was going to be able to identify them. Anyways, the rest of the day was pretty uneventful for me, although Nicole and Bob (the lucky couple), did get to go do some touristy things...and Barbie and I met them for dinner at a little Italian place in Marienplatz. It's always nice to find a new restaurant that is pretty good.
Tuesday:
Oktoberfest revisited...although this time was with the Cisco people. They reserved us a spot at the infamous Hofbrau tent, which is absolutely enormous and should in no way be referred to as a tent. I ended up getting there a little later than Barbie, Nicole and Bob, (some of us have to work you know)...and so there wasn't much room for me to sit, but luckily they were able to squeeze me in. It's always fun to see your co-workers in a different light...kinda makes you remember that they to have a life outside of the office...although only at Oktoberfest do you get to see 'em dressed up in Laderhosen and drinking Liters of beer!!!
Wednesday and Thursday:
Didn't too much...work, run, learn some Deutsch, eat Weinerschnitzel...you know, the normal routine in Bavaria.
Friday thru Sunday:
So this is unification day in Germany...ie. we get the day off!! So Barbie planned us a nice weekend in Baden Baden to celebrate an early birthday for me since she won't be here for my actual b-day. For those that don't know, Baden Baden is pretty famous for all the luxury style stuff like Spas, hot springs, massages and what not...but they also have Germany's oldest Casino. Anyways, we stayed at nice little hotel called the Hotel Regent. The graciously accepted dogs, but little did they know about Kymba...who over the course of the weekend was probably the worst she has been in quite a long time. She basically was just a brat. Not sure, but I don't think she liked Baden Baden. At one point while eating dinner at the hotel restaurant, the owner came to us and said there was a white dog running loose in the hotel. She had basically figured out how to open the door and had scared a little kid to death. Luckily there were two doors so she didn't go everywhere...just in our area where there were two other rooms...one of which the kids were staying at. She obviously didn't hurt them...just put a little scare into them. Anyways, Friday we went to a local Therme...which is basically a bunch of pools and hot springs mostly in doors where people just relax. We had free passes but forgot them at the hotel so we had to fork over 24 euro for just 2 hours when we got there...doh. Friday night was the dinner I had just talked about...and Saturday was a rest and relaxation day. We basically just chilled in the morning, went to lunch, then to the Schlosshotel for some massages. Barbie arranged an hour long massage, followed by a foot reflexology massage, followed by an 'anti-stress' bath. I don't know about the anti-stress part, but it was cool. Both massages were good, but like always too weak...they just have no desire to make you hurt and really work out the muscles. I guess I have to go to a sports place for that. After all of this we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our night at the casino...where suits are required. Unfortunately I ended up being the only one going since Kymba went absolutely nuts when we tried to leave, I guess she didn't like being in the hotel for 4 hours alone, only to be left again. So Barbie was forced to stay with her while I went to the Casino. It was a shame b/c Barbie was all done up and looked great...and of course I looked good to. :)
So the Casino was everything I expected, and none of what I expected. I expected a very high class, old looking tables and chandeliers, and stuffy people everywhere...which is what I got. However, I didn't expect it to be so small and limited in the amount of games they offered. The had a total of 4 games you could play: 6 tables of roulette, 3 tables of blackjack, 2 baccarat tables, and 2 poker tables. NO CRAPS!! Needless to say I was pretty disappointed about the no craps, guess that would have caused to much excitement for the place. Anyways, the place was packed, and with only a few tables, it was next to impossible to get to one. The craziest thing was the blackjack tables, where people standing would play on the hand of the person who was sitting. So you would have 5 people playing one persons hand, but only the person at the table could make the decisions...so you just put your money down and hope that person knows what they are doing. I only spent about an hour there losing 25 euro on a few spins of the roulette wheel. The crowds, limited games, smoke and plastic chips (they don't use clay for some reason) was just too much to bear for any longer. But I got the feel and enjoyed the experience.
Sunday we headed home from the relaxing weekend, minus kymba, and just vegged until the Dolphins came on TV. It was the first time I have seen them play this year, so it was a great thrill. Funny how I appreciate that now. Anyways, I still haven't seen one snap from a FSU game...not a highlight or anything...so I can't wait for that. So, to finish this off, here are the pictures from the weeekend...although I can't tell if we are taking pictures of ourselves or the dog.

Posted by Don at 11:45 AM
September 26, 2003
Degrees of cold

So the last few days have been about the coldest days all year in Miami with temperatures from around 40 degrees as the low to 65 degrees as the high. It is really not too bad except for in the morning when the temp is actually in the low 40's. Barbie and I are planning on heading into town to get some winter clothes this weekend, but with all the tourists in town for Oktoberfest, it could end up being a nightmare. All I know is that I was told I would need a scarf for sure...now when someone tells you need a scarf, then you know it is going to be freezing. Here's my theory on winter wear:

  1. Jacket: Miami winter COLD
  2. Wool Jacket: COLD
  3. Down Jacket/ Trench Coat: Really COLD
  4. Gloves: Why am I living here COLD
  5. Ear muffs: At least Canada is nice during the summer COLD
  6. Scarf: If it is cold enough to freeze my lungs, then it is not fit for human inhabitation COLD
Posted by Don at 09:16 AM
September 23, 2003
Interesting evening...

Barbie and I went out last night to a comedy club to celebrate Mareike's birthday...she is the one who owns Schirkan and lives right down the street. Barbie and I were a little concerned over the fact that entire show was going to be in German, but we were going to give it our best shot. I was actually feeling somewhat proud of myself before hand b/c I could somewhat understand what people were talking about at our table, so how much harder could the comedy show be? Apparantely speaking at a dinner table, and speaking on stage, go at 2 completely different speeds...so it was really tough...although I did pick up a few phrases here and there. The good thing was that it was improv, so they did a lot of body acting (like charades), which obviously helped. The show ended up lasting about 2 and a half hours...with a 15 minute break in between. Lars (Marieke's fiancee) did help us out a lot with the translating of things so that we could understand the setting and what was going on, which was a tremendous help. All in all it was actually a pretty good time, and I must say I did laugh quite a bit...guess that says a lot for the actors/actresses. It's probably the best thing for us to be forced to have to listen and comprehend things...as they say, the quickest way to learn a new language is to put yourself in an environment where you are forced to speak it.

So this morning comes around and I'm heading to work, and all I can find on the radio is talk show after talk show, and of course it is all in Deutsch. Now I understand this is Germany (a.k.a Deutschland), and that all the talk shows will be in Deutsch, but I usually could always rely on the radio to have English music...but this morning I was having no luck. 2.5 hours of Deutsch last night, plus Deutsch radio this morning, followed by another 2 hours of Deutsch class later this evening, I felt I had earned my keep and could relax with some English. Never in my life have I been so happy to hear Ricky Martin singing 'Living la vida Loca' in English/Spanish. It's a crazy world when I have to resort to talking about Ricky Martin on this site. :)

Posted by Don at 11:12 AM
September 22, 2003
Oktoberfest 2003 Weekend

Well we have had a fun and tiring last couple of days. As mentioned earlier, this weekend was the start of Oktoberfest, and our friend Rich was having a bunch of friends over to celebrate. Anyways, let's start with Saturday evening, as we didn't do much up until then anyways. So we all meet up at Il Borgo for dinner. In case you didn't catch on by the name, it is an Italian place...although all the courses we had were fish related, so go figure. Of course the highlight of the meal was dessert which was chocolate mousse with strawberries! :) Afterwards we headed to Club Pacha for some clubbing. I would have to say it has been a while since Barbie and I have been to a club, as a matter of fact I don't remember another time. Either way we had a blast hanging out and dancing and what not. Supposedly this is the 2nd hardest club to get into in Munich, but Rich had already arranged everything so that we could all hang out in the VIP area. We didn't end up getting home til after 4am, and we were the first people to leave! Great night...rough morning.
Sunday starts off a little rough of course, but all is good and we end up taking a few naps to prepare for Oktoberfest itself. We head to the infamous Thereseinweisse U-bahn station where Oktoberfest is held at around 4:30pm prepared to enjoy some more good times. The good thing is that we are going to the wine tent so Barbie can drink also. I must say I was surprised to see that Oktoberfest is not just a bunch of large tents for drinking, but an entire carnival as well. Somehow I would have to think that beer and carnival rides don't really go together, so you pretty much have to go in with the idea of either drinking or riding the rides. Obviously we were there for the beer this time. The wine tent was packed, and our box seemed even fuller. Luckily we got to hang out at the English speaking table once we finally got situated. Our box (group of tables) was right in front of the band which made things even more exciting. As the Oktoberfest Pictures show we all had a blast, and our host Rich even got to go on stage and sing...although he had alreadly lost his voice by this time so it was a little tough to hear him over the instruments. Anyways, it was a blast, and enjoy the pics.

Posted by Don at 12:07 PM
September 19, 2003
Oktoberfest is almost here...

I've put in countless hours of training for this Oktoberfest, although I must admit it I am by far not the most prepared. I am, however, ready to give it my best shot. This is just going to be one of those crazy weekends that come around every once in awhile, where there is just non-stop activity. Our friend, Rich (the guy on the left), is having a bunch (about 85) of people coming to visit him here in Munich this weekend, and he has a walking tour planned for Saturday afternoon, a dinner at 8pm, followed by late-night clubbing. Sunday morning is being reserved for recuperating, b/c from 5pm til Midnight we will all be hanging out at Oktoberfest and drinking beer (except for Barbie who will be drinking wine). The bierzelt (beer tent) we are staying at is actually a heffeweissen and wine tent, so we won't be getting the Liter beers that are so famous, but not to worry, b/c we are going back with Cisco on Sept. 31st, and we will have plenty of oppurtunities then. I would have to say I am pretty excited about going to Oktoberfest, as it is probably on my top 20 things to do in a lifetime (I'll post those later). Anyways, for those of you want to learn more about the history and celebration of Oktoberfest...go to: www.octoberfest.de.

Posted by Don at 01:50 AM
September 16, 2003
It's the subtle differences that matter...

I hate to admit it, but I do go to get and get professional massages. This may sound a little feminine for some of you, but it usually feels great, and I am more than comfortable with my masculinity. Anyways, to give you some background on how it works in the States, you usually are escorted to a room which is dimly lit, has a massage table covered in sheets, and some soft music in the background. They then kindly ask you to undress while they are gone and to get under the towel that is also on the bed. After you are ready to go, they knock on the door, come in and begin to give you a massage...all the while covering your private parts with the towel. This is what we were used to...well, WELCOME TO GERMANY!!
We show up last night to this local massage place, and I swear the place is about 50 years old. It's one of those old buildings with long corridors that remind you of WWII movies and the hospitals the GI's had to be put in...the only difference is that there were actual rooms instead of sheet walls. Anyways, Barbie goes her way and I mine. They escort me to my room, so far so good, then she leaves and tells me to undress. As she leaves I notice that for one there is no towel on the bed for me to get under, and two that the room is brighter than a summer afternoon in California (I would have said Miami, but it does rain there during the summer afternoon). As I am getting undressed the girl walks in...not even barely knocking and waiting for a response, but one of those knock and walk in all in the same motion. Needless to say, I've decided to keep my boxers on since there is no towel and she is watching me getting undressed. So I lay down on the table and begin to notice that there is no soft music...just a local radio station playing all sorts of random music...nothing classical by any means. THEN IT HITS ME!! This extremely bad odor that can only be described as the smell your wife complains about after a long run or 3 hours of basketball. The masseuse has extreme body odor and it is not something that you can just get used to ... the room now wreaks of this. Needless to say, it was a little hard to enjoy the massage with the bright light, hip-hop music, a 1950, barely padded, massage table, and the smell of someones underarm filling the entire room for an hour. The only good thing about the whole incident that it is only 25 euro for an hour...and we are pre-paid for one more, although I will have to request the masseuse take a shower or put on some deodorant before hand.

Posted by Don at 03:49 AM
September 09, 2003
Weekend festivities

I wouldn't exactly call the weekend festive, but I thought it was a good a title for the post anyways. If you read the last post, then you know what happened Saturday, so this is pretty much just a Sunday wrap-up with a few extra stories thrown in to add some spice. So, on Sunday I woke up around 10ish..got a whole 4 hours of sleep thanks to the late night listening to football on Saturday. Barbie and I headed to the movies to see Fluch der Karibik, and for those of you who don't know what movie it is...then you can look it up. :) Anyways, we had heard it wasn't going to be that good of movie, so expectations were low, but we actually ended up really enjoying it. They did a good job of keeping the movie interesting, and also for throwing in actual scenes from the Disney ride...which no one in the entire theater got except for Barbie and I. Both Barbie and I give two thumbs up!
The rest of day included a much needed nap, followed by heading to the Marriott to watch some NFL football. That's right, we can get some NFL games. It's amazing though, b/c the sports bar has about 20 TV's, and they only show one game on all of them. Not sure if it b/c it is all they can get or what, but we only got to watch the Packers vs. Vikings game. The Niners actually were on afterwards, but that was around 11pm by the time the first game ended, so I didn't stick around. Either way, there was football!

And now for the added spice...

About a week and a half ago I went to get a haircut. For those of you who know, my hair is not that hard to cut so I usually don't spend a lot of money on some fancy salon type place like some people...aka Nick. I went to the same place I had gone before, however, there was someone new working. The fact that she was new, combined with my not being able to speak Deutsch did not make for a very good haircut. My first inclination should have been the fact that she said they didn't have a size 2 clip-on for the shaver/cutter thinga-majig. All they had was a 3...and let's just say the 3 is definitely shorter than the 2 I am used to. Then, when she is done, I ask her to take just a little more off the top. She shows me how much, I agree, then she proceeds to forget all about what she showed me, and cuts my hair a lot shorter!! The whole thing was bad...I ended up getting home and finding stray long hairs on the side (where the very short #3 was used), plus the front of my hair is all whacked. Normally I don't care too much b/c it'll grow out, but I got a good beating about it when hanging with Gordo, Barry, Curtis, etc. last Thursday, so I thought I should at least mention it here. Bad things happen when you don't speak the language, the don't have your size cutters, and the girl is new...just a word to the wise for those of you who may ever encounter a situation like this.

Posted by Don at 12:26 AM
August 30, 2003
Tougher than expected

Moving to Germany I did not think missing a part of the colllege football season was going to be that tough, but after yesterday I must say that I was wrong. I think I had in the back of my mind that I would be able to find the games somewhere, if not at my own house via satellite. However, as another person from America put it...I am S.O.L. College football does not exist in this world...but at least the NFL does...a little. Supposedly the Marriott shows NFL games, but not college football...which is good, but not great. There have been plenty of times where I had to do something on any given saturday and couldn't watch games, but never on the opening weekend. Plus, I knew that the games were close by if I could ever sneak away from what I was doing. Here I feel as if the games are thousands of miles away (which they are), but that I have no hope of next weekend or the following or the entire year of getting a good steady diet of college football. Hopefully I can find a place to watch some of the main games...but who knows.
With FSU being on another rebound season it's as if you think every game might be close, so I wake up and cross my fingers while I read the scores (by the way, I would have done pretty well in betting this weekend if I so desired). Reading Final scores is like reading only the last page of a book. There is no excitement involved, just a conclusion. As true fans around the world can attest, you like to feel as if your screaming, hollering, yelling, etc. during the game, even the ones you watch on TV, are somehow helping. Reading just the final score doesn't give anywhere near the emotional high I look forward to each and every year. FSU won yesterday 37-0, and as great as that is, there was no real excitement b/c I didn't get to watch them. This is going to be a long season.

--The disgruntled Deutschland football fan

Posted by Don at 10:39 PM
August 26, 2003
Where in the world is Don?

I figure most of you have been asking that same question to yourself the past couple of weeks since I haven't posted anything on the site. Well I am back, so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Ok, now that you are ready to read the story of my adventures the past couple of weeks, I am simply going to point you over to Barbie's site since she did an excellent job of describing the past two weeks events...which included visiting Lago di Como (Lake Como for you non Italian speakers) and Venice in Italy, finishing "A Tale of Two Cities" (more on that later), and an adventurous tour around Munich on the infamous Mike's Bike Tour. So here are the links....enjoy.

  1. Lago di Como
  2. Venice
  3. Munich and the Bike Tour

    First read the above post, then read the rest of this otherwise you will be lost. Regarding the poor girl who dislocated her fibula (lower bone of the leg), I must say that she handled it pretty well. If you can imagine how much pain would be caused by taking the lower half of your leg and completely removing it from your knee and tibula...we are talking some serious pain. Since I was the one who pulled her out of the water she yells at me to help her, and I feel so bad that I can do nothing for her but to tell her to calm down until we find a doctor. I have no idea how I got her out with one arm, but I somehow pulled this entire girl out of the river [which has a huge current] in about a second...must be adrenaline, b/c I sure as heck haven't been working out lately. Anyways, don't ask me where this lady came from, but there just happened to be a Doctor in the House (actually Englisch Garten) and she promptly determined the leg was dislocated and not broken...which is good, but still painful. Luckily we were able to get the girl calm until her boyfriend and the ambulances came...but since I am not good with seeing dis-figurements, I must say I got a little woozy afterwards...geez I'm a wimp, but there are just some people who can be doctors and others who can't, and smart people know which category they fit in.

So, I will post more on the "Tale of Two Cities" in my next post, just got to keep my readers wanting more...the secret of success. :)

Posted by Don at 01:23 AM
July 28, 2003
Congrats to Armstrong!

Intesity!!

That one word seems to sum up this picture. Lance Armstrong is the absolute man when it comes to the cycling world, and to think he came back from a 50/50 chance of surviving cancer...it is quite remarkable. In case you hadn't heard, as could be the case if you live in the U.S. since cycling isn't that big there, he won his 5th consecutive Tour de France yesterday afternoon. It was basically his closest race since he started his streak 5 years ago...only winning by 61 seconds over Jan Ullrich, who is a German. The German radio stations were going nuts a little while back when Ullrich cut the lead of Armstrongs and had a chance to win the whole thing, but they seemed to forget why Armstrong is who he is. So...congrats to Armstrong who over the 23-day, 2,125-mile event, averaged a ridiculous speed of 25.38 mph -- breaking his own record, set in 1999. I try to average 20mph for 50 miles if that you gives you any indication how fast he is going.

By the way, next year Barbie and I plan on heading to France to see Lance set the record and win a 6th straight title...so make your reservations now.

Posted by Don at 04:29 AM
July 21, 2003
Big weekend

Well this was a pretty taxing weekend on my body...mainly due to the fact I did my first 1/2 Ironman race on Saturday, but I will post more about that later on. I'm just posting now to say thanks to that Barry guy for inviting Barbie and me to Ammersee for a little fun in the sun yesterday. Ammersee is a lake about 40 minutes outside Munich, but is a very nice place to hang out in the water b/c it is like Daytona Beach in the fact that it is very shallow a long ways out. Barbie, myself and Barry threw the football, not soccer, around and also tossed around a frisbee for a good 4-5 hours or so. The lake is also much better suited for Kymba since dogs are allowed everywhere and it is not that deep until way out. I'm sure we'll have to get some pictures of that and show you someday. As for yesterday evening, Barbie and I headed over to Myrka and Lars' house for a good ole' fashioned Bavarian BBQ...which means Bratwurst! Nothing like a good Bratwurst every now and then. We also ended up taking Kymba over there since they have a 4 1/2 month old flat haired retriever. Let's just say the two dogs didn't stop playing for 2 straight hours, then we couldn't wake them up to go home. They absolutely wore themselves out, but it was fun watching 'em. Anyways, I'll post more on the triathlon tonight or tomorrow...including a graph of my heartrate throughout the race.

Posted by Don at 05:50 AM
July 09, 2003
Not the fastest water...

According the Olympic Stadium Website here in Munich...there swimming pool is supposed to have the "fastest water" in the world. They claim this b/c Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals in swimming back in 1972. Anyways, I swam there this morning and I sure wasn't any faster...then again it could be b/c I am out of shape and don't know how to swim properly. Either way I'm thinking about suing for false advertising.

Well...here is another link from my former boss' website (mugly.com) that is really cool. Not sure where he finds this stuff, but I normally like to share some of his cool findings:

Matrix Ping-Pong

Posted by Don at 12:53 PM
July 07, 2003
4th of July Weekend

Unfortunately there didn't seem to be much going on for the 4th here in Germany ... understandable, but still kind of sad. The one thing that did make it feel like home was Top Gun...just a great movie. Anyways, on Friday we went to New Orleans style bar that was supposed to be having an American BBQ. The place ended up being completely reserved, so we had to sit at a small table near the bar. The food and place ended up being really nice so we'll probably head back to there someday soon.

Saturday is school day for Kymba. Although she is the youngest one in her class, I would have to say that she is the smartest. The instructor actually likes to use her as an example for the other dogs since she learns the tricks the quickest. Basically she has become teachers pet, just like Barbie used to be. :) Although this is all good, she is an absolute wimp when it comes to playing with other dogs...which is the complete opposite of Timber. Kymba loves to bite us, but has no desire to bbite (playingly) the other dogs. Barbie loves this, but it drives me nuts.
Saturday night was spent at a bar with a German, a Canadian and a Irishman. Sounds like the beginning of a joke doesn't it? Actually, they are some friends we met back when we first came to Munich for our house hunting trip. They were speaking English in a bar (not the same one), so it wasn't too hard to strike up a conversation. Anyways, it was Gordon's (the German...actually half German half English) Birthday party...and he had a bunch of friends join him at a bar for celebrating. You can go here to check out all the pictures from the night...Gordon's B-Day Party. If you want to know who the German, Irishman and Canadian are...use the following links:

  1. Curtis the Canadian (the guy on the right)
  2. Gordon the German (the guy on the left)
  3. Ian the Irishman (actually his name is Barry but Ian works better with the Irishman)

There will be more on these three clowns later...but I had to mention them since they got upset that they were not mentioned on my site earlier when Barry and Curtis came to dinner last Wednesday for some good home cooking by Barbie. Otherwise, I don't really care about these guys :)

As for Sunday, we didn't do much...just hung out in the afternoon and went to the Hard Rock Cafe to finish off our American Weekend. The food was good but the Long Island Iced Tea was better. First I ordered a Budweiser...just to get the American taste, but it wasn't cold so I ordered up a Long Island that was one of the best I have ever had. The Hard Rock has to be the most American place in Munich...some waiters/waitresses don't even speak German. All in all a good weekend...and next weekend we head to Frankfurt to watch IRONMAN GERMANY.

Posted by Don at 05:21 AM
July 02, 2003
Rough morning

So I get up this morning at about 6am so I can do some training before I head to work. I slacked off yesterday mainly due to the rain, and today was going to be my "make-up day". First I wake up with the intention of doing some swimming followed by a 8 mile run, then I realize I don't have time for all that if I am going to leave work early to get home for our "Date Night" this evening. So I decide to just ride my bike to work (about 18 miles), and then I will ride home followed immediately by my 8 mile run...which basically just leaves my swim training for the day out to dry (ha...you gotta love the pun on that one :) ).
Anyways, the ride went fine and I arrive to work around 8:40am. Supposedly, although I had never seen them (which should have tipped me off in the first place), there are showers in the building that Barbie works in. So I politely ask the secretary where they are and she does her best to give me directions..."through the doors, go left, down the hall, then on your right". So I proceed to lock my bike up in the garage, and then follow her directions, only to find myself lost and no showers to be found anywhere. So I ask another lady and she takes me back out to the lobby (where the secretary is sitting) and points to a door where the shower ...notice I didn't say showers ... is located. This door is in plain view of where I just asked the secretary, so who knows what she was thinking.
Now this is a bathroom built for handicap people...you know the ones with bars everywhere. I figure it's OK, and proceed to try and get the hot water going. However, there is absolutely no hot water, the drain doesn't work and remnants of shampoo/soap left. We are not talking about your Miami cold water...this is Munich cold water. Anyways, after the shower, the thing is about to overflow b/c the drain is clogged...but I am not about to stick around and ask questions. So, on my way out I politely ask the secretary if that is the only shower (thinking to myself there has to be another place that she was directing me to)...but alas there are no other showers and I was left to wonder what everyone is talking about when that the building has showers...when in fact all they have is a cold, handicapped, clogged drain, miniature of a shower. Hopefully the afternoon gets a little better.

Posted by Don at 01:20 AM
June 28, 2003
Dog Training (Day #1)

As mentioned in the previous post, today was the first day of obedience school for little Kymba (or should I say big since she is already 45lbs. at 4 1/2 months). I must admit I was pretty skeptical of the whole obedience school thing since I've already had 2 dogs that ended up being pretty well behaved. However, after attending the class I was fairly impressed with their thought process of teaching the dogs, plus it was good to see Kymba have to obey while other dogs were around...which is key here in Germany since dogs are everywhere. Anyways, here are the basics that they taught us:

  1. You need to use hand signals since that is the way that dogs communicate with each other, and it easier for them to understand what you want them to do rather than when you just talk. Not to say you shouldn't tell them commands, but you should do both. The other bonus of this is if they are far away from you and can't hear you but they can see you, then they will know that when you put your hand up you want them to come.
  2. The next thing they taught us is that you should always have a "release" command after they have done something, that way they know it is OK to continue playing or doing whatever. A good example is when you tell them to sit...if you don't have a release command then they don't know how to long to stay seated.
  3. They were planning on teaching Kymba how to sit and lay down, but since she already knew it we moved right on to getting her to walk besides us on the leash. Now this is something I would never have gotten Cinder or Timber to ever do. Those two dogs were all about sniffing everything in sight. Anyways, what they said to do is when the leash gets tight (ie. the dog is pulling too much), you should stop walking and slowly take step backwards until the dogs comes back to you...thus loosening up the leash again. Now this can be a big pain b/c it can literally take you 5 minutes to walk 30 feet, but they say to be consistent, otherwise the dog will know that he/she can break eventually break you...hence they will continue to pull. So for about a week, Barbie and I may be going on 20 minute walks with Kymba, but it we will have only gone 3 houses down. However, if she can learn this trick then I'll be a happy camper since I hope that someday she'll be able to run along side me when I jog or possibly bike around town. The other thing they mentioned was to never shorten the leash on them, b/c they need to know exactly how far they can go without the leash getting tight on them and you stopping. If you keep changing the distance then they will never learn.

Anyways, you may not agree with these theories, but I thought I'd share them since we are paying money for them and might as well let other people benefit from it. Consider it the Napster of the dog training world :) , and if you don't know what Napster is then where have you been living the last couple of years?

Posted by Don at 08:30 AM
June 27, 2003
The weekend is upon us...

Well can you believe I've already had 4 full days of work...it almost seems as if I am due for some time off. Thank goodness for the weekend!! Anyways, tomorrow is a big day for our overly spoiled dog Kymba (Case in point). Tomorrow is her first day of school...obedience school that is. She is showing all the signs that most youngsters do before the big day, you know...getting excited and nervous all at the same time. I try to tell her that things will be OK, but youngsters have to learn for themselves. Although it is a big day for Kymba, it will be a bigger day for Barbie since she will now have to be somewhat strict with the dog and not let her get away with things. She's been putting off being strict until tomorrow...which I could slightly understand when she looks liked this... Cute Kymba , but now she's slightly grown up and needs some discipline.
Other than that, it should be a pretty good weekend. I think there are some festivals going on that we'll go check out, and probably go see a movie. I've also decided to start reading "A tale of two cities", and I must say that after reading only 2 chapters it is not the easiest thing read. This old English thing gets to me. Hopefully I can get the hang of it so the book will be more enjoyable....otherwise, it could be a few months before I give out another book review.

Posted by Don at 08:09 AM
June 21, 2003
About to start work...

Apparantely I am about to start working for Cisco this coming week...although I am not sure of the exact date yet. My boss is going to be out of the office on Monday, so it won't be then...although that is a good thing since we have a new dining room table being delivered that day. On a side note, although we just spent some obscene amount of money at IKEA...I can't say I like the place too much (sorry Meg). First you have to follow a foot path with arrows around the whole store before you can get to the section you want, then you have to go down to a wharehouse looking area and try to fit all your stuff (tables, chairs, rugs, whatever else you managed to pick out) into a small shopping cart. Remember, you are not the only one is the store either, so there are hundreds of crazy people all trying to do the same thing as you. Finally, to top things off...if you want something delivered you can't just tell them which product...you have to get the product from the wharehouse shelf yourself and bring it to them and tell them to deliver it. Maybe it is not this way in the US, but that is the deal here in Germany (where customer service is a term that doesn't exist). Anyways, enough about IKEA...just wanted to express some frustrations. So Monday I won't start b/c my boss is out of the office...so that leaves Tuesday...right? Nope...you're Wrong! My boss then leaves for vacation on Wednesday so I don't know if I am going to start on Tuesday and then have no manager for the rest of the week...who knows?
So much for my time off...although I must say it is always fun having a couple months to "re-charge my batteries". I hear a lot of my friends complaining that of all the people I should not be the one to have gotten more time off, but you're wrong. As Steve and MJ (friends from FSU) said..."I married UP in the world"!! And when you marry a Barbie you get some ancillary benefits...

  1. Extra time off from work
  2. A little extra spending money
  3. Being able live in another country
  4. Finally...A hot wife
Posted by Don at 01:56 AM
June 01, 2003
Bread is good

I'm sure some of you remember me complaining about the fact that bread in the UK seemed to go bad within about 3 days. Well, the Germans have figured out a way to have bread not go bad at all. I'm not sure what the deal is, but I've had a loaf of bread for over a week and there absolutely no mold to speak of...what a great benefit for an avid sandwich eater like myself. Anyways, today I spent most of the day outside trying to get the yard, also known as a garden in Europe, better prepared for Kymba. I'm trying to build a fence that Kymba won't be able to jump over...however, the people at the local hardware store have no clue what it actually takes to build one of these things because i have been back 5 or 6 times already to get other parts or replace parts, and tomorrow I get the added joy of going there again. They are bound to know me by name this time. If I can give a word of advice...pay someone to install a wire fence, otherwise, Murphy's Law will bite you in ass more than you'll care to enjoy.

Posted by Don at 12:17 PM
May 31, 2003
Erick has left the building...

Well big E, also known as Erick, left this past Friday so it is down to just me and Kymba for the next week. Well Wednesday night we headed to the Haufbrau house for a few beers, and ended up meeting some Michigan State grads on the way there...cool guys who had just graduated and were touring Europe for a month. After the Haufbrau house we, or should I say, Erick wanted to go to a club...so we pulled a cabby over and told him to take us to a dance club. Unfortunately he thought we meant a strip club...but that was 30 euros too late. He did end up finally dropping of at P1, which is one of the best nightclubs/bars here...although the bouncers are very strict and didn't let us in...too bad Barbie wasn't here, we would have gotten in for sure. Anyways, Thursday we pretty much chilled since we had been up for a while on Wednesday night. We headed out to Stanbergersee, which is a very nice lake about 30 minutes outside of town. I'm actually going to do a triathlon there later this year. After the lake, we went to the Englisch Garten, which was absolutely packed since Thursday was some sort of German holiday. I wanted to show Erick the biergartens, but they were absolutely swamped with thousands of people. Thursday night we kept up with the theme and just chilled. As for Friday, I took Big E to the airport and proceeded to get a movie, Driven, and relax at the house. Unfortunately I forgot I had already seen the movie...doh! Saturday morning I went for a 50 mile bike ride with Wolfgang, the guy I mentioned earlier that is helping with triathlons out here. We haven't done any hills yet, and I seem to be coming back in shape which is nice...although I have a long ways to go for a 1/2 ironman this year. Alright, that is enough for now...

Posted by Don at 01:44 PM
May 28, 2003
Erick is in town...

Well Erick arrived late Monday evening so needless to say things have been crazy ever since. Went for a couple of beers in Schwabing (which is like the place to be for living and going out in Munich) Monday evening...I think my german is coming around since I knew how to ask for a menu and a couple of beers...although once I got the german menu I was completely lost again and had to get the English version. :)
Tuesday we ended up going to the BMW museum. Apparantely you need to make reservations 4 weeks in advance if you want to actually see the plant and factory...so all we got was the museum. The museum for the most part wasn't that good because everything was completely out of date. Their concept cars that were on display were from 1991...so they basically looked like the cars of today...nothing fancy. The only thing that was recent was the main video presentation which was fairly interesting. After visiting the plant we went to see the 'Matrix Reloaded'. I will write more on it later, but for the most part I enjoyed it. I will write more about our adventures today later on...but it is time to go have a couple of beers. As they say in the Matrix..."to be continued".

Posted by Don at 12:29 PM
May 24, 2003
All alone
Well Barbie left yesterday (Friday) afternoon, so it is just me and Kymba for the next two weeks. I have a pretty good feeling that I could be pretty bored this weekend...but it is just another excuse to get things done around the house and continue training for a triathlon, although I don't know which one yet. Anyways, today I'm heading to the Americans in Munich celebration at the English Garten to celebrate Memorial day. Hopefully I can meet some cool people to hang out with in the future. Next week senor Erick gets out here, although there is a chance I may be heading to London to visit with a friend. The following week I should begin work...but seeing as I don't have an official offer letter yet we will have to wait and see. The best news this week was that there is a chance I can get the 'NASN' while here in Germany...but I am not positive of all the details just yet...more to come later.
Posted by Don at 01:26 AM
May 16, 2003
Great Internet cafe

Well, this place that I am logged on today is not really a cafe per say, but it does have internet access. The great thing about it is that all the machines are in Linux, and I can ssh into mambo and conga and check my email. I know most of you have no clue what that means, but it is a good thing.

Anyways, things are getting better hear in Germany...the language is starting to sound somewhat understandable on those rare occasions when someone speaks slow enough. Also, since I have been sick the past week...and I don't mean just feel bad, I mean high fever, not moving, stomach feeling like I was in a small sailboat all week in the middle of a hurricane....that kind of sick. My body feels good now, except for the stomach...but it's coming around.

I know most of you have some sort of inclination to see what I did in London, so check out Lisa visits London to see some of the pictures of my tourist adventures. Ok, well I'm off for now...Guten Tag!

Posted by Don at 03:54 AM
May 06, 2003
Finally in Germany

Well Barbie and I finally made it to Germany, along with Kymba. The flight and all that was fine, but being here is getting a little annoying. Never mind that going to a store takes about an hour and a half minimum because you don't know how to ask where something is, and all the labels are in German. Heck, even pepper was hard to get. Who knows how long it will be by the time I get back online since it takes a couple of weeks to get DSL, so I may have to come to the Internet Cafe here in Munich every now and then to keep all of you posted on our progress. The only problem with the Internet Cafe is that the keyboard is not the standard one we have because they have keys like "ö ä µ € § ß" and a few others that I don't feel like showing. The main keys that are driving me nuts are the 'y' and 'z' key because they are reversed.
Anyways, I think we are going to enjoy it here once we start to learn the language a bit and get used to some of the other nuances like having to bring your own bags to the grocery store, and also having to put a euro in the shopping carts in order to use them. You get it back once you return the cart and lock it back up, but it's still a pain if you don't have a spare euro. The reason they do it is so that people don't leave the carts by their cars, but instead return it to the appropriate spots. Darn Germans are so organized.
Probably the two of the greatest things about living here is that they are so bike friendly and the public transportation is awesome. Every road seems to have it's own bike path, and the trains/buses/etc. are always on time. I'm not forgetting about the bier, that is also great! :)
Anyways, I will write more in a bit...just trying to get everyone caught up. I also cannot check email right now since I can't login into my server, so I apologize if you are trying to reach me and can't. Try emailing Barbie and she can contact me.

Posted by Don at 02:17 AM