Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bianca's back

She's been stuck in a box all week, padded down and wrapped up. But now she's out. A little meddling with the brake lines, reattachment of the pedals and tightening of the cables and she's ready for the road. Although, it looks like her front wheel is now a bit out of true and she desperately needs some chain lube. Something for the weekend.

The Himmel is blau-ish today, so a late afternoon ride may be in order. The countryside here is nice for rides - flat, with many small unpaved paths and lanes. It's time for some exploration. It will get me away from the incessant sound of construction as work-crews insulate my apartment building for the winter months.

I caught up with Franzi and her colleague Kai last night at the Studentenstadt. This stop on U6 is right next to a set of tall apartment blocks that are reserved for students from all the various universities in the area. It has the feel of urban dorms in some City college; looming oblong buildings with spare furniture and sundry stuff in the balconies, dim lights, a central square littered with paper and, the reason we were here, a bar with really inexpensive beer.

In keeping with the environs, the bar is not unlike one you would find at a college. Not really run-down, but it has the feel of a hostel to it. The atmosphere is different somehow, the sound of the conversation is different from a normal bar. Everyone is much younger of course. The only older people are drunk loners and us (Ok, thats being unfair. There are a couple of groups of professor-types). The guy behind the counter is more hardened than a regular bartender. Also, you pay for the glasses and plates and get reimbursed if you return them in one piece. I guess that's the German way to save on the waste of paper plates and plastic disposable glasses. It seems to work.

All of this may turn one away, but the beer is Euro 1.80 for a half-litre von Fass, almost half you'd pay at a regular establishment! So, of course, I imbibed with gusto. There are some distinct advantages of knowing that you don't have to drive back anywhere.

Franzi is leaving tomorrow for Leipzig to take up a new job there. Upon seeing my disappointment that she would be leaving Munich so soon after I arrived, she clarified that the job enables her to spend half of her time in Munich, starting November, so she'll be back. The new job is a good step up for her to a new, expanding company and a position of management, so I'm happy for her. She is turning out to be a good friend and a connection to a larger social circle of German people of my age. Both good things for me.

After two days of late night drinking, today will be a quiet evening, for which I am glad. Time to bring out that tandoori mix, fire up some grilled chicken, crack open a cold non-alcoholic beverage and get some work done! Cheers!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


ToyTown Tuesday. It's a venue for the Englisch speaking community here in München to get together and have drinks. Which is why I went to Ysenegger on Ysenburgstrasse today at about 20:40. It was quite an evening and not completely in a nice way.

The pub was decent, but crowded, as a horde of Müncheners were there to watch Bayern fight (and defeat) Basel. The arc of the game kept the atmosphere loud, and this kept the couple of Englishmen in the group, loud by definition, to dominate a fair bit of the conversation. I don't begrudge them - they seemed nice, but like most loud Englishmen, were more inclined to split the group up on female oriented lines than work to bring us together. In any case, the girl from CA was very nice, and so was Kim, who isn't actually a Kim, BTW. After many beers, a split cheeseburger and lots of conversation, I accompanied the closing crowd to Rotkreuzplatz station, in the hope of catching a train back to Garching. The U-bahn took me as far as Sedlinger Tor, at which point I watched the Californian girl ride off in the opposite direction with a 17-yr old kid named Max who had just returned from his daily job doing lights for the Erotik show at Olympiapark. Ja, du hörst richtig! No, she wasn't taking him home (at least I don't think so, but, I mean, he has seen some things, hasn't he?). They just happened to be going on the same line. And, yes, he does have photos from work on his phone. Close ups, no less. Apparently, he works 7 hours a day, both soft and hardcore shows, and, whowudathunk, a lot of the "aktion" is choreographed. You think Californians are forward people? Both the CA girl and I were blushing and felt like prudes.

The CA girl said that we would talk at some point. Lets see how that goes. She is a pretty version of a young Linda Hamilton and she likes Firefly, so I'm game.

From ST, I realized that the U-bahn was not going in my general direction, so I walked to Marienplatz, by some fancy, well-lit and shut boutique stores. On the way, I put on my best American accent to ingratiate myself with a bunch of drunken American teenagers. I've no doubt that it didn't work. At Marienplatz station, I realized, with some trepidation, that all 12 of the people waiting for the train were foreigners. Three americans, five brits, two nice european girls ünd Irhen truly. On careful assessment, we realized, en masse, that the late trains were not running on account of the ongoing strike. So I talked the pretty European girls into sharing a cab part of the way with me. They were sufficiently impressed by my description of my work (the growth of supermassive black holes in the first third of the Universe's history - I mean, come on!) that an e-mail address was shared, and I hope (perhaps against hope) that a more leisurely and convivial meeting will ensue. They were pretty and smart and European. What?

Finally, the taxi driver, an Iranian man who has lived three decades in Munich, helped to end the evening on a high note. He spoke fluent Englisch with an American accent. He has never lived in the US, but had American trained teachers. This tells me that he certainly wasn't a taxi-driver's son back home in the 70s, but was probably from a well-to-do family. A refugee? Perhaps. In any case, he engaged me in a fantastic conversation about the value of science and the place of astronomy in the world, and with his obvious displeasure that his son has decided to whittle away his life as a dive instructor in god-forsaken parts of Asia.

So, 20:30 Uhr to 2:00 Uhr. Awesome! Time to finish my pasta munchies (did I say that I had many beers!) and go to bed. Guten nacht!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

King Scott

King Scott is an interesting man. I remember him from mid-grad life as a long-haired, buff gamer who loved meat and Tae-kwon-do. In the intervening years, he's filled up a bit, lost the hair, moved on to mixed martial arts, and aged a little (heck, who hasn't). But, man, anyone who comes to Munich and drinks more than 10 litres of Oktoberfest Bier over 3 days and can still walk straightish deserves my respect. I had a Mass of the Augustiner brew de saison and another Mass of Dunkel and I almost fell asleep on the U-banh home. But, it was fun to catch up. I think I am the more talkative of the two, but Scott begrudged me my verboseness. I get the feeling he has mellowed over the years, but it may be just my memory embellishing things from those heady days. Those days when I worked my PhD on a Sun Ultra-5, and 10 GB of disk-space was a gift from god.

So, now, as I enjoy my Herringfische mit Champignon saus (oh alright, I have the munchies) before bed, I reckon the weekend wasn't all that bad after all. A long walk into the 'forest' east of town during which I discovered the River Isar; curry pasta with chicken; 2 lt of bier and roast suckling pig while Scott and I caught up and got to know the English couple seated next to us  --- could be a worse Sunday. But, tomorrow I work!

Guten nacht.


Sri and I have a difference of opinion on why English is the predominant language of global communication today. We both agree that the stage was set by the British Empire in the few centuries preceding the last, but here we diverge a bit. I think the rising star of the United States as a cultural power since the turn of the last century, and certainly since the last Great War, has played a major role, especially as the form of English spoken in most of the world is currently replete with Americanisms (as we Commonwealth-educated ferners would describe US pop lingo). Sri thinks that English is a more accommodating language. He cites, as an example, the fact that French never quite borrowed the wide range of loan words that English seems to have done in colonial times. I countered that Spanish apparently did so, but has not achieved the wide-spread use of modern English. At this point in the discussion, we parted ways, at the intersection of Lehrer Stieglitz Str and Freisinger Landstr, since I, for one, was getting a bit too wet from the gentle Bayerisch rain. Sri appeared to be nonplussed by the weather in his fine black sport jacket. The dialog will no doubt continue, but let me bring up two points for the reader:

 a.) What the heck does a loan-word mean anyway? Is a language meant to give the word back to the rightful owner, or does the ownership pass to the new language when the old one is dead, or something such?

 b.) My decision to personify a language, as if it were French that did the actual borrowing (or lack thereof), is regrettable, but, hey, it makes the point, right?

As you may have guessed, discussions of language crop up quite easily when you have just moved to a new land. In this case, Sri and I had ordered kaffe at the Cafe Rathaus and I could tell that the woman behind the counter wanted to be friendly and make conversation, but our German was too poor (read non-existent) to serve this purpose, and it led to some embarrassment, at least to me (Sri's skin is thicker). This situation will occur time and again, I am sure. But I am resolved to fight this actively by working on my Deutsch. It's the least bit of respect I can give to the people of my new home.

It's been a rainy and grey first weekend, but I can see hints of distant bluishness in the fractal holes of the clouds outside my window, so maybe the weather will improve today. I wish I had my bike - as far as I can tell, it's safely in storage at the Munich Flughafen, probably till tomorrow. A ride would do wonders for my soul. Ah well, at least I found a website with US TV shows and, since I went to the store yesterday - despite the weather, I might add - I have coffee, clementines, cheese and, leberwurst(?). Guten morgen, Sonntag!