12 May 2005
Please note that text in red indicates comments and changes to the original 2005 text that I made in June 2008. Enjoy!
This Thursday was, at most points, quite boring. :) After we all got up (quite early, if I recall correctly) and had breakfast, we piled into the small bus provided by the Uni and we headed off to Regensburg, home of Infineon Technologies. At Infineon, the company specializes in developing new computer processor chips. For those of you who don't know, computer processors are the "brains" of a computer--the part that does the actual "thinking," if you will.
At any rate, after a brief presentation on what it is that Infineon does (they also make RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags (I did a senior-level project involving these last fall!) that can be placed onto products or packages (a la FedEx) and a special kind of credit-card type device that has a small computer chip in leiu of the traditional magnetic strip that holds data on a normal credit card (American Express (as well as new US passports) use these now). Ironically, the cards that they use to keep track of their lunch accounts still use the old magnetic system. Ha ha ha. ) and how great they are, we were split into two groups and were taken on a tour of the manufacturing plant that Infineon had there. The best part of this entire tour was the fact that due to how much they have to control the quality of air in their buildings (only so many parts per million of dust larger than 2000 Angstroms (1 Angstrom is 1 x 10-10 meters) is allowed inside the manufacturing rooms), we were all required to put on additional clothing: we all had to wear white lab coats (with the zippers pulled the entire way up for safety!), a whitish hair net sort of thing, and set of great anti-static electricity foot booties (they were a pleasant blue color) :) Needless to say, we made sure to take some good pictures of ourselves after the tour. After learning more than I ever really cared to about how use multiple chemical baths to etch silicon wafers, we headed to lunch. At the time, this tour was extremely boring, and I'm pretty sure that I was the only student in my group who 1) understood what was going on and 2) expressed any interest in what the tourgide was telling us.
Lunch at Infineon was probably the best part--the food in their cafeteria was actually quite good. Because the food was served a la carte, I was able to get whatever I wanted. Well, let me revise that statement: I was able to get anything that they had there that day. :) I had some fried sort of meat (I had originally thought it was fish, but, after eating it, I decided that it was some sort of pork, I think (sounds like Schnitzel, from this point of view!)) and some other food. I had desert, which was also good. :) Other than this, though, the visit was boring. At least I got to eat as much as I wanted to for free! :D Score one for Infineon.
Looking back, it appears that I have a gluttonous amount of food here. Yikes!
After we left Infineon, we headed into Regensburg proper. We had some time to kill before out next event, so a couple of us decided to get off of the bus and see the local carnival. However, we were quite saddened to find that the carnival (a lot like the Big Butler Fair, but without any livestock) wouldn't be open until the next day. Alas! We returned to the bus to continue to our wait.
I didn't take a picture of the lack of a carnival, so here's one of Peter and me in our Infineon garb. Notice how the bottom half of this picture is darker than the top half--whoever took this photo covered the bottom half of the flash as they did it! :) Ha!
Peter later ended up administrating a MEMS lab back at Pitt where these suits were also mandatory.
Finally, at probably 2 PM, we me up with our tour guide. For some unknown reason, some of the higher-ups who planned this trip seemed to think that having a guided tour of Regensburg (I challenge you to name one important thing about Regensburg without using any sort of internet searches! I mean, come on!) would be just fascinating, but in fact, all of us were just about bored to tears. Sorry, John and Keiha, but that's the truth! It wasn't that the tour was bad, but the material was very boring and the woman (a native of Regensburg) seemed to have her spiel so practiced that it sounded as if she had just learned enough English to give an tour in English (which, to be fair, probably wasn't true at all). After the excitement that was Mike's Bike Tours the day before, Thursday afternoon just dragged on and on.
After we finished the tour, we ate food/imbibed alcohol at the
bier garden Biergarten in Regensburg, which was a great idea--all of us had a chance to relax, chat, and take photos (note on the German language: in German, the construction "ph" to give an "f" sound does not exist, just like Spanish, so the word "photo" becomes "foto." If you're German, and you know the answer, please e-mail me! UPDATE: For quite a while, German words that descended from the Greek that had an "f" sound usually did use "ph" to make this sound. "Das Symphonie" (the symphony) would be an example. However, the German spelling reform of 1996 sought to change this. My German 1 and 2 techer, Herr Stefan Bronner has studied Greek (among a handful of other languages) and he said that this spelling reform gives him a headache.
). While we were at the the Biergarten, I had a pretzel and some sort of soft drink (lame!). They were both good. When I return to Europe later on this summer, I'll be looking forward to going back to Bavaria and getting some more pretzels (I totally did this! Mmm.), but you probably could have guessed that. :) Bavarian pretzels truly put their pitiful American cousins to shame. The only thing I miss more about Bavaria than the pretzels are the people who live there in the first place! :D Interesting side note: the day after I got back (Sunday 22 May), my sister and I spent two hours making some Bavarian-style pretzels. They took quite a long time to make, but we enjoyed eating them. :) They sadly did not compare to the glory of the pretzels from in and around Munich, however.
Later on, after we returned to Augsburg, a couple of the girls (Melissa, Claudia, Nina, and Lisa) wanted to check their e-mail (and upload pictures and the like) on my computer. Being the nice sort of guy that I am, it was very easy for me to allow them each a bit of time on my fabulous machine (whose name is Anduril, by the way. Anduril was the name of the sword that Isildur used to slay the evil Sauron in the Lord of the Rings--it was reforged and is "now" Aragorn's personal weapon--none may wield it but he. (This is a bit lame, and altogether stupid. If you know anything about the Lord of the Rings, you'll know that "Anduril" needs an accent, like this: Andúril. As you may or may not be aware, Mac OS X is based on UNIX, and as you again may or may not be aware, "ú" isn't exactly a UNIX-friendly character. Why did I choose this name, then? I guess that I thought it was cool at the time. At least I didn't get this as a tatoo, right?) ). Because there were five of with various things to do, this process took quite a while. When were were finished, Claudia an I went to get another couple of those great 1-Euro pizzas from the local pizza shop. As we were waiting to pay, we found that we had two different style of 1-Euro coins--we had one from Germany and one from France. After I had my pizza, I had some sort of reason to go back to use the internet with my laptop (I would do this on the street corner, mind you, because I was just kind of syphoning off someone else's internet--ha ha!), probably to check my e-mail or to make some internet phone calls. In fact, making an internet phone call was exactly what I was doing, but I was unable to contact whomever I was trying to contact (my ex-girlfriend, as you no doubt could have guessed, if you know the kind of person I am!). However, I still had my headphones in my ears at this point, which is kind of an important thing to note.
After I had been sitting for a few minutes, a drunk middle-aged German man walked by and, seeing that I was sitting on the ground, gave me a 20 Euro-cent piece (worth about a quarter of an American dollar) for some crazy reason. He must have been about half drunk because I was there, sitting with a $2,700 Apple PowerBook! What would I need with a spare 20 Euro-cent piece? (It could be that Bernd simply wasn't familiar with consumer electronics and/or notebook computers, I suppose.)
I didn't really know what to do, so I politely said thank you in German:
(I'd type it here, but I can only spell the first word, Danke. "Danke schön".), and took it from him. The man walked a few meters (I almost said 'feet'! :) ) down the sidewalk and then turned to me and asked, "Musik?" At this point, I became very confused, because around the corner from where I was, it was karaoke night at Murphy's Law (an Irish Pub in the middle of Augsburg! Ha ha!), and everyone was singing quite loudly, so I thought the man might have been referring to that. However, after a moment's thought, I realized that he was asking about my headphones and whether or not I was listening to music! Ha ha! I tried my best to say that I was using my laptop as a cell phone--"Ein handy," I said, making a telephone-sort of gesture and pointing to the computer. Unfortunately for continued peace between Germany and the United States, he didn't seem to understand.
At this point, I decided that I wanted to give him his 20 Euro-cent piece back--I didn't need it, and I hadn't gone to Germany to beg for money. . . (although that could be interesting, as long as the police didn't catch you. Maybe trying to be a street musician would be beter.) However, neither of us spoke each other's language--it seemed as though we were at an impasse. I looked at him, he looked at me--two people who, despite all hopes of communication, were desperately unable to speak to one another. The seconds stretched to minutes, the minutes to hours. . . Just kidding! A short time passed and then I finally realized: I had a brand new computer and an internet connection! I could use my computer to translate English to German and vice versa! This was the closest thing to an epiphany that I had on my entire trip--it was a wonderful moment indeed! (I remember this!) Recalling what my friend Paul had said a few days earlier, I opened up Sherlock on my computer (Sherlock is a utility that, among other things, accesses online translators so that rough-and-ready translations can be done without using a web browser like Safari or Firefox. Sherlock has more or less been phased out in favor of Spotlight, though "Sherlock 2" still exists on my computer. I've almost never used it, though. ) and typed out a phrase in English, hit the 'Translate' button, and went to work. Soon, Bernd and I were able to communicate again, though this method was far from perfect. For example, once Bernd asked me about what time I usually use my computer at this place, but it came out like "At what time are you at this workstation here?" It was strange. And like I said before, German keyboards are different from their American counterparts, so Bernd had trouble finding things like "?" on my computer. Eventually, my computer ran out of battery (C'mon, carbon nanotube batteries!) , so we had to stop talking. Bernd and I agreed to meet the next day at midnight (11:59 PM on Friday night, I suppose.), but this setup was kind of hard to make--by this point, we were communicating completely without the aid of my computer at all!
Anduril, the wonder machine! Will its talents never end? Ha! In all truthfulness, it was only because I had my laptop that I was able to communicate with Bernd.
Oh, to be so in love with a computer again. *sigh* It's no wonder that my ex-girlfriend was so jealous of my machine!
A shot of Bernd by himself. Hoo-ray for digital cameras.
That night, we communicated with a mixture of voice, gestures, and computer translation. This experience was unlike any other that I had ever had in my life--I made sure to get a couple of photos and to write it all down immediately as soon as I got to my journal back in my room. The end of Day 6 was upon me!
My biggest regret from this situation is that I didn't keep a copy of the entire conversation for future reference. Now that I have some ability to read, write, and speak German, I'd be curious to see what Bernd was really trying to say. Ah, well.
This is actually a shot I made of my journal. If you click to zoom in, it's quite possible to read what I wrote. At least, I can read it. Remember: it was late, and I was only writing for myself. Judge not lest ye be judged!
I have since lost track of this journal. Hmm.
This is the Roman archway that was right beside the aforementioned tower. It is also extremely old. It was called the 'Porta Praetoria', or 'Archway of Valor,' as can be seen in the photo to the right.