Archive for May, 2011

Berlin, Friday May 20

May 20, 2011

We took the China group to dinner. One of our wheeler-dealer guys said the Midtown Grill was the most expensive restaurant in Berlin, or at least in the area around the Brandenburger Tor. What a criterion! It was indeed okay (for once, I remembered to ask them to add no salt!) although one of the colleagues just toyed with his steak.


The conference ended yesterday, except for the closing ceremonies that I don’t need to attend. So I have a free day – well, actually it is a workday, but ….

Jacky was supposed to arrive this evening, but she phoned – from home – about the time I was getting up and getting going. Bumped from her flight, the good part is that she gets an aisle seat on tomorrow’s flight, and a wodge of cash in compensation for pain and suffering.

I decided not to go out with the China delegation. They naturally want to speak Mandarin, but I can’t help them much. Anna said she already had plans; Denis didn’t respond to a text message (maybe he is going out with Anna today). So I think I am on my own. I can deal with that.

Decided to walk to Schloss Charlottenburg, which is off in this part of the city. Maybe as big as Nymphenburg in Munich, but if Nymphenburg is impeccable, well, Charlottenburg is just a bit peccable. If that means it gets a smaller taxpayer subsidy, that’s just fine.

Spent an hour or two wandering the grounds. Very nice. Musical, too, as we see below.

It is indeed a work day. I have my office at my belt: my cell phone. Stopped a couple times to check email and respond. That’s good enough.

Thought I might get a week’s pass on the S-Bahn and go on out to Spandau today to see the Zitadelle. The S-Bahn stations in Berlin are not as closely spaced as they are in Munich, but there is one not far from the Schloss. Unfortunately, it didn’t like my credit card. I think it is set up to accept only CCs that have PINs, and mine doesn’t. There was no Kasse; it’s the machine or nothing. Nothing, I guess.

By the time I had walked back to the zoo (past Charlottenburg Rathaus, pretty classy), I was losing my enthusiasm for additional adventures. I did stop at the DB Reisezentrum, where they had a live clerk, who could take my credit card. Getting a little tired, I asked her if she spoke English. Only a little, she said, but she promised to speak Deutsch slowly, and did. It worked out fine; I should have just done it in German to start with!

I saw the harp, thought it looked pretty strange. Then I noticed the name of the company, in the background. Right!

I circumnavigated the zoo on the way back to the hotel. Found an old water pump on the sidewalk across from the Spanish Embassy. Gave the handle a vigorous pump, just to see what would happen, and got a good gush of water. Cool!

I think there is a major football match in town: everyone around is wearing blue and white, drinking beer and being immature. (I do the same, but I don’t wear blue and white.)

After a nap, I wandered out, ended up at a Chinese restaurant off Ku’damm, which was *not* overrun by football fans. Not  bad.

Rant: HP printer sux

May 1, 2011

HP deskjet F4480. Not a bad little printer. New a year or two ago. I was pretty happy with it; I rarely printed color, but color was nice to have for the occasional photo printout. I was still on the original ink cartridges that came with the machine.

And then one day it decided the color cartridge was a knock-off and refused to print with a foreign cartridge (which is in fact an HP cartridge) installed. There are help instructions about wiping the contacts and silly things like that, but as you would of course expect, the contacts were not gruddy with fingermarks – why would they be?

So I remove the color cartridge, and print B&W, which is mostly how I use the printer anyway. But whenever I next need to buy a new printer, I guarantee it won’t be HP. First, they don’t even disclose, up front, before buying it, that it won’t accept foreign cartridges. But when it refuses to accept even an HP cartridge, it is completely unacceptable.

The Sea to Skyline

May 1, 2011

Saturday, 30 April, 2011

My colleague Jaume was in town, so it was an opportunity to hike from the sea to Skyline. This is difficult to do solo because you really want to leave one car at one end and get a ride to the other end. The Skyline to the sea trail is often hiked in the downhill direction as a three-day backpacking trip, but it’s of course easier uphill, and three days is definitely on the leisurely side.

We dropped off Jaume’s rental car at the Saratoga gap parking area well before daylight, and Jacky very considerately ferried us to Waddell beach, where we got on the trail about 6:20. There was a sign at the trailhead about trail closures, but we figured there were enough alternatives that we could manage. If necessary, we could probably even ford a creek, though the day was colder than expected, and I’m sure the creeks were even colder yet. As it happened, we didn’t get our feet wet.


I had expected the wind to drop and the day to warm up as soon as we got away from the beach, but as I should have known, cold air goes to the lowlands along the creeks. I debated digging out my jacket, but decided to just tough it out. The first hour or two were pretty chilly. Berry Creek falls, above, was about the point at which the day became pleasantly cool instead of uncomfortably cold.

Berry Creek falls was also the point at which we joined the course of an ultra-marathon that was being run today, so for the next few hours and the next several miles, we had to share the trail with runners (and walkers) out doing something presumably even more ambitious than our adventure. It appeared that there were several routes, but we didn’t find out what the choices were.

Beautiful sunny day, beautiful redwood forest. Could not ask for better!

Skyline to the sea trail was in fact closed not far from Big Basin park headquarters, but the detour was a slight jog to Sunset trail, which then goes toward park headquarters almost as efficiently, or maybe even more efficiently, than the official trail. In fact, we rejoined the Skyline trail just outside park headquarters, and never went to the headquarters area at all.

The stretch from park headquarters to China grade sees the major climb of the day, out of the redwoods, through a pygmy forest and manzanita country, to exposed slickrock and a forest of California oak and buckeye. In the open sun, it was almost too warm, but still a perfect day.

We reached Waterman gap about 1:30, earlier than I would have expected, given that it’s only six or six and a half miles from there back to Saratoga gap. Getting tired, getting sore, but feeling good. We stopped a couple more times for calories, and to look for scorpions (found one, a small one), and missed our 5 o’clock estimate for the parking lot by about three minutes.

This is usually billed as something over 28 miles, so it was amazing that we had finished that soon. The GPS told me it was 25.5 miles (4970 feet of gain). I don’t think that Sunset trail detour took three miles off the route, but 25 miles fits the timing better than 28, so it’s probably correct.

A long day and a good one. Great company, great scenery.