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an English question [Jan. 23rd, 2014|11:21 am]
Quote from today's weather forecast: [...] with overnight lows once again expected in the low minus twenties [...]

The mathematician in me wonders: what does "low minus twenties" mean? Does the "low" quantify the overall number (i.e., temperatures in the range of -27 to -29) or does it quantify the absolute value (i.e., temperatures in the range of -21 to -23)?

My instinct would have been the former. Looking at some other weather forecast, I think they meant the latter. What do my various English-native speaking friends think it should be?
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who needs stamps in December? [Dec. 10th, 2013|02:08 pm]
Went to the post office today to buy some stamps.

me: "One booklet of international stamps, please".
saleslady: "Sorry, we're out of international stamps. Why don't you take three Canadian stamps each instead?"
(Slight protest from my side that that's 3c wasted per letter. Which is not a lot, but still, I'm not impressed to be forced to pay that. But, whatever, I'll take the Canadian stamps.)
me: "Three booklets of Canadian stamps then. Do you have any Christmas stamps"?
saleslady: "Sorry, we're out of Christmas stamps. As are all the other post offices in [my town]"
me: "Fine, give me the standard stamps then."
saleslady: "Sorry, we're out of just about all stamps. The only thing we have left are these Superman stamps".
(Superman stamps are hideously ugly, but I take them anyway, because what's my choice if I want to mail some Christmas cards today?)
me: "That's really strange - how come you're so low on stamps?"
saleslady: "Well, Christmas is coming and everyone buys stamps right now."

To which I bit my tongue hard and didn't say anything, but really, come on: It's Christmas? Really? And people need stamps? And this is news to you? And you couldn't, perhaps, have foreseen this and stocked up on stamps?

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the joys of filing taxes [Jul. 3rd, 2013|10:07 am]
We file our taxes electronically. This means that some years Canada Revenue gets to bug us to submit our receipts later on. So far, so reasonable.

But why did it have to be *this* year? They give you 30 days to submit the receipts. 15 of those were wasted by the mail-forwarding from Canada. This gives me 15 days to find the files and see whether I can upload them on their web page or get them into the snail-mail.

Not so impossible in principle. Except... we're moving in 11 days. And extra "must be done before we move" things are *exactly* what I don't need right now.

(And because I haven't posted in a while: yes: we're moving in 11 days. Gah! Though it's mostly the packing/cleaning stress that I'm stressing about. It was lovely here, but I'm ready to go home.)
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I guess I'm not biking to Germany any time soon... [Jun. 3rd, 2013|06:01 pm]
... or at least not along my usual path.


would be the street that I normally bike along to get to the bridge to Germany. (It's all in German, but the pictures speak for themselves...)

We're otherwise fine here. The crest of the water was a few centimetres below the retaining walls to the old town, but it just barely worked out. Train connections are a *mess* though... glad I wasn't planning to go anywhere for the next week.
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PSA [May. 23rd, 2013|07:24 pm]
Public service announcement:

Please take your cell phone out of whatever pocket it's in. Type the code *#06# . It will respond by sending you some strange looking number (expect around 15 digits), perhaps even two. Write those down someplace safe - this is the IMEI code of your cell phone. (Write down also the brand name and model number of your phone, while you're at it.)

If your cell phone ever gets stolen, find that IMEI code, then call the company that made the phone (or apparently many cell phone stores can do it, too) and ask them to block the phone. You won't get the phone back, but at least the thief won't be able to enjoy it either.

[Ask me why I know this. Sigh.]
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old-fashioned ways of spreading the news [Mar. 13th, 2013|08:13 pm]
Every evening here at 7:30pm, the bells of the local church ring. This is normal. In fact, quite convenient: we call these the "pajama bells", and it is then time for the girls to get ready for bed.

Tonight, as I was telling them stories, suddenly the bells started ringing again. LOUD. LONG. In fact, they're *still* going (probably about 15 minutes later.)

It took me a while to figure out what was likely going on, but as soon as I had kissed the girls goodnight, I went to the internet and yep, indeed, it seems that we've got a new pope. It's funny that in this day and age of the internet, one way to get news is still via ringing churchbells...
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tap tap... [Jan. 23rd, 2013|08:45 pm]
Today, much against the weather forecast, I left the apartment and encountered brilliant sun-shine. This is most welcome, as the last four weeks have been almost non-stop clouds (with lots of rain and/or snow mixed in.)

So first I went to IKEA, not because I need any furniture (most definitely not!) but because they serve good coffee, and from their restaurant one has a brilliant view of the mountains. Ah, mountains... haven't seen them in weeks!

On the way to work from there, I noticed that the snow was melting in the sunshine. It wasn't actually all that warm, but the sun shone strongly enough to melt things.

And as I was stepping through some snow, I noticed it crunching. It sounded exactly the way it would sound if you stepped on some sugar that you'd spilled. Or in other words, it was sugar-snow. Sugaring snow. SUGARING SNOW IN JANUARY?

Well, why not. So I made a stop at home and got the maple-tapping equipment. Then to the office, with drill, tap, hammer and bottle in tow. Drilled the hole into the maple trees I so happily discovered last fall. Waited 5 seconds - nothing. Declared the whole thing ridiculous and was about to leave when I looked once more... there it was! Maple sap in January. Hammered in the tap, hung up the bottle, added a sign to it (otherwise the first passer-by will wonder what on earth is going on and perhaps destroy the contraption?) and happily walked back to my office.

2 hours later, about a cup of maple sap had collected. Austrian maple syrup, here I come...
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I voted today! [Jan. 20th, 2013|04:07 pm]
I voted today.

Which is nothing so noteworthy, except that it is actually the *first* time of my life that voting consisted of simply showing up in some building, filling out the ballot, dropping it into a box, and done.

All other votes that I've participated have been tremendously complicated, because done by distance, and hence requiring pre-registration, waiting for the voting ballot in the mail, finding another Austrian citizen to witness my voting (thankfully enough they did away with that a few years ago), then mailing it and hoping it would make it back in time.

Compared to that, this was such a piece of cake. 2 minutes maximum.

The way politics are developing here, it looks like I'll get the pleasure of voting in person again in a few months. Today's was about a referendum whether we keep conscription (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21110431). But the local (Salzburg) government also is embroiled in a scandal regarding mis-use of money, which will probably cause the government to fall and new elections in May. And then in September there will be national elections here (but by that time I'll be gone.) Busy election year!
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(no subject) [Jan. 15th, 2013|11:58 am]
Dear home-university,

is there any particular reason that your human resources web site is available only from 7am to midnight every day? I accept that you need some time to update data, perhaps even daily, but do you really need 7 hours for this?

For, you know, some people like me happen to be on sabbatical and therefore 6 hours ahead. They also might (courtesy of school hours) be predominantly working in the morning, i.e., about 8am to 1pm most days. You do the math.

Not impressed.
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New Year's Eve [Jan. 1st, 2013|09:34 am]
The way New Year's Eve is celebrated here is that everyone (well, not everyone, but plenty of people) buys their own fireworks, boomers, flashers, whatever. Then whenever they feel the time is right, they set it off. In other words, uncoordinated fireworks non-stop. Some people started as early as a week ago, but it really picked up yesterday after sundown. Boom, boom, boom. Initially maybe once a minute. Absolute nonstop around midnight.

C and I took a walk down to the Salzach after dinner, to watch it a bit. Seeing fireworks in front of the old castle is definitely pretty. But the uncoordinated random who-knows-where-the-next-rocket-will-rise thing is not. I also couldn't sleep till well after 1am when the booms finally abated.

The saddest thing about it is the unbelievable amounts of paper shreds and wooden sticks that are now blanketing the city, and the thought of how much money has been spent in total that could have been spent so much better.

This New Year's also marks about half-time for our sabbatical. (We haven't booked the flights back yet, but likely in early July.) I wish I'd gone for a half-sabbatical instead of a full one. It's been a good experience, but I don't expect much more new stuff to happen in the second half.

Well, Happy New Year everyone.
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