Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coffee & Excel

I came to this coffee shop to write a blog post today, but then the owner mentioned she was having computer problems and I offered to help... She said she was having "formatting problems", but the real issue turned out to be using MS Word for tracking expenses... She had created a list of stores and expenses so she could add it up with a calculator but was having trouble getting the rows aligned the way she wanted them. Apparently she's been doing this for two years now... Instead of fixing her formatting issue I introduced her to excel and set up a spread sheet to do the calculations for her. It's a shame automating my photo sorting for blog posts isn't that simple.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Prague was my last stop in Europe before heading for Tanzania to meet Tony. I should have budgeted more time there since it was both interesting and affordable. Hopefully I can do a trip to eastern Europe someday and go back to see the rest of the Czech Republic. 

Prague hosts the largest castle in the world. Built over a thousand years with each new monarch adding their own random addition it's quite an interesting mix.  
The tower on the right is a bit larger. Apparently there was a hundred year gap between construction and they lost the original plans so they just told everyone they represent Adam and Eve so Adam's bigger...
We showed up just in time to watch this astronomical clock run through a cycle. It's oldest astronomical clock that is still working and the most complicated clock tower I've seen. 

This had to be the most laid back changing of the guard ceremony I have ever seen. Someone even tried to just walk through the middle of it. 
I think next time I'll go in the summer and hope for clear views of the city... 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Hamm, Germany

After the Brachts returned to the states Corrie and I went to Hamm to visit Basti who was feeling better after missing the New Year party with a bad fever. The Autobahn was a lot of fun with Basti because he likes driving as much as I do and knows the rules in Germany. He showed us around Hamm where he grew. Then Simon joined us for a couple days and we toured Munster. 

Basti, Corrie and I on top an old coal mine tailings pile near Hamm.
Basti with his car. This is the antique he rebuilt not the one we drove the Autobahn at 220 in. 
I'm still not really sure why Hamm made the elephant it's official animal.  
Seriously they have a thing for elephants. 
This bus was set up as an American style hamburger shop but we opted for German instead.
Coffee break in Munster where Simon and Basti went to University before UNM.
Germans take water parks a bit more seriously. The one we went to had two slides with near vertical drops and one with a full loop in it. The one with loop had a laser run timer for competitions  They must take lawsuits a lot less seriously though because there were no lifeguards babysitting any of the slides and riding double or triple was allowed. The combination makes for awesome water parks!
We went to Norway after Hamm which I actually managed to post about while I was there... 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A week with the Brachts

Stephen and Ginny Bracht joined us in Europe the day after Christmas continuing a tradition of renting a house with friends somewhere for New Year's. They only had a week but we managed to visit a few countries before ringing in the New Year in Düsseldorf. It was a good way to end the year even though not everyone was able to make it. I do wonder what crazy plan we will end up with this New Year... I also wonder where I'll be traveling from... 

Leuven skyline.
Not a restaurant we were expecting to find in Belgium.  
Austrian Alps.
Sunset in the Alps. 
"Gas station coffee" means something different in Italy...
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is "black gold". 
Cooking New Year's dinner and putting Jean-Marc's christmas gifts to good use. 
After Christmas with Jean-Marc's family, decided to use the multiple course model for our New Year dinner too.
Cutting up Belgium chocolate for fondue...
Dessert was soon interrupted for an awesome fireworks display by all the neighbors. 
Along the Rhine in Düsseldorf on New Year's day.
Sunset over the Rhine

Monday, February 11, 2013


It's probably hard keeping track with the way my posts have jumped around lately. I have a couple more from Europe and then a couple from Tanzania to get caught up. I'll keep them in order unless something really exciting happens and I get distracted again.

Jean-Marc and his family were kind enough to host Corrie and I in Paris over Christmas. It was really nice to have friends to share Christmas with and neat to be in Paris for it. I've never seen so many people on Christmas Eve, but the city was quite impressive with all the lights out. It was not as impressive as christmas dinner with the Limousine family though. I think I'll adopt the french style of serving courses the next time I host a major dinner. I'm not sure I'll ever serve eight courses though...

It turns out one should really prebook a trip to the top level. That was a little disappointing, but the tower is worth seeing.
Right after I took this I watched a car repeatedly back into the car behind it an then try to drive off. I managed to get a picture of the car's plate which made the second drivers day a bit better. However, now I'm supposed to fill out a witness statement, and it's all in french...
There was a mass going on inside which made touring it feel strange.  
Night Seine...
Arc de Triomphe with Jean-Marc on Christmas Eve.

UFOs over the Arc de Triomphe? It's just lens flair, but it looks cool. 
Corrie and I with Jean-Marc and his family after Christmas dinner.

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Pole Pole"

Sixteen countries later I'm back in the US. I'm not really experiencing culture shock, but Pensacola does feel oddly familiar for a place I've never been before. I'll be here with my brother for a few weeks before heading west. While here I'll mostly be working on future plans. It might take a couple weeks, but I should also be able to catch up on blog posts "slowly slowly" as they say on Kilimanjaro. Actually, it turns out I climb much faster than I am write...

The climb was completely different from any I have done before. The mountain wasn't different or more difficult, but being on a guided trek and sharing the trail/camps with 500 other people made it a unique experience. Tanzania requires climbers hire a guide and porters for all climbing expeditions. I guess it's a good way to create jobs, but our guide seemed a bit surprised when we gave him a single duffle weighing less than 25 pounds for the porters. On the other hand, we were completely shocked to discover that our booking included a guide, a cook and eight porters.

Kilimanjaro from the highway. It's definately the most prominent peak I've climbed.
The start of the Machame route. I'm wearing the long sleeve shirt because we were short on sunscreen and couldn't find any in Arusha.
When warm wash water was brought to our tent twice a day the number of porters started to make more sense.
Watching the clouds roll in from the second camp.
Even with a panoramic I couldn't get the whole second night's camp in one photo.

Tony and I on the edge of the third night's camp. 
Tony took this night shot of third camp at night with Moshi lit up down below.
In front of our tent at camp four. That's our dining tent in the back ground. I've never had one of those on a hike before...
The sunsetting on Kilimanjaro form Camp 4. 
Sunset over Mt Meru.
Last rays.
Starting for the summit. Our guide, Scoba, declared we were "good walkers" and delayed our start until 1 AM rather than starting between 11 and midnight like most groups did.
The first time I've seen the big dipper while south of the equator.
Sunrise from the roof of Africa. It's a good thing we started at 1 am or we would have been sitting on the top a long time waiting for the sun to come up. 
Tony taking a picture of the sunrise through his FiveFingers. Every day the guide said "you're going to wear shoes tomorrow right?" He finally put normal shoes on to go down hill and got his first blister... 
There is still a pretty impressive wall of ice just below the summit. 
At the peak with our guides. 
Starting back down again
All this just for the two of us? It was a great experience, but it really seemed a bit excessive. I think I prefer just running up some random mountain without a plan...