WEBMU 2009 Discussion Board

WEBMU, the Whiny Expat Blogger Meetup

Are we still calling it that?

No matter. I set up a discussion board (chiefly moderated by J) over at http://www.expatbloggersingermany.com/meetup and the discussion is now under way to determine first where, and then when we’ll be meeting up this year. New user registrations must be approved by an administrator (such as Yours Truly or Himself). You have to register in order to post. At the moment registration and login is required in order to read content (which means some or most feedreaders are out of the question for now), but that’s up for discussion and I’m hoping we can reach a consensus about making the content world-readable.

Check it out, cast your vote, then meet up!

Hot Chocolate

Today we slaved all day to our furniture and though we made lots of progress, our dream optimized kitchen is not yet complete. Alas, I lack an 8mm drill bit. Thus, I must trek out to a hardware store tomorrow to get some beefier bits in order to finish our improvements and start really cooking again.

We were so annoyed by this after spending six full hours putting together our Unterschrank (with which we are quite impressed) and another solid two constructing a coffee table (yay! haven’t had one of those since we moved to Germany five years ago) that we needed to console ourselves with a little liquid comfort. Now you can too:

150 g of nice dark chocolate — shoot for about 70% cocoa content
3 teaspoons sugar
3 cups whole milk

Heat the milk and sugar together on medium low heat until very steamy and bubbles form around the edges. Stir it constantly and don’t let it boil.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate (we use a double-boiler, known in German as a Wasserbadtopf, we think). Our double boiler has a little stick thermometer and we’ve noticed that it starts to melt at around 30°C and is pretty much done melting by the time it reaches 60°C.

Whisk the liquid chocolate into the milk/sugar mixture. Different chocolates will yield variations in thicknesses (and textures in general — some chocolates had a rather gritty texture). Enjoy it straight from the pan or share it if you must. Some whipped cream on top wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, either.

We got inspired to improve upon the powdered stuff after Angelina knocked our socks off back in November. We haven’t cracked her secret recipe quite yet, but we’re getting ever closer and the attempts are always worth it.

Safari 4 Beta Out

I’m writing this with the Safari 4 beta for Mac OS X Leopard.

First impressions:

  • Whoa, it’s fast.
    I’d seen Safari billed as the fastest browser out there, but had never seen anything close to approximating fast on Safari in the past — neither Windows XP nor this Mac. Definitely not the fastest browser on my lap or desktop. But I kept it around anyways, because it has its uses. As long as the final version of Safari 4 stays this fast, this will become the primary browser on the Mac for sure. I haven’t read up on it; I’m not sure if it’s the rendering engine or what, but this program simply feels fast while I’m using it — especially when doing AJAXy stuff.

  • Tabs across the top
    Now why did they do that? For some reason, the tabs are the top-most thing in the program window now, and not the address bar. I guess it doesn’t bother me; Google Chrome does that too. It’ll just take some getting used to.

  • Keyboard Shortcuts
    I had to google this one to figure it out. Cmd+shift+arrow key moves you from tab to tab. This is useful information for us home-row typists. But why don’t they document that in the Safari help files?

  • Cover Flow
    You like that nifty graphical flip-through of songs in your iTunes library? Safari 4 beta gives you that for your browser history. It’s definitely a gimmick, but it’s neat.

  • Top Sites
    This looks like something they stole from Opera (probably the world’s ugliest browser!). But they made it pretty and fun and Apple-y.

So far, I’m enjoying it. Go get your own copy at http://www.apple.com/safari (oh, sorry Linux fans. You’re still outta luck).

Rügen? Sylt? Other points north?

I’ve got some more time off coming up (I know, I know).

Who’s been Up Nort’ in Germany and can provide some inspiration? Think Eastertime. I’ve been curious about the ports of Lübeck and Kiel for many years. Not opposed to renting a car and exploring that way, but I tend toward Deutsche Bahn travel when I can get it.

All suggestions welcome!

Travel deals 13.02.2009

Like to hear ’em? Here they go!

Lufthansa Valentine’s specials
Available for purchase from Feb. 13-15, this appears to be the most recent incarnation of Lufthansa’s ongoing European sales. The fares start from 99€ and are available for travel from today until the end of the year, but, as you’ll see on the price/date matrix when attempting to schedule flights, the 99€ rate is only available on certain dates.

Dubai-Shanghai package
I don’t normally go for package deals with specified destinations, but this one sounds particularly cool. It’s a 10-day trip (three of which are transit days) for 899€ per traveler, departing from Frankfurt or München (or Düsseldorf for an additional fee) on Emirates and including all air and hotel. There are specific dates in which you can travel and excursions on which you can reserve a spot while purchasing the trip itself. I didn’t see specific purchase dates, but it appears spots on the trip are limited. Gebeco is the travel agency offering the package.

Travelocity Cruise sale
Usually, I do my cruise searches on Vacations To Go, but Travelocity brokers cruises, too, and has what appears to be some pretty deep discounts available. The purchase dates on these vary, so keep a close eye on the terms and conditions, but each line and sailing has its own set of incentives.

Those are this week’s best looking deals. As always, fill me in if there are some hot deals that I missed. Happy trails!

Return to teh Intarwebs

So Arcor/Deutsche Telekom decided to stop sucking! At the proverbial 11th hour, their reps showed up and spent a whopping 7.5 minutes flipping whatever switch needed to be flipped to connect us. In the final tally, we spent 16.75 hours waiting for them split up over three appointments, two of which were unsuccessful, made two irate phone calls to reschedule the no-shows and heard four different stories of What Happened, each of which contained at least one element of un-truthiness. And no apologies were received.

But we didn’t change services. So, I suppose, we have our own yoke of suck to bear.

freakin’ telecommunications providers

So…we still don’t have phone or internet service.

Here’s the saga so far:

January 2009:

1. I told Arcor I wanted to move my service from the old apartment to the new one via their internet site. They told me this would happen on February 2 and that they would send confirmation of this along.

2. Sometime while we were on vacation, this actually happened: mail was waiting for us when we got back with a confirmation letter saying we should let a Telekom technician guy into our building/apartment to hook us up. And they sent us a new wireless router/modem, which was a nice thought (but probably not necessary).


February 2:

It was a work day, so Sarah stayed home for that 08:00 to 16:00 window while I got my office job on. No technician showed up. Nobody called. No note was left. Nuttin’. So I called Arcor and was like, “what’s the deal, dudes?” They told me to wait until Friday and see when the next appointment would be — they promised to send an appointment by snail mail (um…ok…did you know that some people have more than one phone number at which you can contact them?). Sarah pontificated on this a bit in a previous post already. They said to call on Friday if an appointment had not yet arrived by mail. Great, so 8 hours that could have been better spent.

February 6:

No Arcor letter came. I got home from work and called Arcor — this time using the Stoerungsannahme phone number (to report disruptions in service). Dude was apologetic and asked what we were doing the next 24 hours…he would send a guy our way to hook us up right away. “Nice,” I thought. “It’s four days too late, but I appreciate the willingness to try to correct the problem.” I told him we’d be available today between 8 and 13 to let the technician in to hook up our line no matter what.

February 7:

Nobody showed. We’d postponed some final apartment move-out activities (perhaps more on that later) to wait around for the Telekom technician Arcor’d now promised twice to no avail. 13 hours wasted and counting.

I of course got on the phone after a 20-minute grace period. Called the “Stoerungsannahme” hotline again. Lady was like “What? They didn’t show up twice? How annoying!” Yeah…I know.

“Wait – has your phone line ever worked at that address?”

“No! I am waiting for the initial setup visit!”

“Oh, well, you see, there are different hotlines for that!”

“That’s fine — I’m calling the number your colleague told me to call.”

“Well, OK. That might explain some of the confusion. How’s Monday morning look for you?”

“Great, but only from 8 to 11 – we’ve got to leave our apartment at 11.”

“OK, Monday morning, 8 a.m. Oops, Monday morning’s full. How’s Monday afternoon?”

“Not good! We have to leave the apartment at 11!”

“OK then – Tuesday morning, 8 a.m.?”

“OK, thank you.”

I think somewhere in there mentioned that on Saturday afternoon the letter expected by Friday arrived with a rescheduled appointment for installation on February 16th. We’ll see whether any of those appointments actually take place.