Archive for March, 2011

Ich Spreche Deutsch!

March 30 2011

The other day was successful for two reasons.

(1) I went to the bank to make a transfer.  AND I spoke entirely in German!  Usually I am too afraid to do things all in German that involve my bank, but I did it!

(2) I proved a claim that Herbert and I had been trying to prove.  We had a function, say f(x, k, l), and wanted to find the zeros for fixed k,l.  Originally, we thought that there were three, but then we realized there was only one zero after plotting the function for certain values of k, l.  For k+l odd, we found a nice closed form for the zeros (about sqrt(k+l)).  And, the numbers we found suggested that this is the solution for all k,l.  So, I tried to put it into Mathematica to verify that this is the solution.  For odd k+l, it outputted 0.  Perfect.  But, for even k+l it outputted a complicated expression.  After looking at the expression for a while, I realized that this too was equal to zero.  Now, I needed to generalize this for all k,l, not just for the few examples that I tried out.  So, I tried varying the values of k,l to find a pattern in the complicated expression.  I first found a pattern for k=0.  Then, I was able to prove that f(~sqrt(k+l,k,l)=0 for k=0!  It turned out that I could easily add k back into the equation to prove the result for all k,l (even non-integers).  🙂  So, I proved something that we had been looking at due to Mathematica’s inability to recognize that a complicated expression is equal to zero.  Perhaps a more elegant way of explaining it is that I proved the claim by first proving it for a few examples and then generalizing the proof.

Check in closed

March 20 2011

I am sitting in the RER on my way back into Paris now. I got to the airport just in time to wait in line to print out my ticket, find out it didn’t work, go to the wrong check-in counter, then watch them close my flight’s check-in counter for my flight!!! So, I am stuck in Paris until Tuesday. I hope that Amit does not get too sick of me! On the upside, I get to meet the people (and the food) at inria tomorrow.

Arrival in Paris

March 11 2011

Last night I flew to Paris, France. Of course, the transit was not without adventure.

At the Vienna airport, they ask me for my passport and I gave them my residence permit. They then tell me that I need my passport to fly. Any time I have flown out of Vienna to a Schengen country, all I needed to show was my residence card. Most times, no Id is checked at all!! So, we resolve this issue with them just giving me a lecture.

Now they are to check my bags, and they were confused about checking my skis. She tells me that there is a fee to check skis. So I decide to check my carry-on too since the skis won’t qualify for the free baggage. I then go over to the counter to pay, and they say ‘is this your second bag?’ I tell them the other agent said it didn’t matter. The two people at this desk got into a fight (in French) about how much to charge me. The man said it would be free, and the woman €55. Then they both furiously looked through their computers and the binders with the air France rules. It was decided that my skis can be my free baggage, so I had to go back to the check-in counter to reclaim my carry-on.

The fun part was navigating the French metro with my skis, boots, and a rolling bag during rush hour. I walked up or down at least 4 flights of stairs without escalators, and only once did someone take pity on me and carry a bag down for me, although I probably would have declined most people’s offer for fear that they would steal my bag! The Paris metro has these gates that you put your ticket in and the gate opens long enough for one person to go through, but not long enough for you to get your skis through. I was wedged in the gate like a mouse caught in a mouse trap. The next person was nice enough to release me by putting his ticket in too, but this meant that he had to get through the gate with me. So, no sooner did the gate start to open then I felt someone push me from behind to help me through.

Hot Knife Through Butter

March 8 2011

As not to embarrass anyone, I won’t use a name here.  But, I thought this story was too funny not to share.  We’ll call the person Bob.

Bob recently learned about the expression “like a hot knife through butter.”  He had never heard of it, and didn’t understand why it would be a saying.  So, while making dinner tonight, he decided to try to cut his butter with a hot knife.  Not having a hot knife handy, he had to heat the knife … but putting it into the toaster.

He learned two things tonight (1) cutting butter with a hot knife is very easy and (2) you should not put a knife in a toaster.

Steirmark Restaurant in Vienna

March 1 2011

I know I have already failed “post a week”, but at least it hasn’t been two weeks since I said I would post every week …

The night before my birthday, Amit took me out to dinner to celebrate.  The dinner was also an apology for bailing on a ski trip with me the previous weekend.  This dinner definitely made up for that!  We went to Steirer Stuben, a restaurant that specializes in dishes from Steirermark, a region/state of Austria.  For an appetizer, we had Leberknödelsuppe (broth soup with liver dumplings).  This is my favorite soup in Vienna, so I was happy to eat it here.  Then, for the entrees we ordered Weidelammrücken rosa gebacken mit Blattspinat und Zweibelerdäfel (lamb with spinach and onion-potatoes) and gegrilltes Kalbsrückensteak mit Gänseleber auf Calvadossauce, Broccoli und hausgemachten Nudeln (grilled veal topped with a goose liver and served with a side of broccoli and homemade noodles .  Both of our meals were phenomenal.   I have trouble eating things off bones, so I tried my best with the lamb.  Amit was staring the bones down when I gave up on them.  I passed them over to him so he could suck on my lamb bones.  I don’t think this was what other patrons did with their bones, but the food was so good, we couldn’t leave anything behind!  We drank Zweigelt Kirchthal, an Austrian red wine.

One thing that surprised us about the meal was how good the desert is.  We are used to delicious desserts served in the coffee shops throughout Vienna.  We chose a traditional Viennese dessert, the Apfelstrudel.  It was served with rumraisins and vanilla ice cream.  (Don’t worry, I took out two lactaid pills before we began eating this, one for me and one for Amit.  He seems to have caught the lactose-intollerence disease from me).  We also had something that we did not know what to expect, geeiste Kardinalschnitte mit aromatisieretem Kaffee und Zwergorangen.  The description on the English menu did not help us understand any better: Kardinal slices with flavored coffee and kumquats.  Neither of us have had a kumquat before.  We learned that it is a fruit that is very flavorful, almost like potpourri.  The flavored coffee we didn’t notice until we were almost done.  It was a small ball filled with coffee flavored juices.  It was sitting on a little stand made out of sugar.  We were poking at the ball for a little bit before one of us was brave enough to pop it like you pop a pimple.  The Kardinalschnittee was amazing.  It looked like a standard Viennese schnitte, but it was frozen and had a slight coffee flavor to it.  It was absolutely delicious!

Sorry I couldn’t post the photos of the food.  I need to find a cable to connect my camera to my computer.