Archive for February, 2012

Today is Not Leap Day

February 29 2012

Today at lunch, Olga, Michael, and I were discussing the calendar.  Several questions came up.  Why is February the month with the least amount of days?  Why is December the 12th not the 10th month?  Why is October the 10th not the 8th month?  Why are July/August the only two consecutive months with 31 days?

Thanks to Michael, we now have all of the answers.  After lunch, he looked up the history of the calendar, and enlightened us during an afternoon tea.  I would attribute all of these facts to him, but I don’t have a good memory.  So, I cheated a little bit and looked up some things online (see here and Wikipedia).  I will summarize our findings into 8 interesting facts about our calendar system:

  1. Originally, the first month of the year was March.  In this system, October was the 8th month and December was the 10th month.
  2. In Roman times, there were 10 named months and 2 unnamed winter months.
  3. Many of the months were originally named after Gods: Janus = god of gates and doorways, Mars = god of war, Aphrodite = goddess of love and beauty, Maia = goddess of spring, Juno = goddess of marriage and well-being of women.
  4. In 46 BC, Julius Cesar renamed Quintilis (the 5th month) after himself.
  5. Augustus Caesar renamed Sextilis (6th month) after himself.  Although it is true that August did not originally have 31 days, it was Julius Caesar, not Augustus, who gave it 31 days.
  6. In 700 BC, January and February were added as months before March.
  7. In 1582 when the Gregorian calendar (the one we use today) was instituted, the day after October 4th was October 15th, proving that time travel is possible.
  8. Traditionally, the “leap day” is February 24th, not February 29th.  February 24th repeats itself on leap years.

So, since Sunday was my birthday and not Saturday, I would like to go back in time so we can re-celebrate my birthday on the proper day.


Nabucco: A Restaurant to Avoid in Kirchberg

February 27 2012

For my birthday weekend, Dave and Frank met me in Kirchberg in Tirol.  Today’s post is inspired by dinner last night, at an Italian restaurant called Nabucco in Kirchberg.  This restaurant cares only about making money during their ski season, and not at all about their customers.  This post is about my experience attempting to dine at Nabucco.

After ordering our  drinks, I asked the waiter to bring us tap water (in German, politely), to which I was told “we can’t do that” (in English).  My immediate response was a strange look to the man, as I said “I think you can”.  Then he tries to tell me that water is not on the menu, so he cannot serve it to  me.  A rather intricate discussion ensues, which was ended with me giving in because Dave looked tired and I was hungry.  Then, a younger server came over (I think the other man was the owner) asking if we needed anything, again, I told him that I just wanted water.  He also told me that water was not on the menu.

In general, I would have left with the refusal to serve me tap water, however, it was getting late, and I was hungry.  So, I settled for drinking my Martini Bianco.   Then, comes the dinner.  I ordered a Margarita Pizza.  It had no BASIL!  According to Frank (and me too), the basil is one of the 3 important (and only) ingredients of this pizza.  The red tomato sauce was also not that good.  Regardless, I paid for my meal at the end.

When I paid, I made it a point to tell the young waiter that I did not tip him because I found it to be ridiculous that they would not serve us tap water.  He said that he understood, but the old Italian man heard us talking and decided to step in.  This is where it got interesting.

The Italian man began his “conversation” with me by snapping that they don’t need my tip.  He was yelling at me at the front of the restaurant, trying to convince me that he can’t serve tap water because his prices are so good and that everything is included in the prices.  It was a little awkward when another patron tried to leave the restaurant.  I tried to tell him that offering water would not put him out of business, but he would not understand.  He said that if he let me have water, then he would have to let everyone have water.

I told him that he lost money that night by not serving me water, as I would have liked to order more than just an Appertiv with dinner.  We were planning on buying a bottle of wine, but changed those plans after the water incident.  His response?  I don’t care, I don’t need you to buy a bottle of wine.

Then, I asked if he cared about his customers, to which he responded (loudly and in front of other customers too) “no, I don’t care about my customers.  I have only 3 months to make money a year.”  Later, we began to wonder, why would someone complain if they had 9 months of vacation a year?  If it was a money-issue, they clearly should find a new location for their restaurant …

Since he didn’t care about his customers, I asked if he cared about reviews.  He said that he did not care about reviews either, because he didn’t need them.  This seemed to be inconsistent with the fact that he needed business during three months of the year, but oh well …

Feeling a bit annoyed at his temperament with me, I asked him why he was so angry.  He then told me that I was rude.  He said that he didn’t bring me the water because of the HOW  I asked for it, I DEMANDED it he said.  Then, he said “people come from America and demand things.”  So, I quickly said, “I am living in Vienna.”  To which he responded, “I don’t care.   This is not Vienna.  We are an Italian restaurant.”  I don’t understand how I was rude.  I addressed him politely in the question, in German nonetheless.  So, I said, “you are wrong.  I asked you politely.  In fact, I asked you in German since we are in Austria and you responded in English.  You are the one who was rude to me.”  I believe this sent him on a 5 minute litany, half of which my jaw was dropped for and the other half of which I was laughing uncontrollably (in my defense, I did not know that I was laughing, Dave and Frank told me this later).

Meanwhile, the younger waiter was telling Dave and Frank about how he used to live in New York and about his vacation in Secaucus.

Given this horrendous experience, I would like to re-name this restaurant “No-Go Nabucco”.

A Valentine’s Gift

February 22 2012

There is an adorable family staying at my house while I am away in Austria.  When I was back in the US, I had the pleasure to spend a few hours getting to know them.  So, the last time I visited, I left 2 packages of conversation heart candies for the two girls.  Since Evelyn wasn’t home at the time, I told her sister to make sure she gets her gift.  This is an email that I received from their mother:

Lily wanted to make sure Evelyn knew these conservation hearts were from you, so she asked me how to spell your name and wrote the “to” and “from” on the box. When Evelyn came home, she was so excited to see the hearts. She asked who they were from. We told her to read the box. She gasped and said, “Brittany?” She got a huge smile on her face, paused, and said, “Wow! Brittany writes like a little kid!” We laughed really hard about that. 🙂

these are from me, and the To/From is filled out correctly .... must be my handwriting.

Exploring Inkscape

February 14 2012

Testing out my new tool, inkscape

This is the first figure that I made with the vector graphics editor Inkscape

To create the beautiful figures in my dissertation, I have decided to venture away from my beloved xfig.  Over the past five years, I have become proficient in using xfig, as it is Herbert’s editor of choice.  However, I have found it to be quite a nuisance to constantly export to PS/Tex.

I first tried to use ipe, since this is the tool that Dave uses.  I can save directly to a PDF in ipe, so the extra step of exporting my figure could be eliminated if I were to use this program.  After failing to create a simple example that involved a Circle and four lines, I became frustrated.  I tried for a whole hour to move just one point.

Then, Andy suggested using Inkscape.  He said that it is more intuitive than ipe.  Shortly after beginning my exploration of Inkscape, I found a tutorial online that walked through creating a soup can.  At first, I had some issues with creating ellipses (they all had a pizza slice taken out of them!)  After that was sorted out, I was easily able to make a can, with a customized label and a shadow.

My Return

February 9 2012

After a respite, I am back in Austria and back to blogging.

The Trip: I would consider myself the seasoned cross-atlantic traveler.  Unfortunately, airlines don’t try to make it easier for you the more you fly.  Lufthansa changed my favorite policy: SKI BAGS NO LONGER FLY FOR FREE!  While my ski bag has ALWAYS flown free, I had to pay $100 to bring it to Europe with me this time.  Although I gave them a hard time, the angry lady behind the counter would not offer me any break.  This has changed in just these past few months.  Hopefully, the ski bag can fly home for free since I fly out of Vienna, which is operated by Austrian Airlines.  I won’t even go into the rest of the things that went wrong with this trip, the list is too long.

The Weather: My arrival brought about the coldest weather that Europe has seen in DECADES.  The temperature has not risen above freezing since I have arrived.  Last week, the highs were -15C=5F!  This week is a bit better, we’ve seen almost -5C=23F, which was WARM ENOUGH FOR SNOW.  Can you believe it?  It had to warm up for it to snow!  Last week, I stepped outside of a coffee-shop and SAW the cold.  I wish that I had my camera on me, because the cold was visible.  It wasn’t foggy, but everything was a hazy blue.

A Surprise: Dave and I were invited to a wedding in Jakarta, Indonesia!