Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Air Shipment Arrives

On Friday, our air shipment finally arrived. Many of the things that we really missed now showed up and are making our lives easier. Now I have more than just 8 shirts to wear (thankfully), and the kids have lots of toys to play with.

Joey also no longer has to sleep in a "Pack and Play", having his own bed. Unfortunately, he is still sleeping in the pack and play, and is not interested in sleeping in his bed. So the kids bedroom is now more crowded with stuff.

In the air shipment, Jake's and my computers arrived. Joy and jubilation! Both of the computers use a USB wireless adapter to get onto the local home network. I think the USB 802.11b adapters, connecting to a 802.11g router, are causing some latency from these computers. I'll do some more research about this. This is causing anger (Jake and me) while playing online video games, and lagging out every minute or so.

Television is a decreasingly important part of our daily lives. To be honest, I wasn't watching that much TV when I was in the US (for an American, at least), but now that all the channels are in German, the rest of the family has very little interest in the TV, unless the TV is playing a DVD or a video of some sort. Whenever I get in the mood to watch German TV, I really enjoy it. (Especially the channels from Germany, where I can understand them perfectly) :) However, understanding German really requires a lot of my concentration, and is very fragile to the screams of playing children. My comprehension of German is very reduced in a noisy environment.

Speaking of loud kids, we also purchased several rugs to help keep the kids' "thudding noises" down to a minimum. I feel rather sorry for our neighbor downstairs. She must hear way too much noise. These kids are hard to contain. They lived in a big house and never had to be quiet for fear of bothering their neighbors. It is quite an adjustment for them. We really need a hallway carpet, the kids (specifically Josh and Cecilia) keep forgetting that they can't run in the house, and invariably race very loudly. Joey has recently taken to screaming "NO" very loudly and with prolonged, almost operatic bouts of endurance. While walking down the street, I can hear these kids very clearly. (Sigh)

Releasing the Magic Smoke
You may have learned in high school or college, that modern electronic appliances use electricity to power them. What they did not teach you, was that the thing that actually makes computers work is called "Magic Smoke" Since you're not familiar with the term, let me get you acquainted with it:
  • All electronic components contain magic smoke. It is the force that makes it work.
  • The magic smoke is very powerful, as it is what your components use. It is endlessly trying to get out.
  • If released, the magic smoke will no longer do your bidding for your electronics. Thus, the electronics will never work again.
After unpacking our air shipment, we had many more opportunities to discover which appliances were actually ready for 240V. The first casualty was the X-Box power supply. We never even looked at the label. Once plugged, a very disturbingly large CRACK sound, followed by that smell of burnt capacitors, fried components, and ... released magic smoke.

Jake's Dell computer was the second casualty. It was a Dell computer, with a switchable power supply in the back. I was reading e-mail, or eating breakfast, or something. Stacy was plugging everything in for Jake. You know what happens next: CRACK! The magic smoke was released. Jake, in another room, asked "What was that?" Stacy asked what happened. I remembered the little pink switch in the back of the power supply. I approached Jake solemnly. "Jake," (I love speaking broken Spanish) "Tu computerero esta la en fuego" (Jake, your computer-ero is on fire). (the -ero part makes it sound more Spanish) Jake responded with a frustrated scream.

So releasing the Magic Smoke has a theme of "Insert incorrect electronic component. No waiting necessary, immediate pop!" The third casualty was not so fast to die. Jake's computer speakers, which required an external power supply (with no labels indicating the type of power required), stayed plugged in for at least 45 seconds, until there was a soft click. I looked over to the speakers, and noticed the green power light fading slowly. The computer power supply had a slow death.

Office Life
On Monday, my office equipment arrived in Fribourg, so I took the opportunity to go to the office and get my stuff set up. The office computer arrived intact, but some of my office stuff didn't. The two casualties were my coffee mugs. One, a treasured memento from my Antarctica adventures, and another that I didn't care about much. The box somehow got quite smooshed en-route. Most of the items arrived without much damage. My LEGO toys (small knick-knacks to keep the kids entertained when they show up at my office) were all busted to pieces, but all of the parts somehow managed to stay in the box, despite the gaping holes in the bottom.

The office I reported to was the Fribourg office down-town, not far from the train station. The actual data center office, where I will be eventually reporting, is another bus ride away from the train station ( ugh ). This unfortunately, will add another 15 minutes to my already long commute. Did I say long commute? Ho-boy.

Ausfall means "Inconvenience"
As I've noted before, it seems inconvenient for me to live in Bern, and work in Fribourg. Stacy and I weighed the options out very seriously, when planning on a location to live. It essentially boiled down to one sentence from my perspective: "One man's quiet misery is outweighed by the vocal misery of five." My quiet misery will begin at 7:51, on a train ride from Bern. The closest train station is "Station Liebefeld", and there is a bus even closer, the number 10, that takes me directly to the Bern Bahnhof.

I've done quite a bit of research, and discovered that, for leaving 10 minutes earlier, I can walk 2.94 kilometers (over a substantial hill, but through a nice forest) to a train station called Bern Bumpliz Sud. Catching that train at 7:51 will get met to Fribourg, and into the office by around 9:15. (respectable!) I walked the route the other day at a brisk pace. A pace unencumbered by a laptop bag, or by work clothes. I found the trip to be accomplished in 28 minutes.

As for the title of this section, the German word "Ausfall" doesn't really mean inconvenience. It means "loss." But for me, this really meant "huge inconvenience, and an unintended side-trip to the Swiss countryside. On Monday, as I made my way to the Fribourg office, I took the train as I did back in June, when I made my first venture into Switzerland. I grabbed the S2 from Station Liebefeld to the Bern Bahnhof, and connected with the "S1" to Fribourg.

You may know me pretty well, and might not be so surprised that I wasn't paying close enough attention to the big orange signs that had some word "Bahnersatz mit Bus" Not knowing what a Bahnersatz was (believe me, now I do), I just got onto the S1 to Fribourg. Enroute, there was an announcement that I did pay attention to, which told me that there was some work being done on the tracks somewhere along the route. The train system had this to say about the Bern-Fribourg train line:
IC 2536 (Bern - Fribourg) Streckenunterbruch Bern - Fribourg - Dauer der Störung unbestimmt Wegen der Unwetter ist die Strecke Bern - Fribourg für den Zugsverkehr unterbrochen. Die IC-Züge Luzern/St.Gallen - Bern - Genf Flughafen fallen zwischen Bern und Fribourg aus. Zwischen Bern und Fribourg verkehren Bahnersatzbusse ohne Halt. .... Die Dauer der Störung ist unbestimmt.

This translates roughly to...

IC 2536 (That's the train from Bern - Fribourg) Connection under construction between Bern and Fribourg. The duration of the disturbance is unknown, because of recent weather problems something is broken along the Bern Fribourg line. The Inter City Connector train from Luzern and St. Gallen to Bern to Geneva airport falls between Bern and Fribourg. So between Bern and Fribourg, please use the "course replacement" without a stop. The duration of the disturbance is unspecified.

Dictionary.com translation page's interpretation:

Distance interruption Berne - Fribourg - duration of the disturbance indefinitely ways of the tempests is interrupted the distance Berne - Fribourg for the train service. The IC courses Luzern/St.Gallen - Berne - Geneva airport fail between Berne and Fribourg. Between Berne and Fribourg course spare buses without stop operate. The courses of the rapid-transit railway line 11 (Berne - Fribourg - Romont) fail between Berne and Fribourg. ... The duration of the disturbance is indefinite.
(that was helpful)

The following paragraph might make sense if you get this map and follow along. Really. I mean it. Clickey now. Remember, I live next to the Liebefeld station (just south of Bern's main station), and I'm headed to Fribourg, on the bottom-left of the map.

What this "Ausfall" meant to me, the guy who already got on the S1 train to Fribourg from Bern, (that has multiple stops along the way to Fribourg): The train offloaded at a station named "Thorishaus Station." I just followed everybody. Half of the crowd went up the stairs to the trains, the other half went up a handicap ramp. I chose the handicap ramp. I got stuck behind some slow strollers who walked abreast, and used up the whole walkway.

I got to the top of the stairs, and a bus left. That same bus that the other half of people (who went up the stairs) boarded and zoomed away on. No problem, another bus drove up and I got onto that one. The bus started going down the twisty roads that followed the terrain of the area. A very quick trip, and we stopped at the train station Thorishaus Dorf. Nobody got off. The next stop was Flamatt. Next: Neunegg. Then: Freiburghaus, Finally: Laupen. Everybody got off. I followed, not really knowing where I was. The bus drove away.

I walked up to the train station, and there was a train that left the station. Gone. That was the S1 from Laupen to Bern. I looked at the map, and to my horror, I discovered that Laupen was another one of those wacky trains that has the same number, but stops at a different destination. (Jake, Josh and I had a similar experience with the Trams in downtown Bern, that went to Saali (which we wanted), and the same-numbered tram to Muri.)

Apparently, that first bus went to Fribourg, and all of the stops along the way to Fribourg. The second bus was the replacement bus that carried me on the rest of the way to the "Alternate" S1 line, that ended in Laupen. So now that the train left 2 minutes after I arrived by bus, the next train didn't depart for another hour. I realized the gravity of my situation, and realized that I was not going to get to the office in the morning, after all. (It was around 12:30 by this time).

I pulled out my blackberry phone, which has a super-cool GPS feature and Google Maps. If I'm going to be stuck in this town for an hour, I'm at least going to walk around for a while. I started walking along the road to Fribourg. Google maps says that it's 10 kilometers to Fribourg. Hey that's not too bad. I start walking, and eventually run out of sidewalk. I find a bus station, and there happens to be a bus coming in the next 10 minutes that will take me to Dudingen. Dudingen is right next to Fribourg, so I can probably muddle something together to get to Fribourg if I can at least get to Dudingen. (The bus I took was the one represented by the "121" on the public transportation map.

I got to Dudingen and found a train ready to leave. There were no signs telling me where this train was going. The train schedule made no mention of a train to Fribourg heading out at 14:27 (which was the time by then). The train pulls away. It was better to be sure and not get on the wrong train, I thought. That was my train. To my horror, I look further on the schedule, and find that there is not another train to Fribourg for another hour. But little good that schedule did me, since there wasn't supposed to be a 14:27 train to Fribourg in the first place.

I took the opportunity to get some lunch. A quick trip to the COOP next to the train station, and 7.50CHF later, and I have a Coke, a sandwich, and a little cole slaw that didn't taste much like cole slaw. I think one of the most valuable talents a person can have, is the ability to wait around patiently, and think of ways to pass the boredom. I am convinced that this was simly a survival skill requisite among the inhabitants of prior generations. ... For their lives were most likely empty and boring: probably insufferable before the advent of the Internet, Television, radios, cars, etc. I didn't have to try too hard to entertain myself, as I had a Blackberry device with e-mail. I don't know how humanity ever made it.

Before I got onto my train to go to Fribourg, Stacy called and said, (not knowing of my adventure so far), "Are you there at work yet? How much longer do you expect to be?"

How about, 'I haven't been there yet!'

"Are you kidding me? You should just give up come home now!"

"Heck no!" Would history had remembered George Mallory1 if he got 'close to' the peak of Mount Everest and gave up, went home?! Heck no! I was getting to that office to check out how my office supplies showed up! This was my adventure for the day!

I found my way to the office in Fribourg, and (miraculously) my badge worked, and I found somebody who knew something about my office supplies. Five cardboard boxes showed up in Fribourg. Two of them were very nicely packed boxes.

The trip back to Bern was uneventful. I actually followed the orange signs, and actually asked for help from one of the SBB representatives, and I took an uneventful ride home on a crowded bus, which showed up at the Bern train station. I would bore you with details of a boring bus ride if I went into these details. Instead, I will lead you to the next adventure in Switzerland:

Drugs for Ex-Pat Retards
While in downtown Bern, (mentioned in the previous Blog), most of the family was fighting off a cold of some sort. Joey had the green nose guck that even made Stacy give that gross face (and she's a Nurse!). Stacy was fighting off the sniffles, and so was I. When the opportunity presented its self, Stacy went into an Apothecary and found a pharmacist who spoke English. She asked for something for a stuffy nose. "Something with pseudophedrine." (like Sudafed). The pharmacist quickly pulled out a little pink box, and Stacy paid for it.

During the time of the apothecary visit and purchase, I was wandering around outside with the stroller, and Stacy immediately took the adult dose. I wanted to hold off for a bit longer, I hadn't had to take any medications for this cold yet, and I wasn't really in the mood to start yet. Later in the day, I caved-in and took one pill of the medicine, not really looking at the label.

About two hours later, I was overwhelmed with an incredibly powerful sense of needing to go to sleep. It was as if I had gotten 3 hours of sleep the night before, and the sleep deprivation had finally caught up with me. "This cold must be getting the better of me!" I noted. Stacy said I looked like a walking zombie. To top it all off, it started to rain, and we cancelled the rest of our day's wanderings. Upon getting into the house, I immediately headed for the bedroom and fell asleep. I do not recall my face even hitting the pillow.

It was a short nap, I awoke to an uneventful evening. The next morning, I wondered out loud why I was so dog-gone tired that afternoon. "Hey! Let me see that box of pills we bought at the apothecary!" I pull out the box and read the cover:

Hey! Who you callin' a retard!?! (Swiss people, please see footnote 4) I look at the ingredients label. The active ingredient? Diphenhydramine HCl. The chief ingredient in anti-histamines (such as Benadryl), and when you can't get to sleep, the major ingredient in the older types of over the counter sleeping pills such as Nytol. No wonder I was so tired. I took a sleeping pill!

Mental note: Be studious about the drugs you're given in a foreign country. Or just suck it up and don't take any drugs at all. (Which do you think I'm going to do? )

1. In case you don't know your history, George Mallory died in an attempt to get to the top of Mount Everest. It was Sir Edmund Hillary who was the first to make it. Shame on you for not knowing these important things2!

2. For some reason, I'm reminded of the scene from National Lampoon's Animal House, when Blutarsky shouted the memorable quote:
Bluto: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor3? Hell no!
3. If you didn't get that joke, please know that it was the Japanese who bombed Perl Harbor, not the Germans. Do I have to spell everything out for you?

4. For the Swiss people who are enjoying this blog, please refer to the urban dictionary definition of "retard." It is commonly used by the American youth to describe people who are acting stupid.

1 comment:

Cat said...

This entry amused me. Jay and I were recently in France where he was very, very sick with a stomach virus. The pharmacist, after hearing my description in broken French, produced a box from behind the counter.

Looking at it we knew, without translation, that it was what we wanted. It was named Spasmocalm. Good stuff!