Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Into the depths.

If we were to fret over the weather forecast I suppose we would have stayed in Wienerland for the weekend.  The thing is,  Travelling Companion had made an appointment with some lawyers down that away for Monday afternoon,  and even though there was some brief talk of bugging out early because of the threatening weather,  we basically went to Slovenia and back over Sunday and Monday pretty well unscathed.
We had no sooner arrived Sunday afternoon in Sava,  when it started to snow those big heavy snot like gobs of snow,   which it continued to do throughout pretty much the whole evening. 

You might notice on the outside of the house here that there are these roll shutters that many houses in Europe have?   Well,  they're great for security and for keeping out unwanted light.
That is until the power goes out,  and moonlight is all you have until some candles can be found.

Seems the heavy snow and power lines don't go well together.   The power did come back on at one point and we thought we were in the clear,  but then it went out again just as the one snarky lawyer on Boston Legal was making his closing arguments and well,  I guess we'll have to buy that season too,  since I don't know how it turned out.  And seeing as "Denny Crane"   had fallen in love with some cattle rancher,  I don't even think that episode would have ended up with them smoking cigars on their little rooftop terrace.   It'll all be fresh and new whenever I get to watch it when the time comes,  which is normally something that I don't experience with these things,  since it's usually Travelling Companion who falls asleep through just about every thing she sees on the screen. 
Mind you,  that can make for some really economical DVD watching,  since she can watch an episode at least three or four times before putting it all together. 
Yes,   we got to watch TV in Slovenia!   See,  they leave all the programming in the original language,  and use subtitles.  I think I've gone on about this before,  so I'll leave it alone.
I'm beginning to feel that the novelty of driving down to Slovenia and back is starting to wear off,  even if I do get to watch some TV.   Driving some 935 kilometres for some TV time is a bit much.  
The somewhat amazing thing is,  even though the BMW is barely broken in,  the mileage has really improved.   We went down and back and still had a quarter tank of fuel!   Roughly €60 to fill up,  plus another €15 for a vignette.   That's probably expensive by North American standards,  but I don't think it's too bad,  and I'm pretty parsimonious.

That's about all I have.   This weekend coming up will be our last weekend here in Wienerland for 2010.

 Today's magic number is 10!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

No Black Friday for me!

However,  there was a bit of a White Saturday in our lives this morning.  

Does that count as a segue?

Now I realise I had mentioned a couple things about adverse weather that other folks had been getting,  and that must have been enough to temp fate.
Or something.
But hey!  They got upwards of 15 inches of snow in parts of England.
Pushing my luck there.
I'll try not to bring it up again.

 So I had to bring the snow shovel up from the dungeon,   since clearing away the excess is unfortunately a requirement,  otherwise it just gets all crusty and impossible to deal with.  I just might want to go upstairs a couple more times in the next week or so. 

How does that work anyway?  I'm always afraid to say,  "Oh my,  aren't we lucky?  Or,  my isn't it a nice day?".   Knowing full well that in the next instance all hell could break loose.

The sole reason that I even managed to get my hind end out of bed that early on a Saturday morning was because I knew we needed fuel for the Beemer,  since we're heading to Slovenia in the morning,  and this is the first "Advent Samstag".

Not sure how to translate that exactly.  Basically means the first big Saturday shopping day before Christmas,  if you put it into the strictly non religious sense.

Last year we were caught quite unaware and I ended up having to run up a one way street the wrong way in order to get the car back in the garage.   This time around I just happened to notice something in the paper mentioning how Mariahilfer was going to be made into a pedestrian zone after nine a.m.  
That meant I had to hustle my butt down to the garage for some diesel and get back here well before the cut-off time.   I have no idea where all the cars end up,  since this street is normally just a madhouse of vehicles,  and at first it wasn't all that busy,  as you can see,

but later on,  there were just droves of people,  many of whom had emerged from the subway.   I also read that there were going to be over a hundred bus loads of shoppers being brought in from God knows where.
Organised chaos.
 The reason I have no pertinent pictures of the crowds from later in the day is because well,  I try to avoid that whole scene if at all possible?  The only reason I managed this one was because I was on my way to the butcher on Neubaugaße to pick up some stewing beef.  Otherwise you'd just have to take my word for it.

I did have to go out later to reload my cell phone and pick up some wrapping paper.  Picture taking was not on the agenda.
 It did seem though that closing it off to vehicular traffic was kind of a lame idea,  since the sheep like shoppers tend to walk on the side walk anyway,  even though the road has been freed up for their use.
I walked on the road,  that's for sure.   I'd do that just about every day if I could to avoid having to elbow my way through the twits who don't realise we're not in Jamaica,  or England,  and have no idea about side walk walking protocol.   Keep to the right! Dammit!
Stupid cell phone chatting foreign language speaking dolts!   By "foreign language"  I'm basically talking about Hungarian or Turkish,  since eavesdropping on German is more or less do-able,  so I don't really consider that "foreign", not that I'd really eaves drop,  but some times it can't be helped.   Especially when the annoying cell phone talker isn't exactly using their "inside voice"?
Please refer back to my disdain for using public transit.

So we'll see how things are going down in Slovenia.   I'll let you know.   I'm sure you care.  Supposed to be sunny and clear.  That works for me.

Weather for Ljubljana, Slovenia

-2°C | °F
Current: Fog
Wind: N at 3 km/h
Humidity: 100%
Partly Sunny
3°C | -1°C
Chance of Snow
4°C | 1°C
Chance of Rain
5°C | -6°C
Chance of Snow
4°C | 0°C

Have a fine weekend.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lucky so far, I guess.

I'm referring to the weather,  although that's a pretty lame topic I know.  The thing is,  I can't help but notice that a few places "across the pond" are experiencing what I would like to refer to in the "care-taking vernacular" as "shitty weather".
 Hate to be blunt,  but snow in Vancouver?   Not only that,  snow over on Vancouver Island?   Does that even happen?  The gobs of snow in Montana are well,  more or less par for the course,  and having ridiculous below freezing temperatures in a place like Calgary?   Well,  that's Calgary.    It could warm up to plus five the next day.
There are some places though that are just not in any way shape or form geared up for winter.  In case you hadn't guessed,  I'm speaking of Vancouver.
  Any time there's a hint of snow in Vancouver, the Canadian Media decides that that should be worthy of some sort of story,  which is almost as lame as this whole topic.   But at least I'm not being funded by the Canadian taxpayer.
 Not yet anyway.
Which reminds me,  (do you sense a pending seque?)  I have to take a look at just what is happening to my CPP now that I'm "between assignments".   I guess I'll try wading through their website.  Never a happy time.   I can always try calling someone when we get home,  although that can also be not such a happy time.  The calling part,   not the going home part.
By the way,   that will be after fifteen more sleeps.
Not that I'm keeping track or anything.
Somehow though I think the CPP situation is OK,  since I've certainly been paying into it long enough,  so I don't think missing a couple years will make any kind of difference.   It is one of those deals that is geared to the number of years worked and the amount of earnings HOWEVER,  there is something called "drop out years"  that have recently been increased to eight years.   I'm still good.

Plus,  I also noticed this wording...

If I am between 60 and 64, how do I qualify for a retirement pension?

To qualify for a retirement pension between the ages of 60 and 64, you need to do one of the following:
  • Stop working and receive no earnings    (wait!  what??)
  • This means that you are not working by the end of the month before the CPP retirement pension begins and during the month in which it begins.
    • Example: If you want your pension to begin in April, you have to stop working by the end of March and you cannot work during the month of April.
  • Earn less than a specified amount
  • This means you earn less than the current monthly maximum CPP retirement pension payment ($934.17 in 2010) in the month before your pension begins and in the month it begins.
    • Example: If you want your pension to begin in April 2010, you need to earn less than $934.17 in both March and April. Once you start receiving your CPP pension, you can work as much as you want without affecting your pension amount. However, you cannot contribute to the CPP on any future earnings from employment.

Whatever.   Bla bla bla.  What was that first part?

OK so,   I've figured out the "Stop working and receive no earnings" part.   That was easy.   Just have to wait a few more years. 

There.   Solved that problem.

Now,  unemployment insurance is another deal.   I've paid into that one for way too long,  and I'd happily just take back all my premiums.   I think I collected something like a week's worth there back in about 1984.   Something like that.  Even then that was because someone told me I really should.  It never actually occurred to me to apply for pogey.
I just might apply when we move back home though.
I want my money back.
Meh, we'll see.

That's if for today I suppose.  Didn't have that much on my mind.  Not much going on.
Travelling Companion is out to dinner tonight with some work associates.  Even if I did know what that was about I couldn't say.
Some people flew in from other locations.
There were meetings. 
Now they eat. 

What that means however is that at some point later this evening I'll "get the call"  and have to go and pick her up.   *sigh*
I don't mind,  really.  It just means no beer for Bob. *sigh*
The Austrian authorities take a really dim view of even a barely noticeable alcomohol level in a driver's blood stream.  I don't recall the limit,  but it's low.   Trust me.
Not worth the risk.  I'm often called upon to do the driving.  Once again.  *sigh*

 Happy Thanksgiving to anyone south of the 49th!  You know who you are.

 Stay safe on "Black Friday".    (Gawd that sounds ominous.)


Monday, November 22, 2010

Slow German? or No German?

Once in a very long while we're either prudent or lucky,  I'm really not sure which.   With the Christmas season just around the corner,  we once again have to resist the temptation to remove the car from the parking garage on a Saturday.  Pretty soon Mariahilfer is going to be closed off to cars on Saturdays,  and we have to keep that in mind.

First of all,  I should say that the really extra good news about going home already on the 10th of December,  is that the "Wienerland shopping program" will be severely curtailed,  and I will no longer be pressed into service once we get back home to be the cheery co-shopper.   That particular torch will be passed off to one of my sisters-in-law.
For this I am truly thankful.
On this side of the pond however,  I'm the chosen one.  That's all I'm willing to offer about my take on shopping.   You may be able to read between the lines.

There was a plan afoot to head down to the centre of town to partake in the joy of this thing called "Christmas shopping",  and at first I had this bright idea to take the car,  since it's not one of those Saturdays just yet.
 I realise that we're ever so slightly spoiled, but I just prefer to have my own little space,  (my own recently vacuumed space,  I might add)  and have no real qualms about either sitting in traffic a bit,  or paying a few Euros extra for parking.   It's already over €7 for the two of us to go and return on the U-Bahn,  so for a little bit more,  or sometimes not,  we can go by car.

I should point out that,  when forced to take public transit I do not:
1) Care to hear what ever is blaring out of your ear buds that you seem to think is music.  2) Wish to smell you.
3) Wish to be part of some one sided conversation you just had to have at that precise moment on your cell phone.
Or best of all....4) I don't want to see any parts of your body that should be tucked neatly away in your underwear!
No dangling participles!   Thank-you.

  Should I go on?   I think you get the idea.   I like my (own) space.


 This is a glimpse of the mob scene around Stephansplatz.   I was actually more taken with the Christmas decorations,  and I'm sure I could have taken gobs more photos of the crowds.
You'll just have to take my word for it.

So it's a good thing I had a moment of clarity there,  and we ended up taking the U-Bahn,  since we quite likely wouldn't have been able to get home anyway.  At least not right away.
There was a lovely demonstration right at the one way street we need to go down to be able to put the car put away.   Something to do with cruelty to animals.   Don't know.  Don't care.

I just sure as hell hope they have to get a permit,  that's all.

Once again, getting home expeditiously has something to do with going to the bathroom,  and if the internal bathroom timer has been set off,  then there's really and truly only so much time before well,  the time has run out.

Thankfully the elevator has been working faithfully for some time now...

Today's exciting although brief adventure had us once again going to the Immigration office to get our residence permits renewed.   Really though,  it wasn't very exciting,  not much of an adventure,  and not overly brief.

There's been a certain amount of,  oh I don't know,  frustration with the whole procedure,  since the very smart relocation company whose office is somewhere in Texas (and I'm just going to let that speak for itself)  were supposed to get the ball rolling on this a couple months ago.

Nothing happened.  No surprise there.

 Finally not too long ago,  Travelling Companion sent out a note to the lawyers up in Belgium (and that's just as absurd,  I know) asking just what the hell?   and so,  after a flurry of emails and a couple phone calls on my part (like I really want to get involved)  we had our visit this morning.

Here's how it works:   The lawyer is supposed to meet us there,  with copies of all the "stuff"  that we've provided for him.   That would be:  Copies of passports.  Copies of some sort of statement saying we do in fact pay rent.  Copies of proof that Travelling Companion is getting paid to work here.    Copies of the insurance coverage saying we're basically not sucking on the Austrian health care teat.
And a couple new photos.
 I think that's it.
Then they take this information and they put it on a couple forms.   Good thing we checked the forms,  since somebody doesn't know how to copy down information.
Then we each sign our respective forms in about nine places.

 I think the thing that I found just ever so slightly annoying was that the lawyer was LATE.   You may recall my view on "late"?   Not keen.
 Unfortunately,  this falls into the category of "active bullshit",  as opposed to "passive bullshit".   Nothing to be done.   He was only about 10 minutes late,  but in those ten minutes we had already made our way up to the counter to get our number.
Here's the thing,  even though I very clearly said we were there to renew our Residence Permits,  the turd behind the counter seemed to think we had to go to City Hall.
At first he started babbling away in German to Travelling Companion,  which of course meant that I was the one answering the questions,  then pointing out that she spoke very little German,  so what's he do?
He just speaks slower.
Like that helps.
So the big question is,  in that instance,  do you argue with an "official"?



Turns out he also had the brains of a turd,  and once he looked up something or other on his computer, he proceeded to give us our ticket.
That's all I wanted!   Thank-you there Mr.Turd!

 It's a similar idea to when you get your passport,  you first line up to get a ticket,  then you go to another area to watch and wait for your number.   Our number was up by the time we made it to the fifth floor,  so lawyer dude did have to eat a little crow there,  and apologise to the young lady at the desk for our "lateness".

Hey,  we were already lined up outside at 7:40,  so I figured I sure as hell wasn't going to offer any apologies. 

 So the money has been paid.   Everything submitted,  and we can pick up our new cards on the second of December. 

 Wondering if I should start a pool on the exact time lawyer dude will show up.  Hmmm?

Today's magic number is 18.


Friday, November 19, 2010

And then the rains came.

I always imagine African drum music when I think of that,  which has mostly to do with an old radio show from the BBC.

I'm going to break my promise.   Just this once.
I hadn't really figured out where to put this thing,  but it seems the chickadees don't care.

At one point there were a half dozen of these little guys.

Other than that,  there's sweet bugger all going on today.   Had to go out as usual,  and face a sea of umbrellas on the street.  Gah!  If you know it's going to rain,  why not just dress for it?   Didn't bring my safety goggles,  and avoiding eye injury can sometimes be a preoccupation.  
Certainly not going to miss that aspect of city life.

Travelling Companion just called from the Birmingham airport.  Only has 45 minutes for a layover in Düsseldorf,  so we'll see how that turns out.

Hopefully the rain lets up a tad for the airport run tonight.

Hope everyone has a fine weekend.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Almost a night out.

Well,  that was close.   Damned near had a chance to interact with some fellow English speaking types.  Apparently though,   they're not all that punctual.

 I don't do "late".

Just doesn't work for me.  If you're organising an "event",  you need to be on time.

Or send an emissary.

A note on a table.


 There was supposed to be some sort of "meet and greet"  at a dump er,  I mean "pub" a few blocks away,  and by the time I found the place,  I was feeling kinda bad that I was already quite late,  (twenty minutes!)  but in spite of that fact,  there was nary a soul there.  Not sure what was up with that,  but I simply walked home.   So I went from feeling somewhat "sheepish"  to well, just a sheep.

See, if I'm going to sit by myself and drink beer,  I can do it right here.   Thank-you.
Besides,   the "Flying Pig" was aptly named,  and maybe it was supposed to have "character",  but to my way of thinking,  it wasn't much to write home about.   So I won't.

The way I look at it,  I have to put up with enough "passive" bullshit,  so I'm certainly not going to be looking for the "active" kind.

Say what you wish about the Austrians,  and there's plenty to say I'm sure,  but with any encounters or meetings that I've had up to this point,  there has never ever been a situation when anyone was blatantly late.  Or even close to being late.
 OK,  maybe there was this one time with the immigration lawyer,  and we're going to once again put him to the test on Monday morning.  We'll see how he does.   Should I send him a note and ask if he needs a wake-up call?


They'll even call if they're early to ask if that's "OK"?  And I'm not just talking about German teacher dude.   The same happened with the so called installer from Telecom Austria.   He showed up early.  He called me on my "Handy"  (cell phone) to ask if that was OK?  I don't think that really happens in North America.   Mind you,  turns out he was pretty useless as an installer,  but that's another story.
He was polite,  albeit incompetent.

Now,  speaking of Austrians (and you're thinking,  "oh here he goes")   I went this morning for a haircut.  Of course the "Friseur"  babbles away at me in German and well,  I can understand about 95% I would say,  so that's not too bad,  and then at some point,  as in every encounter while seated in the chair,  you do run out of things to talk about,  and that has nothing to do with any kind of language barrier.
I mean,  I run out of things to talk about when I'm at my favourite barber back in Burlington.   I'm just saying.
No,  what I wanted to mention was that she had Christmas presents for both Travelling Companion and me.
  She was even somewhat apologetic that she forgot about them when Travelling Companion was in a couple weeks back.
Good thing I was sitting down.   I had never heard of such a thing.  I know we've been going there for something like a year,  but Christmas presents?
Now before you say,  "oh well, it was probably some sort of deal from a supplier"  it still seems to me to be somewhat extraordinary.

 I'm not some sort of ingrate,  I was very thankful.   I do know how to thank someone profusely in German.  Don't worry.

 The one on the left is for me.   Never thought of myself as much of a Metro sexual,  but I suppose I'll use that hand cream.   I didn't really look in the other package.   Some sort of lubricants presumably.

And if my wife is reading this from the UK (I doubt it,  she said the internet at the hotel was sketchy)  sorry Dear to have ruined the "surprise".

 (rolling my eyes here)

You'll notice that the little camera is actually in the picture.   That's not a trick.   One of the other things that tends to just drive me around the bend is the fact that it's FLIPPIN' dark by five o'clock!   Even though I'm not overly keen on the cold,  the darkness is the part of winter that I just loathe.   And that's all I'm gonna say, but man I could really go on about that.

It turns out that the little camera doesn't do all that well in the total absence of light,  so I had to bring out the big guns.  It was at that point that I realised that I need some new batteries for the flash.   (yes,  click the link)

I thought there was something else wrong,  but it was just the batteries.   Oops.

Managed to squeeze out a couple shots,  but that was about it.
I'll need to get right on that.   But man, that thing is just about idiot proof.

And well, that's probably a good thing.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sleeping in.

OK,  I'll admit it,  this quite often happens when Travelling Companion is away somewhere,  unless we have guests I suppose.   I'll do that "old man" thing and wake up at some stupid hour like six a.m.  as I normally would,  but then since there's no need to haul myself out of bed,  I tend to "lie in"  as the Brits would say.  That usually doesn't last much longer than about seven thirty though,  and then I just get up anyway. 
Usually has something to do with going to the bathroom.

 In my defence,  the only time I ever have to use an alarm clock is when we have to get up at say,  4:30 in order to make it to the airport on time.   Even then I tend to wake up just about every hour so as not to somehow sleep in.  Then I wonder why I'm kind of weary for the rest of the day.

 To use the sailing analogy,  we're once again on a long tack.   Not too damned much going on.   Travelling Companion is in the UK on some sort of training course,  and there's no point in me trying to explain what that's about.   She was supposed to attend this course last year some time in Amsterdam,  but that plan fell through,  since she was simply too busy.

  So that means I'm just a lonely guy in a lonely town.

Well,  except for the maybe the million and a half Viennese out there.  They tend to mostly just get in the way.
I thought that this morning I'd meander out in the car and give it a good "hoovering".   Here's the thing.   It's not like I can go out to the driveway with the vacuum cleaner and get busy.   It doesn't work that way.   We're in the city.   A busy city.   So that means pretty well making a morning of it,   since I have to take the car to some service station or other where they have these "pay as you suck"  kind of places,  and the nearest one that I know about is out on Prager Straße.    I think there's something closer out on the Gürtel,  but I prefer to go where I know.

With a little bit of practise and being somewhat organised,  I can pretty well vacuum the entire car for the whopping sum of one Euro.  Yes,  you read that right.   It's all in the prep work.

Don't get side tracked.
Don't piss around with the mats.
Just suck.

It's actually probably good motivation to be expeditious if I'm paying for it.  I know it's taken me way longer to vacuum out the car sitting in the driveway.  Being all that efficient sort of gets wasted though when the rest of the time is spent sitting in traffic.

I'm sure you care.

So as not to waste a perfectly good outing,  I decided to take a little detour into Klosterneuberg and slide by the Baumaxx and have a look around for....well,  I hate to admit this,   a bird feeder.

It's that time of the year when a lot of these stores have that kind of stuff on display,  and I've been tempted to put something out before,  but just never got around to it.  If I start getting pigeons though I'm going to be really annoyed.  I'm aiming more for the chickadees that I see coming around from time to time.    So fine,  a couple small bags of bird seed,  a feeder and a six pack of suet balls for under €15 is tolerable I suppose.

I promise not to bore you to tears with any bird pictures though.

Just talking about it has been bad enough.

Keep your powder dry.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Off to the Opera!

OK,  that sounds as pretentious as hell,  but that's just too bad.   I had every intention of saying something yesterday,  but for a while there,  getting out to the opera was starting to look somewhat doubtful.
 And I already had the tickets!
 And well,  remember what I said about wanting to have good seats?  I'll let you go to the appropriate website and take a gander at some ticket prices and you can come to your own conclusions.
So needless to say,  when Travelling Companion called from Cluj Napoca yesterday morning to say the flight had been delayed because there was some sort of pea soup fog,  we both started to get a little nervous.   Too far to drive for the pick-up (eight hours)  and taking the train would have got her into the Westbahnhof at 8:30 this morning.   Pfft!  Right!
 Thankfully the fog lifted,  and the system that was coming through Wienerland here passed by,  and although she was over an hour delayed,  it all worked out.


And that is probably the most nerve racking part of going to some place like the opera.  There are just so many things that one hopes will fall into place so you get to plonk your hind end down in those hard to get seats.
Too much butt clenching.
And yes,  there's probably a pun in there.

 So you have to understand,  as much as I like my,  oh I don't know,  Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young* (odd combination to mention I know)   I think I've had a hankering to see Tosca at some point in my life ever since the "Three Tenors" did a few snippets way back in the early nineties in Italy.
With apologies to all my "pub buddies",  but hey,  so I like a little opera once in a while?  

 I'm going to now drag you kicking and screaming into the world of opera appreciation for  the next few minutes as I give you a little coles notes version of the story.
Basically there's a guy who's a bit of a scum bag,  in a position of authority,  who uses that authority to have his way with the womenfolk.  Boy,  that sure seems like a recurring theme,    dunnit?
That would be Scarpia,  (you may hiss and boo now)  who also happens to be the chief of police.   Long story short,  he needs to bump off any of his rivals,  one of which happens to be the lover of Tosca,  his latest interest.  It's actually heaps more complicated than that,  but we won't go there.

You're welcome.

Here is an example of Placido Domingo,  playing the part of that lover, Mario Cavaradossi
at the point where he is about to be put to death....
I put in that particular snippet since it has subtitles.  Always helps.

The fellow who did that particular aria got a hearty round of applause when he did that one.  He was pretty danged good.  I have to confess, when I hear this one,  I do tend to get a little "verklempt",  but we'll just skip over that.

 So the bottom line is,  Tosca makes a "deal" with Scarpia that she'll give in to him if he spares the life of Cavaradossi,  then after he writes out the pardon,  she kills him.
(I know!)

Seems she really didn't want to go through with that whole "kissy kissy" thing.

The thing was,  to make it look good,  they were going to have a fake firing squad,  just to make everything look proper,  but Scarpia double crosses her,  and the firing squad uses real bullets anyway.

Even from beyond the grave, he's such a bastard!

So Cavaradossi gets killed,  and Tosca commits suicide by leaping to her death.  
That's it.  Pretty much the whole story.

That took roughly two hours with two intermissions.

As I'm sure you're aware,  taking photos during the performance is really,  really bad form,  but I do have a few random pics....

Our view of the stage was pretty good.

Marco Berti,  who played the part of Mario Cavaradossi.

Michèle Crider on the right,  who played the part of Tosca.

Him I really liked.  Her not so much.  She also did Madama Butterfly that we went to see back in June.   Meh.   I guess I prefer Tenors.  Dunno.

More random pics.

Um,  those would be the standing places.   Don't think I could do that.  Maybe thirty years ago.

Now,  see the lady with the light coloured clothes?   She's right about now telling the man there that he's in her seat.  

He's not.

  She tried to tell my I was in her seat.   I wasn't.
 There's this thing called "left"  and "right".   Um...ya.   We sent her over to the other side.

So not only was she on the wrong side (don't know why the ushers didn't catch it, but maybe she was one of those "know it alls")  but she wasn't even on the right level.   Here she is,  finally in her proper spot.   Yikes.

OK,  you may have to break down and click on that one.  I wanted the "wide"  shot...

Note how she's on the row below us?

So while it turns out Tosca is indeed not a comedy,  at least some of the audience members were worth a chuckle.

Have a fine weekend.

Oh!  Almost forgot!  Today's number is 27.

*who coincidently turned 65 today.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Looking for stuff.

And I don't mean the answers to the bigger questions,  I'm talking about something I've mentioned before and that is quite simply,  looking for "stuff".
The word is that Travelling Companion very astutely bought some Christmas cards some time last year right after Christmas and before coming back here to Wienerland,  and has very carefully stored them somewhere.  They may jump out at me,  but I'm not about to hold my breath.

You probably figure the easy solution would be for me to simply decline the invitation,  with a hearty "Thanks,  but no thanks",  but it's not that simple.   See,  Travelling Companion is presently in Romania,  where she's been since yesterday.   Originally she was supposed to fly out on Tuesday,  but her flight was cancelled.  Probably because the flight was not even remotely full,  but I'm not sure.   There was some talk of having her fly all over Europe to get to Romania,  but she wasn't going to bite.
For those of you who enjoy little snippets of geography,  the plan was to fly to Munich,  then to Bucharest,  then on to Baia Mare.   Pffft! 

Couldn't for the life of me find a program or web page out there that would permit me to put all three of the proposed legs on one page,  and I was not going to try and attempt anything in Microsoft "Paint"  (what a retarded program),   but you can get an idea.   Those links are "clickable"  by the way....

And you may have also realised that by now I've finally figured out how to save screen shots of web pages.  It's actually pretty simple.

Ya right.
We all remember the fiasco with getting the one and only connecting flight from Bucharest to Baia Mare.   Besides,  each and every time we see one of those "Fly Niki"  signs advertising some ridiculously low airfare to Bucharest,  she never hesitates to proclaim,  "I never want to go to Bucharest again in my life!".

OK then.  No point in keeping these things bottled up. 

So this was the preferred method yesterday.

We made sure we checked in the morning before doing the airport run to make sure they were actually going to head out.  I guess they had enough warm bodies going to Cluj Napoca.

  The company that cannot be named then sends a driver down to Cluj to pick her up.  Much better system.

I'll start my search for the cards by looking in the dungeon,  and we'll take it from there.

That looks like a complete disaster,  and it partly is,  but you should see my neighbour's!  Holy full to the rafters!   Of course,  they're not going to be moving "back home"  and this is where they live,  so they got the usual overflowing amount of "stuff".   I didn't take a picture.   It wouldn't have mattered.
Speaking of our neighbours,  it just so happened that when I was on my way down to the dungeon to begin my quest,  our neighbour lady was out in the hallway waiting for the elevator.  We rode down together,  and come to find out,  her other half is in Abu Dhabi.   See?  It's sometimes not all that rosy at the top.   We were commiserating on the subject of air travel,  and just how the bloom is off that particular rose.    By the way,  it's currently 32°C in Abu Dhabi.
 One of Travelling Companion's former associates is presently living in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai,  I don't remember which,  (both in the United Arab Emirates)  and from time to time the question is asked about when we are going to come for visit?   Hm,  have to think long and hard on that one.    It would quite likely be in the winter,  since their summer temperatures are just nuts.  That whole,  "but it's a dry heat",  just doesn't cut it when it's approaching 50°C.   Gah!

Back to the search.

Hope your weather co-operates for Remembrance Day.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Online Banking.

Or the lack thereof.....

What I'm actually referring to,  is the lousy state of affairs here in Europe when it comes to websites in general.   I've had many a frustrating moment trying to order tickets online or match up verification codes to supposed "examples" given by those who think they are website designers.
Kind of like the way they "think"  they speak English.   They don't.

I'm not even going to get in to all the weird shit you have to do here to actually pay a bill on line.  That's a whole different rant.

Every month or so,  depending on how much travelling Travelling Companion does,  somebody has to pay her Amex bill. 
That somebody happens to be the one who speaks and understands the German language.

Yes,   maybe I'm going out on a limb here by boasting that it's not a language thing,   and that I can pretty much figure most everything out. 

Hey,  I was able to keep up with what was being said at the "tenants meeting"  a couple weeks ago,  and was certainly able to beak off at the landlords and have everyone in the room nod in agreement.   I was only slightly annoyed that the emissary from the Quick Green restaurant had a convincing grasp of the language as well,  albeit with a Chinese accent....

So fine.

I had bolstered my courage and decided that this was the month I was going to pay the bill on line,  and even though I had done this successfully in the past,   the numbers don't fit in the boxes,  and rather than put my fist through the computer screen here,  I'll need to once again head down to the bank.


Oh wait.   Can't go right now,  since the bank is CLOSED. 


Just looked at the clock and they're closed for lunch.

Which by the way,  is really frustrating the first time one makes that discovery,  but if you know they close for lunch,  then it's no biggie.   I'd actually sooner have them come to terms with the idea that their people need to "go for lunch"  and close the place,  rather than show up there at lunch time,  only to discover that the customers out number the bank employees by a factor of 20.      Sound familiar?
Anyone who has had the misfortune of running to the bank on your lunch break just about anywhere in North America knows full well what I'm talking about.

Here however is where the whole thing takes on a hugely different perspective.

Once upon a time when I went into the bank to pay something or other,  I was overwhelmed by the number of customers waiting to be served.   In any bank in the "Americas"  (I'm including Puerto Rico here)  that would mean wishing you had brought a chair.   The thing is,   since everyone still goes to the bank to pay their bills,  (which brings us right back to the whole lack of proper internet banking thing...)  bank employees were actually getting up from their desks and coming out to take people back to be looked after. 


I know I'm in a foreign land,  but for a moment there I wasn't sure I was on the same planet. 

I had never seen that before. 

In my entire life.

I'm not kidding.

In our fine upstanding bank back in Burlington,  two thirds of the lobby area is surrounded by offices,  to which the doors are virtually always closed. 
There are people in there.
Chances are extremely high that they are bank employees,  some of whom may very well have experience as bank tellers.  
They don't come out.
The customers stand there growing roots.
To be avoided at all costs.

 The only saving grace is that some smart person designed their on line banking website so it's easier to use....
So,  is that like they are admitting that they suck?

 I'll let you figure that one out.

By now the bank is open.

 Gotta go.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

No words.

The title was going to be *"brez besed",  but I thought that would be too obtuse.

Today was the day.....

velika kača

Um....I did help peel a couple apples.   That's about it.   Oh,  and there was some taste testing at the end.

 Very important.

 *Slovenian for "no words".

Have a fine Sunday.   Mine has been pretty good so far.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

The little things.

....can sometimes make life a little bit more exciting.

 By this I mean,  on Thursday we got a package!   It was....well,  like Christmas in November.

Now I realise,  it does say "United States Postal Service" but really,  it came from Canada.  The origins of the actual box are subject to speculation.
The timing was also pretty good,  since Travelling Companion had started to run out of things to watch.   As you may well know,  we don't have cable,  or any other source of "TV"  which only really becomes an issue during the Olympics and recently during the World Cup.   Other than that,   I don't really miss having several channels of nothing.  I also realise there's more of a selection in North America,  but that usually just means more channels of nothing.  The "Shopping Channel"  doesn't quite cut it for me I'm afraid.

Whatever works.

New stuff to watch.

 Deeper into the box were a few books,  along with some clothing items,   none of which was for me,  although I guess I could try a couple things on.  Haven't been getting dressed up in women's clothes up to this point in my life,  and I'm afraid I'm not too keen on trying new things.  I just stick to the usual wardrobe of frayed tee-shirts and jeans.

 Now speaking of booty,  (wait,  is there a pun in there?) we figured there wasn't much point in holding onto the wine we bought in Slovenia on the weekend,  so we've opened a couple bottles.  (um,  on a couple different nights...)
It's kind of unfortunate that we can't get this back in Canada.   I'm not even sure if they export to the rest of Europe,  since I've not seen any wines from Koper at all.   Kind of a shame,  since it's good stuff,  and not overly expensive.
 Have I mentioned how both beer and wine are quite reasonably priced in Europe?   Somehow I think it's all a part of a much grander plot to keep people from complaining about the price of other things.  You might start out complaining about this or that,  but after a couple healthy doses of whatever libation happens to strike your fancy,  you're not going to complain as much.

I'm just saying.

 The weather the last few days has been rather extraordinary,  with temperatures in the high teens.   For those of you still using Fahrenheit,  let's just say a coolish room temperature?  Don't get me started about Fahrenheit,   'cause it makes so much sense.

What?   Was 32 the age of the guy who came up with it,  and decided that would be the temperature of freezing water?  How else does it make any sense?  Why 32?
If you do decide to click on that link and read about Fahrenheit,  you'll see that my theory isn't really all that goofy,  especially when you get to the part where he measured the temperature of his wife's armpits.

So mild weather means getting out on the bike,  and I thought I'd head down to the Naschmarkt on Friday to pick up some Salmon.   I just happened to take along the small camera,  since you never know what there might be.

 Do I need to explain this?

I don't have to be in Austria to know that the chances of trying bison meat is probably pretty slim. 

Speaking of Christmas in November,  or maybe this has more to do with self indulgence? One of the slight well,   how shall I put this?  pitfalls?  of this thing we call "email"  is that I get these notifications from time to time from various retailers with offers of things in which I might be ever so slightly interested.   And no,  I'm not talking about Spam here,  I'm talking about tool retailers mostly,   one of which is Lee Lalley Tools

So I got myself a belated birthday present.

 Aren't they nice?

Of course,  Travelling Companion reminded me that not that long ago I had ordered some other chisels that were too good a deal to pass up,  but they were a different kind.   No no....these are mortising chisels,  and up to this point in my life,  I've only ever had one single solitary mortising chisel.  *sniff*
Could never bring myself to the point where I was willing to pony up the dough for any kind of a set,   until this deal came along.

 You have to realise that I do not have these items with me here in Wienerland.  No,  the irony is,   I only get to look at the picture too,  since the set has been picked up from the store in Burlington,  and is presently at my house.   I'll get to see them well, ....  at Christmas.

I guess I should have made it a Christmas present. 


There's a good chance that,  the way I tend to forget things,  my daughter could have wrapped them up and put them under the tree,  and I would have been completely blown away.  Missed that opportunity.
 Here's the other irony.   These chisels are made right here (next door almost) in the Czech Republic.   The only difference is,  I'm always somewhat suspect of some of the stuff I see here in the stores,  but with Lee Valley,  they not only set out a rigid set of specifications for the product,  but will take it back "no questions asked"  if you're not happy.    Pretty hard to go wrong. 
 This reminds me of how we could not find decent coffee when we were living in Puerto Rico.   We would have to bring down "Nabob" in our luggage,  or ask guests to bring some if we were running out.  Turns out,  all the "good" Puerto Rican coffee was being shipped out to some of the up scale coffee houses in New York,  Los Angeles or Toronto where you'd pay a pretty penny for a pound of their finest.   They left all the crap behind on the island.
 Thankfully that theory doesn't apply to good Czech beer.

And if you think that has anything to do with Anheuser Busch,  a little more research is required.

How did we get from a box on the counter to beer?

I'm thirsty. 

That's all for today.

Have a fine weekend.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The "Findings"

I almost forgot,  and I'm adding this as a separate post.
 Thursday nights meeting was quite lively,  and there was a representative from the stinky restaurant that started up around the corner on Mariahilfer back in July. 
I hadn't really realised that one of the tenants had already jumped into the fray with both feet,  so to speak,  and had already notified the authorities.   Chinese dude tried to suggest that they hadn't been given any warning.   That didn't fly.
 There were a few other complaints by the residents having to do with the condition of the building and such,  but the biggest one had to do with the fact that these good folks were using one of the storage rooms for cooking.  Note that I said "storage room".   Not for cooking.
Too stinky.
And if the people on the street placing their order could magically see into this room....I don't think they'd be eating there....


So this morning,  I just happened to notice this....

I'm not too sure about the workings of what we would call the "health department",  but I kind of think that they're not allowed to break that seal?

And that,  as they say,   is that.

Now,  as long as the elevator continues to function,  especially the next time we have guests,  all will be right once again in Wienerland.


I'll try to be brief.

Not sure how that will go.  Being brief can be a challenge,   but I'll try and sum up the weekend.
Went to Slovenia Friday afternoon. 
Came back Monday night.



OK,  maybe I'll add a couple pictures....

I didn't realise it at the time,   but the rather large building more or less in the centre of the picture is the Hotel Lev,  where we stayed for two of the three nights.  We've been there before,  it works for me.  They like to think of it as "five star", and although it's very nice, I'm not quite sure. 
I had been fretting ever so slightly on the way down since I had completely forgot my booking information,  and figured that we'd have to get online somehow and get the confirmation number.
Didn't matter.
 Apparently if you roll in at 8:30 at night in a car with Austrian plates,  they have a pretty good idea as to who you might be.  We hadn't even made it half way through the lobby when we were already greeted by name from behind the front desk.
See,  turns out things like computers and record keeping can actually come in handy some times,   and I sometimes wonder about places where I've been,  or where I've made a reservation,  and they have no clue who you might be.    I think Jerry Seinfeld summed it up once when he said something like, "See,  you can take the reservation,  you just can't HOLD the reservation".
And that didn't take me long to find at all....

Anyway,  these rather non-de-script views of Ljubljana are the result of going up to the top of the Nebotičnik,  the top floors of which have recently undergone a renovation and had only re-opened a couple months ago.  They've done a very nice job,  and you can either sit inside or outside and look out over the city.  It was a little too cool to be drinking our coffee outside however.

The weather was kind of dreary the whole weekend,  and at one point when we had to make a dash for the car we got quite soaked.   We had been visiting with one of Travelling Companions Aunts who up until recently had been quite sufficiently living in her own place until she had a fall,  and has wound up in a care facility.  The facility is very nice,  but she quite simply doesn't want to be there,  and the likelihood of her once again being able to live on her own is really rather remote.

At this point I'm going to throw in some random images from our brief visit in Sava.

In other news,  our opera tickets arrived this morning for next Friday's performance of "Tosca".   Something to look forward to besides the increasingly shorter hours of daylight.

 Today's number is 37.