My first Triathlon

September 26, 2016

So we expect our family to increase by one within the next five weeks.

And then your life is over I was been told by friends and family who already went through that process. Time to do those things I always wanted to do and still have time for. Like a triathlon.

Well at least the sprint version, i.e. the triathlon for those folks who are actually not able to and probably never will be physically able to do a full triathlon (aka me). Meaning 500 meters of swimming, 16 kilometers cycling, and 6 kilometers running. For those of you who are not familiar with the rules, that’s on the same day.

And I even prepared for the whole thing. Thoroughly! With all my effort!

Like I bought some new goggles for swimming.


In all seriousness though I actually went mostly running after work approximately 3 times per week for 6 km run, and went swimming once to twice a week (approximately 30 mins). Just before the triathlon I measured my time on 6 km wich was 28:56, quite ok. Or so I thought….

I chose a triathlon at my home town, mostly because swimming was within a pool. And swimming was the part I feared most, since I have zero experience swimming competitively. Also my technique sucks, especially for crawl style (breast stroke is better).

On the other hand this was a cross-triathlon. Meaning cycling was through the woods. Originally I intended to cycle on my stylish dutch-bike I use to commute to work (after all, I subscribed for this for the fun and to finish it, not to win anything). But the organizers didn’t allow participation without a mountain-bike.


I didn’t want to invest a lot for this one-time thing, and I figured that my sister still had my old mountain-bike I used as a teenager. Mint-condition she assured me, I use it for cycling tours once in a while, and of course you can have it for the weekend.

Now, I really like my sister, but my alarm bells should’ve gone off as she assessed a technical thing as mint-condition. For example in 2012 she once considered a Thinkpad T40 with a 30 GB hdd and 512 MB of RAM running Windows XP and loaded with bloat-ware in mint-condition, and when the Windows XP support ended and Microsoft Security Essentials refused to work, a friend of her husband recommended Kaspersky Internet Security as a replacement. I was asked to fix this mint-condition notebook since there was some issue with their WLAN… I mean the thing took like 10 minutes to boot up alone…

So it was no surprise that three days before the triathlon I got this message:

Uh, there was one thing I forgot to mention: There is a problem with the back cassette. The chain is stuck. So this means you can only switch the three gears with the front cassette. Well it was never a problem for me, so you should be ok.

Three Gears. Like my dutch bike has three frickin‘ gears!

Then I looked at the track profile which I simply didn’t do before. After all, this is my home town, I should kinda somehow remember the woods, right? Right?



I really didn’t anticipate this. All my training was on a dutch bike on mostly flat surface riding along rivers. And add insult to injury, I had a 90’s style mountain-bike with three gears working. No suspension… well removing a little bit pressure from tires… who needs more? Disc brakes? What is this? We have these shiny V-brakes… and three gears.

Well in any event, to sum up:

Swimming went far far better than I thought. I guess it’s due to regularly going to the pool in Japan when I was doing my PhD. Since I didn’t know my expected time, I put in a very slow worst-case guess and was grouped with really really bad swimmers. I was second in my lane, but if the lane wouldn’t have been so crowded (6 swimmers per lane) I could have easily overtaken the first guy too. I mean some of these guys‘ swimming techniques were like… a dog or something… almost felt pity…

The cycling part went horrible. Like really horrible. I finished on the last place. I had three situations where I was milliseconds away from crashing into the next tree. Uphill I lacked stamina due to training on flat tracks and three!!! fscking gears. Downhill I was slow too: No suspension and the track was way more technically difficult than I thought. I had to concentrate extremely, I sometimes had even problems to really grip the handlebar due to the heavy shaking. One girl on the track crashed pretty badly, she had to give up and couldn’t finish.

That’s why the cycling was way more exhausting than anything I experienced during training. Both physically and mentally. Starting as such into the running track was difficult. And considering the height-profile of the running track, that was no piece of


cake, either.

So what did I learn?

  • swimming was easier than I thought
  • get your cardio by cycling. Cycling is by far the longest part of the whole event, so that should be the discipline one should prep most for. Especially if it’s a cross-triathlon.
  • prep your gear. Especially get used to your bike and absolutely make sure it’s in mint condition.

In the end I became last among the males (with two minutes on the next guy, and it was a small event, maybe 150 male participants). All solely due to cycling; my swimming time and running time were ok.

So hey, I beat some of the girls…

I will sure make time to participate next year. The whole thing was a real fun experience. And plans to buy a proper bike are already made…


The sad state of PDF-Accessibility of LaTex Documents

August 11, 2016

[I will use this blog as a dump for random things and thoughts from now on. German, Japanese, English – all mixed. Topic wise: Anything from computer science, life in general, up to things related to Japan].

Accessibility is becoming more important nowadays. Whereas the 90s saw a quick and uncoordinated development with various technologies that didn’t really account for folks with disabilities, fortunately nowadays developments take that into account.

For example PDF files. After being a half-open format for quite some time, PDF is nowadays an official ISO standard. And the specification of PDF requires accessible PDFs to be tagged. What this means is that in addition to the printable graphical description of the content, all content should be additionally included in a tagged, somewhat primitive XML-like structure. Something like (very much simplified here):

[element header]
 This is a very important document
[end header]
[table start]
    [table row 1]
        [table cell]
        [end table cell]
    [end table row]
[end table]
[graphic start]
    [alternative text]
        This image shows something beautiful
    [end alternative text]
[end graphic]

Well you can see the idea here. This allows screen readers to extract information out of the document and read it out loud to the visually impaired. It also allows to display information about included elements, such as an alternative text for a graphic.

It also allows for things like reflow, i.e. when you display a PDF on your kindle. Then the kindle can extract the text from the tagged PDF, reflow it according to your screen size, display it in a font you chose, and modify it in other ways suitable to the reader.

Sure this goes somehow against the original idea of a PDF (you see what you print), but then again, originally 86-DOS was thought of as a quick hack for a computer kit, and we know how it all ended.

Now where is the problem?

LaTeX or TeX in general cannot generate PDF documents with tags. pdfTeX is probably the right place to target, but I do not see this happening anywhere anytime.

And this is a very sad state of affairs.

A lot of institutions nowadays require accessible documents for publication. There are other requirements than just tagging alone, but this is the biggest obstacle.

The irony is that a LaTeX-document itself is already a quite structured document. But translating the LaTeX syntax-constructs into tags has never been done. It’s also probably a non-trivial task since a) there are a bazillion LaTeX packages out there which all use their own syntax constructs and b) Tex/LaTeX was never designed with a clear XML-like [tag] [/tag] structure in mind. So parsing and translating is probably non-trivial.

And that’s just one problem. TeX was designed when things like object oriented programming were virtually at a research stage, far from being common. Mainframes were the hot thing. And despite Knuth being a genius, look at this fscking mess that TeX is. Take your average computer science graduate from the last ten years. Do you think anyone would be remotely able to understand what is going on there?

Achim Blumensath understood this problem some 15 years ago (kinda funny to accidentally hit his name when writing up this article, as he happened to be one of the tutors of an undergrad logic course I took some 15 years ago), and wrote ANT  as a TeX – replacement, but the whole thing is unmaintained since 2007. Guess he was busy kick-starting his university career, which is understandable. Sadly, as most one-man-shows, that project never really took of.

My point being that if we wouldn’t rely on TeX itself and use ANT (or whatever alternative) which is written in the quite elegant OCaml, than hacking it would be at least possible for mere mortals. Although I have to admit, despite being in love with OCaml since my PhD days, it’s also a quite niche language. But imagine if the whole thing was written in Python, or at least C.

I haven’t looked at pdfTeX’s source, but it very much looks to me like development is not a huge common effort, but rather Hàn Thế Thành on his own, chronically overworked and left alone with this huge task. So we are stuck.

There are some folks who think that tagging with LaTeX can be done. For example the guys at CHI have some instructions for it, see here.

The problem is that they are all wrong, which is one motivation for this post.

Basically what they suggest is to add tags after PDF generation by Acrobat Pro. This doesn’t work of course for anything more complex than a simple single page. The detection of what is a header, what is a sub-header, what is a table, what is a table header – all this is impossible to do once the PDF is generated, because you will have to use heuristics, which will lead to issues. So kudos to the Adobe guys for trying, but weirdo bastard tags won’t help, they will lead to a bigger mess for screen readers than just trying to directly extract the text for reading. If you don’t believe that, just take a random paper from arXiv, run it through Acrobat Pro and add tags, and see the result.

There is Babette Schalitz‘ accessibility package, where she tried to hack the PDF generation in a way that tags are generated automatically. If you take a look into her source-code, you can see that this inevitably lead to a complete mess (no offense here – but I claim it is simply impossible to do in a clean way on the LaTeX level instead of below within pdfTeX). The package is unusable on modern TeX distributions and documents won’t compile because, well because the code does all sorts of nasty hacks which don’t work in current versions.

Andy Clifton tried to hack the package and fix these compilation issues, but again: Run it through Acrobat Pro’s accessibility checker, run it through PAC or better: Inspect the document manually using Acrobat Pro: The generated tag structure is completely broken. Spaces are missing, the structure is interwinded. It’s completely useless. You could as well manually add [tag] foobar [/tag] to the document. Sure some tools like Acrobat Reader (not the Pro version) would then show „document is tagged“, but what is the point?

Ross Moore wrote some papers on tagged PDF’s with LaTeX by directly hacking pdfTeX, but it seems to be a single man show and a Sisyphean task. There seems to be nothing that is remotely production read, more like super alpha-alpha stage.

ConTeXt made some efforts into that direction, but there seem to be also all sorts of minor issues and let’s face it: ConTeXt is an unpredictable one man show. No defined APIs, documentation is a clusterfsck of entries on wikis here and there or on mailing-lists, there are constant syntax changes (especially from MkII to MkIV), examples in the wiki don’t work, there are no books, the official manual is always behind… Despite being a real interesting approach, ConTeXt is PRAGMAs inhouse tool of choice, but simply not production ready for outsiders.

And then there are numerous threads on tex.stackexchange with questions on what to do concerning accessibility and tagged PDFs, and the answer is always the same: It doesn’t work.

In some universities and government institutions it is legally mandatory to publish accessible documents, and essentially that rules out LaTeX for document creation. Did I mention that both Word and LibreOffice generate tagged PDFs? (not perfect, but usable).

That’s all in all a very sad state of affairs. But it kind of shows the underlying problem: From a coder’s perspective, (La)TeX is a big mess, there is incredible dirt under the carpet, and as such, the development is driven by a few folks which are overworked. Since the development of pdfTeX there were few substantial developments in the TeX-world that address the real core functionality (yes, we have a better packaging system, yes we have TikZ & beamer now – all nice, but they’re all built on top). And syntax-wise btw, TikZ is horrible, too.

I sometimes miss WordPerfect. WYSIWYG approach, yet there was „reveal codes“. Still a word processor, and not remotely close to the typesetting quality of TeX, but still.

So? Means I have to stick to Word & LibreOffice is my daily life.

Oh what a mess…


Juni 27, 2016
I rely can’t stand the anti-british rethoric anymore. Which goes like „uh, it’s the old and stupid folks, who voted brexit; they just don’t get how incredibly awesome the EU really is.“ Which is just some emotional discrediting of legitimate concerns:
The current EU system is highly undemocratic. Most of the power is in the hand of the commission, an uncontrollable bureaucracy always eager to increase its power and influence. The only democratic legitimation are the commissioners, nominated by representatives of the members states. So many in-betweens, and those who write legislative drafts – in the case of a directive something that will be immediately legally binding in all member states – are of course not done by the comissioners themselves, but by lower-ranking bureaucrats, which somehow got in the system, seeking a cushy government job.

Then the commission will work out some legislative draft with representatives of the ministries of the member states with some shady back-door deals. Some countries representatives will be missing (as their ministries aren’t that large enough to send representatives to all the various groups), and the result is often a least-common denominator, and not the best solution.

The parliament is toothless. And really not better than the commission, because whereas the commission is an an uncontrollable bureaucracy, at least their is some independence from corporations. On the other hand the members of parliament are often under higher pressure and subject to lobbying by their countries corporations.
From the perspective of the commission, laws must and should just somehow be passed through the parliament, hopefully without representatives pushing to much corporate alterations into the drafts.
The press often only notices then, and with that the European citizens. No public debate, it just came over us from nowhere.
And the commission is always out to push the member states ministries out of jurisdiction (once European legislation is established, it tops national law, cf. EU vs National Law), increase it’s power and get more money.

No seriously, I can fully understand the British concerns. We are about to, or already have created, a bureaucratic monstrosity, that is really hard to stop once it gains traction.
Instead of mocking the British for their alleged „stupidity“ (we smart continental Europeans all get it, right?), these concerns should be addressed.
Disclaimer: As for the EU: Been there. Done that.

St. Martin

November 4, 2013

Im Briefkasten ein Zettel der KiTa gegenüber. Der Martinszug würde am Montag stattfinden, und man würde sich doch freuen, wenn wieder von den Anwohnern Laternen in die Fenster/Gärten gestellt würden.

Fragt die hzB was denn ein Martinszug sei. Ich verweise sie auf Wikipedia, und gehe in den Keller, die Waschmaschine ausräumen.

Komme wieder.

Sage „Gelesen? War der mit dem Mantel!“

Sagt sie:


Aber er konnte ihm schon den ganzen geben. Die Deutschen …

so geizig!“

What the frack has happened?

Oktober 2, 2013
Disclaimer: Dieser Text wurde in betrunkenem Zustand verfasst.
Irgendwas ist so grundsätzlich falsch gelaufen.Ich meine, ich weiß auch nicht, wie das immer passiert. Ich merke das immer nur hinterher, wenn schon alles zu spät ist. Ich lasse mich vom Image blenden, von der Außenwirkung, ohne den Bullshit und das Kool-Aid zu durchschauen, und die Realität zu sehen.In Japan war ich dem Drehrumdiebolzenengineering verpflichtet. Was halt mein Hobby ist. Also warum nicht zum Beruf machen?Nun, weil das halt Bock macht. Nur war ich unter lauter smarten Leuten, die es irgendwie alle mehr drauf hatten, als ich. Was nicht heißt, daß ich es nicht drauf hatte. Aber irgendwie braucht man halt auch ’ne Stelle und eine gewisse Zukunftsaussicht.Jetzt sitze ich in einem Meeting am anderen Ende der Welt und standardisiere, was das Zeug hält. Mit mir im Raum sitzen vielleicht noch dreißig Personen, von denen noch eine einen PhD in so etwas ähnlichem wie Drehrumdiebolzenengineering hat. Der Rest sind…

halt so Standardisierer. Ein absoluter Insiderclub. Von Technik nicht unbedingt wirkliche Ahnung, dafür erfinden sie Abkürzugen, und Prozedere, und Abläufe, die Outsider ausschließen. So sichert man sich wohl sein Auskommen bis ans Lebensende… was wiederum in gewisser Weise nicht unschlau ist. Denn so ist man unersetzbar.

A will X, aber nicht wenn B Y will, und C will Z und Y vielleicht, aber nur wenn B Y will und A nicht X, und überhaupt nur, wenn man ihm auch die Schaufel gibt, um im Sandkasten zu spielen. Natürlich sagt das aber keiner so direkt.

Ja, ganz sicher ist Politiker das bessere Wort. Sie sprechen davon, Informationen von ihren „Implementierern“ zu bekommen, und ich frage mich dann immer, warum ich hier sizte, und nicht bei diesen mysteriösen „Implementierern“.

Ich fühle mich bitter verarscht. In der Job-Description stand was von Drehrumdiebolzenengineering und Mathebullshit, aber wie ich dann herausfand, wird hier nichts engineered. Sondern alles outgesourced, was man outsourcen kann. Und den wenigen interessanten Rest machen die anderen Abteilungen.

Ich verstehe erst jetzt im Rückblick, _was_ ich wirklich in Japan gelernt habe, _wie gut_ die Ausbildung, die mir mein geliebt-verhasster Supervisor angediehen, eingebläut, ja verpaßt hat. Eine verpaßt hat er mir. Und jetzt kriege ich diese Einstellung nicht mehr aus mir raus.

Ich weiß nicht, wie lange ich das hier noch aushalte. Als Minimum habe ich mir ein Jahr gesetzt. Ich meine, man kann ja nicht schon nach der Probezeit, nach sechs Monaten selbst kündigen. Sieht doch so aus, als wäre man rausgeflogen… Oder? Oder???

Wobei, mein Supervisor hat nach seinem Master exakt drei Monate in einer Firma gearbeitet, dann gekündigt und zack zurück an die Uni.

Was mach ich bloss, was mach ich bloss, was mach ich bloss. Wie komme ich raus, aus dieser Hölle, diesem feuchten Traum eines japanischen Salarymans? (Die laufen natürlich auch hier rum. Also Ojiisans natürlich. Würde sogar sagen, die haben mit noch am Meisten Ahnung. Aber wenn ich dann schon die WindowsXP-Rechner mit Word hochfahren sehe, kriege ich das Kotzen.)

Ein Zeile Code hat von denen hier noch kein einziger geschrieben. Und das werde ich auch nicht.

… und jetzt sitze ich in der Business Lounge kurz vor dem Rückflug nach dem Social-Dinner… und vielleicht ist alles nicht sooo schlimm.

Trotzdem weiß ich noch nicht, ob ich das wirklich 30 Jahre machen kann. Es hat halt wirklich mit Drehrumdiebolzenengineering kaum noch was zu tun. Sondern mit Management… Ich muss in Ruhe nachdenken,

M. würde sagen, ich bin ein Schlipswichser geworden.

Und ich könnte darauf nichts erwidern. Nichts. Nichts… Vom Drehrumdiebolzeningenieur zum Schlipswichser… gibt es einen schlimmeren Abstieg?

Vielleicht vom Ingenieur zum Geisteswissenschaflter?

Ich werde mir jetzt auf jeden Fall gepflegt in der Lounge und der Business-Class – erwähnte ich bereits, daß ich Business-Class fliege? Ich fliege Business-Class! – gepflegt einen hinter die Binde kippen, mit den Japanern beim nächsten Meeting den Kurokirishima-Shochu leeren (sofern die hzB das erlaubt) und später darüber nachdenken, was schief gelaufen ist in meinem Leben.

Achja, und Postings über japanisches Essen gibt es auch irgendwann… irgendwann…

Platzproblem (2)

August 6, 2013
Japan vs Deutschland: Kondomi



Was ist größer: Links, Japan, extra groß, oder Deutschland, normal?

Eine Antwort darauf kann ich natürlich leider nicht geben, denn ich weiß davon ja nichts. Habe das Foto nur von ’nem Freund von ’nem Freund von ’nem Freund.

Überhaupt, weiß ich gar nicht wozu diese komischen Luftballons da sind.


Juli 20, 2013

Japan ist ja bekanntlich ein kleines Land. Daher gibt es auch nie genug Platz. Auch nicht in der geräumigen Abflughalle mit den vielen Sitzplätzen des Domestic-Departure Terminals von Haneda. Ich meine gerade mal ca. 80% der Sitzplätze waren zwischen den geräumigen Gängen frei. So lief ich verzweifelt herum und sucht FREIEN PLATZ.

Gottlob fand ich dann DAS SCHILD.


Dies ist freier Platz. Bitte benutzen Sie ihn nach Belieben. 

Ich war wirklich, wirklich froh, daß mir das jemand auch mitteilte. Man stelle sich mal vor, was passiert wäre, wenn das Schild nicht da gewesen wäre! Ich meine, man kann ja nicht einfach irgendwo im Departure-Terminal seine Sachen hinstellen.

Wo kämen wir denn da hin!

Benutzter Freier Platz

Benutzter Freier Platz

Schnell wie ein Windhund sicherte ich mir den freien Platz und nutzte ihn!

Schon war der Tag wieder gerettet.

PS: W. beschwerte sich völlig zu recht, ich habe angekündigt, über japanisches Essen zu berichten und alles zu fotografieren und jetzt sei da gerade mal _ein_ Foto. Ich plante mehrere Postings mit Hilfe meiner zahlreich geschossenen Fotos, aber just nach dem ersten Posting kam ich nicht mehr zum Bloggen. Die Serie geht weiter!

Japanisches Essen

Juni 16, 2013

Ich hatte ja meine asiatische Frau bei ebay ersteigert [1], und nicht genau ins Kleingedruckte geguckt, wo etwas von „Nur an Selbstabholer“ stand. Also musste ich doch nochmal kurz rüberfliegen.

Allerdings nicht ohne zuvor mit ShifterShape97 und ncpfojoh mein blaues Wunder auf der Suche nach einem magischen Briefkasten in der Nähe der holländischen Grenze zu erleben. Und während des Mittagsessens beim Dönermann textete ich ununterbrochen die beiden mit Sätzen der Struktur „In Japan ist das ja irgendwie viel besser: Blbablabla“; unter anderem auch das Essen erwähnend.

Den Bauch mit sehr leckerem Döner vollgeschlagen im PKW sitzend, fragte ncpfojoh: „Was ist ’n so anders an japanischem Essen? Mehr Fisch und weniger Fleisch oder so?“.

Und da dachte ich wirklich: Wie erklärt man das jetzt so? Wie erklärt man als Einäugiger einem Blinden die Sonne?

Ich formulierte dann folgendes: „Jenseits von jeglichen Klischees gibt es in Deutschland wirklich leckeres Essen. Zum Beispiel der Dönerteller mit Pommes, Salat und Zaziki war ja schon richtig lecker. Leckeres Essen ist in Deutschland aber immer mit viel Fleisch und fett, und Essen ohne Fleisch und Fett ist meistens widerlich. Ich erinnere da nur so an Bratwurstersatztofuwürste und -schnitzel; ein Verbrechen am Tofu. In Japan gibt es halt Speisen, die man extrem lecker sind _und_ die gesund sind, so daß man seine täglichen Mahlzeiten darauf ausrichten kann. Zusätzlich gibt es aber natürlich genau den gleichen leckeren, ungesunden Kram wie bei uns auch.“

Und um das wirklich mal erklären zu können, habe ich während der Reise versucht, einen Großteil meiner Mahlzeiten zu fotografieren.

Zum Beispiel als ich nach über 30 Stunden Reise (diesmal über Dubai, aber darüber ein anderes Mal) völlig fertig in Miyazaki ankam, und durch drei Flugmahlzeiten auch keinen so großen Hunger mehr hatte, fuhren wir spontan in mein Lieblingssobarestaurant. Da gibt es dann als Mittagstisch so etwas:


Also: Rechts Soba (Buchweizennudeln), rechts oben Tempura, daneben Salz für das Tempura, links eine sojasoßenähnliche Flüssigkeit zum Tunken der Nudeln. Komplett fleischlose Mahlzeit. Zudem gilt der Buchweizen als sehr gesund.

Ich will das jetzt auch nicht in den Himmel loben, z.B. ist das Tempura durchaus etwas fettig:


Vorne links frittierte Lotoswurzel (Renkon), dahinter frittierte Aubergine und frittierter Kürbis, rechts frittierte Garnele.

Der eine oder andere wird jetzt rufen: „Da wird man doch nicht satt von!“ … aber das ist vielleicht auch der Grund, warum viele Mitbürger in Deutschland mit ihrem Gewicht kämpfen. Vom Nährwert auf jeden Fall reicht das obige völlig aus, und man fühlt sich auch nicht so voll nach dem Mittagessen.

Ein weiterer Punkt, der ganz schwierig nach Rückkehr nach DE für mich war, ist das unterschiedliche Kneipentourverhalten.

In Deutschland ist man ’nen Döner, und dann geht’s los in die Kneipe und Bierchen. Wobei ich ja glücklicherweise aus einer Gegend komme, wo es gleichermaßen das beste und grauenhafteste Bier Deutschlands gibt. In Japan gibt es diese Trennung Essen/Alkohol nicht… was ja gewissermaßen für die Verträglichkeit des letzterem auch durchaus sinnvoll ist. Da wird dann auch gern Essen serviert, was jetzt nicht gerade durch die Ernährungspolizei als gesund klassifiziert werden würde.

Darüber mehr im nächsten Eintrag.

[1] nicht wirklich, aber (sehr) vereinzelte Blicke mancher Mitbürger lassen mich vermuten, sie hätten diesen Eindruck.


Mai 26, 2013

Zu absolut _keinem_ Zeitpunkt hatte ich vor, die englische Ansagerin aus dem Shinkansen zu heiraten. Auch in Zukunft beabsichtige ich auf _keinen_ Fall eine Heirat mit der englischen Ansagerin des Shinkansens. Mal ganz unabhängig davon, ob sie mich denn überhaupt nehmen würde.

Die Stelle im Text an der ich behauptete, ich habe Interesse, die englische Ansagerin des Shinkansens zu heiraten, war eine glatte Lüge; gleichzeitig aber ein schriftsprachliches Mittel, um die Schönheit ihrer Stimme dem Leser gegenüber zu verdeutlichen. Zudem erzeugte es bei vielen, aber nicht allen meiner Leser ein (müdes) Lächeln.

Für etwaige Missverständnisse bitte ich vielmals um Entschuldigung.

At no point in time I ever had the intention to really marry the voice actor, that spoke the English announcements of the Shinkansen. Also in future I have no plans to do so whatsoever. And that is despite the fact that she quite probably wouldn’t take me anyway.

That part in the text where I did claim to have interest in marrying her was downright lie. At the same time it was stylistic tool in order to illustrate the beauty of her voice to the reader. Moreover there are supposedly some amongst my readers where that part caused a (faint) smile.

I apologize for any misunderstanding I might have caused.

Airplane Top 5

Mai 22, 2013

One of the nice things of being a PhD student was that you get around a lot. Now, before going to Japan I actually never touched the inside of an airplane. Thing is, withing Europe, you usually go either by train or by car. Especially in good ‚ol Germany – this is a car country. Yes, you actually want to go on the AUTOBAHN, push the pedal, and… push the brake, since there is a truck in front of you.

The 80’s, with empty autobahns designed for speeding are gone, actually. Like really, there are unfortunately few times nowadays where you can speed without putting others in danger…

Within Japan it’s different. You have the kosoku-dorou, which doesn’t even come close to the Autobahn. It’s frickin expensive, and even if there are no cars, speed limit is 120km/h, so fun.

You see, my pal, the Korean, had this awesome tuned Honda, 180hp, the uber-sports car. And all he could do was take me to a dark countryside highway at 3am, and I could push the pedal a little… obey the speed limit. We are in Japan. You have to obey the RULES.

Obey the rule.

I digress.

Trains. You have the Shinkansen, but the Shinkansen is expensive. Quite  expensive. Of course the English announcer (If you read this: I want to marry you – no longer, that chance is gone) is worth a ride just to listen to her, but then again… Due to the mountainous inside of Japan, even the Shinkansen is slow at times, and low-cost carriers quite often beat the shinkansen-prices. So quite often when I went to conferences I simply had no other option than to go by aircraft. Here are my top five favourite aircrafts.

5.) Boeing 777ER

This is one is frequently used by various carriers on NRT-LHR, NRT-AMS, and NRT-FRA. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am conservative, I’ll always put more trust into four engines over two; but what I like about the 777ER is the seating configuration most carriers use. It’s quite often 3-3-3, and even if it’s 3-4-3, if you catch a seat near the kitchen area it’s 2-4-2. So what I mean, it doesn’t feel as crowded. The only time I _ever_ had a nice conversation in an airplane (yeah, I am not really that communicative towards strangers) was on a NRT-JFK flight, and I am quite sure the 2-4-2 seat configuration played a role there (I was on a two seat together with a Korean student living in Japan).

4.) Boeing 747-400
It simply has to be mentioned here. Four engines yeah. Take-Off always feels like, yeah baby, let’s roll! American technology, ka-booom! It does fell however a little bit outdated. Especially if you consider cabin-noise levels compared to, say, the A380. On the other hand part of my impression is probably due to Lufthansa putting their frickin oldest, most ran down 747’s on NRT-FRA. I mean they had a frickin TV-SET in Economy in 2010!!!! And the tube was so magnetized that it had a green tinge! Akin to Mr. S. good ol‘ tube, where we used to play M.U.L.E.

3.) A380-800
I had the luck to go by the A380 shortly after introduction on NRT-FRA. I was sitting on an exit-row seat (yeah!) during take-off, and not far away was a cabin-crew seat, where the  gay steward was seated.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

But like, I always get the only gay steward to serve my area on long-haul flights. Even on ANA, where there were only hot chicks and _one_ gay steward, and of course, he was serving my area.

I mean, it’s like God is saying to me: Bend over!

I refuse.

Well anyway, we were taking off, and _there_ _was_ _no_ _frickin_ _engine_ _noise_. And I was like really surprised (being used to 747-400’s on that Lufthansa route) and the steward saw all this astonished faces (everyone was like… are we having engine problems??? bird strike???) and he was like speaking out loud to everyone:


„It’s that silent!“

2.) Bombardier CRJ-100

My first flight ever in my life was FRA-NRT on a 777ER, and then onwards with an CRJ100, served by Ibex Airlines. There was a thunderstorm, and really, really bad weather. Before checkin at NRT we were briefed that there was a chance we had to return to Tokyo, in case of too bad weather to land. Lots of turbulence, flight was the last one out, so the outside was just _dark_. Probably my most scariest airplane experience so far.

In case you don’t know, CRJ-100 is a 50 seat config, so a _really_ small plane where you really _feel_ each and every turbulence.

Most interesting experience. If I’ll ever have the chance of flying with an experienced pilot in an Extra… despite the obligatory vomiting, I bet that’d be the most interesting experience evaaar.

1.) Bomardier Dash Q

flown with Japan Air Commuter from KMI to ITM.

Not much to say. I mean, there are pro- and anti-turboprop guys outhere. I am pro turboprop, and I’d choose over jet engines anytime. Sure, the noise level is much much higher.

But the sonorous sound of a turboprop doing it’s job… It gives you that smoothing, relaxing feeling, like a baby resting on her mothers breasts…

How about carriers?

Well, as for me, there are mainly two categories how I rate carriers.

1.) chick hotness [1]

2.) safety

Well not necessarily in that order.

Anyway, as for the first category: That’s a close one between Conviasa vs ANA. So if you are more into South-American chicks, go Conviasa, otherwise ANA.

I have to say: _every_ ANA stewardess could be easily a renowned super-model, and on the title of vogue.

I am not kidding.

ANA was by far the airline I used most in Japan, and I have never never seen an ugly female employee of ANA. Evar. Dunno where they vanish, when they get older. Workplace discrimination, for sure. But like … from ground staff, to long-haul routes, to short-haul… they are all super hotties.

The only issue is safety.

Conviasa… well who’d trust Conviasa, I mean they aren’t even allowed to land in Europe.

And with ANA… I just don’t trust these super models to gain control in an emergency situation. They would be like super polite and hot, but…

I simply prefer a German chick from Lufthansa shouting instructive commands. Everyone’d follow.

That’s for sure. The only more instructive women I could imagine are probably Aeroflot…

Probably the best combination of all those is American (Airlines) I guess. I mean there was this 40+ old stewardess, with whom I had the following conversation. (And bear in mind, I am a non-native speaker of English who grew up learning English with Cary Grant movies on TNT Film Channel via satellite).

„What can I get you, Sir?“

„I’d like a coke, please.“

„Here you are, … _honey_.“

Yup, she really said that.

For real.

So I guess, that the perfect combination between German blitzkrieg command language, and Japanese beauty is: American smartness.

Well … you can probably read inbetween lines that… I really did like the _life_ of a researcher. Remember David Hilbert:

„Good, he did not have enough imagination to become a mathematician“.

—Hilbert’s response upon hearing that one of his students had dropped out to study poetry.

Unfortunately I lacked that mathematical creativity. I guess that’s something few people realize: In order to be a good researcher (in math), you not only need to have a reasonable good skill in formal logic and understanding (but I actually think that can be learned and acquired), you also have to be creative. Way more than any novelist.

That’s one scar that is left forever.

The other one is the language of course: I never got fluent enough to be able to pursue a career outside academia.

Frack it.

Anyway: Next week is when I’ll collect my mail-order bride, and this time it’s Emirates. I am skeptical, but actually only heard good things about ‚em.

[1] of course they are all ugly compared to my girl! [2]

[2] you know, just for safety.