Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall's here

Actually it feels like winter, and with temperatures in the upper 30s Fahrenheit, it sure feels like it!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Spy on me, NSA!

An old friend was in Berlin last week, and I used it as an excuse to take a trip to Teufelsberg (or Devil's mountain in English).  It isn't really a mountain, but a hill which was built using rubble from WWII.  Underneath the hill is an old Nazi war college which couldn't be destroyed because it built too well.  But it's what's on top of this hill that is most interesting now.

At some point during the cold war, the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States realized that it was the best spot in West Berlin to eavesdrop on Soviet and East Germany communications.  They then built the current structures which were abandoned after the fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany.

We left my apartment in the early afternoon after a big breakfast, and took the S-Bahn to Heerstrasse.  It was just a 15 minutes walk from the station to the fence surrounding the buildings.  There were three fences encircling the top, and you can see where people have cut holes, and where someone has come behind and repaired them.  After walking around for about 5 minutes, we finally found a hole in the first fence behind some bushes.  It was then just a short walk until we found holes in the next two fences.

Once we got inside, it was pretty overwhelming.  The wind was causing these pieces of canvas which once covered one tower to flap and make odd noises.  (Before we could see the complex, I thought it was the sound of a highway or airport.)  We decided to start with the smallest of the buildings, and quickly found our way to the top.  Actually getting into the radar dome required some suspenseful dangling about 20 meters above the ground.  In the dome, the sound was incredible, and I took some videos on my camera to try to record it.

Next we moved on to the second largest building, but it took us a little while to find the staircase.  We didn't have a flashlight with us, and inside of the buildings it was extremely dark.  I was using my camera flash and cell phone to try to light the way, and also then we could see if there were any "dangers" up ahead.  Jason had matches, but they burnt out quickly.  This dome was the second-highest, but it was made out of canvas, so the sound was not as great as the first dome.  Walking around the edge gave you a really good view of the city.

Finally we decided to tackle the tallest building, and it took us a while of exploring passages to find the staircase.  Once we started climbing, it seemed like forever to reach the top--there were nine floors, but it seemed like less from the ground.  Before the dome at the top, there was a metal door that seemed to be locked or stuck.  We pulled hard, but we didn't have any tools which might help us open it.  We almost turned back, but I eventually pulled it open.  Inside the dome, the sound was incredible.  Sounds echoed about five times, and it didn't take us long to start experimenting with trash that people had left behind.  Even slightly tapping the floor with your foot would create a thunderous noise.

It looked like it was about to storm, and it was getting cold so we headed back.  It would be fun to come back with a flashlight, and maybe even spend a night in one of the buildings.

Teufelsberg Photo Album

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Don't let your dog poop here sign

I was out walking around a couple of days ago and noticed this weird no dogs sign.  Since dogs are usually allowed everywhere in Germany, I went closer and realized that the dog was pooping.  I can't remember ever seeing a similar sign before, but now I've seen a couple of them.

 From a design perspective, I don't like the literal representation of the turds--especially the one which is still coming out of the dogs butt.  I think it would have been better if just a single turd mound was used, or just a sign with a turd mound instead of a dog.

But the main flaw is that you'd have a hard time stopping a dog from actually pooping.  They just want you to clean it up.  It's as if the sign was meant to be read by dogs and not humans.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Creative Berlin

One could argue that Berlin is the center of the contemporary creative world.  This, from a New York Times article in 2005, nicely sums it up:
Today, what Prague and London were in the 90's, Berlin has now become: a magnet for anyone who wants to live and work in a city that is humming with cultural energy and, by contrast with the rest of northern Europe, an insane bargain.
Newsweek has run two stories in three years of the same name: Poor But Sexy, which was phrase coined by the openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit.  But I think you get the point: Berlin is hip and cheap.

But despite having lived here for almost a year, I only caught glimpses of this part of the city.  Where are the entrepreneurs?  The designers?  The scientists?  Since I returned from Louisiana a month ago, I have been obsessed with trying to tap into this creative energy.  (I admit that most of my zeal comes from not having a job, and my lack of patience trying to find a job by sending out résumés/CVs.)

Inside the dome on top of the Reichstag building

In the last week, I have attended two meetups of smart, interesting, and creative people.  On Wednesday, I met a group which goes by the name LemonTown.  They get together every two weeks to chat about their latest projects, where to find work, and anything creative.  (The founders of the group are also trying to start a freelancing collective called Die Summe.)  The atmosphere is relaxed, and I've always gotten great advice from those who are there.

Last Friday morning, I attended LikeMind Berlin, which meets at the Cafe Oberholtz on the third Friday of the month. This event is slightly more formal than LemonTown, if only because the drink of choice is coffee and not beer.  A wider range of people came out, and it is also more established.  I first found out about it through a NY Times article that I read just a couple of days after their meeting in August.

By going to these two events, I definitely feel more connected to the creative culture--but still not fully immersed.  And I'm still looking for a job!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Let's start again

So it's been a wild couple of months (not really), and since I have more time on my hands these days, I thought I should be writing more. Lucky you.

Above is a picture of all the computer parts I've had break on me in the last month.  It includes an HP notebook, model number dv2500t, which overheated and burned holes into my desk.  (I believe it was a problem with the NVIDIA graphics processor unit.)  Three Western Digital hard drives have also gone bad, but it was because of one defective part.  Right now, I'm using my old old computer which is still working great except that I can't connect more than one external hard drive at a time.  And to top it all off, I had to wait in my apartment for SEVEN HOURS for DHL to come and pick up my broken computer (shown on the bottom-right).

But enough of that garbage, I just had to get it out of my system in order to think more clearly.  In the future, I'll try not to bog you down with the unglamorous aspects of my life--since you, my reader, are most-likely family or friends wanting to live vicariously through me, I will try not to disappoint.  Let's get this party started!

There'll always be more...