May 29, 2010

Ridin' that train....

May 26, 2010

Sitting in the Bordrestaurant of the train from Hanover to Zurich I contemplated the differences between Hungarian and German trains with a grimace. Hungarian trains have good food. German ones have good electrical connections for laptops. I think the two national railroads have agreed not to tread on the other's area of strength. DB cappucino is probably the nastiest drink invented since Folger's coffee. This thought was reinforced as it occurred by the crash of breaking glass in the Zuchtanstalt that passes for a kitchen on board the ICE.

Preparing for the trip was an adventure. After wasting valuable hours online trying to find out more about train pass options, I finally took time I didn't have and headed to Berlin's train station, where a Deutsche Bahn employee kindly misinformed me of my options regarding an Interrail pass. It wasn't until I was on my way home that I discovered it wasn't valid in my country of residence (Germany), but said employee even more kindly recorded the wrong country of residence after looking at my passport. Just to be on the safe side, however, I don't speak German to the train conductors while I'm travelling within German borders. They're used to stupid tourists and rather tolerant of them or at least more so than I would be.

Once home I started to pack and sort the information for the district court in Zurich until I was interrupted by a call from my high school German teacher, Mad Marianne, who explained at length how her return flight schedule for her planned visit in August had been changed to reduce the length of the flight segments. The most significant part of the change for me was the change in departure time: from 7:05 am at Tegel to 6:55 am. Good thing I found out early enough to adjust my plans.

By then I was too tired to pack or do other work, so I decided to get a few hours of sleep before making an early start. Preparations the next morning quickly nixed the possibility of an early start, especially when I remembered the deer I had stuffed in the refrigerator and needed to finish butchering. But eventually with the help of the neighbor who had kindly agreed to feed my menagerie while I'm on the road I made the last train of the four for which I had a printed schedule.

I almost missed that train. The night before, I had reconfigured my memoQ installation, removing several older versions and getting my licenses sorted out, including a quick upgrade to the project manager version and access to Kilgray's test servers again for a little show & tell planned for various clients in the coming weeks. To my horror, about an hour before I planned to leave, I discovered that memoQ crashed shortly after each launch with an error regarding a custom keyboard file I had created for an earlier version. The keyboard map formats differ between versions 4.0 and 4.2, and there are some problems that can arise during an upgrade.

As usual, Kilgray's super support team came to my rescue, this time with the latest white knight at the Hungarian round table, Denis Hay. Kindly ignoring my very bad mood, he quickly instructed me on how to make a remote connection available so he could examine the problem directly on my computer, and in less than ten minutes I was out the door and on my way to the train station. Would that have happened with the competition? Answer that question yourself the next time you need support.

Losing my UMTS stick somewhere on my last trip to Budapest made Internet access during the journey a lost cause. For a while I dared to hope when I discovered WLAN on the ICE, but the German telephone company Telekom makes it impossible for current customers who don't have a recent telephone bill in hand to sign up for the discounted monthly access rate, and I saw no point in paying more than 300% of that amount. So I was rudely reminded of my dependence on online research and confirmation as I translated various texts on cranes and health insurance and made notes in memoQ on terms to check before delivery. A constant loop of Simon & Garfunkel and Grateful Dead travel tunes in my head also offered a bit of unwanted distraction. I assume that regular drug testing and the heavy hand of DB management encourage Casey Jones to watch his speed when running the ICE down the rails. And reminders of the trouble ahead and behind I can do without; I'm dressed in my threads for a proper pig hunt and plan to drop the bore with a single well-placed shot in court tomorrow....

Train travel is fantastic for getting work done, even with screaming kids, gossiping fishwives in the compartment, rotten coffee (note to self: get a thermos for travel) and whatnot. It's been wonderful blasting through projects with relatively little disturbance.

May 28, 2010

On the train to Munich after The Great Pig Hunt in Zurich. (Der Keiler hatte doch keine Waffen, ist vermutlich 'ne Bache, aber 'ne schwache, keine führende. Auf jeden Fall 'ne alte Sau :-) Eight shots of espresso in the youth hostel finally got my sputtering motor started after I inexplicably woke at 5:30 am, even more inexplicably without a headache after celebrating the night before with pear brandy from the silver and leather vest pocket flask I bought in the fine hunting shop yesterday after completing my business with the court and public prosecutor dealing with the frivolous attempts of Mr. Dominic de Neuville to become the arbiter of free speech and payment practices information in the free world. I learned a few interesting things which may be of use to those who are currently frustrated in their attempts to collect monies long overdue. When I get back to Berlin and catch up on my projects I'll explain in the blog. It seems that there may indeed be a possibility of collective action, though perhaps only with regard to criminal matters. I'm quite interested to see how things develop.

Shortly before my departure from Zurich, Mr. Gramlich, the Bergstockpapst, called to inform me that the wire transfer payment for my combination hiking staff, shooting support and boar spear (Saufeder) had been completed and wanted to know if I'd be picking it up when I pass through Bavaria or whether he should ship it. Since I hope to spend a few pleasant hours with a translation colleague and friend in Munich before continuing home to my dog Ajax, I told him to ship it. I could have used the thing yesterday at the Bezirksgericht, but now it'll probably be a week or so before I can think about Saujagd again.

May 29, 2010

After a fine afternoon of sightseeing in Munich with friend and colleague A.S., I boarded the Train to Hell. The engineers failed to load enough brimstone to keep the fires burning, and as we arrived in Nürnberg well behind schedule and I faced the prospect of being stranded in Göttingen (a suburb of Hell) overnight, I boldly switched trains and took a different ICE to Berlin. But the Devil would have his due, and a freight train stalled on the tracks ahead of us cost that train another hour. I arrived in Berlin at about one in the morning to face a drifting crowd of drunken, pierced, technicolor zombies who are sure evidence that Catholic priests also engaged in unnatural relations with mackaws. I finally dragged myself through the door at home at 2:30 am to be greeted by an overjoyed Ajax, who insisted on a late-night cat-hunting expedition. I think he was most disappointed that I didn't give him the opportunity to lift his leg in Zurich and shower due compliments on the learnéd opposition. Despite all the chaos I managed to get about 150 lines of translation out of the way. I love trains.

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