Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Useful Stuff

So I'm doing a bit of travelling and there are a few things I'm finding helpful (besides getting to the airport the correct day...but that's a story from February...).

The new top number one most helpful travel gadget is my PDA. For Christmas I received a Dell Axim X51v handheld computer. (Yes, geeky, I know.) Among it's features are wifi (for connecting to the internet) and bluetooth (for transferring photos from my phone). It's the right size to fit in my pocket (even in it's spiffy metal case) but I can send and receive email, surf the web, post to my blog (like I'm doing right now!), listen to National Public Radio (live from WBUR in Boston) and a plethora of other things.

I've also added a few handy programs. First, aprogram called GSPlayer which allows me to listen to streaming audio from the internet. I've also downloaded the Opera Browser (the built-in web browser isn't bad for basic web pages, but Opera lets me view more complex sites). CityTime is another handy program - it has a currency converter (with one-click currency rate updates), world time, unit conversions, and much more. (CityTime isn't free but it's worth the very small amount I paid for it.) For travelling, though, Metro is amazing simply ( Metro is a database of public transportation plans from all over the world - not maps but an "input start point" and "input destination" and it plans both the fastest route and the one with fewest connections. It's great when confronted with a spaghetti-like map of possibilities. It has hundreds of cities (including Vilnius). Plus, it's free. I also have a small, foldable keyboard that connects wirelessly to my PDA so I can type things like this without poking the tiny keyboard on the screen.

I also travel with a mini Leatherman tool. It's similar to a Swiss Army knife in that it has a number of handy tools that all fold into one small, easy to hold tool. The crucial different, though, is that the mini Leatherman tool folds out into proper, useful scissors - not the tiny clippy things the Swiss Army knife has. (Don't forget, though, it has to be packed into the checked baggage.)

Other useful things: a mobile phone (cell phone) - mine now takes pictures - I use it as a visual note-taking device. A travel clothesline (and a longish bit of rope). Fingernail clippers (after seraching all over Amsterdam and Copenhagen for a pair, I now have one I leave in my backpack. Duct tape. A bag of chargers and converters. A super cool multi-time-zone watch. Several books in English. Frequent flyer cards.

You get the idea.


Originally uploaded by matthew_reames.

So, today I flew from Berlin (Tegel I've flown into or out of all three...I flew into and out of Schonefeld in February 2006) to Vilnius, Lithuania.

I haven't done much yet but I did visit the Cathedral and belfry (pictured) and the Gediminas' Tower (built in the 13th to 15th centuries and it overlooks the city). I also did a bit of walking around - I saw the Presidential Palace and quite a few people selling amber.

For lunch I had a rather interesting meal of cepelinai - described in Lonely Planet as "boiled potato dumplings stuffed with meat and covered with bacon, cream and butter sauce"...described by me as " are these two large...things...on my plate?" So for dinner I went to a lovely Indian restaurant and had chicken tikka. (Hey, I'm daring but not THAT daring.)


Originally uploaded by matthew_reames.

For part two of my summer holiday, I flew from Brussels to Berlin. I have been to Berlin before but I wanted to fly into Tempelhof Airport before it closes for good. Tempelhof is the world's oldest commercial airport and the base for the Berlin Airlift that supplied the citizens of West Berlin for nearly a year. At the height of the airlift, one plane landed every minute bringing needed food and supplies.

And let me tell you, in many ways it's a shame they're closing it. It's in the middle of the city (no terribly long train rides in to town), it's small (it's strange how the time wasted in an airport increases exponentially wth the size of the airport) and it is, quite simply, a very nice thing to behold. (I know, it's so airport-geeky.)

Okay, so I managed to pry myself away from the airport.


I did some touristy things - The Berlin Story museum (complete with guided tour of "an actual nuclear fallout shelter" on the bottom level of a parking garage), the DDR Experience (with "actual everyday East German artifacts"), and the Berliner Dom (with "climb to the top of the church and look out at the city").

I also (finally) saw the new Harry Potter movie (in English) at the Sony Center (that's where the picture was taken).

More about Tempelhof Airport:


Originally uploaded by

On Sunday I flew to Brussels for the first part of my holiday (um...that's vacation in the US). I've been to Brussels a couple times before but I had never been inside the Atomium.

"So what?" you ask?

Gee whiz! The Atomium is only the biggest, shiniest, coolest model of an iron molecule magnified 165 billion times! It's made of nine large sheres connected by long tubes (some have escalators running through). cool.

Oh, and I toured the City Hall and had some waffles! (But not at the same location...the waffles were later...after the tour.)

More about the Atomium:

Today's Quote

"The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'"
-Maria Montessori, educator (1870-1952)

( students often act as if I don't exist...)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Life's too short for the wrong job

I came across a great set of advertisements for a German employment site ( (And no, I'm not looking for a German job!)

The ads were designed to be attached to the sides of things - for example, an ad on an ATM machine shows a man crammed into the tiny ATM space and pushing cash through the slot while trying to record the transaction in a ledger.

The seven photos can be found at

Friday, July 06, 2007

Two phrases to fear

The next time you are at work and you hear these two phrases, you'd pobably be better off being somepace else.

Phrase 1: "Today's programme is fairly fluid." What this really means is, "Despite having several months to plan things for today, I haven't actually done anything."

Phrase 2: "I know we will work together to ensure success." What this really means is, "Despite the fact that I have made absolutely no plans for today, it is your fault is things go badly."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cool use of Google maps

Click on over to the Gmaps Pedometer and you can see how far your last walk was. By clicking to set a series of points, you can get a fairly accurate measure of the distance from one place to another.

(I know, you're saying, "there's a scale, just use a ruler!" And you can...but unless your route was a straight line, things get a bit tricky. Gmaps Pedometer allows you to break your trip down into a series of straight lines.)


MI6 - The World's Intelligence?

MI6 - The World's Intelligence
Originally uploaded by

From the Education section of the Independent newspaper on Thursday, July 5, 2007.

This is an advertisement for some clerical/office-type employees for MI6 - the UK's secret intelligence service - - you can click the photo to see it larger.

What caught my eye was number 2. "Top Secret Document - This contains classified information relating to the security and propserity of the UK. Must not be copied or taken out of this office."

Unfortunately, it seems that the classified document which must not be copied is already IN A PHOTOCOPIER.

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