T-minus 5 days...

I leave the country very, very soon.

So, naturally I thought it would be a good time to start learning the German language. I mean, how hard could it be?

As Andi so delicately put it, "You've managed to avoid learning German for 15 years!" Which, I suppose, is true. My mother was a German teacher for a dozen years before giving it up for cooking, and then the Peace Corps. Maybe it runs in the family, this knack for language - after all, she can speak English, German, and now Romanian.

So, am I on a fool's errand? Probably. I know that every waking moment in the next five days is going to be dedicated to a study of German (which is a much prettier language than anyone gives it credit for, by the way.)

On to more sane topics: Travel - I love it. I love the idea of packing light, and moving fast, of catching trains and blending in. I love getting a feel for new places. I love those moments that make you feel like you're on an adventure.

I filled out a form to tour CERN. As much as I'd love to go, and stand in awe of the incredible reach of human curiosity, I don't think it will happen. I misread the form - they would like notification three to four months in advance. I just gave them three or four weeks. Oh well - it's a shot in the dark that may bring great reward. I'd love to know how the largest physics institute in the world interacts with local schools.

So, in five days I rush in where angels fear to tread. Either I'll sink, or I'll swim - either way, you'll be able to read all about it here.



Shadetree Mechanics in a Digital World

Sometimes you need to draw upon years of experience working on cars if you want to fix a computer. Usually, times like these end when you're straddling a ruined iMac with a five pound sledge in your hands. However, I recently brought the worlds of automotive repair and computers together with positive results.

Lauren's computer was in need of an overhaul, so I offered to re-install Windows and give her an Ubuntu Linux partition to play with. The only problem was getting all of her data off the computer before I wiped it.

Time for good news/bad news - we had an external drive, but my father accidentally threw the AC adapter away with a bunch of old cell phone chargers. None of the adapters we had in the house would match the 12V at 2A needed by the drive, and nothing in the local Radio Shack could do it, either.

So, I started thinking like a shadetree mechanic. "What would happen if I hooked it up to a car battery?"

With some help from Spencer at Radio Shack, I had a rig that should work. From the battery terminals, power went to a cigatette lighter plug. a 12V 2A power supply plugged into that, and ended in the proper plug to go into the hard drive. With some trepidation, I hooked everything up, and hit the button. It worked!