better living through python

An adventure in programming and recovery.

An Art Museum, intimidating or inspiring?

December 22, 2012

Until now, museums were only a source of wonder at the amazing ability other people had to create things. After spending the better part of a month traipsing around Germany seeing ancient works of art, things 100 to 4000 years old, I can tell you one thing. Creating works of greatness doesn’t always mean the creator had skills you don’t have.

What I’m realizing more and more is that creation is simply having the time, interest and patience to complete a project. Anyone can have that. But there are these questions that prevent people from getting started, such as “I don’t have enough creativity”, “I will never have the time” or “What if I make a mistake?”. I think if you continue to provide yourself enough time, you continue to have the interest and you have patience with your project, that anything is possible.

By time I mean that you have to be willing to devote time to the project you want to complete. This doesn’t just mean having time available, but making sure that the time is without distraction. Making sure that you won’t stress over not getting other things done, you’ll simply devote yourself during this period to your project at hand. It also means understanding that having time doesn’t mean 9 hours this upcoming weekend, sometimes it simply means hanging out at home and working on it for an hour or two after work some evening. It’s taking time, and making sure your dedicate your time to the task at hand.

You must have interest. If your interest wanes in your project, then you won’t make sure to devote time and you won’t have the patience to complete it anymore. Keep yourself excited about your project, in whatever way that works for you. Sometimes it simply means making sure to devote some time to it when you won’t let other things distract you. During that undistracted time often I’ll get reinvested in the project because I’m actually able to look at it again.

However mostly you need to have patience. Don’t freak out if you’re project is taking a lot longer than you think. Be willing to start over, or redo significant chunks of your work if you feel it needs fixing. Nothing is better than finishing a project you feel great about. The willingness to fix your own mistakes and make them better in a project for you, I feel, greatly increases your ability to do the same in more complicated situations. Such as at work, or conversations with family members. You gain insight into how good taking a couple of steps backwards can be, even in situations that normally lead to conflict.

This isn’t to say that allowing a perfectionist type mentality take over is a good thing. Often you have to be willing to complete a project that isn’t good, in order to be able to look at the whole thing, see your mistakes and learn from them. Don’t be afraid of completing something, because of only having to start all over again. The second time around you know so much more, and can make better decisions because you have something to compare yourself against, you.

I think everyone has the ability to be creative. In whatever scenario or situation I think that everyone can be creative in a way they want to. It’s about be willing to make mistakes, being patience with yourself, giving yourself time and making sure to keep your interest in your project.

Life is complicated, other things will take priority. That’s Okay. When you have an hour sit back down with your project and work on it again. Don’t regret other things that take up your time. You choose to do them because they were important too. Just don’t think that having life get in the way means you can’t do something inspirational in your life, something museum worthy. Keep your interest, make a little time now and again, and have patience with yourself.


December 20, 2012

This past Saturday Robey, Jens and I went to Tuebingen. We used this awesome service called Dein Bus, which allows you and other people to request specific bus travel needs within Germany.

This is particularly interesting, because the bus infrastructure in Germany is restricted so much that Bus routes don’t really exist for longer distances. Especially at the prices that you get on this site. So if you’re looking to travel in Germany, check out before you go to the Deutsche Bahn.

Alright, back to Tuebingen. We took a bus down, and then met Jens’ friend, Tilo. He was an amazing guide to the city, especially in the 6 hours we were there. We saw the city, starting with a walk to a cafe and the Weihnachtsmarkt. Then up to a Schloss.

Robey, Jens and Tilo near the Schloss

At the Schloss we had a great view of the surrounding countryside, during which we had to take a quick, awesome picture break.

Jens, Robey and I in Tuebingen

We went to a classic Swabishes resturaunt for lunch, where we ate what else; sausage, potatoes and sauerkraut. Well Swabisch versions at least. Afterwards Tilo gave us a ride and fantastic tour of the Bebenhaus Monastery, which I’ll tell you about next time.

Board Games, Relaxation, and HTML

December 19, 2012

After our long day trip to Trier we spent a well deserved day for relaxation. We slept in and took it easy for the first part of the day. Then Robey and I went to the Sauna. This kind of sauna we went to is very different from American saunas. It has a general swimming pool, a couple of basic hot tubs (hidden in this little alcove with a shorter roof area painted with a dark night sky), and then a special sauna area.

The sauna area consists of 8 different types of saunas. Three were specified by heat (75, 85 and 95 Celsius rooms). There was a Dampfbad (steam bath), and two other indoor saunas (one with a sunning options and the other we didn’t quite know what it was special for). All of these saunas surrounded three hot tubs where people, humorously enough, could sit and cool down before going into the next sauna.

In addition to the heat there was a small refrigerated bin where you could pull out some shredded ice and wipe your body down with the cold. There was also a mini restaurant inside where you could buy food, drinks, beer, and other alcoholic stuffs.

Outside there were two swimming pools, one was heated and I think the other was too but at a cooler temperature. As it was snowing outside, we only went in the heated one. There were also two other saunas in log cabins near these pools. One of a cooler temperature than the 75 Celsius room, and another one, much larger and hotter than that one…but I also don’t know what the specific type of room it was.

An awesome part about each room was the scents. Most of the heat specific rooms in the sauna had specific scents. My favorite was the scent in the 75 Celsius, myrrh. Once we returned home, the three of us enjoyed a new board game.

Robey and Jens figuring out the rules.

On our trip to Mainz we had purchased some board games, and today was the day we played the one Robey purchased. Jens had bought The Village, which we had already played, while Robey had purchased Eclipse. It was a ton of fun, a little intimidating at first, but after several cups of tea and about 4 times as long to finish as it said on the box we finished the game.


December 15, 2012

On our way back from Luxembourg we stopped at Trier. I found Trier to be one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to in Germany. It’s located in the Southwestern part of the country and is very close to the border to France. It’s also the oldest city in Germany, having been founded in or before 16 BC.

As one might suspect from the date, Trier was part of the Roman Empire and has the largest collection of Roman Ruins in Germany to date. We checked out most of the ruins, but were unfortunately too late to visit the museum. But as with the unofficial theme of the trip, we started out by visiting the Trier Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market).

Trier Weihnachtsmarkt 2012

It was gorgeous! We all agreed it’s definitely the most beautiful one we’ve seen yet. All the stalls were covered in evergreen branches, in a Platz (market square) that sat right in front of the Trier Dom (Cathedral of Saint Peter). The Dom was amazing, and you can check out my Germany 2012 pictures folder on Picasa. After we checked out the Dom I bought a Langos covered in nutella and powdered sugar (Hungarian Fried Bread).

Rachael eating Langos

Jens and I shared this while we took a walking tour of the Roman ruins of the city. We first stopped by the throne room of Constantine the Great, which is now attached to the Palace of Trier. There isn’t much to the throne room except that it’s gigantic and hollow. The impression it must have made and the intimidation visitors must have felt is indisputable.

Then we stopped by the remains of the local Roman Bath. The remains are quite extensive and you can still see the underground connections that would have been there for the water. Nearby was a collection of some other larger remains (mostly inside a smaller local exhibit), however there was a big foot.

Remains of a statue of Constantine the Great and Rachael

As you can tell from the photo, the statue was huge. These remains are from a statue of Constantine the Great, and they are remains from one of the largest statues still in existence.

It was starting to get really cold, so we headed back to the city, grabbed a coffee to warm up, and then headed back out to finish the walking tour. It ended by visiting the Porta Nigra, one of the last and largest still standing Roman city gates.

Robey and I in front of the Porta Nigra

We were so cold and tired after that, we finished up a little shopping and then grabbed the car and headed home. Robey and Jens had an extremely interesting conversation in the car, during which I drooled and was in general passed out in the front seat.

There are more pictures from Trier and this day trip to be found in my picasa folder Germany 2012 photos.


December 14, 2012

Two days ago the three of us took a day trip to Luxembourg, and hit Trier on the way back. For those of you who don’t know, Luxembourg is a country located between Belgium, France and Germany. It has always been a strategic military point for most of Europe, even back in the Roman period.

Our day began early as we headed out taking a train to the Frankfurt Airport so Jens could rent a car from his work (Lufthansa) around 8am. From there Jens drove us all out to Luxembourg. Jens was going there to meet a friend so Robey and I spent a couple of hours hanging out in the main city of Luxembourg.

Robey in Luxembourg

As I said before, Luxembourg is surrounded by Germany, Belgium and France. It’s officially a Grand Duchy, and as you can probably surmise it might have once been much bigger. It was much bigger, however France, Belgium and Germany have taken major chunks out of the Grand Duchy over the years.

There is still a royal family, which if you’re buying postcards about half of your options are simply photos of them. I’m sure I made myself sound the typical tourist when I said in the giftshop “Why do I want to send my family pictures of random Luxembourg people?” Ah Rachael…your ignorance is showing!

Many people might think Luxembourg is simply this one city, the city of Luxembourg, however the country still owns part of the surrounding countryside. There are a variety of ruins and other interesting sites that would be interesting to visit, if you plan on staying in Luxembourg for a while. As I said before, it’s a very strategic military point, and therefore there are many ruins of old defense fortifications in the surrounding countryside.

However the most important part of Luxembourg is the interesting language mixture. As the Grand Duchy is surrounded by other countries, it naturally has several official languages. Those are German, French and Luxembourgish. This provided us with a lot of fun, as Robey and I went to a cafe for coffee while there.

The lady we ordered from was italian, who spoke almost no german and mostly french (as far as we could tell). So she brought over the german speaking woman of the shop (who had a very heavy french accent). She spoke German with us, and we were able to order. In the end after we paid, they started chatting with each other in English, making the whole thing seem a little ridiculous.

Luxembourg is also one of the richest nations of the world, one of the original founders of the precursor to the European Union, and in general a very interesting look at modern day Europe.


December 12, 2012

Today we went to Luxembourg and Trier, took some great pictures, but I’m honestly too exhausted to post or write about it. As I’m on vacation, half the time I’ll do my usual thing of getting caught up into a book and then read it until the early hours of the morning to finish it. So when we got up this morning I think I’d had about…4 hours of sleep?

Anyways, tomorrow is a day for relaxation so I should have time to get it all up then. We’ll be going to a sauna in the afternoon and playing a board game sometime during the day, but otherwise I should have time.

I’ve been doing Coding each day, at least a bit, on Codecademy. However I really need to bite down and get to work on my Science Fiction Tower Power game so I can finish it up and get it out there. Bah, vacation and building a game, not as fluid as I’d like.

The German *Sound of Music* and Mainz

December 11, 2012

Sunday evening Jens and I (as Robey read) watched a classic German-speaking movie called Sissi). It’s to the Germans what Sound of Music is to Americans, however it’s not a musical. Based on the story of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, it’s super cute as anything compared to Sound of Music should be. At one point you even see a Dachshund carrying a really long stick wearing a jaegerhut. Just wow.

Then yesterday Robey, Jens and I went into the city and found Robey a new coat. Now Robey looks like a German, and he’s working on speaking like one. I am also working on my spoken German bit by bit, and remembering just how many cultural things I’ve forgotten about.

For example, tipping and paying for your meal in Germany. To pay, you have to get your waiter’s attention. You can’t just wait for them to stop by, you have to almost flag them down or partially shout at them from across the room. I tried to minimally flag down our waitress at the Thai restaurant this afternoon 4 times before Jens finally helped me out.

Also, tipping is 5 to 10%, not the 15 to 20 like it is in the US. If you pay with a card you can write it in. If you pay with cash, while they are sorting through the change to give you, they will remind you of the total cost and then you’ll tell them “More like price to other price”. Instead today I was awsome (read ridiculous American), and told the waitress to “Just take it already!” (cultural translational emphasis included) as I gave them 10 euros for a 8,25 total. Lots of teasing from Jens ensued.

Anyways, so the tipping stuff came up today while we were out visiting Mainz. We went to a Thai restaurant for lunch, found a board game shop, checked out the Weihnachtsmarkt and had some Gluehwein, had coffee (where the awkward tipping experience occurred), and got lost on the local public transportation system. That just proves that simply having a German along doesn’t mean you still won’t get lost in Germany!

Now we’re back at the apartment in Frankfurt and about to enjoy some Maendelmilch (almond milk) tea and play a new board game called Village. Tomorrow will be super exciting as Robey, Jens and I will be traveling to Luxembourg and Trier. Hopefully I won’t forget my camera like I did today, and you’ll get to see some pictures from our travels. However our pictures thus far can be found here.

Germany 2012...Coding, Rabbits and Snow

December 10, 2012

It’s been a while. Sorry for the long wait before another entry. Jet lag hit me harder than it has in my previous times to Germany. But mostly I’ve been busy either getting ready for, or getting to, Deutschland.

Robey and I have been in Germany for half a week now. We walked around Frankfurt, checked out the Main (river in Frankfurt), went shopping, checked out the Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkt), drank Gluehwein and enjoyed sausage. Seriously, how can you be in Germany during December and not enjoy sausage and Gluehwein? Exactly.

Due to our odd schedule we’ve been mainly trying to adjust and take it easy. Wine is about one third the price here than it is in the US, so we’ve been enjoying the nice top shelf red wines.

We’ve been reading, doing some coding, watching Jens smoke on the balcony, enjoying americanos because we somehow are staying at the one house in Germany where people don’t own a coffee maker anymore. What the heck.

Oh, and It’s snowing today. It had already snowed earlier in the week, but today we woke to large puffy flakes swirling down and a hazy skyline.

Sunday we lit the second candle on the Adventskranz. For each Advent you light one more of the candles and Sunday is the second Advent of the holiday season. In Germany they also celebrate St. Nikolaus Tag on the 6th of December. It’s the alternative to the American Stocking, as Germans will need to clean their shoes the night before. In the morning if they were good children their shoes would be filled with candies or presents.

Also, every day when we walk back to Jens’ flat we see at least 15 rabbits bouncing around. There is a serious rabbit overpopulation issue in Frankfurt. Well, more German cultural traditions in days to come, otherwise see you tomorrow!

Electro-swing themed thanks

November 22, 2012

To all who celebrate this holiday, a Happy Thanksgiving to you. To all those who don’t, sorry you missed out on the delicious grub and awesome cultural excuse to eat tons of pie. Which, my mother made an amazing pecan pie this year. Many kudos go to her.

On top of that I finished the main python track on Codecademy. Excitement ensued until I realized there were additional problems under the python section that weren’t part of the track. Guess I still have a bit to go tonight.

Nevertheless I am very thankful tonight. I’m thankful for the pleasant evening I had with my family. I’m thankful for Codecademy and MIT OCW, as they have provided me with a great way to learn programming. I’m thankful to my best friend Gary, for helping me get back into rock climbing. I’m thankful for my friend Jens, who will be letting Robey and I stay with him for a time while in Germany.

I’m thankful for my many good friends, as the relationships I have with them make my life more meaningful and complete. This is a very different Thanksgiving than I’ve had in years past. I’m thankful for so many things today. I’m happy, I’m relaxed, life is good.

Now please imagine me dancing to electro-swing as I jive away from this blog post…

Gordon Lakes 2012

November 17, 2012

Took me forever, but I finally got around to uploading my photos from my camping trip from the summer. Here they are, just as the drearyness of winter sets in.

Gordon Lakes with Jason, Cash and Robey

Exploration findings

Late Summer forest flowers

Jens, Gium and Robey at Gordon Lakes

You can see the rest of the photos from the trip here in my Gordon Lakes 2012 folder.