Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why you no post, Dave Heckman, why you no poooost?

Well, a lot of reasons.

The last month has been kind of busy for me and unfortunately, I can't blog about being in college if I flunk out of college. Also, sometimes I just sort of stop feeling like writing something, and just plum don't write it for long periods of time. I'm trying to get better at this, but it's hard.

Well, the rest of my German-Speaking Switzerland trip is pretty boring anyway. We stayed in Zurich and I visited James Joyce's grave. When I told my parents about this, my dad commented that there are probably droves of confused tourists in Dublin trying to find his grave, but just not looking in the right country.

So what will I be talking about next? We'll see.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Swiss Saga, Day 5: Blew a Glass Darkly

It was kind of a slow day today. We went to a glass factory in the town of Hergiswil, a 15-minute train ride away from Luzern. Before we could get to the wicked-cool molten glass and stuff, we walked through a goofy little interactive tour of the history of glass. Apparently, glass is very old and cultural. Also something about World War I. Anyhoo, the main show was the setup in which we could watch honest, hardworking craftsmen, like zoo animals, doing their jobs. We walked around on a balcony overlooking the factory floor, and there were a few other collections of glass art and things. The cool part was getting to blow my own glass...sphere...thing. I really don't know what the purpose of it is, but it looks dandy sitting on my shelf.

But why strain yourself with these letter-congeries when I can give you a thousand of them at a time?

This is what the glassworks looks like. Apparently this isn't the most cutting-edge setup available, mostly because it has actual humans doing the work, but it has historical cachet.

Apparently, I can use the word "cachet" without the slightest guilt.

This, of all the pictures I've taken on the trip, is the one that most resembles a heavy-metal album cover. Which, really, isn't saying all that much.

Here I am preparing to blow my own glass sphere object, a picture in which I could not look less interested in the prospect and may actually be asleep. My explanation is that as a tall person I have to be looking down at people all the time, hence my eyes are forever downcast. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!

If they could, I'm sure the 19th-century Germans would have drunk all their liqueurs out of a dog's backside.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Swiss Saga, Day 4: Rock, Paper, Rivers

Went to Basel (Motto: “Not the Freaking Spice, You Stupid Bastards”), and went on an extremely long and boring walking tour. However, I did learn that the town of Basel is the origin of the legend of the basilisk, even though, uh, the Wikipedia entry says its from Greek words. Well, c'mon, the Greeks have plenty of stuff to their credit, let's let this small Swiss village have a thing or two. Fortunately no one was turned to stone today. Then we went to a paper mill, and saw how the keys of a printing press are made (answer: wicked-awesome liquid metal). In the gift shop, I bought a signet thingy and some sealing wax. Oh, and for the record, pigs DON’T have wings. There. I just saved you the time. Walking back to take the bus back to Luzern, I walked along the side of the Rhine. It's...big.

And now, pictures! Pictures for looking!

A goofy fountain near the beginning of our tour. It would have maybe been more interesting if all the fountain parts weren't frozen solid. Seriously, look at 'em. That ought to tell you something about my receptiveness to a two-hour walking tour outdoors.

A basilisk appears! Fight/Magic/Item/Run?

Bernoulli is buried in Basel. So you better be on your best behavior, boys and babes. Fun fact: I was the only person on the tour who cared at all about Bernoulli or his grave. Ironically, everyone on the trip had flown on a fixed-wing airplane just to be in Switzerland in the first place. No respect, I tells ya.


This is the inside of a paper mill, and not, as you may suspect, the inside of a giant piano. The six hammers are driven by a mill wheel, and are pounding a slurry of pulp into, uh, even pulpier pulp. They made an endless rhythmic "KLONK...KLONK-KLONK...KLONK...KLA-KLONK KLONK" sound that was either relaxing or madness-inducing depending on the subject.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Interlude: Planeswalker Kirbys

When you are sitting around in a hotel room without Internet access, but with Photoshop access, you kind of go crazy. This is the result.

(click to enlarge!)

This is my interpretation of five Kirbys who have swallowed the five Magic: the Gathering Planeswalkers from Lorwyn. If you or anyone you know fully understands this, congratulations, you or they are a nerd.

Ahh, boredom!

The Swiss Saga, Day 3: A Clockwork Brown, Or: Relatively Interesting

We took the train to the city of Bern (Motto: “Berninating the countryside!”). Went on a walking tour, saw a Gothic cathedral, a view of the river, and a clock tower. Inside the clock tower, we saw the huge complicated mechanism that turns the clock, and watched it ring 12 noon. So you know, medieval clockwork consists of a fascinating series of metal gears and joints and flywheels, every last one of which could totally kill you or at least take off a couple fingers.

Afterwards, visited the apartment that Einstein lived in when he was working on the theory of relativity. It...well, it looked like a 20th-century apartment. We watched a little video on the life of Einstein, but it was really just one of those "go there so you can say you've been there" kind of things.

Finally, we took a trolley to the Paul Klee Center to have lunch. I didn't feel like eating any of the pretentious, expensive art gallery food they served, so I went and checked out the gallery before leaving to grab some food elsewhere. The art gallery was on the theme of weird bio-genesis-microcosm-squiggily-artsy-dealies. The captions and musings were in French and German. I can read (if not speak) French pretty well, but I got a headache trying to read a bunch of artistic nonsense like
“la recherché artistique est reconstitutee par l’excellence de la tranche de fromage attaché aux pieds pendant qu’on se trouve la biogenisisme,” in the most artistically nonsensical language of them all. I was given money for lunch and dinner, and ended up eating cold bread and salami sandwiches for both. However, this method cost me only 20 of my 60 CHF for the two meals, so I’m gradually accumulating souvenir money, which I could say with a straight face until approximately six hours later, when I had blown it all on booze. Well, I don’t know about you, but I must have been traveling at nearly the speed of light, because it seems like the day just flew by! (Little astrophysics humor for ya. You can keep that one, it’s free.)

Note: What follows is a real-time account of the evening's debauchery, written at approximately 3:00 AM of the night it describes. It appears unaltered from the original transcript. The following contains graphic youthful stupidity. Viewer discretion is...well, since you've read this far, viewer discretion is obviously nonexistent to begin with. Enjoy!

In the evening, drank truly insane amount of vodka and went out clubbing until 2:00 AM. Not feeling so good. OooOooooggghhh. Some fun, but didn’t score with any of the chicks (I.E. totally rejected). Had to borrow clothes in order to be fashionable (who knew I needed to bring a button-down shirt on travel in order to be admitted to a club?) Blew nearly all my spending money. Oh well, you’re only young once. Drank half (or so) a bottle of Smirnoff lime vodka, went to a French restaurant at 10:00 PM and drank a screwdriver, went to a British pub and drank a “Archer’s and lemonade”, went to a club and drank one and a half more screwdrivers. One girl was a really weird drunk who wouldn’t listen to anyone when she was drunk. She wandered off and I hope she found her way home. Remember to ask her tomorrow if she got home okay, assuming she’s alive. I knew I should have gone with her. Now I’m worried that she froze to death trying to get back to the hotel and her death will hang over me like a pall for the rest of my days. Wow, I’m incredibly coherent when I’m drunk and it’s 3 AM. Death before grammar errors!

We apologize for the previous. But the truth had to be told.

And for some more truth, check these fantast-pics!

A carving of the Last Judgment over the door to a church in Bern.

The clock tower on the outside...

...and on the inside.

I went there! See?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Interlude: The Word of the LOLrd

On my trip, we learned a bit about the Protestant Reformation and its impact on Switzerland. We learned about how Martin Luther translated the Bible into German so that the common people could read it. That is now irrelevant.

This is what Martin Luther wishes he had been cool enough to do.

The Swiss Saga, Day 2: Snow's Your Old Man!

More of my adventures in my journey from Switaly (Italian-speaking Switzerland) to, uh, Swermany. I would have preferred Swance, but you know what they say, that's just the way the swookie crumbles.

It snowed all night and into the morning, an naturally I discovered at that point that not only had I not brought snow boots, my regular shoes had contracted shoe leprosy and were falling apart. And of course, up next was a walking tour of Lucern. (The phrases you will be hearing most frequently in this travelogue are "walking tour," "took the train," and "for the love of Christ, can't you go five minutes without a cigarette?")

In spite of the snow, it was lovely, and I saw a bunch of 700-year-old houses and bridges, or in some cases, recreations of those things since the originals had burned down repeatedly. We went inside a Rococco church that looks like it was decorated with pink frosting, and I believe I genuinely found religion therein, because only a just and benevolent God could have made the church so warm and comfy. Actually, I think it was just hypothermia setting in.

Ate at same restaurant as the day before for lunch, had a meat pastry thing and raspberry sorbet for dessert. It was not quite as excessive as the previous day's fare, but it was still at three-course lunch, so make of that what you will. We took the train to a town called Einsedeln, and the hypothermia process was only exacerbated as we went north to even colder climes. In Einsdeln, we toured a monastery founded in the 9th century by a monk apparently named Meintraat or Mynd Rädt or Mind Rot or something, who went on to become the patron saint of video games (or possibly death metal). We went to the cathedral and then to the library, which has 200,000 books dating back to the 10th century. They included Bibles, journals of history, Malleus Maleficarum, De praestigiis daemonum, and of course, the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. After surreptitiously snapping pictures of a few vital pages of the Necronomicon, we watched the monks chant the vespers and then left on the train back to Luzern.

And now, for some pictures that aren't of twisted non-Euclidean nightmares!

Oops, no, sorry, this IS a twisted non-Euclidean nightmare. Specifically, it's the lengths to which I had to go to protect myself from the piercing cold. Well, the half-bangs thing is just me being dumb. Anyway, while dressed like a Tusken Raider, I went out and saw...

...this monastery, which contained...

...this very big library, featuring books such as...


Night of the Living Ducks! Well, swans, mostly. The story goes that the first pair of swans was given to the city of Luzern by a visiting German prince back in ye olden days. The swans have stayed there ever since of their own free will, which makes sense, considering all the delicious tourists, such as me, they have to eat.