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Pictures from Germany

I’ve posted my pictures from Germany! I originally uploaded them to Picasa Web but was frustrated at the fact that all 500 thumbnails from a single album were displayed on a single page. It locked up Firefox for a few minutes while it loaded all of them. So, I’ve set up an install of Plogger on my server and posted my images there. Thankfully the author of Plogger had the foresight to include pagination. What a concept.

View my Germany Trip photo gallery

At some point, I’d like to write a somewhat detailed outline or description of all that we did during our trip to Germany, but time is escaping me. The photo albums serve this purpose in part, but do not depict all our varied activities and fun stories of our time in Germany … Laugenbretzel (pretzel) snacks in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, getting yelled at in German at the Munich train station because we inadvertently ate our Subway and Doener in Burger King’s seating area, etc. It was definitely a trip to remember!

Back from Germany

We got back from Germany yesterday evening and are getting situated back into “normal” life. As much as I enjoyed the trip and being in Germany, I must say that it’s been good to be back in the English speaking world.

Between the last time I wrote (from Berlin) and the time we returned, we did a lot of awesome stuff which I’d love to write about but don’t have the time, considering I’ve got to head out to work in a little while here. I’ll try to write a few things later this week.

Good evening from Berlin!

We have made it to Berlin! We’re staying at a hostel on the outskirts of town, on the edge of a little forest which has wild boars! The guy who runs the place is real friendly and gave us a lot of suggestions of things to see while we’re in Berlin.

When we first arrived in Germany yesterday and explored Hannover, I was overwhelmed by the new experience and my poor understanding of the German language. Not having really slept during the overnight flight on the way here made the situation feel a lot worse. But, after spending time with a missionary family in Gravenhorst and getting some excellent sleep, I’m ready to conquer the world. Well, not really. But today, we visited VW’s Autostadt in Wolfsberg and I felt more comfortable ordering in German. I also got hold of a taxi driver and told him where we wanted to go in German. I think he probably spoke at least a little English, because he likely deals with Americans all the time, but I feel like Germans are going to hate me if I walk up to them assuming they know English. I should at least make an attempt to communicate to them in their language. If some Spanish person walked up to me in the U.S. and started speaking Spanish, I’d probably look at them funny, and then answer to the best of my ability. I wish I know both that language and German better.

Later this week, we’ll move on to Leipzig and then Munich. Several people have told us that we’ll have a hard time understanding the Bavarians in Munich because their accent is so distinct. That’ll be an interesting experience.

I’d love to post some picutres, but that would take a significant amount of time and I should be getting to bed soon so we can enjoy the day tomorrow.

Eine Reise nach Deutschland

After a couple months of planning, the day for me to leave for Germany has finally arrived! I’ll be traveling with my roommate, his brother, and my brother. Between the four of us, my brother and I are the only ones that speak German, and my vocabulary and ability to speak are both fairly limited. I’m hoping that David’s four years of high school German will help to ensure a smooth trip for us all. Also, everyone says that a lot of Germans know English; we’ll see how much truth there is in that statement when we try to get around with our poor understanding of their native tongue.

Because I’ll be gone, I won’t likely be responding to any e-mails or Facebook pokes, and definitely will not be able to return any phone calls. I’ll tend to all these things after returning on April 6.

In-Climate Weather

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had some fairly extreme winter weather here in the Midwest. I’ve heard the word inclement used to describe it on several occasions. Dictionary.com defines this as “(of the weather, the elements, etc.) severe, rough, or harsh; stormy.” In their eagerness to use this word, people have abandoned proper spelling. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen people write inclement as in-climate. The prefix in usually negates that which follows. The word climate means, “the composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region.” Put together, in-climate weather would refer to weather conditions which are not representative of what is normal for a particular region. That’s assuming that in-climate is actually a word.

Curious as to what the experts had to say about this misspelling, I looked it up on Dictionary.com. The only results it yielded were from the U.S. Gazetteer and were names of U.S. cities whose name contains the word “in”: Bird In Hand, PA; Cave In Rock, IL; Put In Bay, OH; Howey In The Hil, FL; Lake In The Hill, IL. Reading these names made me think of Native American vocabulary.

My conclusion: Americans need to learn how to spell.

How to Interview Successfully

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me what he should expect in an upcoming job interview. I shared with him a few thoughts from my interviewing experience during my Senior year of college.

When I began interviewing, I learned that companies want to see not only that a candidate has the ability to perform the tasks required in doing the job, but also that he knows how to work well on a team and will fit well in the company. Over the past few years, companies have learned that behavior-based interviewing is the best way to accomplish this. In behavior-based interviewing, an interviewer will ask questions about an interviewee’s past experiences, rather than hypothetical “how would you act in such and such a situation” questions. An individual’s past actions generally more accurately predict his future behaviors than do his explanations of how he would act in a certain hypothetical situation.

Following are some examples of questions that I was asked in my interviews:

  • Tell me about a time you were on a team and someone didn’t pull their weight. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time you didn’t finish a project in time. How did you deal with not meeting your professor’s or boss’s expectations?
  • When working on multiple projects at once, how do you prioritize the work that needs to be done?
  • Have you ever taught yourself something on your own, without having someone to help you along the way?
  • How do I know when you’re listening to me when I’m talking to you?

With a quick Google search, you can find all sorts of other examples.

Technical interviews will often include a mix of the behavioral questions and technical questions. Many of these questions for me were also based on past experience, rather than a simple rehashing of what I know. For example, I remember being asked, “How do you go about identifying the cause of a defect in an application?”

If you’re interviewing for a technical position like I was, you might get the question, “Have you ever built your own computer?” That question always resulted in an interesting discussion for me because it had been six years since I’d built a computer. In recent times, it has become more cost effective to purchase a pre-built system, unless perhaps you’re looking for something top-of-the-line.

Save the Pigs!

A friend told me yesterday that there’s a billboard in Milwaukee that depicts a pig and makes some jab at the Medical College of Wisconsin for their use of live pigs in one of their research labs. MCW made the decision to use pigs instead of dogs after receiving complains from PETA or a similar organization. According to one source, “Pigs are highly intelligent, social animals who have been shown to be more intelligent than dogs. Animal behavior experts agree, and scientific evidence suggests, that pigs are very smart, very sensitive animals.” I don’t care how sensitive pigs are, there is nothing that makes them deserving of special treatment.

You cannot deny the fact that pigs are and have been considered by many cultures to be dirty, smelly, despicable animals. Take for example, the German language. The word for pig, schwein, is often used as a vulgar insult. We see a similar attitude toward these creatures in Biblical days. In Matthew 7:6, Jesus exclaims, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.&quot Swine are used to depict the antithesis of what is holy. If Christ is the epitome of holiness, then swine are pretty lowly.

The root of this problem lies much deeper than words. The problem is with a basic misunderstanding of the difference between mankind and animals. Animals are, well, animals. God created them, as he did mankind, and they were good, as was mankind. However, there are a few key distinctions between animals and mankind:

  1. God created man in His own image. In Genesis 1:26, we hear God say, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The creatures, on the other hand, were not made in God’s image.
  2. God charged man with caring for the animals. In the second half of 1:26, we see God say, "let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." As part of having dominion over the animals, I don’t think it’s going to be the end of the world if we have to kill, experiment with, or use a few animals in laboratory testing. After all, it was God who killed the first animal for the sake of his created beings
  3. . When God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden, "also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them&quot (Genesis 3:21). Tunics of skin could have only been through the sacrifice of (an) animal(s).

  4. Christ came to die for mankind, not for animals.

Now I’m not an advocate of killing every pig that comes into sight or other aimless, pointless slaughter of these creatures. We need to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. However, what’s really the problem with using a few pigs in experiments aimed at improving science and medicine? If the death of a few swine allows us to save even ONE human life, thus giving that person more time to either a) hear the Gospel and receive Christ or b) having believed, share Christ with someone else, then I’m all for it.

Thank you and Happy New Year

I’d like to say a quick thanks to all who contributed to making my birthday, well, my birthday. Although I rarely talk to some of you who wished me a happy birthday on my Facebook wall, I still appreciate the 2 seconds it took you to write me a quick note. It makes me feel important, even if, in the grand scheme of things, I’m not.

Oh … and since it is now 2008, happy new year!

A couple years ago, I wrote a “shoutout” page for a bunch of my friends who I felt had been influential in my life back then. Many of those who were on that list before would also be now. But, there are also some new ones. I keep telling myself I’d like to do something similar again now, but can’t seem to find the time. So, I apologize. Just know that I don’t have to tell you you’re important for you to be important to me.

Requirements for being a supermodel

While watching Fox News channel this evening, I got to see what turned out to be a somewhat humorous interview of the actual Miss California 2008 (actual because a recount showed that the previously declared winner had not actually won). The host asked the girl whether she thought that our society emphasizes the outward appearance too much – more than what is more important, namely a person’s character. The girl seemed to think that our society doesn’t have that problem. I’m sure that’s why no women have problems with anorexia or bulimia and why no one publishes magazines that obsess over beauty and women’s physical appearance (*cough* Seventeen, Maxim, etc.).

The Bible is pretty clear that we have a tendency to judge people based on their physical appearance. Remember when Samuel anointed one of Jesse’s sons to be king? Samuel’s natural tendency was to favor Jesse’s older sons based on their appearance. But, God reminded him, “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Anyway … Miss California went on to comment that the girls’ appearance isn’t the only thing that matters for the competition. Rather, “you also have to have smarts.” I had to laugh … because in hearing her talk, I didn’t feel that she exuded the brilliance she considered fundamental to winning the competition. That problem was only compounded by the fact that, at one point, she was very clearly reading the teleprompter. However, I shouldn’t be too critical. After all, I don’t know this girl and I would probably do the same and speak with a stutter if I were being interviewed on TV. I have some time to get used to that, though, before Stan and I become famous as we take over the software world and build our MN/SCL Technologies complex in West Chicago.

What is a recursonym?

After finding out that YAML is a retronymed recursive acronym, a coworker of mine (John Cruikshank) and I decided that we needed to coin a shorter term to mean “recursive acronym.” After all, if someone can come up with words like retronym, then why can’t we make our own words, too? So, we came up with the term recursonym. A recursonym, or recursive acronym, according to Wikipedia, is “an abbreviation that refers to itself in the expression for which it stands.” Popular examples include PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) and GNU (GNU’s Not Unix). Wikipedia has a more complete list, if you need more examples to better understand how recursonyms work.

So, now that we’ve proven how cool we are by creating our own word, someone can pay us a whole lot of money.