Panning photography

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I got a new camera earlier this year, and I spent some time watching youtube tutorials on photography techniques. One technique I have been wanting to try out is panning – this is when you intentionally move the camera while you are taking a picture. You focus on a moving subject, and move the camera along with the subject. This keeps the subject in focus and gives motion blur to the background. A few weeks ago I took Spencer go-karting with a friend and his dad. All four of us did one round (I came in last place), and then the boys did another round. I enjoyed taking pictures much more than driving. This was a perfect opportunity to try out some panning shots. I think they turned out pretty good. For the very last picture I actually did not pan. I used a faster shutter speed so everything is in focus.

To save or throw away

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We are nearly done clearing out our apartment, which has been our home for almost exactly four years. Today we got rid of some boxes I had saved, for example a box from an electric kettle. I thought it might come in handy some day, but it did not. However, I also found 2 plastic mattress wrappers, which will come in handy.

Plastic mattress cover

Fedibbletys and Soule-Reeves

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This past weekend our good friends Danny and Bethany visited us, after Danny gave a talk at a nearby conference. It had been almost exactly three years since their last visit. They were our first guests in our new house, and didn’t mind the chaos of unpacked boxes scattered here and there.

Every day we had a big breakfast with fresh rolls, which is one of my favorite parts of living in Germany.

Saturday morning we contemplated renting or buying Clare an e-bike, so our first stop was to a bike store, but unfortunately they did not have any available for rent, because of the global supply-chain issues. Clare was able to try out a few e-bikes though, which was very informative. I foresee an e-bike in our near future. Instead of getting an E-assist, Clare got a D-assist (D for Danny) as we all biked / skated into downtown Würselen to get some ice cream at Peppone. Then the adults ride on into Aachen for a bit of sightseeing. We showed Danny and Bethany all of our favorite sights, including the cathedral, the city hall, and Elisenbrunnen. We had some traditional German food at the Aachener brew haus, and then headed home. Clare was wise enough to take the bus, and Danny rode her bike back the uphill route to Würselen.

On Sunday, we went to Thomas’s birthday party at their garden house, which involved the usual mix of linguists and computer scientists. A very fun group of people.

Then on Monday, I took Danny, Bethany, and Alice to Monschau. I have been wanting to visit here for four years, but never got to go because he had to work or wouldn’t fit in the car. Clare was nice enough to sit this trip out and work on cleaning out our apartment so I could get the chance. We enjoyed the glass blowing workshop, where Alice and I made our own glass bulbs. We got some famous Monschau mustard, walked around the quaint town, up to the ruins for a panoramic view of the town, and enjoyed some lunch along the Rur river. We learned that Monschau came to prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries due to its textile industry, which no longer exists. One of the wealthy merchants from this period build the “red house” which still stands today.

It was a bit sad to see that about half of the restaurants and shops were closed, due to either the pandemic and/or the flooding from last summer. Nevertheless, it is still a great little town to visit.

Tuesday morning we had one last big breakfast of rolls and treats from Penny, such as apple turnovers, then it was time to bid Danny and Bethany Adieu as they head on to Berlin. It was so great to see you! Thanks for visiting.

Tilting at windmills

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For our one full day in Rotterdam we went to the Kinderdijk museum, which has a series of 19 wind pumps built in the 18th century to pump water out of the otherwise marshy land. We got a bit of bad advice on directions there, since there is both a water taxi, and water bus, and several people told us directions to the water taxi instead of the water bus. The confusion was further compounded by conflicting information about which water bus line was running at the end of May. Eventually we figured it out though. We took the water bus, which was a quite big and comfortable boat, for about 20 minutes, then had to transfer to a smaller boat where we were crammed into an open air standing section for a 5 minute ride.

At the museum we learned a lot about how the Dutch have been fighting water for hundreds of years. 40% of the Netherlands is below sea level. I knew about the dikes to hold back the seawater, but somehow or other, I hadn’t realized that many of the “windmills” in the Netherlands are actual wind pumps. That is, they are not used to mill flour, but rather are used to pump water upstream, in a series of channels, sort of like locks, until the water can be pumped into a natural river which carries it away. These wind pumps have now been replaced with electric pumps, but they kept them around for historical reasons.

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Clare and Rob at Kinderdijk

There are two windmills you can actually go inside and see how the Miller’s family lived back in the day. One of the mills still has the gears going to pump the water, which was pretty neat to see.

Fedibbletys at Kinderdijk
Fedibbletys at Kinderdijk

Architecture in Rotterdam

Several weeks ago we went to Rotterdam for a long weekend. I chose this destination mostly just to see a concert, which was fantastic. I still have Nate Smith + Kinfolk songs running through my head. It was only a couple hours by train, but I figured we might as well stay a couple days anyways. Clare found us a fantastic place to stay on the 16th floor, with a gorgeous view of the city. Rotterdam was mostly destroyed in World War II, and they decided to rebuild it in a very modern style. I am not usually a fan on modern architecture, but I really found the architecture in Rotterdam fascinating. And of course, there were many bicyclists.

Rotterdam: Nate Smith Concert

We chose to go to Rotterdam the last weekend in May because there was a concert by one of Rob’s favorite jazz drummers. He mentioned it online and two of his colleagues met us for dinner and the concert. It was super fun to get to share a meal and music with new people.

Nate Smith concert

Last week we went to Rotterdam to see Nate Smith + Kinfolk at the Bird. Nate Smith is one of my favorite drummers, and I have been looking forward to the concert for over 6 months. It did not disappoint. The concert was awesome! I have had a bunch of the tunes going through my head ever since.

They opened with Altitude. He did a drum solo into Rambo, into I Burn For You, and then back to Rambo. 

For the encore, Nate did another drum solo, of the sort I have seen from other concerts, where he gets the audience to clap along, and then plays around with all sorts of different rhythms. Then John Cowherd did an amazing organ intro into Fly, and they ended the concert in a quiet and peaceful setting. 
My only complaint is that they didn’t play Skip Step. Maybe he has gotten tired of playing that one. Also, it was hot in the venue, which Nate also complained about. I was a little bit worried that Clare and Alice wouldn’t enjoy the frenzied jazz music, but even they seemed to enjoy it, particularly Amma Whatt’s vocals, which were amazing. One of the things I love about Nate Smith’s music is the variety – he takes you through all the emotions, ranging from whisper to roar and back multiple times.

Several colleagues from Automattic joined us for dinner and the concert, which was also really nice. On top of all of that, we really enjoyed Rotterdam. I’ll post some more pictures from our trip soon.

Happy Father’s Day

This morning I got some great presents – BBQ tools and coasters in the shape of vinyl records. The big present is going to Rotterdam to see Nate Smith and Kinfolk in concert tonight. Off we go!

BBQ and coasters for Rob

Happy Mother’s Week 2022

This past Sunday we celebrated Mother’s Day. Alice was particularly excited for it. It was a very food-filled holiday.

French toast

Alice woke up early while the rest of us were still sleeping to make Nutella French toast sandwiches, which were very tasty. She also got Clare a “world’s best mom” mug to match my “world’s best dad” mug. Although we seem to have forgotten to take photographic evidence, she also picked some beautiful wildflowers, which reminded Clare of how she celebrated Mother’s Day as a child growing up in rural Indiana.

Huevos rancheros

After our first breakfast snack, we cleaned up and then started getting ready for brunch. Clare had requested huevos rancheros, so we made that. Our friend Thomas and Ulli joined us, and brought along their tortilla press. We also had mimosas and cappuccino.

Kaffee und Kuchen

After brunch, I prepared for the next meal – pie. It is strawberry and rhubarb season. I got fresh strawberries and rhubarb from the local farm stand, and made a tasty pie. I used a bit of whole wheat flour for a change, which gives it a different look, but it was still tasty. I also used some cheap margarine instead of getting expensive Crisco from Amazon. It turned out okay. Once it came out of the oven, we headed into downtown Würselen for CityFest, which was your average little street fair, with special food vendors, beer, political parties giving info about the upcoming election, a flea market, some bouncy houses, and live music. We walked through, then ended up in the city park for awhile before we walked back to enjoy coffee, pie, and cake (chocolate banana nut cake that Thomas made) on the balcony. (Alice found some friends at CityFest and decided to stay longer)

Special dinner

One of Clare’s favorite dishes is scallops. I got some fresh ones from the fish monger on Saturday, and prepared them in a simple garlic lemon butter sauce. I forgot to pat them dry before putting them in the pan, and almost ruined them by cooking them for too long, but Clare saved the day by suggesting I just take them out, drain the liquid, and put them back in for a minute. Spencer was a great help peeling potatoes and asparagus. Clare has gotten really good at making Hollandaise sauce, so she made some.

The card that Alice made

The celebration concludes this Saturday with a visit to the Aachen theatre to view a performance of Holst’s The Planets symphony

Koblenz

German corner, as seen from the fortress Ehrenbreitstein

After a long day of travel and touring castle Eltz, we had a more relaxing day to spend in Koblenz. As usual, Clare found us an amazing place to stay. One of the things that really surprised be about Koblenz is how quiet it was. For a town of over 100,000 people I had expected it to be a little bit louder and more boisterous. I really enjoyed the calm and quiet though. We stayed in the Neuendorf neighborhood, across the Rhine from the fortress Ehrenbreitstein. There was a bakery within walking distance, so naturally I got us some fresh rolls. We had a leisurely breakfast, then set strolled along the Rhine for 20 minutes to get to the little ferry to take us across the Mosel to the German corner ( das Deutsche Eck),

German corner

Das Deutsche Eck was created by Kaiser Wilhelm II as a memorial to his father Kaiser Wilhelm I, who united Germany in 1871. The statue is the largest in the world of its kind, weighing 63 tons, and is 45 feet tall (just the bronze statue, not including the base). It was destroyed in World War Two, but a new statue was made and placed there in 1993, nearly 50 years later)

Gondola

After gawking at the gigantic statue we got in line to take the gondola across the Rhine to the Ehrenbreitstein fortress. We ended up getting a combo deal which included the gondola both ways, admission to the fortress, and a one hour boat ride for only 23€ for the adults and 13.50€ for the kids. What a deal!

Fortress Ehrenbreitstein

The fortress has been around a long time, and was considered to be the safest place for the Kurfürsten from Trier. Not only does it have really impressive massive walls, but it also boasts great views of Koblenz. After touring around for a bit we had lunch in the cafe there overlooking the Rhine.

Art Exhibit

There were many exhibits of all sorts in the fortress, including an art exhibit by Monika Kropshofer, who had these really cool pictures printed on a sort of transparent corrugated plastic, with one picture on the back part and a different one on the front, creating a 3-D sort of effect. We all found them very fascinating.

Boat tour

After lunch we took the gondola back across and the river and then enjoyed the one hour boat ride up and down the Rhine and Mosel around Koblenz. The weather was great and we sat up top, but at some point it suddenly got very windy – so windy in fact that the glasses and plates on the tables started flying away and breaking. So we enjoyed the rest of the ride from one level below.

Old town Koblenz

After the boat ride, Dave, Ellen, Alice, and Spencer went back to the fabulous vacation rental and cooked some dinner there. Clare and I toured around old town Koblenz a bit more, popping our heads in churches and shops, and enjoyed a couple beers at the beer garden by the German corner. Then we enjoyed a little picnic along the Rhine before heading back in for the night.

Departure

The next morning Dave and Ellen got an early taxi at 6 a.m. to catch a train back to Frankfurt, and a plane back to Denver. We walked about an hour to the train station to catch our train back to Aachen, which was once again delayed. We ended up catching a different train in Cologne than our original scheduled one, and got back around 12:30, which left a couple hours to relax at home before we had to take Alice to meet up with the scouts for their annual Troop games campout, which is her favorite. She brought along her trumpet to play some songs, and had a good time, though as always, came home exhausted.

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Alice ready for her scout trip