A trip to the zoo!

Last Tuesday I went to the zoo with my parents. The Tierpark in Berlin is huge, and even after visiting twice there are a few parts I’ve not seen yet. Here are some animal photos.

A Gibbon (I think).
A Gibbon (I think).

Ring tailed lemurs. This photo is a collaboration between myself and my father. He stood behind me, doing increasingly big and stupid movements to get them all to look our way at the same time.
Ring tailed lemurs. This photo is a collaboration between myself and my father. He stood behind me, doing increasingly big and stupid movements to get them all to look our way at the same time.

Love is in the air!
Love is in the air!

I could watch the baby monkeys playing all day! Here they’d (accidentally) set up a seesaw balance type thing. A monkey each end, pivoting over a log. The monkey on top is here pushing the stick off the log.
I could watch the baby monkeys playing all day! Here they'd (accidentally) set up a seesaw balance type thing. A monkey each end, pivoting over a log. The monkey on top is here pushing the stick off the log.

My parents looking into the manatee tank.
My parents looking into the manatee tank.

Manatees like lettuce.
Manatees like lettuce.

We reached the elephant enclosure in time to see their daily wash and foot check. Compared to actually washing elephants in a river, in India, it really didn’t compare.
We reached the elephant enclosure in time to see their daily wash and foot check. Compared to actually washing elephants in a river, in India, it really didn't compare.

Open wide…
Open wide...

Elephants love apples.
Elephants love apples.

Lazy leopard.
Lazy leopard.

Sunbathing vulture.
Sunbathing vulture.

Prairie dogs.
Prairie dogs.

A visitor’s dog watching the prairie dogs.
A visitor's dog watching the prairie dogs.

Tiger portrait.
Tiger portrait.

Two bears, two Burrages. I made my parents pose for this photo, as when I saw the bears in the distance I thought a shot like this would look good. I should get people to pose for natural shots more often.
Two bears, two Burrages. I made my parents pose for this photo, as when I saw the bears in the distance I thought a shot like this would look good. I should get people to pose for natural shots more often.

My dad with a pelican.
My dad with a pelican.


“This (new song for May)” – a new song for May

Edit: I think youtube converted the bitrate of the music in this video badly, and the sound suffers. Next time I’ll upload a 41,000 video instead of a 48,000 video.

In my list of 50 goals and plans for 2010 I wrote “6.1 Write an album’s-worth of new songs and record them by the end of the year” which I’m interpreting as one song per month.

On Thursday night I started writing this song, and came up with the chords and melody. I had no clue what the song would be about, so I filled in a few lines with “The chorus is the inverse of the verse” and “The middle eight at first seems unique.” Then I went to sleep, and woke up on Friday with the thought, “I’m going to write the entire song about itself.”

So I did. I named it “This”, probably the most self-referential name for anything, with the subtitle “new song for May”, which it also is, and is also a line in the song too.

I decided to record this one properly, instead of just playing it on the guitar or piano. Because it’s a song about writing a pop song, I went for a quite modern pop production, with full auto-tune and dance beats. It took about 3 hours on Friday evening, when I could have been doing something more important, but I really like the end result. Maybe I’ll actually write some real words for the song, but I doubt it.

And today I went for yet another cycle around the old airport, so thought I might as well include a 2050m bike ride video as the official music video.

Enjoy!


Hanging my own photos on the wall – part 1: indecision

I want to hang some of my photos on the walls of my dining room. There’s space for four large prints, plus two or three smaller prints. My problem is that I take loads of photos, and picking six or seven to hang on the wall is really hard.

A few months ago I decided to print out the full set of my “Best of 2009” photos, to see which images look good on paper rather than on screen. An LCD is illuminated from behind, so the pictures have a completely different quality. Dark images with small amounts of colour really pop out. When printed I discovered these ones don’t look great. Alternatively, some photos which look just okay on screen look much better when printed.

So as not to waste all the photos I’d printed, I mounted them all in the frames I’d bought for the final large prints. I liked the look, so I’ve printed out another two sets of photos after other trips this year, and today I mixed them up for a total of four photo collages.

I’m planning to decorate this room in a few months. Hopefully by then I’ll have decided which of the 150 photos I want to embiggen. If you’ve particularly liked any of the photos I’ve shared on my blog, and think it would look good on my wall, leave a comment or send an email to luke@juggler.net.


Food in Berlin

Last week my parents (Cliff and Kathy) visited me here in Berlin. They stayed for eight nights, and flew home yesterday. I got very little work done on my various projects while they were here, so the entire time became a “holiday at home”. This is, apparently, exactly what I needed.

I unapologetically used my parent’s visit to do things in Berlin that I wanted to do, but hadn’t yet got round to. That was for general touristy things, but for dining I unapologetically used them to visit establishments that I’ve been to many times before, to eat food I know they’d like.

So, this blog post is a guide to good eating in Berlin.

Tuesday (the first night) I took my parents to Hotdog World. This is on Bergman Strasse. It doesn’t sound or look like much, but it serves all-organic hotdogs and burgers to die for. I’ve eaten cheeseburgers the world over, and none beat Hotdog World.
Tuesday (the first night) I took my parents to Hotdog World. This is on Bergman Strasse. It doesn't sound or look like much, but it serves all-organic hotdogs and burgers to die for. I've eaten cheeseburgers the world over, and none beat Hotdog World.

On Tuesday (the last night my parents spent in Berlin) I left it up to them to find a place to eat. They decided to return to Hotdog World. I don’t blame them.

Wednesday (the second day) we were in Mitte, in roughly the right area, so I proposed Papa Panne Pizza on Acker Strasse. This place was a favorite of Pola and I, but due to it being far from home, and me being single now, I’ve not visited it for over a year. The pizzas are uniformly amazing, so deciding what to eat is always a long, agonizing process. We ordered two pizzas plus a tomato and garlic bread, and shared them around.
Wednesday (the second day) we were in Mitte, in roughly the right area, so I proposed Papa Panne Pizza on Acker Strasse. This place was a favorite of Pola and I, but due to it being far from home, and me being single now, I've not visited it for over a year. The pizzas are uniformly amazing, so deciding what to eat is always a long, agonizing process. We ordered two pizzas plus a tomato and garlic bread, and shared them around.

You normally need to call to book a table at Papa Panne, being a very popular pizza restaurant, but we turned up at about 5pm, way before it got busy. It felt strange being there with only two or three other table occupied.

On Thursday we cooked and ate at home. On Friday I ate at the Another Country bookshop, as I do every Friday night. My parents bought food from some stalls at the Karnaval Der Kulturen.

On Saturday we returned to the Karnival for more food. Here we are waiting for barbecued steak. Being a carnival celebrating other cultures, the selection ran to far more interesting items than sausage and steak. Kathy and Cliff told me about fish stalls, Indian food, dough balls, rice dishes, and much more.
On Saturday we returned to the Karnival for more food. Here we are waiting for barbecued steak. Being a carnival celebrating other cultures, the selection ran to far more interesting items than sausage and steak. Kathy and Cliff told me about fish stalls, Indian food, dough balls, rice dishes, and much more.

I ate crepes with bananas and Nutella. Twice. Once in the rain, once not.
I ate crepes with bananas and Nutella. Twice. Once in the rain, once not.

On Sunday, while I had other plans, I sent my parents to a Thai restaurant on Bergman Strasse. I can’t remember the exact name, but I think it’s something simple like “Thai Kitchen”. You order at the counter, and they deliver your food to your table. If you sit in the right place you can see them make your dinner from scratch.

On Monday we ate the Berlin favorite: Doner Kebab! But not just any kebab, the increasingly popular Mustafa’s Chicken and Roast Vegetable Doner Kebab!
On Monday we ate the Berlin favorite: Doner Kebab! But not just any kebab, the increasingly popular Mustafa's Chicken and Roast Vegetable Doner Kebab!

Mustafa’s is a kiosk on Mehringdamm, my home street. The first times I walked past it (it’s right next to the Ubahn) I didn’t give it a second glance. Then someone told me it served the best chicken kebab in Berlin. The rest is unhealthy history.

Now the secret is out, and the queue is always stupidly long. I often feel like eating there, but waiting for so long outweighs the tasty benefits.

The people behind us in the queue had taken the train from Steglitz to eat Mustafa’s kebab. Yeah, it’s quite popular. The queue almost reaches back to Curry 36, a stupidly popular currywurst eatery, also on Mehringdamm, currywurst being the other classic Berlin fast food alongside donna kebabs.

Nom nom nom.
Nom nom nom.

That’s it! I have other favorite food places in Berlin, but this covers the basics. Pizza alternatives: sliced pizza from Dolce Pizza, sliced pizza from Ron Telesky, great pizza and bad service at Il Casolare, good pizza with pizza-base-spinning shows close to home at Pizza Parliamento.


Foreign money

All moneys

Last night I decided to sort through and count up all the foreign currency I have at home. I travel a lot with work, and visit a lot of countries. Often the local businesses will accept dollars or euros, and sometimes pounds. Other times I’ll just use my various cards. But sometimes I’m going to spend a few days in the country, and might go on various adventures. The last thing I want to do is be stuck somewhere without enough money to do something spontaneous. More importantly, I never want to be stuck without enough money to hire a cab back to the cruise ship in an emergency.

So I often change too much money, or get too much money out of an ATM. And just as often, when returning to a country, I forget that I have that currency at home, so change more the next time I am there. Do this for three years and one collects quite a lot of cash one can’t spend at home.

I guessed I had about €700 of foreign monies. I counted it up last night, and spreadsheeted it this afternoon, and it turns out I have €891.87 in 29 different currencies, plus four kinds of coin and one note I can’t identify. I think some of it is Russian, but others have even less recognizable alphabets.

Coins

In case you are wondering, 5.10 in Slovenian money equals €0.02, 210 in Tanzanian money equals €0.12, and 160 in Icelandic money equals €1. Some of biggest chunks of money are, handily, in more useful currencies. US dollars (€117.73), UK pounds (€78.98) and New Turkish Liras (€115.58) I’ll be able to use no problem, as I plan to visit all those places by the end of the year. Israeli Shekels (€47.69) won’t be that handy though.

And I’d like to admit I’ve unknowingly broken the law in India by taking too much money out of the country (€69.37).

The single largest currency is Norwegian, after getting enough out of the bank to pay for various trips for two people at Nordkap and Svalbard last year, only to have the person I was traveling with to cover all the costs with his credit card (€366.76). I think I’ll just change that back into euros.

So, it seems I have more money than I thought. This is good, because I just spent a lot of money on my new laptop. Thankfully, now that I have my new laptop, I can’t think of a single thing I’d like to own that I don’t already own, so this money is going into the savings.

Or maybe an iPad.