Bad karaoke in Augsburg

After Munich, I headed to Augsburg – about an hour away by train – to visit my friend Tim, a German I met the last time I was in Germany two years ago.

Augsburg is famous for the Peace of Augsburg and fashion mullets sported by the local university kids. It seems that these kids are trying to out-do eachother for who has the most insanely epileptic barber.

I am not kidding, these barbers are probably on acid, too. I’ll post pictures later, but just picture a German with some moderately shaggy hair. Now get him drunk and put him in a clothes dryer with a couple of electric razors. A few minutes later, you will get the hair I’m talking about.

Add styling gel and some random bleach streaks to complete the look.

Tim is an avid snowboarder and doesn’t identify with the fashion mullet. He and his friends taught me a few good German words to call these guys.

On my first night in Augsburg, we visited a real live authentic “Irish pub” to check out some karaoke. For some reason, the Germans really like covering these kooky Italian songs, which is fine I guess. They also seem to love John Denver’s “Country Roads”, like A LOT. You hear it everywhere.

I was surprised to hear no Hasselhoff (okay, I probably wouldn’t even recognize a Hasselhoff cut) but the most interesting song of the night was “Dancing Queen”. This song was a top runner for the Lost in Translation award of the evening; it clearly doesn’t have the same status as a gay anthem second only to “YMCA” like it does here in the states. Large, burly working-class German men happily slurred the words while heartily toasting their drinking buddies.

Odd sight.

Oktoberfest is bad for your liver

On October 4th, I started off my 1-month trip through Germany, Austria and the Balkans with a wicked hangover, jet lag and a vicious cold. Straight off the plane to Munich, I met up with my friend, Eric, to hit the last night of Oktoberfest.

We started in the massive Hofbrauhaus tent and downed two liters of sweet, delicious Bavarian beer (at €8 a pop) before meeting up with some other friends at the real Hofbrauhaus in Munich’s old city center.

And that’s where things got blurry.

From what I remember, though, Oktoberfest was a blast. Americans would probably regard Bavarians as cold, but when you get them in a beer hall, they’re anything but. It’s kind of a strange dichotomy.

When the weather finally turned sunny, I spent a few hours on Mike’s Bike Tour (€24, including bike rental). It’s a great way to see some sights in four hours, but it’s by no means comprehensive. The tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining, though the whole spiel felt a bit scripted. Nonetheless, it was a good time with a stop in a massive beer garden in the middle of the beautiful English Gardens.

Another €7 well spent was at the Deutches Museum, Germany’s testament to (mostly) its own engineering prowess. Many of the hands-on sights include Germany’s original U-boat, a complete Viking ship, numerous jets and planes, a Russian space capsule, and too many engines to count, including the first diesel. There’s even a Dutch windmill, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Yes, the Germans do love their machines.

Finally, I spent some time at the Munich Stadtmuseum (€4.50, I think), where they had a great exhibit full of hundreds of creepy puppets and marionettes. There was even a robotic gorilla that started freaking out when I walked by. Best of all, no one seemed interested in this exhibit, so I had the place all to myself, which just added to the creepiness.

I was also stoked to find a fairly extensive exhibit on the history of the Nazis in Munich, with items that included SS uniforms, propaganda of all kinds, Nazi flags and standards, and tons of old photographs. Much like Americans and slaverz, I sense that the Germans have some discomfort about discussing the Nazi era, and until seeing this exhibit, I found little public evidence of Munich’s Nazi history.

It was good to see that the exhibit was almost purely in German – definitely not pandering to English-speaking Nazi gawkers. There was even a map for purchase that highlights at least 100 significant Nazi events around the city.

Munich is by no means cheap, however. While it’s easy enough to get by on 3 euro kebabs as a tourist, living here is another financial matter completely. Rent rivals Manhattan, with a one-bedroom flat in the decent Schwabing area costing about €1300 per month.

Breaking the seal

I’ve found that once you spend a stupid amount of money on a pair of designer jeans, it’s very easy to do it again from that point on.

In the same day.

Not that I did that. Just saying.

Happy 4th

Happy Fourth of July. Here is a picture of me drinking beer with some girls. Yay.

And here’s me and Da Regulator at a Fourth of July BBQ. Can I just say the meat was off the hook?

Bad keystroke leads to $251 million stock buy

Bad keystroke leads to $251 million stock buy

“Fubon said that the trader was unfamiliar with new computer systems and will be fired.”

It’s a sad, sad day when the blame for such a massive mistake is placed on the user. Training or no, the responsibility for something that grave falls on the shoulders of the software makers. Clearly, there was a breakdown in the information design of the product.

[Note: I don’t like the idea of software “training”. First, you train bears to dance, you train lions to jump through hoops, and athletes train for competition. It implies some kind of inferiority, and it suggests a lot of boring, rote learning.

In regards to software, training is usually for a user interface that wasn’t designed very well. It’s a concept devised by a small percentage of techno-jocks who can’t understand why everyone can’t whip through the software like they can, but it’s an arrogant and insulting point of view. Well-designed, user-centric software is inherently usable and should require little – if any – training.]

Programmers are getting cheaper

ASP .NET programmers are now going for $15/hour. Sure, it’s ASP .NET, but nonetheless a disconcerting sign for those of us who make our living writing code.

Two questions pop into my mind, though. First, what kind of programmer do you get for $15? Can he think outside the box? Can he code with scalability in mind? Is he a hack, or does he adhere to good programming practice? Will it cost you more to update the code down the road than you’re saving now?

If you’re talking about American programmers, you get what you pay for, in my opinion. Foreign labor is a different story, though. They may posess all these skills and be willing to work for less.

About jobs moving abroad, I’ve heard things like, “America will still handle all the innovation; foreign labor will do all the grunt work.”

But just like in the Terminator films, the machines will become self-aware. Take factory production, for instance: America has moved factories overseas in the last few decades to exploit cheap, uneducated foreign labor.

Now, as we’ve pumped money into those foreign economies, those societies can afford to educate themselves, and we face increasing competition from enterprising nations like China. There’s no reason to expect this won’t happen with tech, either.

The second question: As a programmer, how does one maintain their competitive edge? I figure you could take one of the following paths, and I suggest taking both:


  • Learn new technologies
  • Have supplementary skills, like networking and systems administration
  • Study design and usability
  • Know how to make disparate systems talk to each other
  • Understand how business works

Become an expert in a niche:
Find an aspect of tech that you really like and get all the books you can on the subject. Learn it in theory and in practice. Publish and demonstrate what you know on a Web site.