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Slightly Apologetic in Salzburg

3 Sep

I’m from North Dakota, a land populated by Lutherans.  If you don’t know any Lutherans (they aren’t very vocal about it, typically) let me describe them.  They are kind people but they frequently beat themselves up for not being kinder.  If someone gives a Lutheran a compliment on their shirt such as “I like your shirt, that’s a great color on you” they are likely to get an earful.  “This?  Oh, this is old.  And I think it makes me look kind of washed out.  I shouldn’t even be wearing it because it’s too warm out today but it was clean.  It’s not as nice as the shirt you’re wearing.”  After saying something of this sort they will find a way to compliment you a couple of times or leave the room in abject horror.

Typical Salzburger fare - not sure what it is, not sure I care. Let's eat!

Lutherans are also embarassed of their food.  They don’t want it to be too flashy so they typically cover it in some kind of Cream of Something soup.  The Holy Trinity to a Lutheran is Campbell’s Cream of Something, Cool Whip and Miracle Whip.  Let not a potluck be had without them.  I am glad of this.  When Lutherans have a potluck they delight in dishing out whatever is there and knowing that it will taste like what they had at the last gathering.  You know, except for that new fangled ramen salad that just showed up.  What was she thinking?

I joke but I love these people, which is good, because I am one.  I like to tell people that a North Dakotan Girl Scout’s cookie sales pitch is something like “You wouldn’t want to buy cookies, would you?”  Kind of assuming failure and wishing that this moment in the spotlight was over already.  Heck, I bought more than half of the band candy I “sold” and gave it to friends to spare myself this shame.  (Random aside, I just realized my band teacher’s name was Mr. Salzburg.  My life is not unlike a poorly written episode of the new Twilight Zone that no one watched.)

Durrrrr…  maybe I should get to the point about the Austrians here?  Well, I was reading a site today about Salzburg written by real live Austrians.  The Off the Beaten Path section appealed to me and I started to feel at home when I read phrases such as: “If you are in Salzburg as a tourist, you probably won’t be interested in any of the city’s sports facilities” or “Alas, since it is still in Salzburg, it effectively became a nice, but rather tame mix of a theater and bar”. 

I’ll be darned if their lukewarm enthusiasm hasn’t won me over.  I even read that Austrians are really uncomfortable with compliments.  They either are somewhat suspicious or embarassed.  These are my people.  I can’t wait to try their hotdish!

Oh and please read the wonderfully titled post they wrote called “Crappy 10: Things Not to Do in Salzburg“.  My favorite quote “Don’t wear Canada flags on all parts of your body if you are American.  It is ridiculous and doesn’t work.  Don’t worry: we know that not everyone of you guys voted for George W., and since Austria doesn’t have any oil, we can still love you without fear, no matter if you are Texan or Ontarian.”


My Keyboard Speaks French

27 Jun

When writing these posts I quite often run into a scenario where a letter needs to be accented or inflected or look funny.  Sometimes I’d just hunt it down in Microsoft Word by adding a Symbol.  Other times I’d track the bugger down on the internets.  Both ways felt slow and a bit like cheating.  I felt like there had to be a better way to get my “e” all fancified.  And, of course, there is.

çookie, çookie, çookie starts with ç!

Frequent reader and current co-worker, Lori, pointed this one out to me after her recent visit to the UK.  She’d been working there and her British counterparts explained that all she needed was an [Alt] key, a character map and a little patience.  You hear that, Axl?  Anyway, should you be the kind of geek I am/we are, you might like this info. 


  1. Go to > Start > Run
  2. In Open: field type “charmap”
  3. Click OK
  4. You’ll get something that looks like my screen shot on the right
  5. Pick out a character you like, click ç, for example
  6. The Keystroke info will appear in the bottom left
  7. For ç, hold down your [Alt] key then type “0231”
  8. Let go of the [Alt] key and voilá!, your keyboard speaks French… or Italian or German, etc.

In the tech industry, the main European languages are often referred to as EFIGS or English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.  Now what if you speak Romanian or Dutch?  Those characters exist, of course, but they don’t play nice with the [Alt] key.  These letters weren’t originally included in the unicode alphabet, which is the standard for coding text for HTML among other systems for writing.  Unicode has included these letters for awhile but most operating systems fail to play nice with them and there is still limited support for these characters.  So never fear, there is increasing support for Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Scandinavian and Cyrillic alphabets, it’s just not standard yet. 

Some characters you might fancy:

  •    –   [Alt] + 0128   –   Euro Symbol (the number behind this should be multiplied by 5,000 to get the current exchange rate in dollars or $)
  • §   –   [Alt] + 0167   –   Section Sign (used in notations/footers but basically I just think it looks cool)
  • ß   –   [Alt] + 0223   –   Double S (Germans use this in place of “ss” as in “Grüße Gott” which translates into “God’s greeting” and is pronounced as “groose goot”.  The Austrians use this as a greeting because they’re Austrian and that’s how they roll, playa.)

High on a Hill

11 Apr

What will this castle (day) be like, I wonder?

Back when I was a kid there were three big movie events of the year.  Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music.  They were all on TV but once a year.  As an adult I’ve purchased the other two on DVD but I could never bring myself to buy The Sound of Music.  Because then I could watch it any time and that would make it less special.  Fuzzy logic aside, I am still proud to admit that I like this movie.  Give me a t-shirt and I will wear that sucker out.

During our trip we will be visiting the historic city of Salzburg.  You may have seen Salzburg in the recent Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz flick, Knight and Day (which I also admit to liking but would not want a t-shirt, thanks anyway).  But it’s the Sound of Music that I see in the back of mind when I think of Salzburg.  Now, most Austrians don’t understand the big deal.  In fact, I’m not sure that the Mister or you, dear reader, understand the big deal.  What magical power does Julie Andrews hold over me?  I’m not sure.  I think has to be that scene where the nuns mess with the Nazi’s jeep.  That must be the answer.

I read that there are a few bus tours available to those of us who like the movie (without or without a t-shirt).  I’m usually allergic to anything that requires me to look like more of a tourist than I already am.  Jumping into a big bus doesn’t really go well with inconspicuous travel.  But I cannot help it.  Let’s just say that these Sound of Music tours pack a bunch of Salzburg into a tiny bundle while also giving me the Von Trapp family details I’m itching for.  Especially with Bob’s Special Tours.  Their name is so boring that I can’t help but remember it.  Their tour bus has only eight seats and they’ll pick you up at your hotel for the morning tours.  Delightful.

Now I’m not sure how much we’ll learn about the real Von Trapp family on this tour so I think it will be wise to study up.  What I know thus far was that Maria and Captain Von Trapp look nothing like their Hollywood counterparts.  Which is probably fair.  I don’t know if the world can handle that much Christopher Plummer.  Me likee.  I also know that Maria was raised by atheists.  She only found the Lord when her love of music brought her to what she thought was a Beethoven concert and it turned out to be a powerful sermon.  She was hooked.  She joined the convent as a novice and when it proved too physically taxing she was farmed out to care for one for one of the Von Trapp kids who was ill.

However, this was all back before WWII.  Like, late 1920s before the war.  I know that the Von Trapp family was asked to sing at Hitler’s birthday and this let them know that the time to do something was now.  After Austria united with Germany (referred to as the Anschluss) they took to the hills, where we can assume, the music was live.  They pretended to be on a hike, though Maria was pregnant, and then entered Italy.  They’d migrate to the United States from there and would spend the rest of their lives singing for their supper.

Pretty interesting, huh?  Worth sitting in a bus with strangers for a few hours?  I think so.  If not there is hope of a few runs on the summer luge course.  But that’s another post.