## Tuesday, May 24, 2011

### Nimbers and Numb€r\$

Most readers probably know I have a degree in math and a minor in statistics.  You might think a nimber is a word invented by Dr. Seuss to rhyme with timber but I know better.  Learning about numbers has always been relatively easy for me.  It is not just learning about numbers that comes easily for me; I remember numbers too:
• I remember the first eight digits of Pi and am embarassed that I haven't memorized twice that many.
• I remember that 1729 = 1^3 + 12^3 = 9^3 + 10^3 is the smallest number that can be written as a sum of two cubes in more than one way.
• I remember that Don Mattingly hit .327 in 1987.
• I remember old street addresses and telephone numbers.
• I remember that 561 is the first Carmichael number.
I will spare the reader further details of the math party going on in my head; I think it is enough to say that I do not often forget numbers.  This makes what happened on the way to Legoland even more surprising.

I stopped to fill up gas at an Esso station located just off the freeway.  When I went inside to pay, I confidently handed the clerk my Army gas card (this allows me to buy gas at a price that is about half what the Germans pay) and quickly entered the four digit PIN code necessary to complete the transaction.  I even began with some chit chat in German.

The machine processed for a minute and then reported that the PIN code was incorrect.  Hmmm.  I must have fat-fingered it.  So I tried again.  And for a second time, the machine indicated an incorrect PIN.

Normally I buy gas at the local military base where the PIN code is not required.  So this is a number I do not use very often.  But I had used it without incident just a few weeks prior during both of our separate trips to Berlin and the Netherlands.  So really there was no excuse for getting the code wrong twice in a row.

The store was empty when I walked in but now there were two people behind me in line waiting to pay for gas.  I was not particularly worried about them because I assumed I could keep trying the PIN code until I got it correct.  And I knew I would eventually get it correct.  But then the clerk explained (in German, of course) that only three attempts were allowed.  If I got it wrong a third time, I would have to pay the German price for gas (on the order of \$7.50 per gallon).

The pressure was on.  I did not understand what had gone wrong the first two times.  So I tried again.  Still wrong.
Disgusted with myself, I pulled out my EC card and paid with that.  Of course, it too requires a four digit PIN and I got the correct PIN on the first attempt.

Having paid a heavy price for gas, I stumbled away from the register and began the walk of shame back to the car.  A few minutes after we had left the gas station, I remembered the PIN code (I had been attempting to use the code for a different card).  When I told Tina the story (before we left the gas station), she asked me how much I paid for the gas.  I told her and she hasn't mentioned it since.

When I went back to work on Monday, I told the story to one of my coworkers.  We both agreed that if one of our wives had failed to remember the PIN, this would have not have been so easily forgotten.  Thanks to Tina for being so nice about my rather expensive mistake.  I will try to be better about returning the favor.

## Saturday, May 21, 2011

### Legoland Deutschland

Last Saturday we went to Legoland Deutschland.  It is a three hour drive from our house.  I didn't want to pay to spend the night somewhere so I offered to do all of the driving (which I would have done anyway) on the condition that we did this as a long day trip instead of something that spanned two days.

The boys had a great time.
We saw buckets and buckets of Legos.
Why Oscar doesn't have a German backpack:
Both of the boys liked driving the cars.

Oscar's driving experience came with a fancier driver's license and a driving class that included a discussion about proper driver etiquette.  It also cost 5€ whereas Calvin's was free (Calvin wasn't old enough to do the driving lesson).  Of course, the instruction was all in German.  Oscar told me he understood almost everything.
Sara enjoyed getting her picture taken while we were waiting for Oscar to finish his driving class.

Driving one car wasn't enough for the boys.  They wanted to drive the jungle cars too.
Mini-Land was very impressive.  We saw lots of famous German landmarks built out of Legos.  Here is the Brandenburg Gate.
Reichstag building (German Parliament).
Allianz Arena, home of Bayern München.
Airbus A380.
Neuschwanstein.

Venice.
Shaq.
Everybody had a good time.  The children were tired so they slept most of the way home.

## Friday, May 20, 2011

### Oscar's New Bed

We bought a twin bed for Oscar from my coworker Steve.  Tina wanted to use the mattress we got from Steve as a spare for guests so we decided to buy a new one for Oscar.  The Serta mattresses at the furniture store on the local military base were more expensive than we wanted to pay so I started looking online.  I found a mattress that had some decent reviews at Wal-Mart's website and selected the option to have it shipped to me.  I was a bit surprised that this was even an available option -- I knew that Wal-Mart offered free shipping on oversized items for customers who use their Site-to-Store pickup option but I wasn't sure how they were going to send a twin mattress in the mail.

I had to wait almost two months to find out.  Finally it showed up in the mail.  Except it didn't look like a mattress at all -- it was just a gray duffel bag...
I had been expecting a bed, not a bag.  Was this really it?  Sara was very interested in the contents of the bag...
I started opening the bag.
Lo and behold -- there was a mattress inside...
Except it was rolled up and flattened.
In order to ship it, the manufacturer compressed the springs by sucking the air out of the bag and then they just rolled it up like a sleeping bag.  Breaking the seal on the bag causes the mattress to expand to its full size.
I took a video of myself opening the bag.  Listen for the hiss as air rushes in and watch as the mattress expand.
Sara liked sitting on the new bed.
Oscar likes his new bed and the new Mario Kart comforter I bought him to go with it (also from Wal-Mart).

### Oscar loses another tooth

Oscar lost the other front tooth the night before he went back to school.  So during his two week vacation, we visited Berlin and the Netherlands and he lost two wiggly teeth.

### The Netherlands (again)

During Oscar's second week of spring break, we went back to the Netherlands (you might recall that we went last year).  We stayed at the same Eurocamp trailer park as before.  The trailers are clean, cheap, have a refrigerator and oven (so we bring and cook our own food), there is free wireless Internet at the shopping center, and admission to the on-site amusement park is built in to the price of the trailer.  We had two full days in the Netherlands so we spent one day at the Keukenhof and we spent the other day at the amusement park.  Oscar complained that the Keukenhof was just "walking and looking".  He found the amusement park to be much more tolerable.

Day One: Keukenhof
The Keukenhof is the world's largest flower garden -- over seven million bulbs.  I learned during this year's visit that every bulb is lifted and replanted by hand each year.  On the day we visited, the weather was really nice -- mostly sunny, high temperature in the upper 60s, and a light breeze that lasted the whole day.  In short, it was a perfect day for walking and looking.

Really great logo design.
As we were walking in, Oscar and Calvin took a detour to play with this penny crusher machine.  I looked away for a moment and the next thing I heard was Calvin crying.  Oscar had spun the crank around when Calvin wasn't looking and it hit him (Calvin) in the forehead.  So that explains the bruise on Calvin's head in all of the photos.
Last year we waited until the end of the day to try and get a family picture and it didn't turn out as well as I had hoped.  This year we did the family photo before lunch.  I found a grassy spot in relative shade right in front of some flowers.  The great thing about this spot was the bush in the background.  I had been trying to find a place where we would not have other people in the background and this spot worked really well for that.  I put the camera on a tripod, set a ten second timer, and ran into the frame.  We tried that five or six times until we ended up with a really nice photo.  I knew we weren't going to get anything better than this so we packed up the camera and moved on for more walking and looking.
This is one of my favorite flower photos from our Keukenhof visit.
If you look closely, you will see a single gray hair on my right temple.  I suppose there will eventually be more.  Maybe even on both sides...
Keukenhof = 80 acres of this.  So beautiful...
This gardener was dead-heading some early-blooming tulips that were done for the season.
The boys liked watching people play a live chess game with large pieces.  I like this photo of the knight.  The pieces are two or three feet tall.

Day Two: Amusement Park
The boys really enjoyed the amusement park.  We were there all day...
The boys wanted me to ride the "big" roller coaster.
The boys remembered this slide from last year.  This ride was self-service -- no employee supervision.  That meant nobody was enforcing rules like "Don't go face first" and "Be sure to hold on to your bag on the way down".
Sara only went once. She did not like it.
Whatever happened to "Collect All 4"?
We all enjoyed anther trip to the Netherlands.  We still haven't been to Amsterdam; Maybe next year...