52 States in 8 Months

East coast trip is over!

Posted in East coast trip, Newark, University stuff by Ulf on February 28, 2009

Finally, this will be the last post about our east cost trip. It only took me a month to write about a 12-days journey. Maybe I should already write my diaries during my trips and not afterwards ;-).

After we left Philadelphia, we headed down to Newark. I showed Mila and Alex how our lab looks like, and Mila immediately tried one of our experiments for disabled children: a baby wheelchair. I really wonder how she fitted into the child’s safety seat which was mounted on top of it:


EDIT: I figured out why she fitted into the child’s seat: Obviously, it was made for American children!

When we were in Newark, we also went shopping. This time my timing was quite good, so I managed to take a picture which I wanted to show you ever since I’m in Newark: They have water pipes in the veggies section and spray it ever few minutes! Have you ever seen this before? I haven’t. The computers in the shop however did not work so well:

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The next morning was a Sunday, so we had to find a church for Mila. Since Mila speaks Spanish and likes the Hispanic service, we decided to join my room mate Alvaro who took us to the church in Wilmington. The service was quite different this time. They were using all the instruments this time, including the drums. It was very much like on a rock concert (which made it hard for me to take the whole thing serious). The pastor gave his speech only in Spanish this time, but there was a translator for those who only speak English. During the Spanish phases I tried to translate the previous English sentence to German, which turned out to be really a tough job! I was already happy if I managed to find the right words, but putting them into an grammatically correct order was virtually impossible.

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After we had quick lunch, Alex and Mila left Newark again and drove to Atlanta. If have no idea what they did on that trip, so wel’ll have to look at Pingu’s blog.



Help! Where is my antiderivative?

Posted in Diploma thesis by Ulf on February 27, 2009

I guess the math is right now taking revenge on my not-listening in the Rummler class. I need to solve three indefinite integrals for my thesis, but I don’t really get any further:


If anyone has a clue how to antidifferentiate them, I would be really happy to see your ideas! I only have to get rid of the large integral sign. The primitives of f(t) itself can be considered as known:
fsThe same applies to all derivatives of f(t), so all f'(t) and f”(t) in the solution are fine.

PS: One of my bros from MD just discovered this and that. At least the first one is a “MUST WATCH”! Unfortunately though, this doesn’t really help me with those integrals.

EDIT: Christoph, a fellow student who is in Zürich right now, spent an hour on my integrals. He did not find a solution, so I guess there isn’t any. However, I tried to model my crane in a polar coordinate system, and the first results look promising. Maybe I can antidifferentiate those functions?

Here is the real historic place: Philly!!!

Posted in East coast trip by Ulf on February 27, 2009

On January 3rd we left NYC and went south again. Our destination: Philadelphia! There is also a Philadelphia in Germany, but we went to the real one. Although Philly is just about 40 miles away from Newark, I’ve never really visited this city before. I only knew the airport and the railway station of the 4th, 5th or 6th largest city of the United States (this depends on what indicator one uses). My first impression was: There are not as many skyscrapers in Philly as we’ve seen in NYC, but the Philly skyscrapers look better! Osama, if you ever hijack planes again, do not send them to Philly! I warned you!


The first tourist attraction we saw was the Philadelphia city hall. Wikipedia claims it is the world’s tallest masonry (German: gemauert) building. Does anyone find a larger one? (St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is just about 130m, so that one won’t beat the Philly city hall’s 167m). On top of the the city hall, there is a statue of William Penn.

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There is an interesting story about the Penn Statue on top of the city hall. As long as this was the highest place in Philadelphia, everything was fine. But when they built the skyscrapers (which I mentioned earlier) in the 1980s, the “Curse of William Penn” came up: No Philadelphia team won any major sports event since the early 1980s.
However, two days before I came here, on October 29th 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series. That’s baseball. So, how could they win it if there is this curse? Well, they just put a small William Penn statue on top of the Comcast Center which is the largest building in Philadelphia today ;-). Go Phillies!!!

Besides beautiful skyscrapers, Philly also has a giant clothespin:

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On our way through Philly we saw a really long queue next to a theater. Do you see the red building in picture? That’s where the queue starts. They all wanted to see the best musical ever. Instead of going there too, we went by Steven Singer, a Philadelphia jeweler. They have a funny advertising slogan, “I hate Steven Singer” :-).

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So much about current Philadelphia. I promised you some really historic places. The first one is Washington Square. Since many wounded soldiers were brought to Philadelphia in the Revolutionary War, many soldiers also died in Philadelphia. This is why they created a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a statue of George Washington:

The next statue of George Washington is not far away: Just across the road, there is the Congress Hall, the Independence Hall and the Old City Hall. Latter one was the home of the Supreme Court in its early days, while the Congress Hall was obviously used by the Representatives (lower floor) and Senators (upper floor). In Independence Hall, which you see on the next picture, they decided about the Declaration of Independence and, a few years later, about the constitution:

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The first floor of the Independence Hall had two rooms: The first one was for the Philadelphia Supreme Court (not the national one I mentioned earlier). The second one is the important one. They call it the “assembly room”. This is where the Continental Congress has held all its historic meetings. You’ll recognize the assembly room on paintings from 1776 and 1787.

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Most of what you see in these rooms are replicas. One of the few original pieces, however, is George Washington’s “Rising Sun” chair. Benjamin Franklin said:

“I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I know that it is a rising sun.”

We took a tour through this building, and our guide was great! I have to say “Thank you!” at this point. When I took this picture of her, she was just giving us some details on the declaration of independence. Congress declared independence on July 2, 1776. That was a Tuesday. The Lee resolution however did not look formal enough. So they explained their reasons in the longer declaration paper which was adopted two days later, on Thursday. Only god knows why the Americans chose July 4 as their Independence Day.

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By the way: They do also have a picture of William Penn in the Independence Hall, although Penn had very little to do with the formation of the USA since Penn died in 1718. He looks much thinner on this picture compared to the one on Wikipedia.


After leaving the Independence Hall, we went to the building where they store the Liberty Bell. The Liberty Bell is something the Americans are really proud of. It’s on every second stamp, and models of the Liberty Bell can be found everywhere in the country (the last one I saw was in front of the Union Station in DC). In its early days the Liberty Bell (or … “Old State House bell”) was used to announce the Continental Congress, and perhaps it was rung to announce the public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Who knows? After all, America’s Liberty Bell was built in England, just where they created Big Ben.

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While I tried to get a good shot of the Liberty Bell, an American family also took their picture. Well, at least they tried to, because they just could not make their son smile (on the picture below, the boy in the blue anorak). Mila and I therefore started making some jokes about him ;-).


Three things that you have to do in NYC.

Posted in East coast trip by Ulf on February 26, 2009

Every NYC visitor has to:

  1. Go shopping.
  2. Visit all five neighborhoods of New York.
  3. Walk over Brooklyn Bridge.

Well, we obviously made these up, but anyway we decided that this is what we wanted to do on January 2nd, 2009.

pea_pod2009-01-02_10-23-39-christmas-trip-5408We started at Macy’s. They have their headquarters in NYC, so we went to the “real” Macy’s. It might be the largest store of the world.

However, Mila lead us directly into the maternity fashion section. They called it “a pea in the pod”. Nice euphemism, but still this was not the right place for me ;-).

Therefore I decided to go over to the next thing on my list: Seeing all neighborhoods. We had already been in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx. We were almost done, but the largest one was still missing! So I took a subway to Queens. Although Queens is the largest neighborhood, they don’t have the largest dump of the world. That one is in Staten Island. Anyway, the subway was not going underground, so I could see Queens while driving through it! Great!

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The little notice in the window however should have prepared me for how it looked like near the final station: I ended up in another China town ;-).

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Having seen this, I decided to go to another place which I had seen during the subway ride. There was a Titan II rocket at the horizon, and a metal sphere close to it. Do you also find the Titan II on the left-hand side picture?

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When I walked there, I realized that a smaller rocket was standing next to the Titan II, which was an Atlas: I arrived at the NY Hall of Science. And right next to it was the place where they have the US Open, but I was more interested in the Unisphere in front of it (you’ll find it in the 3rd picture above).

On my way back I focused on the cars they had in Queens: One parked in the wrong place when they wanted to clean the road, another one had fancy alloys on a rear axis with tiny and ugly drum brakes, and a third one had a funny number plate :-). And there was a very space-saving parking slot. Not very convenient for the people in the back, though.

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When I returned, I arrived in lower Manhattan. Therefore I took three photos which we forgot to take a few days before: In Battery Park they have “The Sphere” which was found among the debris of the WTC. And along the way to the Wall Street, there are two animals. A large Panda bear, and a golden bull. The Panda bear is always there, but some say that the bull will disappear once the Dow Jones Index drops below 7000 points. We were lucky, the bull was still there in early January.

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When I joined Alex and Mila again, they were in an “Old Navy” shop in Soho. You can compare this one to an H&M, but the prices were ridiculously cheap: I spent about $30, and I got a pair of trousers, a pullover, one or two polo shirts and some flip-flops. I hope that this were only their post-christmas discounts. If their normal prices would be in that area, well, then I should feel sorry for the Asian children who were sewing those clothes together…


After our shopping tour, we went to an Wendy’s restaurant an got us something to eat. I still haven’t tried their tripple-burger yet, but the Baconater is also great!

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After dinner we did the last thing on our “To do” list: We walked over Brooklyn bridge. It offers an amazing view! Absolutely astonishing! I even thought that this could be a great place if I spend another New Year’s Eve in NYC :-). (Although it was already very cold when we walked over the bridge, and that was still at 7pm…)

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In the subway train which took us back to our Hostel, we learned about the global warming:

  • “Climate Change is organized by the American […], in collaboration with Abu Dhabi […].”
  • “Climate Change is proudly presented by Bank of America.”
  • “Major support has also been provided by The Rockefeller Foundation.” (the Rockefellers are the family behind the Standard Oil Corp.)


PS: Somewhere in this blog post, there is the Statue of Liberty. Do you find it?

Central Park, Harlem and the Bronx

Posted in East coast trip by Ulf on February 25, 2009


Our first discovery in 2009 was a set of American Airlines banners. Many of them said “Mila” :-). Our second discovery were a bunch of strange houses. They reflected the high land costs in Manhattan. If you think the house on the left-hand side picture is small, just look at the house on the right-hand side picture! I guess they will manage to build a house with the ground area of a straight line or a dot — which is no area at all! Once they manage to construct such a house, they won’t have to care about the land prices anymore!

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We did not really walk through NYC to see strange buildings, but instead we wanted to see Central Park. So here it is! And as I promised earlier on, there was snow in Central Park (although it was just a very thin layer). If you look at the following pictures very carefully, you’ll even find a little castle :-).

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In German, there is a saying called “Etwas auf die lange Bank schieben”. A direct translation would be “push something onto the long bench”, and it means “putting something into cold storage”, like not doing something at this time. Mila took the German saying quite literally:


There were a few more interesting things in Central Park. I did not know that John Lennon and Yoko Ono live in a place called “Dakota” right next to Central Park. Well, today, only Yoko Ono lives there because John Lennon was shot at this place.

There are even some strawberry fields near by in Central Park. The Strawberry Field from the song however, is in Liverpool. And in fact, it isn’t even a strawberry field but a children’s home.

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After we left Central Park and walked through Manhattan again, I figured out that I missed the trees. Therefore I was quite happy when I found one:


In the evening we went to the Bronx. This is how it looks:

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Okay, way to boring. We’ve been in the Bronx for 5 or 6 minutes, and we did not see a single murder (neither first nor second degree).  Therefore we tried Harlem. There they’ve at least had a “Malcom X Blvd” :-). But it was also a safe place, so we decided to go to a restaurant and get a nice dinner.

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NYC: A few words about Wolcott Hotel

Posted in East coast trip by Ulf on February 24, 2009

2009-01-01_08-21-41-christmas-trip-4663For the night from December 31st to January 1st we had a hotel instead of a hostel. This was roughly twice as expensive, but a hotel is also more comfortable than a hostel. Therefore it was no surprise that we had two TV sets, a Nintendo video game console and so on.

However, the hotel had some other surprises for us. Basically it all boils down to some very stupid plumbers.

The first impression I got when entering the room was that some gas was leaking out. No, not the smell, just the sound. It turned out that it was the venting of the heating. We’ve been in one of the hotel‘s top floors which might explain this. Okay, nothing to worry about too much (in fact,  I could sleep very well, so it can’t have been too loud after all).

The next surprise was the toilet. When we used the flush for the first time (luckily only after urinating), it turned out to be clogged. Well, we called the front desk, and they sent someone over for solving it. He came within 10 minutes and freed the sink. Not a real problem no more.

But the toilet kept causing problems: After I used it, the flush wouldn’t stop rinsing water. It turned out that one has to move the flushing knob up a little bit after having pushed it down. This is something I usually don’t do. The toilets I normally use will only require pushing the knob down. But after all, this was no big deal.

Still, the toilet kept surprising me. I think Mila was the first one to use the toilet in the next morning. Nothing special. Alex was the second one, and still everything was normal. However, when I used the toilet, I had quite a strange feeling. There was hot air coming from below! Urrgh. This is really an very abnormal feeling. So, what happened? They used hot water for the toilet flush. What the heck? But obviously: Mila still used the cold water for flushing, and when Alex’ flushed, the warm water entered the bowl. Anyway. This was a stupid waste of energy, but it did not cause any problems to us.

Afterwards, I was the first one who wanted to take a morning shower. Well, guess what happened. There was hot water coming from the cold water line. And there was hot water coming from the hot water line as well! It was much to hot for taking a shower, so I had to put some water into the tub and let it cool down (while opening the bathroom window and stirring the water). I decided to put just about 3 inches of water into the tub to make sure it could cool down quickly. Anyway, it was still very hot when I finally cleaned myself. Arghs. I did not like this! Luckily, we wanted to stay here only for this night, so Alex and Mila took their showers in the evening. Not in a hotel, but once again in a hostel.

But I must say that I really liked the breakfast in Wolcott Hotel!

EDIT: When I checked my Blog Stats today, I saw that I got quite some visitors from mail.wolcott.com. Seems like they send a link to this blog post around. It’s nice that they care about how their customers think about their hotel! I like that! Wolcott people, feel free to comment on our observations!

January 2009 car sales in Europe

Posted in Europe by Ulf on February 24, 2009

volkswagen-scirocco_2009_1600x1200_wallpaper_01The Frankfurter Rundschau published some statistics on the car sales in Europe for January 2009. You’ll find it here. These are a few of their numbers. In brackets you’ll find how this relates to January 2008:

Germany: 189,385 (-14.2%)
France: 149,372 (-7.9%)
Great Britain: 112,087 (-30.9%)
Italy: 157,418  (-32.6%)
Austria: 19,010 (-13.1%)
Poland: 26,800 (-5.3%)
Latvia: 454 (-77.5%)
Iceland:  170 (-88.1%)

If I’m right, then Latvia and Iceland are also the only European countries so far where the government had to resign due to the crisis. Seems like the car sales correlate very well with the state of an economy…

As I said, more numbers can be found here.

Questions, Answers and Quotations

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on February 23, 2009

When I watched the tagesthemen last night, I recognized a question mark at the end of a Korean sentence:


I talked to my office mates today, and it turned out that those punctuation marks are very widespread — just as arabic numbers, for example. Ji-Chul said the Koreans would use the question mark (?), the exclamation mark (!) and the normal period (.) just as we use them in English.

The Chinese do it very similarly. They only draw a circle (。) at the end of a sentence instead of the normal dot, but the comma (,) is written just as in English. Mao Ying also told me about their use of quotation marks. They would usually use the English 6699 glyphs. Only titles such as the names of books and papers would be cited with the French «…». In this respect our German 9966 seems to be more of a special case. Like the Danish »…«.

When I demonstrated the German way of writing quotation marks, Mao Ying replied that this way he could not figure out if my writing was upside down or not — as he was not familiar with my lousy German handwriting ;-).


In fact, the rotated “Hello” looks quite Hindi to me. Since the Indians mostly write in English, they have adopted most of the English punctuation. Only the full stop is different: they use a vertical line (।) in the end of a sentence. Vivek calls is “Purne Viram” while Wikipedia says  “poorna viraam”. Both spellings don’t get many hits on Google. For a Nonindian, it’s very hard to see this line in the end of a sentence (btw: Feel free to translate to quotation in the following sentence!):


Even the mathematicians share the punctuation which is common around the world: the question mark, the exclamation mark and the period (ordered by increasing commonness). ¿Seems like only the Spanish needed their own way, right?

bild5706UPDATE: When I just read another chapter of Reich-Ranitzkis “Lauter Verrisse”, I realized that he alsos uses the Guillemets (»…«) instead of normal quotation marks. And Wikipedia says about these Guillemets, that they are written as «…» in Switzerland, even in German texts. Seems like the choice of what quotation mark to use and how to use it is very arbitrary.

Newark, Ohio

Posted in Newark by Ulf on February 22, 2009

newark-ohio-longaberger-headquarters-frontRight name, wrong state. This building can be found in Newark, Ohio.

Wikipedia says it’s the headquarter of a company called “Longaberger”. It’s not hard to guess what this company produces ;-).

If you look for Newark, Ohio, on a map: It is right in between Columbus and Dresden.

WordPress is weird.

Posted in Stupidities by Ulf on February 21, 2009

This is a little ad which WordPress put on my dashboard today.