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Greetings from Vienna, #10

February 23rd, 2004

 

Old Business

Where Credit is Due
Some of the pictures from last week's issue were courtesy of the Puglieses and Mr. Michael Bergman. In fact, Michael probably shot all the pictures that had me in them, with his camera and mine, so a double thanks to Michael. This leads to an interesting thought about the perils of digital cameras. Now, back in days of analog photos, I didn't much worry about exactly when a particular photo was taken. This is doubly true once we get into exchanging photos with other people. While it was nice to get them organized by event, we were pretty happy to get pictures from the same trip together; having them down to the day and possibly hour was a bonus. Of course, we thought cameras that would print the date and time onto the photos were a huge step in that direction.

Enter the digital camera. They all have clocks. And for better or worse, they time-stamp every single photo. This is fine when you exchange pictures with your neighbors down the street, or even friends across town.[1usa] But when you get to an international gathering—say, a dance week in Europe—where you can get photos from cameras set to any number of time zones, life gets a bit tricky for the obsessive photo archivist. Ok, I admit it, I don't really need to get photo time-stamps down to the microsecond, but here is my dilemma: I have been assembling slide shows on my laptop from dance events which I've attended. As many of you who've been at a dance week with me in 2003 have seen, the true power of digital technology is not that it make me take better pictures,[2] but that I am able to assemble the pictures I've taken, plus whichever (also digital) ones contributed by others, and with minimal editing (removing the completely out of focused, rotating, adjusting brightness and contrast), present them as a slideshow, with music, often within an hour of the end of the event.

Now this is all well and good (and if I can just convince a digital camera company that I can be their "evangelist" and try to sell this vision, I could have a second career), but it means that we have to synchronize our digital watches. Otherwise, what is an almost assembly line process grounds to a halt if I have to manually arrange these photos (which easily run into the hundreds per event). And if I choose to abandon chronology, then I actively step into the realm of Art. While I'm happy to let the Muse inspire me when I make my choices behind the lens, organizing pictures by some Theme or Motif interrupts what I consider to be a process akin to reportage. But really, it just takes too darn long. And the funny thing is, people notice if the pictures are out of sequence. Granted, most of what I have done have been of, and for, dancers, who should know which figure goes before which, and might even remember the set lists from a Ball. But even non-dancers, looking at pictures from non-dance events, will notice mistakes in chronology.

So I have a clever plan. At whatever event I attend next, where there is profusion of digital cameras and a high likelihood of picture exchange, I will propose the following: that we all take a picture of the same scene, at the same time. Ideally, it would be a sign with the word "synchronize" on it, but I'm not picky. In the case that such a moment is impractical or impossible to arrange, then the backup plan is to make sure that some smaller sub-groups of cameras perform this task, and that these sub-groups should overlap such that there are no "island" cameras or groups of cameras.[3] This way, we can establish relative time offsets and then be able to work out the actual chronology of pictures.

Now what this have to do with giving picture credit to the Puglieses and Michael Bergman? I hear you ask. Well, it just so happens that I started to organize all the pictures I had from the dance week, and I noticed that pictures of mine that were taken at nearly the same time as those from the other cameras were arranged about two hours ahead of the others. This made sense since their cameras were all on Eastern Standard Time and mine were on Pacific Daylight Time.[4] However, there were still some sequencing errors between Michael's pictures and mine after this adjustment. Luckily, we both were taking pictures instead of dancing during the mazurka quadrille at the Tea Dance on Friday. Even better, we took pictures of different sets doing the same figure. After working out the time difference between when the head couples do this figure (when Michael took his pictures) and when the side couples do it (when I took mine), I had to subtract another eight minutes and twenty-four seconds to get our pictures in sync, more or less. I'll probably work out some sort of script to automatically do this, but doing it by hand was pretty boring (except that doing base 60, base 60, base 24 math at the same time required all of my attention).

On second thought, I have another, cleverer plan. All digital cameras should have clocks that receive those radio time signals, so at most we would only have to make time zone adjustments. Unless we share photos with someone from Saudi Arabia, who is somehow managing to set his camera to Saudi solar time. Hmmm, where is that roll of film I saw lying around the other day....

A Broken Link is Worth A Thousand Emails
Actually, this is not about broken links, per se. Quite a few of you have sent me notes saying that you were having trouble seeing my pictures. I have double checked them, and the links are correct. However, some of you have tried to be clever by typing in partial links like: "http://www.meteorplum.com/", and getting blank pages. This is exactly what I had intended, which is why I have been sending out very specific links, either directly to images or to pages of thumbnails, which are not named "index.html". I have not yet figured out how to get my hosting service to automatically prevent visitors to my site from seeing a list of files and folders if they just type in a directory name. Until then, my directories all have empty files named "index.html" in them. So, please use the links I provide and don't wander off the path. If you are still having trouble, (AOL users, I would like to hear from more of you on this) please let me know.

 

Greetings from Vienna
Part the Tenth, on the Eve

Render onto Caesar
Getting married is not necessarily a straightforward business in the States. Some states require blood tests. Some require proof of residency for the last six months. Nevada, specifically Las Vegas, is famous for having no such requirements, either for marriage or divorce, but this imposes a travel requirement. Be that as it may, there is relatively little paperwork that has to be done. Religious leaders are empowered to act for the State when they perform weddings. In California, one can even apply for a special, one-day right to officiate at weddings, being legally empowered to marry people (presumably specific people) on that day. And there is even a thriving "business" run by "The Church of Universal Life" (I think this is the name), where in return for a modest donation of $10-$15, anyone can become an official minister in that church, which accords the recipient with the right (in every state in the US, I believe) to legally marry people.

Going into it, I knew that Austrian rules would be a bit more complicated. What we didn't realize was how complicated it would be. Firstly, we had to make an appointment get a wedding date. Wait. Rewind. Firstly, we'd thought that we might get married on Valentine's Day in Wiener Neustadt, Karin's home town. All of Karin's family lived near by, which made the location attractive, and we thought that Valentine's would be nice. The downside was that it would conflict with the birthday and (much delayed) wedding celebrations of my friends Syd & Jade Polk, back in San Francisco. (Jade & Syd had sent us an invitation, which we had considered sending back with their information crossed out and ours filled in instead.) Plan B, such as it was, would move the wedding date back to February 7th, which would mean that we could've gotten our friends from the dance week to attend. And of course, we would have the Ball that evening as our "wedding ball". We figured that in the case of Valentine's Day being so popular as to be fully booked, then the vintage Ball would be reasonable consolation. And though Austria is officially a Catholic country, there is a mandatory civil ceremony for all marriages, performed by the Austrian equivalents of the Justice of the Peace. Whether one chooses to precede and/or follow that up with a religious and/or cultural ceremony is entirely at ones own discretion. The state needs to marry you because it is a civil matter. So we had to talk to the state first.

We got the ball rolling[5eng] by having Karin go to the Wiener Neustadt city hall. This first foray into Austrian officialdom was useful in that Karin got a list of the paperwork which we both needed, including the requirement for a copy of the page out of the Wiener Neustadt birth registry where Karin's birth information was entered (in addition to her birth certificate and passport[6]. It was less helpful in that they directed Karin to the "Standesamt" ("registry office") of the 10th District in Vienna, because all her paperwork has to start at the Standesamt of her residence. It was her understanding that once we got everything squared away in the 10th District, then they would forward all the relevant information back to Wiener Neustadt, where we could then return to request a date. This was all happening just after the end of the Christmas/Epiphany holidays, so time was not on our side. Luckily, Karin's paperwork is all organized together (being, after all, Austrian and having gone through things like this before). On the other hand, which of my documents would be satisfactory remained a mystery until we went to our first appointment in the 10th District.

This first visit was illuminating for us both. For Karin, it was revealed that she actually needed yet another piece of paperwork. The papers she received after her divorce was finalized were missing stamps from the office which had originally sent them. And of course, this would have to be done in those offices (of the 22nd District, where she had lived with her husband). Sigh. For me, we finally got clear explanations of which American documents might correspond with which Austrian requirements: passport; original birth certificate, in German or with an official German translation; proof of my current address; and an affidavit (also in German) that I am eligible to marry.

Passport: no problem; can't leave Home without it. Proof of my current address: I had brought a copy of my mortgage statement as I'd needed to contact Chase about my automatic payment schedule. We had to explain to the nice men (two appointments in the 10th District, two different people dealing with our case) that unlike Austria (or Germany, for that matter), most Americans don't have to register with the police/city officials when they move. We have to tell the people who manage our driving licenses, and we should let the Post Office know. People to whom we owe money—credit card companies, mortgage companies, the IRS[7usa], the state tax authorities, the college we attended—tend to have little problem in finding us again. in any case, my mortgage statement is about as good a document as I have for proving that my official residence is in Redwood City, California.[8][9]

Original birth certificate was a bit more problematic. After my mother passed away, we went through her paperwork in the house and I found my English birth certificate. Apparently, she requested English versions of mine and my brother's from the National Taiwan University Hospital as part of our emigration process. Being clever (and paranoid), I made copies of various documents specific to me, and it was this copy that I had brought to Austria.[10] After some discussion with the (first) man at the Standesamt, we agreed that the original, English version is acceptable, provided I get it "officially" translated by local firms specializing in these things. This prompted a call to Houston, and a trip to FedEx by my brother, Eugene.

Last, but not least, I had to show proof that I am eligible to marry. That is to say, that I am either unmarried, formerly married and now properly divorced, or married and am now a widower. (Probably a merry widower???? People say those persons have a lot of money - good for me!! gg - KN) (Probably I should start thinking about the music for this new operetta. -KN) Ahem. To get this, I had to go to the US Consulate in the 1st District, where they are prepared to provide all sorts of affidavits for the enterprising ex-patriot, temporary or otherwise. It was here that the consulate official who was notarizing my affidavit asked if I wouldn't rather "go to Vegas instead?" I demurred, and duly signed my sworn statement.

So now, back to the Standesamt with all documents in hand. By this time, Karin and I had come to the conclusion that if we were to aim for the 14th, or even the 7th, that we couldn't afford the time it might take for the 10th District to forward the paperwork to Wiener Neustadt. So, we decided that we would get married in Vienna instead, at the 10th District Standesamt. As it turns out, there was only one, slight catch. By this time, we were at our second appointment, and it appeared that we were now dealing with the head of the office, or at least that part which is in charge of weddings. (We suspected this as he was consulted several times during our appointment, both in person and by phone.) Anyway, now we found out, after being told that our paperwork was in order, that the 10th District did not perform weddings on Saturdays (which was the case for both the 14th and the 7th). In fact, most Standesamts in Vienna did not perform weddings on Saturdays, because, at it was explained to us: Saturdays are very popular days for weddings, and everyone wants to schedule their civil ceremony early on Saturday so they can have their church wedding (or whatever) in the afternoon. So with few exceptions (we were not told where those exceptions might be, but we could be sure that the 10th was not among them), one cannot schedule a Saturday civil marriage in Vienna. Sigh.

Well, we were already prepared for the idea of having the wedding in Vienna, so we asked for the next available date. Wednesday, February 25th, 2:00 pm. It was a good day for both of us. Rather, my calendar was free, even with German classes, as they are in the mornings. For Karin, her regular recorder lesson was fortuitously cancelled that day as her teacher would be on tour that week. We accepted the date, being very happy that it was finally set, and now we can start organizing the rest of the arrangements. It did not occur to us that it being Ash Wednesday might give anyone pause.

So that's the story of how we arrived at February 25th. The whys and wherefores I shall save for the next issue, and wedding pictures, of course!

German As She Is Spoke[11]
At least one of you has asked whether I've misspelled when I end my newsletters with "Tschüs", and whether it shouldn't be "Tschüß". I put the question to Karin, who elucidated me with the following lexical rules for (Austrian)German:

1. The "ß" ("s_zet" or "scharfes s") makes the preceding vowel "long". E.g. "Straße" sounds like the English "shtrah-seh".

2. The "ss" makes the preceding vowel "short". E.g. "Gasse" would sound like the English "ga-seh".

3. Words cannot end with an "ss", which must be converted to "ß". E.g. "Schloss" is incorrect, and should be spelled "Schloß", but pronounced as the English "shloss" (short "a" see rule #2).

3a. However, in the spirit of spelling reform, rule #3 has been rescinded, and there has been a general conversion of "ß" to "ss". So under the new system, "Schloss" is a correct alternate spelling of "Schloß".

So, this means that "Tschüss" is a correct spelling for pronouncing it the German way, with a long "ü". However, Austrians pronounce it with a short "ü", and so they spell it "Tschüß". "Tschüss" is either an incorrect German spelling, or a correct, new Austrian spelling. Got it?

 

So, until next time, when I shall be addressing you as a newly married man.

 

Bis Bald.
Tschüs

 

 

[1] Unless you live in that wacky bit of Indiana that doesn't change it's clocks, so it's on Eastern Time for half the year and Central Daylight Time the other half. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Back to the newsletter. Go. Shoo.

[2] I would like to think that I'm working like those professionals we see taking hundreds of nearly identical photos and then picking out the best one. What was economically prohibitive for the amateur is now eminently do-able with digital technology.

[3] I'm sure that more than one of you out there knows the correct mathematical/topological term for what I want. First one to send the correct answer gets Austrian (or American) candy of your choice, or another local food of your choice, provided that I can ship it or bring it on the plane with me.

[4] What can I say? I don't buy cameras in winter.

[5] English expression for "getting things started." I suppose that it must come from a sport like bowling.

[6] This puzzled us greatly, an Karin more than me. As she relates it, the birth certificate has exactly the information as what is in the birth registry, and Austrians need their birth certificates in order to get passports. So this is a case of her having to bring the proof of the proof of the proof that she is who she claims to be, i.e. the registry validates the birth certificate, which validates the passport, which validates Karin.

[7] Internal Revenue Service. Sometimes known as the "Infernal" Revenue Service, or just plain "Revenuoors". This the US agency responsible for collecting federal income taxes, as well as explain why tax forms meant to be understood at the 8th grade (approx. 13 yr old) level nevertheless require people with advanced degrees in accounting to correctly fill out.

[8] My driver's license has my old address on it, and the state of California does not replace licenses just because you've moved. I have a handwritten sticker on the back with my new address. My passport has a space for both my "home" address and my overseas address. But they recommend that you use a pencil for both, since with a ten year expiration, the passport could easily last through several residences. My first passport lasted through seven major moves. I guess I could've brought my voter's registration card (if I could've found it), but that would've been real planning, which I wasn't doing. See note #10.

[9] I also technically don't reside in "Redwood City", at least according to the post office. For those of you who did not receive my email about this, a small digression: My house is outside the city limits of Redwood City. It is, officially, "unincorporated Redwood City/San Mateo County". However, all the documents about the house, including the deed and the mortgage, lists it as being in Redwood City. My zip code (that's postal code for you non-Americans) covers portions of Redwood City, portions of the neighboring city of Woodside, as well as the "no man's land" in between. To complicate matters further is a small, artificial pond nearby called (rather grandiosely) "Emerald Lake", and my neighbors, especially the ones who live on the "lake" uses "Emerald Hills" as their "city". When we (my former fiancée and I) first moved to the house, we were told by the post office that we could choose to be "Redwood City", "Emerald Hills", or "Woodside". While we thought that "Emerald Hills" sounded the prettiest, mundane considerations about having our "official" address match the mortgage address won out and we ended up with "Redwood City", which is not bad, in and of itself. (Woodside, for people who live in or know the San Francisco Bay Area, conjures up visions of an exclusive community, with multi-million dollar homes set in horse country. My house, though well situated, is far from being a typical Woodside mansion.)

Some time in the early part of 2003 (I believe), the post office decided (or perhaps bowed to popular pressure) that everyone in the "no man's land" will have the same "city" name, that is to say, we would all, henceforth, be "Emerald Hills". I found out when all of my junk mail changed their labels. However, since I have not done anything to change the deed on the house, the mortgage company continues to send my statements to "Redwood City", which the post office happily (and correctly) delivers to the house. This is because they use the full, 9-digit "zip+4", which not only specifies your local post office (with the first five digits), but is actually suppose to identify your building. That is to say, with a name and "zip+4", any mail for the States would be delivered to the right person. Anyway, that is how it is that the post office thinks I live in "Emerald Hills", and the mortgage companies thinks that they are co-owners of a house in "Redwood City". Don't tell anyone in Austrian government.

[10] It is certainly recommended in many guide books that travelers should bring copies of important documents, especially relating to proof of identity, and that they should also make copies of passports, driver's licenses even credit cards; one set to keep at home and one set to bring, but not kept in the same place as the original. But I would be lying if I said that I had no ulterior motives for bringing a copy of my birth certificate. Let's just say that I was being prepared. (In case something very unexpected happens???? Or did somebody plan very carefully??? If you, dear reader, know more than me, please contact me! I would be very happy to talk to my dearest Paul about this kind of topic! - KN)

[11] This is the title of a 19th century Brazilian book on English for Portuguese speakers. It turns out that the author didn't actually speak English. Rather, he very resourcefully combined the powers of an English/French dictionary with a French/Portuguese dictionary, and published an English primer, containing useful phrases as well as proverbs and sayings. An excerpt was re-published in the US in the 1880's, with a hilarious forward by Mark Twain. Unfortunately, my copy is in the States. I'll try to find quotes from it online and share it in a future newsletter.

 

 

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