Thursday, November 27, 2008

Convert Your Pictures to Text at

I have another random post, but I feel that this website I have found deserves some credibiiity. Today I have come across the website called It is a very simple concept, but very fun to use. Basically all you have to do is upload your picture to their website, and choose which text format you want to use; HTML, ASCII, or Matrix. HTML can produce color images by changing the color of the text, ASCII can create very simple text images, and Matrix creates very fun pictures that look very much like the Matrix film. After converting your image, you have what looks like your image, except it is all text. You can copy and paste it and put it in an email, a word document, whatever you want. I used it today to write a Happy Thanksgiving email by converting an image of a turkey into text.
This also saves the hassle of large picture files in an email if it is something simple like just a cartoon turkey! even allows you to choose what characters you want to use- for example I could use my favorite song lyrics to make up a picture, or if it is a picture of a Turkey I can use the letters found in the word "turkey". As an example, I have a picture of me swimming. I used blue text and converted into ASCII format. Have fun with it, and go check it out at!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Whale Wars: Sea Shepherd Fights For Our Oceans

Writing about a television show or something else in the entertainment realm, is not something that I have ever done before. However, when I watched this show yesterday, I was really excited by the pilot episode and I am really excited to watch more of it as it airs on television. The show airs in the United States on Animal Planet, and until this coming Tuesday, it is currently a free download in the iTunes US Store. The show is called Whale Riders and is a documentary type show that follows the organization the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on their boat, the Steve Irwin, in the Antarctic Ocean fighting to stop Japanese commercial whaling.

Under international law a certain amount of Whales are allowed to be killed every year to be used in research purposes, but it is the belief that Japanese whaling ships are in the Antarctic hunting whales for commercial gain and hiding behind the veil of research. In Japan, whale meat is legally allowed to be sold in markets, and in restaurants, and does appear there. The fleet of Japanese ships in the Antarctic including a hunting ship, a processing ship, and more, are killing more than a thousand whales each year, an already endangered species.

The ship's captain, Cpt. Paul Watson, was an original founder of the organization Greenpeace. He was voted out of the organization because of his aggressive tactics towards saving the environment. He then founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where he could make his own rules to try and save sea wildlife in danger from hunters, poachers, and extinction.
You don't beg criminals to stop doing what they are doing. You intervene, and you physically, and aggressively shut them down.
-Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Cpt. Watson and his crew consider themselves modern day pirates aboard their black ship called the Steve Irwin. The team's mission is to sabotage, postpone, and stop commercial whaling every year in the Antarctic. They do so by throwing "stink bombs" on board the Japanese ships that make it unlivable, and the whale meat unusable, and even attempt to board the other ships. Each crew member pledges to be willing to give up their own life to save a whale"s life.

The show provides some breathtaking scenery, and an insight to a small war that is going on that could have big consequences. They are volunteers fighting a battle that goes unnoticed, and they work to show people what is going on. I highly recommend taking a look at the pilot episode, as it is very exciting and even controversial. Get it free on iTunes, or watch it on Animal Planet. You can also visit the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society website for more information on the show, and on the organization.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Kölle Alaaf!" Karneval Has Begun!!!

"What is Karneval?"
Cologne is a very peculiar city, with a rich history, and a rich sense of tradition. One tradition that the city harnesses is what is known here as the "fifth season" or Karneval season. I was lucky enough to be here, yesterday, on the 11th of November which marks the beginning of Karneval at 11:11am every year. The season takes a break during Lent and Christmas, and continues until Ash Wednesday in a large week-long celebration. November 11th is the first taste of what Karneval is all about, and sadly for me, at least for this year, is the only taste of Karneval I will get since I will be leaving in December.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the celebration, but I knew that it was a big deal. Even as I rode my bike to work I saw people on the streets drinking beer, blowing whistles, and wearing costumes ranging from cowboys, to tigers, and traditional Kölsch garb. When I arrived at work, anticipation was high for those of us that decided to take a half day in order to celebrate the festival.

"Mom, I swear, it's just culture!"
Since the official festival began at 11:11am, I was still in the office, and worked up until 12:00 where I then proceeded into the break room. There, several of my colleagues and bosses were wearing their costumes, drinking Kölsch (Cologne's Beer), and eating a large breakfast.
Directions got a little bit mixed up on our way out, and I lost our group for a little bit before calling someone to meet up shortly after, however while I was lost, I was caught in huge amounts of people gathered in the old part of the city (city center), singing, drinking, and dancing all in costume. A girl dressed up as a nurse came up to me and was trying to check my heartbeat, and tried to give me her phone number when a camera crew for a big TV station here came up to me asking why we were exchanging numbers and such, which only added to the chaos that was around me. I am sure that my German was hardly understandable as I was dealing with the shock of a tv crew in my face while getting my heartbeat checked by a nurse (no, she wasn't a real nurse!).
Anyways, I finally met up with my group in the south part of the city, and we were in a traditional Cologne bar that was packed full of celebrators. We were there for hours dancing to the typical Köln Karneval music, drinking Kölsch, and having a good time. At 6:00pm we left and grabbed some Turkisch food, and I headed back to my apartment and fell asleep not to wake up again for hours. I swear, Mother, it is all part of the culture! It wasn't just young people celebrating Karneval, it was all ages, young to old, men and women, celebrating a tradition hundreds of years old.

Karneval was a great experience, and I had a great time out with all of my colleagues. Even though I won't be here in Cologne for the end of the celebration in February, hopefully it will not be my last time here to celebrate Karneval.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obamamania in Deutschland!

Credit: United States Senate
Copyright: Public Domain

Ok, so we aren't slaughtering our best bulls for Obama like they are in Kenya, but there was a feeling of relief here in Germany today. Anyone who has been paying attention to the election knows that Obama was very much favored by the world population, and that is very much true here in germany. Polls conducted in Germany stated that over 80 percent of Germans would have voted for Senator Barack Obama if they were able to. Everyone I speak to is a supporter of Obama here, except for one friend who said (before the election) "I hope that McCain wins, because Heidi Klum said she would go back to Germany if he does!"

I stayed up a lot of the night watching the election, and even here there has been a lot of talk building up about it the past few weeks. It was obvious to me that this election meant a lot more to a lot more people than the election did four years ago. Germans, who feel very betrayed by Bush's actions, especially in Iraq, are ready for change, just as the world seems to see this change in Obama.

I went into work this morning wearing my red white and blue, and throughout the day many people congratulated me as if I had won personally myself. My coworkers helped me by being witnesses on my absentee ballot, so they knew that I was closely following the election. I think that many people here want to have a positive picture of America again, and Obama, and the odds that were against him, are a beacon of hope to the world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get My Photo in Cosmo!!!

OK, so I posted a few days ago about it, but I took some photos for my roommate and her friends for a contest about the TV show Sex and the City for a TV station here in Germany. One of the photos that I took landed a top 15 spot in the contest. I am not a sex and the city watcher, nor do I read cosmo, but I am still pretty excited!

Please vote for our photo!!!!

The winning photograph gets 4000 euros for shopping and an article published in Cosmopolitan Magazine in Germany. The girls get the shopping, and I get a sweatshirt and my photo published.

The site is in German but directions are easy!!!!!!

1. Follow the link (opens in a new window):

2. Click on the button for picture #4. The text says "Bild Nr. 4" If you click on "Lupe" the image will zoom in.

3. Once the button has been selected, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "absenden".

That's it!!!! Voting will go through the month of November!

Thank you, and it would be great if you have a friend who can do the same!!!!

Germany: Land of Open Windows and Closed Doors

Every once in a while, it is good to post about some cultural differences. As an American living in Germany, there are lots of things that I notice that are different. Some things I didn't notice at first, and other things were more apparent when I first arrived, however one thing that I have learned during my time here is the way that Germans use windows and doors.

It doesn't seem like it would be that big of a deal really. I mean, what could be so different? People go in and out through doors, and windows let the light in. Well, the differences between Europeans and Americans when it comes to windows and doors is HUGE.

First, windows. In the US, we have windows, and lots of them. There is no difference there. We also have screens on virtually every window. If there is no screen, it probably doesn't get open. We have got to keep the bugs out, and the screen is the only way to do that. We also don't really open windows much. We open them if we need to let the carpet dry out, or to get the fish smell out of the kitchen. If we want to be outside, we will just go outside. Now, in Germany, and from what I have seen also in other places in Europe, it is quite the opposite. Fresh air is highly valued, and the fresh air is not indoors. As the weather is getting colder outside, I thought I would start to see windows closing. i was wrong. As I sit at my desk at work, someone will get up, open the large window in the middle of the room, and sit back down as the what-was-once-toasty temperature drops about 20 degrees. After about five minutes, when everyone is cold, the window will get shut again. As soon as things start to feel nice again, and I am all warmed up . . . "Hey, can you open the window?" "What? Why? Why would you want to open the window?" Well, it is just culture. There is a value of fresh air. And if anyone from work is reading this, don't worry, I have found it to be a good thing, just very different.

Now, for doors. It is just simply amazing how many doors there are in Germany. Every room has a door. That may sound a bit silly, but it seems like in the US, we like large open spaces, so we have a kitchen, a dining room, and living room all in one large open space. Here, it would all be seperate rooms, each with a closing door. There may even be a door in the hallway that just goes into the other half of the hallway. When you enter the room, you close the door. It is as simple as that. I could try to explain this difference to a European, but it is just too normal for them. There is nothing wrong with it, it is what it is, just a difference.

I know that that seems like small things, but it is these small things that really make you feel like you are in a different country. I find it weird sometimes how we can be so much alike in two different worlds, but it is the small cultural differences that can make the world of a difference to a foreigner.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Contest Entry Photoshoot

A few days ago, my roommate, Agathe, had asked me if I could help her and her friends with a contest that they were entering. The contest requirements were to make a photo that depicts themselves in the television series Sex and the City. I was very willing to help since almost all of my photography here has revolved around my travels, and taking pictures in very touristy situations. My roommate and her friends got dressed up and did all of their own makeup and hair, and we went out to the train station to get some photos. I do not have hardly any experience in photographing people, so it was good for me to apply direction. I told them where to walk, how to hold themselves, etc. Even though we ran out of time due to the sunlight fading down, I was really pleased with the way that some of the photos turned out. It is not abnormal, but I took almost 100 photos in 10 minutes, and have come out with about five photos that I am pleased with.
As we were out at the train station, there were many people that were stopped to watch us. My roommate told me that because I was speaking English to them and taking pictures, people probably thought that there was something important going on. Even though I am not a watcher of the show, I still had fun taking the pictures, and was glad to help out, and get some practice in. I am wishing them luck in the contest!