I’ve started up a little venture for reviews and listings of city bike tours.
City bike tours are great, because:
- You’ll see more in a couple of hours than you could all day on foot, and have more fun.
- You might meet some new, like minded friends.
- Many tours stop for a snack and tasty liquid refreshments.
- Your tour guide will be a valuable source of local tips, haunts, and hidden treasures.
- It’s green. Wouldn’t you rather be slowly cruising through town on a comfortable cruiser bike than stuffed into a tour bus with 60 other people?
- Fresh air and just a little exercise.
- It’s fun!
BeenThereBikeTours is here now to help you find a city bike tour:
This week, BackAmp Research reopened our Minneapolis and Chicago satellite offices as part of our primary client restructuring.
An old friend recently returned from a work trip to Berlin. Now and then I get a decent work trip too, although it seems like I usually end up in Cave City, KY or making seven trips in a row to Columbus, OH. I visited Berlin in 1977 during a high school summer student exchange program. Berlin was far and away the most metropolitan place I had ever been and remains one of my favorite, albeit fuzzy, travel memories.
This subway map of the U-Bahn was published in 1975 and is notable for the closed, “ghost” stations of then East Berlin. We traveled regularly on the U8 which, at that time, ended at the Gesundbrunnen station. That station served the Wedding district, where our youth hostel and the Flakturm Humboldthain were located.
Back on March 1st, I was notified that I was being laid off from IBM after 26 years. I’ve survived many, many layoffs over the years and figured that sales technical support had to be nearly bulletproof and impossible to outsource overseas. I was right on the outsourcing but wrong on the bullet resistance — they took out 60% of us for no apparent reason evidently because this division’s ratios were different than that division’s ratios.
But that’s not why I’m mad. Disappointed, perhaps, but not mad about being laid off.
Here’s why I’m mad:
- IBM took the opportunity to keep five weeks of my severance pay by strictly interpreting a re-hire date. I had documentation (anticipating this from 11 years ago!) showing that a few months away from IBM due to a divestiture was supposed to be erased. I appealed, to no avail. “We can’t make an exception, then everyone would want one.” Hard to argue with people who don’t know the definition of an exception.
- For the same reason as #1, they only provided 6 months of Cobra subsidy instead of 12.
- As part of the glorious “Resource Action” documentation, you receive encouragement to use the job posting system to find another position within the company. Which I did, successfully. Or not, it seems that just because the job is posted, you want it, and the manager wants you….not enough. No hiring from the “RA” list was allowed within the division.
- It has taken three months and countless phone calls, tree-killing mailings, notarizations and other delays to receive my Personal Pension Account balance. I knew what I wanted on day 1 and the “Employee Services Center” (operated by Fidelity Investments) could have easily clicked twice and transferred my balance to my 401K (also operated by, um, Fidelity Investments). I wonder who is using my capital whilst I wait?
- My second Project 365 had to go on hold for 57 days while I sorted out my options and truth from fiction.
For BackAmp Research, only #5 has any relevance. I guess there are going to a few less travel photos.
For whatever reason, I’ve decided to do my second Project 365 this year. As of today, that makes 375 pictures posted to photoblog. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things:
- For me, personal is better. The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is looking back at the older photos and remembering the circumstances of each photo.
- If not personal, then a theme of some kind might be cool. I travel often and have been thinking about how to focus on just that.
- Even with personal, perhaps less than artistic shots, your photos don’t necessarily have to suck (like mine 🙂 ). Take some time to clean them up. With today’s multi-mega-giga-pixel cams, you can almost certainly crop to the best part of the photo and have plenty of size left, ESPECIALLY for the web. Learn to use whatever photo editing program you have, be it whatever came with your camera, Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, Photo-Paint, the Gimp (free), or even the excellent (also free) Fast Stone Viewer. Consider learning more about post-processing as part of your project. Taking the pic is only half the job.
- After you crop, at a minimum, learn to adjust things like contrast, dynamic range, color balance, and unsharp masking.
- If you have low light shots taken at night (hey, we work in the day time, right?), consider converting them to B&W. Your image editing program has some simple methods built-in, but there are some advanced techniques you might consider. The concepts on all these links can generally be used in every decent program, although menu names and terminology may differ. Special note for Corel Photo-Paint users prior to version X4, the color mixing controls are pretty lacking. Check out the section called Some Assembly Required near the bottom of dpFWIW‘s page.
- Do something with your finished work. At the very least, set up a screen show on your computer. Better, post them on the web at photoblog, Flickr, Facebook, or any photo sharing site. You might even consider setting up your own web gallery. There’s something about the discipline of posting my shots publicly that keeps me motivated.
- Finally, here’s a tip about that might help you remember to take your daily shot. It’s easy to get caught up in the day’s work and activity and just forget your project. Use your calendar or to-do list to remind you. Personally, I have a daily entry in my Google calendar set to email me at 4pm. If I haven’t had a chance to shot a photo by then, it’s a reminder as I’m winding up the work day. There’s still some daylight left and the project is on my mind on the way home and into the evening.
I haven’t completely decided what the “X2” means, but I’m cranking up another year of daily photography. After the 2008 Project I needed a bit of a break, but I think I’m ready to go again. Annie and I both seem to go back and look over the 2008 pics and it’s amazing how much it brings back each day of the year.
Update: I had to take most of March and all of April away from the cameras. Moving on now with Project 308.
Flak towers just visible in Humboldthain Park in 1977
I was watching Hitler’s Hidden City on the Nat Geo channel a couple of nights ago. It was a bit on the hyperbolic side (more typical of the History Channel, actually)…but I was particularly in interested in the flak towers built during WWII.
When I was in Germany in 1977, we stayed at a youth hostel in the Wedding district (now redivided into the Gesundbrunnen district) across the street from Humboldthain Park. Best I can tell from Google Maps, the Jugendgastehaus Nord might now be a Holiday Inn.
Every day as we walked to the Gesundbrunnen U-Bahn station, we wondered about the “bunker” remains that we saw in the park. On our last night in Berlin, an early group of BackAmp researchers jumped the fence and sat on top of the concrete structure. There were no signs or information, but we guessed that it was a WWII structure.
So when the TV showed a photo of the same Flakturm Humboldthain, I finally knew what we had been exploring 32 years ago. It turns out that the interior is now open for tours from the Berliner Unterwelten. I’m looking forward to updating our reconnaissance in the not too distant future.
Update: I had been wondering why the Tower is partially buried in a hillside and two of the gun platforms are missing. According to Urban Exploration Resource:
The Gefechtsturm or G-Turm (lit. “Battle Tower”)
Built in 1941-2, alongside the S-Bahn line, by Italian and French workers.
In 1948 – 51 the G-Turm was partially demolished and the two southerly gun platforms destroyed. 1.6 millon cubic meters of rubble was heaped up around base to form artificial hill and to enhance the park to plans by Garden and Building Department Leader Gunther Rieck. The work was carried out by local jobless people. Most of the rubble was pilled around the south, east and west sides, access being available. But as the tower is build in close proximity to the railway, to the north, dumping and pilling rubble was not done to any great depth. So the northern side is left partially exposed.
The northern face of the bunker is still visible. In the north of the park, and now known as “Humboldt-85 höhe” it overlooks the Hochstrasse and the Gesundbrunnen U-Bahn station.
I suspected that the tower was buried in its own rubble to improve that park which is now confirmed. It’s lucky that any remnant remained visible otherwise it may have completely forgotten.