Sunday, July 31, 2005

 

Wi-Fi? Wi not?

With this message, I enter the world of wireless connection to the Internet. Yeah, I know, some of you are saying "Big deal, what took you so long?", but there are plenty more who are still learning the basics of computering. Heck, Mom and Dad Winker will have to read this in a printout from one of my siblings as they don't do the Internet.

The advantage, of course, is that I will be able to sit in a cafe or motel room no matter where I am and have a connection to the Internet... as long as there is a wireless receiver nearby. No more telephone connection, no more trying to find the right telephone numbers, no more long distance fees, no more $2.00/minute charges on my motel bills.

It is not completely wireless, however, as I must have some place to plug in the power supply. The battery on my aging Dell 166 died a long time ago and I'm too cheap to buy a new one... if one can even be had for a machine this old. Finding electricity may be a bit more difficult, especially since I will have to use a German to U.S. power converter.

To give you technophobes an idea of how this works, I am sitting at Gordy's Warming House, a coffee and ice cream shop in Cloquet, MN, about 10 miles south of home. (Just had a Turtle Sundae and may order a cup of coffee to-go once I wrap this up.) A window pops up on the screen to let me know there is a receiver nearby and it is communicating with my computer. A few keystrokes, and I am connected to the Internet. It is not as fast as I had hoped, slightly slower than the telephone dial-up at home (which is re-e-eally slow), but it works!

I'm excited! This is so Jetsons!

Friday, July 29, 2005

 

My New Passport has Arrived!

I have held a U.S. Passport since 1987, when I took my first overseas trip to Sweden for the 50th Anniversary of SAAB. I carried it to Finland and Norway also on that trip, and it was with me on journeys to France, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and another trip to Sweden. I was disappointed that they seldom stamp the country in the blank pages any longer. In fact there were many times when there was no Passport control at a border crossing; it was just like traveling between states.

[A quick history of SAAB, for those who may not know. The name stands for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolag, the Swedish Aircraft Company. It was created in 1937 to build planes for the Swedish Air Force, which it continues to do today. After WWII, the directors realized they needed to diversify if the company was going to survive, so they began building cars. The first SAAB car, the Model 92, rolled off the assembly line in Trollhattan in December 1949.]

I renewed my Passport in 1997, prior to another trip to Sweden for the 50th Anniversary of SAAB Cars. (SAAB made the decision to build cars in 1947, therefore 1997 was considered the 50th Anniversary.) With that renewal, my current Passport was good until 2007. Renewal was uneventful, with the booklet arriving in plenty of time. But the four people traveling with me were not quite so lucky. They sent in the paperwork with months to spare, but there were a lot of people applying for new Passports in 1997, so all were delayed. With only a few weeks to go, they started making phone calls. As the day of departure grew closer, the calls became more frequent. On the day before we were to leave, there were many phone calls, letting the gang know where their package of Passports was on its route to Duluth. The package arrived at the Duluth P.O. in the evening, after normal hours, with only about 12 hours before our flight was to leave MSP.

The last time I carried that Passport was on a trip to Canada for the Targa Newfoundland. Then I put it someplace really safe... so safe that I have been unable to locate it. Despite several months of searching, and intense searching over the past few weeks, in all of the known really safe places, it has continued to elude me.

With my departure to Germany approaching rapidly, I gave in to my fate. I picked up all of the necessary forms and instructions at the Duluth Post Office, had my photo taken at Walgreen's, and returned it all for a 5-day turnaround. All in all, nearly $200 including the RUSH fees. At least it is good for another 10 years and not just the time remaining on the previous one.

Now to put it someplace safe, really safe.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

 

Learning German

I never took German class in high school. I took Latin, figuring it would be an introduction to the "Romance" languages of Italian, French and Spanish. Never quite figured out Latin, other than a few weak phrases, and how far are you going to get on "Omnia Gaulia in partes tres divisa est" in the 21st Century?

So I have been getting some assistance from well meaning friends.

Lester E., a dentist in Louisiana who I know from Saab Club, offered the following important phrases:
"Ausweiss bitte?"
"hast du Broetchen?"
"Wo sind die American Embassy??"
"Wie alt bist du?!?!!"
and my favorite..
"Sie hat gesagt 18 yahre !!!"

A few that I am sure I will need to know:
"Was Art des Bieres haben Sie? "
"Ein anderes Bier bitte."
... and eventually ...
"Wo ist die WC?"

Some of the best instruction on contemporary European culture comes from my cousin Mick Winker, who has been living in Antwerp, Belgium, for the past year. He maintains a blog on this same web site as "EuroFrank". See: http://eurofrank.blogspot.com. He doesn't just hang out in the Benelux neighborhood; he gets to visit lots of cool places Over There. Oh, to be in my 30s and hanging out in exotic places....

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 

Previous visits to Germany

Several of you have asked if I have ever been to Germany. The answer is YES! Twice, just briefly.

I was there for a couple of days in 1991 when Saab introduced the 9000 Turbo with the 2.3 litre engine. Saab USA took us to the Paris Auto Show for a few days, then let us loose on the Autobahn for a couple of days with the new cars. It was the same week that East and West Germany were officially reunited, so there were lots of Trabants and Wartburgs on the highways. Also got to visit the Wartburg auto museum in Eisenach in the former Eastern sector. I did get the new 9000 up to 150 mph (250 kph) for a short distance on the autobahn, but kept it generally under 100 mph due to the possibility of catching an oblivious Trabant driver at its top speed of about 60 mph.

The other visit was in conjunction with a Saab Clubs meet in Matsee, near Salzburg, Austria, in 1992. I flew into Munich and spent a couple of days touring there following the Saab Clubs meeting. While there I got to see the BMW museum, the marvelous toy museum in downtown Munich, and the former concentration camp at Dachau. I spent my 41st birthday at the famous Hofbrau Haus.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

 

Message the First

Welcome aboard!

So that all may follow my travels in search of our ancestry, I have chosen the popular BLOG format. Check in on a regular basis over the next few weeks... and beyond.

My rough intinerary for the trip to Germany is as follows:
Aug 3 - Leave Minnesota for Essen.
Aug 4 - Arrive in Dusseldorf, Germany. Take train to Essen.
Aug 5-7 - Int'l Saab Clubs Meeting in Essen.
Aug 8 - Explore Westphalia, seeking information on the Borgmann and Schurmann families.
Aug 10 - Visit Stuttgart. Tour Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums.
Aug 12 - Explore Spaichingen, ancestral home of the Winker family.
Aug 15 - Return to Minn.

I plan to squeeze one more trip out of my aging Dell Pentium 133 notebook computer. Though it has not yet been tested, I have purchased a wireless card so that I may sit in Internet cafes to make the updates (hopefully drinking really strong coffee or really good beer!).

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