Splette's Travel Blog
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  • August1st

    Sony Vaio Screen

    107 pixels of darkness

    Oh no! My overpriced, yet beloved, Sony Vaio Z laptop is in need of some repair …AGAIN! This is the third time I need to send it in within less than two years. This is a top-of-the-line laptop, I start wondering if Sony closed it’s quality control department years ago. It all started a couple of months ago when one vertical row of pixels went dead. Yes, that is exactly the same problem I sent in the laptop for last year. Well, one row of dead pixels in the center of the screen is pretty annoying. But because my warranty is valid in the U.S.. and Germany but not in Costa Rica, I kept working with that annoyance, trying to ignore it. Apparently, my laptop doesn’t like getting ignored (who does). so when I woke up one day I found 107 rows of dead pixels. In the center of the screen. It looks like someone stuck some gaffer tape across the screen. That’s not cool and impossible to ignore. Conveniently, the warranty expires within a few weeks – before I return to Germany. I hope I can convince Sony Support that it’s okay to report the damage now but let them repair it in December. If I get lucky, I get to talk to that Indian call center boy from last year again who asked me to translate Rammstein songs for him…

    Perhaps Sony’s quality control is not to blame and my laptop just loves traveling as much as his owner does and wants to be sent to one of the Sony repair centers in the U.S. or Germany. But I will not do him that favor.

    PS. Guys, I don’t want to read any “You should have bought a Mac” comments below. Don’t jeopardize your lives…

  • July1st

    The flight lesson took place at a small airport just North of BerlinIn a lot of ways flying, to me, symbolizes freedom. And as you might know, freedom is something I deeply care about. Now, I’ve been flying quite a bit in the past – in commercial airliner to get from one country to another. What I haven’t done until now is to fly an airplane myself. Thanks to Anja & Benoit this dream has now become a reality.


    I’ve always wanted to know how it feels to fly a plane. In part, I can blame the Australian TV series ‘The Flying Doctors‘ which I watched religiously when I was a kid. But I didn’t expect to ever fly a plane myself since flight lessons are expensive and I have no ambitions to get a pilot’s license. What I didn’t know is that you can take a single flight lesson consisting of 30 minutes of introduction and 30 minutes of flying. The pilot lets you do most things by yourself as long as you don’t screw up. anja and Benoit gifted me such a flight lesson for the graduation of my PhD. Thanks a lot!

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  • June24th

    Zum Goldenen HirschenA few years ago, during my PhD times, I got very excited about filmmaking. I bought a high definition digital video camera and learned how to use editing and post production tools such as Adobe Aftereffects. I started realizing small film projects which is great fun.
    One of those projects which I made with a friend was about a gun rampage. The idea was to criticize gun ownership. The final video was meant to be uploaded to YouTube and spark some debate. But we never got that far. During the filming of some test footage a little incident happened: Someone saw us handling the (fake) gun and called the police. When they arrived the camera was still rolling. After the trouble with the police we never finished the actual film project. Instead I used the material to do a video ‘Filmmaking gone wrong’:

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  • May4th

    Me at John Marshall Highschool attending a Spanish class.

    Me in class, explaining Hulk's stretchy pants

    I’m in Chicago this week, visiting my friend Marissa who is a Spanish teacher at a high school in one of the less nice areas of Chicago. It’s not a ghetto but also not the kind of neighborhood one would necessarily want to live in. Marissa suggested that I could visit her school for a day. That sounded like a great idea, considering my current Spanish skills and the fact that I have never been in a US school. Having had barely three hours of sleep, I had to get up at 6 am. Got a shower and prepared my lunch sandwiches. That alone brought back long lost memories of my school days. We got there early. I did not have to pass through the metal detector but I got a fancy yellow visitors badge and had to sign in. The security personnel (mostly women) seemed much nicer and relaxed than I had expected. The hallways look just like those from any movie involving a US high school, with the usual lockers for students, motivational slogans and countless sport trophies in showcases. The classroom is exclusively used for Spanish classes and was plastered with posters and signs with basic Spanish vocabulary and grammar. And yes, just to make sure the students don’t get confused and think they are in Mexico or Spain, there was also a prominently placed US flag…

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  • April30th

    San Francisco Skyline as seen from Dolores park
    “You really must like the united States” said the immigration officer as he stared at his computer screen to review my data. I said ‘yes’, smiled and tried to look relaxed. And it’s true, for the past few years the United States are country I visited most frequently. I was on my way to San Francisco, which is the third time within a year that I am coming here. I’m not a particularly anxious person, but those US immigration officers always make me nervous. It’s because I had to go through additional questioning at immigration already twice in the past. And those interviews make you feel like an illegal immigrant trying to sneak across the border. My frequent visits and complex itineraries seem to raise suspicion. So, when this officer took what felt five minutes to review my data on his computer, I was nervous and concerned that I’ll get the special treatment for a third time. But eventually he let me go and I was relieved.
    A few hours later, I arrived in San Francisco where I had a busy week ahead of me, visiting friends and hanging out in cafés all day. I love spending extended periods of time in a café with my laptop. It’s one of the things that I miss the most in Costa Rica. There doesn’t seem to be much in of a coffee-culture there, which is surprising considering that Costa Rica is one of the main producers of coffee beans. There is not even Starbucks (although they seem to have every single other US fast food chain).

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  • April16th

    X-ray of my teeth. Puzzle Picture: Find the healthy tooth!
    Yep, it’s been a little while since I last saw a dentist’s office from the inside. About a year and a half ago, before I left Germany. My teeth have been a little over-sensitive lately, so I figured it may be a good idea to visit a dentist before I leave on my two-month trip to the US and Europe in a week. Turns out, it was the right decision. In fact I should have come earlier. Like a year ago. Well, my Spanish is still at the level of a toddler (except for some special vocabulary such as cerveza or que rico!) but when the dentist vigilantly went through my mouth one tooth at a time and repeatedly kept saying ‘la caries‘ to her assistant I knew that can’t be good. She then started fixing the first tooth and later sent me to get the above X-ray done and gave me three more appointments this coming week.

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  • April7th

    Europe Visit MapAfter spending the last months in Costa Rica, it’s about time for some more traveling. I’m coming to Germany to check if everything is still the same way I left it. On the way, I’ll stop by in the US and Spain. The dates might change slightly because I am flying on standby:

    23-30 April – San Francisco
    1-7 May – Chicago
    7-15 May – Madrid
    16-23 May – Barcelona
    23 May – 3 July – Germany (Berlin, Strasburg, Münster, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Tübingen, München)
    3-10 July – New York
    10 July – San José, Costa Rica

    I don’t know yet, in which order I will visit the different cities in Germany or for how long. If possible, I’ll also stop by Wien.

  • April5th

    In Germany I hardly ever get to see any but here, they are everywhere. Cockroaches. I hate them. Unless of course I give them a name and keep them as a pet, at safe distance, trapped in a glass. But even then, they just make it so hard for you to love them…
    After complains from my roommate, I released my pet cockroach Xavier into the wild (the garden). He had a rough time with me as I rarely fed him. Cockroaches make great pets, though. They don’t die easily!

    That is, unless you step on them or apply insecticides. Below is a video I recorded a few days ago. The last moments in the life of a bug-sprayed cockroach, somehwere on a kitchen floor in Costa Rica.

    Rest in peace little nameless cockroach.
    You’ll always be remembered by the Youtube community and the faithful readers of my blog.

  • March30th

    My friend keeps this loaded gun under his pillow - 'for protection'

    With a loaded gun under the pillow…

    It’s no secret that Central America has a problem with street crime. Some countries are worse than others. Costa Rica is one of the safer countries which is part of the reason I decided to live here. I feel safe enough to walk alone at night in some places such as my neighborhood or San José downtown. Other places, though, such as the bus stations are scary at night. Many of my Tico friends living here have been robbed at least once. KJ got robbed by a gang of youngsters while walking from the bus stop to his home. Frank thought he did the right thing and took a taxi home after a night of drinking and partying at a club – until the taxi driver spotted his Blackberry, stole it from him and kicked him out of the car. And one night, my roommate almost got his car stolen when two young wannabe-thieves thought he would make an easy target. One jumped in front of the car to make him stop and the other guy opened the passenger door and threatened him with a knife. My roommate resisted successfully, got to keep his car, a tale to tell and, as a bonus, a scar on his hand from the knife.

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  • March22nd

    Here, they call it thermo ducha, I call it ‘suicide shower’ – an electric-powered shower that’s very common all over Central America. To give you a better impression I filmed this report:

    PS. The sound you hear in the background at the beginning of the video is a telenovela. What else?!