Category Archives: Life

#43 Plans for 2015

Well met, my friends!

Last year I did not go to London for New Years, but celebrated the end of 2014 at my new flat in Düsseldorf together with my best friend.

Tomorrow, I will go back to Wachtberg for work. However, I successfully negotiated to be a part time scientist in 2015. The rest of the time will be spent writing novels and building up my own software company. The latter will focus on computer games. Even though I vehemently denied it’d be e-sports related, when I talked about it last year, depending on how things are developing that might still be an option. For the time being, I will start out by reactivating the old game design muscles and growing a community.

What are your goals / plans / resolutions for the new year?

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#42 Lindsey Stirling, Cologne 2014

Well met, my friends!

On Friday the 17th of October 2014, I saw Lindsey Stirling in concert for the third time. You can find my blog entry about her gig in Cologne in June 2013 here and her Las Vegas performance in May 2014 here.

Meet and Greet

Just like last time, I mentioned the Misscliks.com website to Lindsey and indicated that we would be interested in conducting an interview. I decided to write for Misscliks (here is a list of my articles and the Lindsey Stirling Spotlight), because they took the unusual approach of covering positive achievements of female role models in geek and gaming culture. The typical media focus on tragedies and drama may generate site views, but I am of the opinion that this is not necessarily a good approach, long term.

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The picture of Lindsey, Drew, Gavi and myself was taken by Mackenzie Madsen, who seemed a bit surprised that I wanted to credit her. Hopefully I picked the right person, because I did not catch her contact details and went with a google assisted guess.

Q&A

There were no real surprises at the Q&A segment, people tend to ask the same things. Perhaps that is good, because unusual questions don’t necessarily generate better replies, as I demonstrated when I asked something at the Las Vegas Q&A. This time I was busy writing a twitter message, so I missed my opportunity to ask a question.

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Apparently my camera does not cope well with insufficient lighting, so most of my pictures were blurry and grainy like the picture above. I admired the beautiful pictures that other people took when I looked over at their cameras’ displays. I guess that means I need to buy new equipment.

A Great Big World

The pre-show band was called “A Great Big World“, whose big hit “Say Something” caught Christina Aguilera’s attention. I bought their album at the show, which contains a version with and without her.

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Instead of Christina Aguilera, the Vocalist/Keyboard guy performed the song together with Lindsey.

Lindsey Stirling

The 90 minute main show was as good as the one I saw previously. It’s apparent that Lindsey Stirling, her band and dancers are now seasoned professionals, who put on a well choreographed performance. I particularly liked that some of the song introductions – like her explanation of “swag” – differed from what she said in Vegas, while retaining the spirit of it. Whenever she talks, things are ever so slightly different, for example, she mentioned that her first violin “Excalibur” is actually from Germany, whereas this piece of information would not have been relevant in the USA. On the flipside, the segment where she asked the audience to turn around and introduce themselves to random people, did not work. I’d go as far as saying it couldn’t work in Germany, due to cultural constraints. I tried to talk to other people, but they immediately broke eye contact and pretended they did not see me, whereas it worked out just fine in the USA. The whole situation reminded me of my twitter message at the Gamescom:

Overall it was a great concert and I plan on going again when there is a new tour.

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When I tried to leave, there was the expected traffic jam. However, as they say “when they zig, you zag”, I drove off in the opposite direction and joined a significantly shorter line of cars.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#38 Lindsey Stirling Las Vegas Concert

Well met, my friends!

As expected, the highlight of this vacation was the Lindsey Stirling concert at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. This was her tenth concert of forty six of her North America 2014 tour.

Before I arrived in Vegas, I spent half a week in London, catching up with old friends. It’s also more convenient as there is a direct flight from Heathrow to Las Vegas, whereas I would have needed to change planes, if I had gone from Düsseldorf. On the plane, there were two wedding groups and one stag night group. I sat next to one of the guys from the stag night group, who in turn sat next to one of the women getting married in Vegas. Here I thought those weddings were only valid in Nevada, but I guess I was wrong. Anyway, they asked me why I would be flying to Las Vegas, so I showed them Lindsey Stirling’s video Crystallize and told them that I’m going to her concert.

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Just like last time when I saw her at her Cologne gig, her sister Brooke Passey took the photos during the meet and greet segment. I had to ask Drew whether it was her, since she used to have blonde hair back then. In the photo above, I explained that I also write for the misscliks.com website that focuses on positive achievements of women in geek culture and gaming. Despite practice, I botched my pitch a bit, but fortunately I was able to fall back on the letter I wrote in advance. When I got the picture with Drew, Lindsey and Gavi, I didn’t know they were making weird faces, but then again, I probably would have just smiled anyway.

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When I went to get a coke at the bar, the guy, who stood in line behind me, was there as well. After another bit of small talk, we headed to the stage where we ended up talking to a few of the other meet and greet attendees. His name was Justin and there were Brett and Elizabeth and another girl, but I forgot to introduce myself. Justin raised a good point that it’s hard to find someone, who creates original songs for the violin, rather than just performing classics, which is one of the reasons he likes Lindsey Stirling. During the meet and greet segment, I did manage to ask a question this time: “I was pleasently surpised to find such a strong track like ‘eclipse’ in the bonus material and that made me wonder, what factors govern whether a song is put on the regular track list or on the bonus material?” I’m hitting some points with my questions, for example I haven’t heard that particular question before and it shows that I listened to the CD including the bonus tracks, but on the flipside the question lacked a bit on the emotional impact. Thus, the answer was short – it’s simply a matter of preferance, so the songs that she likes best get regular slots on the CD. Brett actually recorded the whole Q&A segment on his phone, so I asked him whether he could e-mail that to me. During the Q&A it became apparent that our position wasn’t the best, as the instruments blocked out the view. Brett joked about it that he strategically positioned himself in front of the drums, so he could catch one of the drum sticks. However, he actually did catch one in the end!

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Before her segment, the band Archis performed. Their lead singer Dia Frampton also joined later on for her collaboration song “We are Giants” with Lindsey Stirling.

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While performing on Youtube’s Dance Showdown, Lindsey met the dancer Anze Skrube. He planned the choreography for her video of “Stars Align”, which happened to be Justin’s favourite LS song, and also for her tour. So for most of the songs, Lindsey was accompanied by two dancers Stev-o and Pete. The music is already fantastic, but coordinating all those moves really lifts the performance to a whole new level.

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Lindsey played a good portion – or maybe even all of it? – of her new album, as well as hits from her first CD, like “Crystallize”, “Moontrance” and “Stars Align”.

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Towards the end of the show, Gavi switched to a portable keyboard. Despite my blurry on stage photos due to the lack of light, I managed to get a good shot of them having fun.

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It was an amazing show that is even better than her 2013 tour. If you can, do check out one of her concerts (the dates can be found on her homepage). I’m definitely looking forward to her return to Cologne this October.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#36 San Francisco road trip

Well met, my friends!

It’s late, but I figured I’ll write about it anyway, before all the details fade away. This blog post is about my USA trip in March 2014 that I mentioned in the previous blog entry.

Saturday 15th of March:

I arrived in Los Angeles, after more than 10 hours on a plane. I did not manage to sleep during the flight. Instead, I watched the following five movies: Escape Plan (IMDB score 6.8), which was an 80s style Schwarzenegger and Stallone action movie, despite being from 2013. I’d say it was decent, but the best scene was Schwarzenegger’s typical move, where he grabbed a stationary machine gun, carried it under his arm and mowed down hordes of attackers. The next movie was Ender’s Game (IMDB score 6.9). Strange enough, they sorted it in the “family” category, even though it was pretty dark. Unfortunately the writing excuses guys already spoiled the ending for me, otherwise I might have ranked it higher. Next up in my ranking was Thor the Dark World (IMDB score 7.3) and then the Wolverine (IMDB score 6.8). The latter is a dip down when it comes to the IMDB score, but I liked it best out of the four. I did not want to gamble on the last movie, so I re-watched Lost in Translation (IMDB score 7.8), which is still great on the second viewing.

After this movie marathon, I felt pretty knackered, but I wanted to stay awake for as long as possible in order to beat the jet lag. Following a slightly modified tip I read on Daniel Negreanu’s twitter account, I also tried to reset my food clock in addition to the sleep clock. Negreanu phrased it as “Don’t eat x hours before you plan to go to bed in your new time zone”, but I changed it to eat according to the local time, even if you are not hungry. Basically it is the same advice that holds true for sleeping: you just follow the habits of the new time zone, even if it means over eating on the first day.

The guy at the rental car place looked like the actor Jeffrey Tambor from arrested development. Since I was alone on this trip and didn’t have someone to look at maps during the drive, I also rented a GPS. When I complained that the rubber suction pad to fix it to the windscreen was missing, the guy told me: “It is forbidden by California law.” Instead, the GPS was affixed to a sandbag, which was put on the dashboard. Weird.

Sunday 16th of March:

I walked around Beverly Hills and was shocked to see that there were a lot of vacant shops for rent. I guess with all the commerce shifting online, it should not have surprised me that much.

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Despite the popular claim that fast food is so much cheaper than healthy food in the USA, I found a bag of mixed vegetables for 1.19$, whereas the frozen pizzas cost 3$.

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So even in the USA the Herbertz diet would be affordable. That’s my “don’t try this at home!” diet of replacing my usual dinner of pizza and fizzy drinks with vegetables and water, which allowed me to go from 94.4 kg (207 lbs) to 79.5 kg (175 lbs) over the course of a year.

Monday 17th of March:

At 6:30 in the morning, an earthquake of magnitude 4.4 woke me up. A lot of people on my twitter feed commented about it.

I missed the opportunity, because I went back to bed. Hours later, I also mentioned it, before leaving Los Angeles. Originally my plan was to drive around the coast with a few stops and then to reach my hotel in Santa Clara in the evening. I picked Santa Clara, since it is 50 miles from San Francisco and other locations, which would allow me to take day trips. Also, hotel rates in San Francisco are more expensive than the ones in Santa Clara. However, I misjudged the distance to get there from Los Angeles a bit, so after driving along the coast for a while, I had to abandon that plan and head to the highway instead. If I were to do it again, I would split this one day trip up into two days and visit a few places along the way. On the way I noticed a bill board that advertised the in-N-out burger (check out Daym Drops’s review) 16 miles away. From all the different burger places (Johnny Rockets, KGB, Heart Attack Grill, in-N-out and probably some others that I forgot) we tried in Las Vegas last year, I liked that one the best, so I made sure to stop there.

One of the odd things about driving in the USA is the way warning labels are arranged on the pavement. The argument is that you are speeding by and read a single word like “signal”. Then a bit further down the road, you see another word “ahead” and are supposed to combine it to “signal ahead”. However, anyone who isn’t a mole and has half way decent eyesight will see both words at once and read them from top to bottom as in a book. The notices then become “ahead signal”, “clear keep” or “xing ped” (pedestrian crossing).

Tuesday 18th of March:

The highlight of the day was meeting up with my buddy Dr. Bob (not the one who appears on google image search) at the Fire Station. When I mentioned that I wanted to take a day trip to San Francisco, he suggested to take the Cal-train, which is as fast as going by car, but is cheaper and more convenient than driving and paying for parking.

Wednesday 19th of March:

I followed Bob’s advice to take a day trip to San Francisco. The Cal-train is indeed pretty nice, but I should have boarded it at Sunnyvale, which is in a cheaper zone than the one I started from and it has more trains that stop there. By accident I walked past the GDC in San Francisco. In the meantime, they’ve pulled Day[9]‘s talk from the free to view section of their website, but Nika Harper‘s talk is still available as of writing this.

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I walked through China town, expecting it to be a few streets like in London. Instead, it was quite extensive. As you can see in the picture, people in San Francisco know that you are supposed to turn your tires when you’re parking at an incline.

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Eventually I reached Fisherman’s wharf, where I saw the sea lions.

In the evening I met up with my friend Martha for dinner. The very next day she flew to London and met up with mutual friends. I told her that I had been eating a lot of Mexican food during that trip, but when she enquired about that, I had to admit that it was mostly Chipotle. That counts as Mexican from a European perspective, right?

Thursday 20th of March:

Although Bob suggested to see Alcatraz instead, I drove to Alameda on Thursday. They have the decomissioned aircraft carrier Hornet there, which was turned into a museum. I certainly recommend seeing it, but it’s essential to go there after lunch. Apart from vending machine snacks, there’s nothing to eat on the ship and there is nothing near by either.

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There were two guided tours on the ship, which were included in the ticket price. First, I joined the one that showed the flight deck, the tower and the bridge. The second tour went down to the engine room and showed that the commands from the bridge would then be cross referenced on a chart to see how many RPM would correspond to a certain speed in knots. If the main bridge and the secondary bridge were gone, the procedure was to manually reset the rudder and then turn to one side by using only half of the engines. In addition to the tours, there were a few areas that one could freely visit. Since the Hornet was also the ship that welcomed the Apollo astronauts back, they put the mobile quarantine station on display, where the astronauts had to live for a few days until they were transferred to a bigger quarantine facility for a longer duration.

Friday 21st of March:

Before driving back to Los Angeles, I took the opportunity to visit the Winchester Mystery House.

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Unfortunately it was forbidden to take pictures inside, because some film studio reserved exclusive film rights, but they haven’t even started working on their movie. Wikipedia has a whole list of haunted sites across the world and apparently the Winchester Mystery house made it into the top 10. It’s certainly worth a visit, if you are in the area and have two hours to spare. Even though I did not manage to do so, I would recommend booking the tour for Friday the 13th when they do special flash light night events. Spooky!

Saturday 22nd of March:

As mentioned, the highlight of the day and of the whole trip was the Day[9] meeting with its separate blog entry.

Sunday 23rd of March:

Unfortunately it was time to go. A bit more than one week is a nice duration in the sense that the 10+ hour flights are justified, but apparently it isn’t long enough for me to get homesick. I certainly could have stayed longer, but since I’ll be back twice more this year, it didn’t matter all that much.

It’s strange that out of all the people, who were queuing up for the security check, I was the only one that opted out. They didn’t even have any regular gates anymore, so I was told to step through the Terrahertz scanner when it wasn’t turned on. The security person, who operated the scanner, was alarmed at that and asked around what was going on, so I mentioned that I was getting the pat down.

In the waiting area after the security checkpoint, I waited in line to get a pizza. The start of the line wasn’t clearly marked, so everybody was confused. The dude next to me used that as a conversation starter and I found out that his name was Pierre and that he was going to Japan for a week. My advice for him and his buddy Sean was to memorize the few characters that they needed, like the one for the stop they want to get off of the train or the ones for the tuna mayo onigiri (there’s one that looks like a mirrored E and another one that looks like a smiley face…). Later on, as we were all waiting to collect our pizza, he complimented a girl about her leopard trousers. Her name was Britta and even though she’s American, she lived and worked in Munich, so she spoke both English and German without any foreign accent as far as I could tell.

Then Pierre says to her: “Do you have a social network, like a facebook or twitter, where I can add you? Is that weird, because we just met?”

That was some serious channeling of Carly Rae Jepsen right there, but it actually worked!

On the flight back, I only watched one movie (Red2, IMDB score 6.7). This time around I managed to get some sleep, so I wasn’t as jetlagged when I arrived back in Germany.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#34 This year’s schedule

Well met, my friends!

With a few exceptions, my schedule looks similar to last year’s. Next month I’m going to Los Angeles again to meet up with the Day[9] community just like last May. However, on this trip I won’t be going to Las Vegas. Instead, I’ll get a rental car and drive to San Francisco and neighbouring cities.

A trip to Las Vegas is still in the cards for May, when Lindsey Stirling, whom I’ve seen in June 2013, is performing there.

Unfortunately these events are all spaced out, so I will be flying to the USA yet again in June for Vidcon.

The dates of World Con and Gamescom collide. Since I had a good time at Gamescom last year, I’ll probably attend it this year as well.

As usual, in October I will be at Spiel’14.

These are the dates that are fixed at the moment. If there is anything cool going on that isn’t too far away and won’t use up too many days, let me know.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#28 Meeting Patrick Rothfuss

Well met, my friends!

About two and a half weeks ago, Patrick Rothfuss announced on his blog that he wouldn’t just be in Brighton, but that he would also do signings and Q&A sessions in Oxford and London.

The Brighton event had been announced at least half a year in advance, but this new itinerary was on short notice. There was an upcoming deadline at work, which would thankfully finish right before those dates. Since I figured I could use a few days off after what looked to be a stressful work week, I decided on a whim to go and bought a plane ticket one week before the event.

On Mondy the 4th of November, I went to “An evening with Patrick Rothfuss” in Oxford together with my friend Laura. This was a long Q&A session, interleaved with him reading portions of his former columns that he wrote over a decade ago. Most of the time he doesn’t just answer a question, but comes up with a long and amusing tale. I tried to think what would provide the best opportunity for such a story among the questions that I had and asked him how he found his beta readers. The serious part of the answer was that back in the days he asked family and friends, as one would expect. Nowadays of course there is no shortage of people volunteering. Eventually he did make some jokes about picking people that are unlikely to forget his manuscript on the train, but I guess you had to be there.

Afterwards he made the time to sign people’s copies of “The Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fear”. As you can see in the picture, I am beaming when I sat down.

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This is because A) I was happy to meet Patrick Rothfuss again and B) I had a big imposition for him: as I sat down, I said “So I’ve started this youtube channel…” Unfortunately he already knew what was coming and immediately started shaking his head. I did ask him whether I could hog five minutes of his time on the day after for a brief interview, but his day was already pretty planned out with travel, other interviews and then the signing and Q&A in London. I figured as much and didn’t press the issue. Back home, my friends thought that I should have been a bit more tenacious and that I should have mentioned that I specifically flew in to see him.

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I don’t know, I feel that if roles were reversed, I wouldn’t have agreed to an interview either, simply for the reason that he doesn’t know whether I’m reputable. For instance, in both Oxford and London (and also at the 2009 Q&A in London) he stressed that he would prefer if people didn’t film the sessions, as he doesn’t want his words to be taken out of context. I actually filmed him for about a minute in 2009, before he announced that. I haven’t made that video available to anyone, but I did give him a memory stick with the photos and the video from 2009. It’s really low quality, mostly due to bad lighting and I’ll leave it to him to post it or to hang on to it. I also put the videos of my youtube channel on the stick – on the off chance that he gave me a “maybe” regarding the interview request, I wanted him to see what my channel was about without having to go online. Thus, Patrick Rothfuss is now one of only two people in the world, who has the HD version of my videos…

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Anyway, I shall ask him again at some point in the future via more official channels, once my style is a bit more proven and I have a few more subscribers.

I particularly liked that at both events, nobody asked the dreaded book three question. The signing in London was a dual event together with Scott Lynch, who is standing next to him in the picture.

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It was so busy that the venue Forbidden Planet had already sold out all the books and more or less turned me away. Instead, I made my way to the Q&A venue at the Phoenix artist club. One of the things that wasn’t a question and that came out completely wrong was my remark on him doing things differently in the future. I wanted to convey that it was great to see him in such a nice venue as the Phoenix to answer questions, but instead it came across as more of a demand. However, he announced on facebook that his signing sessions in Spain drew massive amounts of people: In Madrid apparently about a thousand people showed up and it took nine hours to sign books. Given that, I understand that he needs to change his public appearances and that perhaps these smaller events are unlikely to happen in the future. We shall see. In any case, it was great to see Patrick Rothfuss in Europe again after those four years.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,

Kai

#18 London

Dear all,

as some of you know, I’ve lived in London from 2006 to 2011. I have the fondest memories of my time in the UK, especially since a lot of my good friends are living in London. Thus, I always like to go back as often as I can.

During summer, the student halls in London usually rent out their rooms to tourists. The new semester is about to start, so I seized the last opportunity for this year and rented a room at international hall from Friday the 6th of September till Wednesday the 11th of September. I had to endure a lot of criticism for the breakfast when I showed people this picture, but it tastes better than it looks:

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The only problem of coming back to London is organizing the meet ups: it seems that either nobody has time or everyone has time on the exact same day! Fortunately this wasn’t the case on this trip. Things worked out surprisingly well, even though a week before going, I had only heard back from one person. In the end I had nine possible time slots – Friday evening and then noon and evening on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, as I had to leave early on Wednesday – and managed to fill seven of those. As I told some of the people, I did feel loved. Thank you all for making the time to hang out!

In particular, I enjoyed meeting up with Donna Marie Howard, who was very encouraging about pursuing one’s hobby projects. To quote my favourite 1980s cartoon: “Hang on to your dreams, the future is built on dreams.”

On Monday, after meeting another good friend of mine for lunch, I visited my old university Imperial College London. On one of the bulletin boards I saw this flyer. Good to know that e-sports is alive and well.

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In London I found out that my old video camera is no good, so last Friday I bought a new one. I have yet to record a good video, but it’s only a matter of time. I hope to have an announcement by the end of the week :)

All the best,

Kai

#12 Lindsey Stirling and an ep(p)ic performance

I just came back from the Lindsey Stirling concert in Cologne. Originally I wanted to call this post “A Stirling performance”, but google informs me that this play on words has already been made. I didn’t have the heart to google the new title.
First things first: I usually dislike everything when I go in with high expectations – after seeing her video crystallize, I was completely enchanted. I actually carry a copy of the video with me on my phone, so that I can show it to people, while ranting about how Lindsey’s performance stands out. So after hyping her up this much, what did I think about her show? It was as magical as I expected it to be – I’m so relieved that she (and her band Drew on the drums and Gavi on the keyboard, as well as her introductory artist Eppic) exceeded my high expectations. However, the day did not start out that well:

Getting there

Of course I had to have a headache on this very day. Not yesterday, not tomorrow (although the verdict is still out on that one), but today. I did take an aspirin and since that somewhat alleviated the pain, I refrained from taking anything stronger. After the “Kernzeit”, the time that you have to be at the office, I left work. Since I needed to take a shower and pick up my ticket, it wasn’t until 3:45 p.m. that I managed to drive off. The meet and greet e-mail had me slightly worried “You’ll need to meet the tour crew by the box office no later than 5pm. They will check in all VIPs and give you your VIP Laminates and escort you in for the Meet & Greet.  Late admittance is usually not allowed.”

Then again, it’s only a 40 minute drive to the venue, what could possibly go wrong? Well, initially my navi was set to France, so I had to find the route the old fashioned way. Then there were the usual Cologne traffic jams. I actually managed to take the wrong exit, which meant that I had to drive through regular urban traffic. I kid you not, three of the roads that I wanted to take were closed down with construction sites. Eventually I make it to the E-Werk at 5:30 p.m., but fortunately the e-mail instructions were wrong and I did get inside just fine. Phew.

Meet and greet

I was slightly beside myself due to the rush to the concert and my headache, so I almost photo bombed Lindsey’s solo shot.

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Unfortunately I forgot to ask, but I think all the photos were taken by Brooke Passey.

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I did eventually get my act together to wheedle a picture with Drew and Gavi out of them.

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However, I forgot to ask them to also sign the CD, so I guess I have to bring that to the next concert.

After the meet and greet part, the people with sound check passes were let in for the Q&A. I somehow managed to tape the most relevant question how Lindsey met Eppic.

The sound check consisted of a song that I thought to be “Elements”. However, since Lindsey said that the sound check song wouldn’t be in the show and Elements was in the show, it must have been something else.

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It was quite tricky to get a few good stills of Lindsey and the crew as they move around a lot.

The opener

Eppic also moved quite a bit, but I did manage to get a few decent shots.

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Apart from a few choice words (“Pulp Fiction”, “Decepticons”, “Obi Wan Kenobi”, “Darth Maul”), I had a hard time following: The man just raps too quickly! Anyone who has been to Karaoke (unless of course you only did Frank Sinatra songs) should be able to appreciate how difficult it is to sing / rap at a fast pace.

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He mentioned that he previously performed in Cologne together with Tyler Ward. After this introduction, he actually returned for a bit of an encore performance during Lindsey’s segment.

Lindsey Stirling

The security people were pretty adamant about only taking short clips, so I only have very few pictures and even fewer videos. Here are some of the different outfits that Lindsey wore during the show.

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Apart from her own songs, she did have a medley of a famous deceased pop artist and a few covers. I almost expected Eppic to join in during the Phantom of the Opera (similar to this guest appearance by Eric Adams when Holy Hell did Phantom of the Opera), but no, it was purely instrumental. Lindsey Stirling did sing every once in a while, though.

During one song, there was a dance off between three guys from the audience that were on stage, representing Drew, Gavi and Lindsey. The guy with the Linds Shirt, Dominik, certainly won, as determined by the clap-o-meter.

Here Lindsey mentioned that this highly requested song (the Zelda medley) was previously missing from her show.

Before playing “Transcendence”, Lindsey had an inspirational speech about how people should follow their dreams, regardless of whether other people think that one is untalented. At that, one guy in the audience shouted “You are fucking awesome!”, which made me smile. I’m just a sucker for these impromptu outbursts. What an amazing show :)

The end

After the show I got Eppic’s CD and a photo.

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Since I misfired during the Lindsey Stirling meet and greet, I pestered him with all the things I forgot to mention, like my sight seeing tip (the chocolate museum – funny story, I am an electrical engineer by trade and a female friend of mine teased me when we went to the chocolate museum by saying “I’d marry you on the spot, if you were a chocolate engineer”. Heh.) and the link to this blog. Overall it was a fantastic show that I can highly recommend. Originally I wanted to go with some friends of mine, but shortly after I got my ticket, all the tickets were sold out. Next time Lindsey Stirling and Eppic are in town, I’ll be sure to rally people earlier.

I actually had most of this already typed up, when I accidently closed the wrong window and had to re-type, so I won’t be proof reading this entry till tomorrow. Enjoy the rough version and have a good night.

#11 What happens in Vegas… (can be read below)

Heyo!

On Sunday (2nd of June 2013), I’ve returned from my two week vacation in London, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Since I’ve spent most of the time in Las Vegas, I’ll focus on that part of the trip in this blog post. As I have used up most of my holiday time and entertainment budget during those weeks, there probably won’t be a vacation entry for a while. Instead, I can concentrate on the novel-writing, game design and gaming side of the blog again. Yay!

By the way, thank you all so much for reading the blog! Before the vacation, the viewer numbers were declining: 224 February, 381 March, 129 April and a measly 100 in May. During the trip, the numbers for May have jumped to 435. What’s more, my previous best day with 94 views on the 20th of February was topped by the 28th of May with 135 views. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Below you can see a few screenshots of the blog stats.

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I probably should have split this up into several posts, as it turned out to be my longest blog entry to date. There did not seem to be a good cutting point, so instead I’ve divided it into topics, so that people can skip the parts that don’t interest them. I even ended up removing the parts about burger places, the Terrahertz scanner at the airport, “the range” and sightseeing at the Hoover Dam and the Red Rock Canyon. It still wound up being a really long blog post.

Welcome to America

When I arrived in Las Vegas, the border control office asked the usual question “Why are you visiting the USA?” to which I replied “To win a lot of money, obviously!” The funny part was that the guy was there two weeks later, as I was leaving for London. He asked me whether I did win a lot of money, so – spoiler alert – I told him that while I did not end up winning, I still had a great time.

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Poker

After leaving London, I’ve spent most of the time in Vegas playing poker tournaments. Before going, I was slightly worried about my performance, but my best friend quoted the movie Mystery Men: “If you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” In all the four tournaments I played, I did well. I played my absolute best and always finished well above average, turning a profit by Thursday. From the places I went to (Wynn, Harrah’s and Venetian) I liked the poker room at the Venetian the best.

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Showtime

Perhaps I have to take back what I wrote in my previous blog entry: Vegas isn’t just about playing cards, the shows are amazing, too. That second week, we mostly focussed on sight seeing, testing burger places and seeing shows. We managed to see one almost every day, starting with Penn & Teller at the Rio on Monday. The mixture of magic and comedy worked really well, but as with most shows in Vegas, it’s important to get good seats. After the show Penn and Teller stuck around to take pictures with the audience, but since we couldn’t be bothered to wait, I snapped some photos with random people (that I have pixeled out, just in case) instead.

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Tuesday evening we headed to the V theater at Planet Hollywood to see the 80s show. This one had the highest audience participation of all the shows, was decently priced and was in a small venue, so that we could sit very close to the stage. Overall, I did like this show the best and I’ll be sure to check out more shows at the V theater next time I’m in town. As you can see on the picture with the cast, I’m wearing a “guest star” button, which I got for volunteering as a back ground dancer on the penultimate song.

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On Wednesday we decided to see Shania Twain at Caesar’s Palace. My friend suggested it, but he was kidding when he did. I quite like Shania’s music, which made me happily agree. In fact, I insisted. Despite not getting the VIP tickets, we ended up with really good seats. The old scrooge in me did not like the show as much at first, considering that it ended up being the most expensive one. However, objectively it was a stunning performance that was well worth it.

We didn’t see a show on Thursday, because I was busy playing in the World Series of Poker (WSOP). There is a separate section on that further down.

Unfortunately by Friday my WSOP experience had come to an end, leaving the evenings free for more shows. That night we saw Matt Goss at Cleopatra’s Barge within Caesar’s Palace. At some point he was gauging the make-up of the audience by asking “How many Americans are in the house tonight?” The “How many Brits?” question yielded even more cheers. This was followed by Australians, Canadians and Germans, which only prompted me and my friend to cheer. We turned some heads with that. Perhaps he wasn’t expecting anyone to cheer at that, because he followed it up with: “How many Mongolians are in the house?”

This time we did have VIP seats, which included a hand shake and a photo opportunity with Matt Goss after the show. My buddy flat out told him: “We didn’t know who you were.” If I recall correctly, Matt Goss responded with something like “Oh that’s quite all right.” After the provocation, my friend added a compliment: “But we were sure you would deliver. And you did deliver.”

The last show I saw, right before heading for the airport on Saturday, was the ridiculous, but at the same time amazing Tournament of Kings at Excalibur. It’s fake jousting with Merlin instructing the audience to yell “Huzzah!” and “Hear, hear!” at appropriate times. In the end the new king was crowned. We chanted “Long live the king!”, which wasn’t in the script and sadly the rest of the audience didn’t join in. It was a worthy end of the Vegas trip and I’d overall rank it #2 behind the 80s show.

Clubs

There wasn’t much time to go to clubs, but we did have a look at the Voodoo Lounge at the Rio. It’s a roof top bar / club, with – obviously – an amazing view. Since we were there on a weekday, it wasn’t as busy, but the Americans know how to create atmosphere. They cordoned off some areas in order to keep people packed together, keeping the dance floor occupied.

Sadly we missed deadmau5, who is apparently a resident DJ in Las Vegas at Hakkasan (that only means he’s there once a month).

On the flight back to London, some 29 year old lads from Manchester sat next to me: Adam and Craig and their six buddies had been in Vegas for a week and unlike our sight seeing / poker / burger vacation, they explored the club scene a bit more. I took the opportunity to ask them which one is best in their opinion. They told me that the Wynn has a good night club and that the Cosmopolitan is also good.

WSOP

The sign up procedure for the World Series of Poker was a bit problematic. First of all, there were long queues. This by itself isn’t so much a problem. However, after waiting in line for about half an hour, I overhear the conversation of the people in front of me: “Can you imagine going through this line and then not having a total rewards card?” to which I said: “Wait, do you need a total rewards card to sign up?” Up to that point, the total rewards card was entirely optional and looked like any other loyalty scheme. The man in front of me turned around and said “Don’t tell me you’re that guy.” Merriment ensued as I left the line to get the total rewards card. Of course there was another queue at that counter. I falsely informed some Germans that their national ID card would be sufficient to sign up, as it had been sufficient at every other place in Vegas. Of course total rewards is “special” again and they wouldn’t accept ID cards. Oops.

Finally I get the card, but by now the line at the tournament registration is twice as long. One and a half hours later I make it to the counter, only to be informed that they do not accept credit cards. Say what? At least this time I negotiated that I could jump the queue and I did not have to wait yet again. All of that aggravation could have been avoided with a sign stating that you absolutely need a total rewards card to sign up (they had a sign that looked like an ad, which just said “do you have a total rewards card?”) and that they only accept cash.

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I ended up playing the WSOP event #3, day 1a on Thursday the 30th of May 2013 at 11 a.m. The Brasilia room was divided into different section and I sat on table 6 in the gold section. We had an interesting mix of seasoned old school poker guys and the young internet prodigies. I do not fit into either category, so I told them that I was a tourist. Of course tourist doesn’t always go together with bad player. In fact, we didn’t really have any bad players at the table, but I did not feel outclassed either. Everybody kept 3x-ing during the first level of 25-25 and everyone was super focussed, hardly making any small talk. It was only when I started talking to a chatty dealer that some of them thawed out. What I found particularly interesting was that the hyper-aggressive style of the younger players completely bombed as they shipped their stacks with top pair against one of the old guys two pair.

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While I was sitting there, I did see a few poker celebrities. Jason Mercier walked by. I thought I heard Daniel Negreanu‘s laugh. The day before I saw Scotty Nguyen walk around the corridors near registration. Towards the end of the day I noticed that Xuan Liu sat at table gold #10, but I wasn’t sure it was her, so I had to double or triple take. This is particularly embarrassing as I am following her blog.

I did manage to get through the day and increase my chip stack. However, I merely increased it by a fraction: starting stack was 3000 chips, my high point was around 12k and I ended the day with 3725. Only 543 of 3146 people made it to day 2, 324 of which would be paid. If you google “Kai Herbertz WSOP” these three poker sites mentioned me. Still, I was happy to have made it to day two. Since I’d start the day with merely 6 big blinds, I called the best tournament player I know, who happened to be in the middle of a poker game at the time, to confirm that my push / fold range is correct. Apparently I was a bit too tight, but it was a moot point as I was pretty card dead the next day: the hands I got were K10o in the small blind (could have gone all in against a 3x raise, but decided to wait), followed by J6o, 26s, 510o, 46s, 75s and finally I shipped with A5o UTG+1. With all the money in the middle from blinds and antes, it would have been a trivial call for the big blind, no matter what he held, but to add insult to injury he woke up with a pair of kings. I finished 500something, which is pretty respectable. However, despite my jack of all trades philosophy, it turned out once again that it doesn’t matter if one is well above average – you have to be within the top 10% for anyone to notice. Ah well, live and learn, it certainly was a good experience and fun.

The verdict

Las Vegas is basically one gigantic amusement park for adults. There is always something to do and I’ll most likely return (as soon as I accrue enough holiday time and spare cash). It does not have the special place status for me that London occupies and it is a bit far away, so I’ll give it a solid “B”.

Ninja advertising

Nowadays, whenever there is a general purpose computer with free internet, I always set up my blog as the browser’s default page. For example, I did this in Los Angeles when I stayed at the Raddison at USC. So, if anyone wants to help me out, please join my little advertising campaign and change the browser’s default page to https://kaiherbertz.com/ on any general access computer you can find (tools=>options=>general=>homepage in Firefox). Oh and while you are at it, please also subscribe to my blog :) Again, thanks for smashing the view count in May.

The next blog post will be up this week (probably on Friday). Catch you all later.

#9 Japan, continued

Hi everyone,

as promised here is part two of my Japan trip. I really should have written it down shortly after I was there, but that can’t be helped now. Let’s go through the highlight reel of the trip:

Yokohama

In the Tokyo subway, they play birds chirping from the loudspeakers, which struck me as weird, but it’s actually quite nice. The funny thing is that since Yokohama is by the sea, those bird sounds are sea gulls in Yokohama. While Chiara was at the conference, Armin and I visited the Mitsubishi Industrial Museum.

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They had one of these “stick your head through and take a photo” suits, which of course I had to try. All the pictures with the camera were not as good as the ones taken with the phone: I had the flash on with the camera, so you cannot see that my face was illuminated with blue light that is supposed to be the reflection from the earth.

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Ito

Since we had a car, we were able to drive around and visit some cool places that don’t get as many tourists. Here we were in Ito, staying at a traditional style hotel.

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As you can see, there are tatami mats in the room (which apparently are also used as a unit to measure the size of a flat) and we are having some authentic dinner.

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Of course practically sleeping on the floor made me turn every half hour, when one of my limbs had fallen asleep and I needed to get the circulation going again :)

Matsumoto Castle

One of the famous old castles, that contained a from the outside hidden “dark” floor without windows.

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On this floor, all the ammunition and supplies were kept. Going up, the stairs became progressively steeper, which was a bit of a problem for me in the end.

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I guess they didn’t build them for tall people with backpacks.

Snow Monkey Park

My favourite part of the vacation was the snow monkey park. I was taking pictures of the monkeys, that were some five meters away, but when I walked on, I almost stepped on one of the monkeys, who sat right in front of me. I did not expect how close they come.

Since this is a park where it is strictly forbidden to feed the monkeys, they mostly ignore the tourists and do their own things. It was a very cool experience that way.

London

On the way back, I had a four hour layover in London. That seemed like a lot of time to me, so I took the Paddington Express to meet up with my friend Trent. When I arrived and walked around London, I thought “Oh, wow, I am home again”. After living there for five years, I have now been away for over two years, but it still exerts that pull on me.

Back at the airport, Verona Pooth (German celebrity, who also had a guest role in the 1998 Conan TV series) and her husband sat down opposite of me. Since she was wearing sun glasses, I figured she did not want to be disturbed. It’s kind of funny how celebrities always wear sun glasses as a sort of cloaking device. Of course everybody still recognizes them, but I guess they’ll still not want to be pestered for autographs when they are “in disguise”.

Overall it was a really good vacation, but since few people speak english in Japan, Tokyo has just been removed from my “places where I would like to live” list.

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