How do you say…

[update: all translations in the comments, thanks!!] I bought a vegan passport a few years ago and have used it traveling through various non-english speaking countries. Basically, it’s a paragraph about being vegan translated into a bajillion different languages – the idea being anywhere in the world you are you should be able to show it to someone at a restaurant and they should be able to bring you something vegan. This seems like a good idea, but I think the execution was a bit off.

The biggest problem is that the paragraph spends too much time talking about “ethics” and basically makes you sound like a pain in the ass, and that isn’t really very convincing. I’ve gotten mixed results using it and on more than one occasion gotten something of a “that’s dumb, no” reaction. I’ve had friends help edit some of the translations to get right to the point, but unfortunately I forgot it in Los Angeles and won’t be able to bring it on this trip. Because of that, I’m hoping some readers here can help me with something similar, but more effective. In efforts to avoid the ugly food poisoning like side effects of tainted food, I need the following text translated into French, German, and Dutch. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

“Hello. I have an allergy to animal products and can not eat any meat or dairy products. This includes items such as milk, butter, and eggs as well as any kind of chicken, beef, or fish stock in broth. Could you please suggest something from your menu which is free from these items.

I could become very sick if I eat the wrong thing, however I understand this might be an unusual request, and very much appreciate your help. Thank you.”

I know saying allergy instead of vegan might be cheating, but over the last 15 years I’ve found it to be much more effective for two main reasons. First of all, I’m not a flag waiver. I’m not trying to “spread the word” or change anyone’s mind, so what someone else calls it really makes no difference to me. I just want something to eat, and the less things standing in my way for that the better. Secondly, while 90% of the people I might ask this of are more than happy to comply, there’s also 10% which take offense to it for some reason. Those are the folks who think it’s funny to hide meat or cheese on a veggie sandwich (which is about as rude as spitting in someones food) with the added bonus of 24-48 hours of diarrhea and vomiting. Telling those kinds of people it’s an ethical choice gives them a reason to mess with you, telling them it’s medical and asking for their help generally brings positive results. Last year a restaurant in Berlin served me a veggie plate that I’m fairly certain they cooked in butter, and that evening and next day were extremely unfun.

So anyway, any help with those translations would be a life saver.

Pack it up, Pack it up, Pack it up.

I haven’t started packing for this trip, though I have made a pretty detailed list of what to bring and what not to. In the past I’ve photo documented my packing process which I may or may not do this time (anyone actually care about that?). I have this love/hate thing about packing for actual “traveling” trips (as opposed to brief work trips) – half of me loves the obsessive nature of having all the bits and pieces in order, the other half hates worrying that I’ve brought too much or am missing something crucial. Making a list and sitting on it for a few days allows me to skip most of the stress involved with that, as I’m pretty confident that over 3-4 days I’ll think of anything I need and talk myself out of anything I think is extra.

As usual I’m bringing as much as I need to get things done, but not a single item more. I refined my list a lot over the last year – if I took something and didn’t touch it the entire trip no need to bring it next time. I’ve talked about how earlier in life I was all about having every possible outcome and situation covered but now I really prefer just to have the expected covered and if something unexpected comes up I prefer to just tackle that then. Some of that comes from Tim Ferriss’s thoughts on how people often spending more mental cycles trying to prevent anything from going wrong then they would fixing it if it did. Rather than preparing for the worst, I prepare for the best and rest assured knowing if the worst happens I’ll figure something out at that point.

Along with my usual bag of adapters for all the random countries I’ll be passing through, I’m bringing two mobile devices. My iPhone and my G1. While I have an international roaming plan on my iPhone I’m actually planning to turn it off and use it only as a back up if I need notes or contact info I have stored in it. That’s my main device here in the US so I’m going to do an experiment and try to use the G1 as a primary there and see how that works. I haven’t yet decided to sync my Apple Address Book and Google contacts mostly because of horror stories from friends about suddenly having thousands of people in their address book that they don’t know but may have e-mailed with once years ago. Since my Apple Address book is pretty solid, I don’t want to risk it. The G1 should do the trick though, I’ve added a bunch of apps from the Market that will cover twitter, weather, navigation and the usual. My US number will work on it (so use that to reach me, preferably by SMS if you need to – if you don’t have that number and need it please let me know). My normal US number that routes through my iPhone will be off most of the time I’m gone. I’ll be making notes on how this works and aim to have a ‘2 weeks using the G1 from an iPhone users perspective’ post when I get back. In the meantime, if anyone has any Android apps they are using and can’t live without please let me know.

Countdown to launch

Just over a day from now Tara and I will be jumping on planes and getting the heck out of this continent. Heading back to Europe, land of the weird ass shower hose things. Our trip hits up a few of the cities I spent time in last year – Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and London. I’m bummed that I won’t be able to make it to Vienna to see my friends there, but I know most of them will be in Berlin when we are so I’m not that broken up about it. Plus I was there what, 4 times in the last 12 months or so?

Unfortunately the route doesn’t include any places I haven’t been before, but that’s actually kind of cool from a “get to know places a bit better” kind of stand point. Last year my Paris trip was hectic and lasted barely 48 hours most of which were in a hotel, so I’m looking forward to heading back with more time to explore, a skilled guide (Tara has spent time there) and friends in town to visit. Likewise, my Amsterdam visit last year was brief and mostly filled with wide eyed awe of a new city.

Last year I spent over 2 months kicking it around Europe and had some amazing adventures with great friends. Many of those folks will be there again this year, some are already there. I’m definitely feeling the longing to get the hell out of town and land somewhere away from all the day to day and feel eternally fortunate to have the ability to do this. Of course, the “ability” is just as much saying fuck it, throwing caution to the wind and jumping in assuming things will work them selves out en route as it is anything else – but that’s where I feel most at home. Chaos is my brier patch.

I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging while there, maybe a little maybe a lot. I’ll try to stay on top of twitter and flickr so my web stalkers friends can follow along from home but my main goal is enjoying the experience while I’m there, not documenting it. I say that now of course, but I always find the need to sort thoughts and this is where that happens, so stay tuned I guess.

I saw them, true story

In preparation for my upcoming travels I thought I recall a few of the adventurous things I saw on my last flight from JFK to SFO via DFW. These are all 100% true and real and not made up at all. I swear.

The guy sitting across the isle to my right was reading a book and underlining important passages, or things that stood out to him. That’s what I thought anyway, until I noticed that he was underlining pretty much everything. So I thought maybe that was the only way he’d know what he had read or hadn’t. Maybe? But I looked closer, and by this point I was definitely staring and the dude should have known he was doing something weird but no he just kept on going. Upon closer investigation I noted that he wasn’t underlining everything, but at least 80% of each paragraph. He’d skip a sentence here and there and sometimes a word or two within a sentence.

Before taking off at JFK a flight attendant told someone a few rows ahead of me that they needed to put their water away because it was “against TSA for people to have drinks on the plane before it takes off.” This made no sense to anyone really, except the person who she was telling this too who bought it hook line and sinker. Another passenger asked if it was not allowed how come they serve drinks before take off in first class, to which the attendant responded “they pay more.” The lesson here is that apparently, if something is against TSA you can just fork over some extra cash and it’s all good.

There was a lady with 2 giant suitcases complaining to her self that she didn’t understand how people could leave the house with just one small bag and they must live like savages.

The guy directly next to me on the left pulled out a zip-lock back of potato chips that he’d had in his pocket for half the damn flight. Of course these were crushed all to hell and it was mostly potato chip dust at this point and rather than opening it up and just pouring it into his gross face like any normal person would he insisted on picking out each individual chip crumb with his sausagey fingers, eating it by putting half his hand into his mouth and then followed that by wiping his fingers on his pants. Then he’d repeat that whole thing over again. He did this for almost an hour before I finally killed myself because I couldn’t take it any longer.

lol wut?

The alphabet according to twitter

It’s no secret that Google will auto complete a result for each individual letter of the alphabet. This kind of suggests that whatever the return is might be the most important thing online to start with that letter. For instance if you type “s” you get “sean bonner” right away. I’m just kidding, you get “sears” – but you get the idea. Single letters have been gaining in popularity on twitter too, with many folks scrambling to get those highly desirable one letter usernames – there’s only 26 of them after all. Plus, in a format where you are limited to 140 characters including a username, a single letter name could have it’s advantages. So who are the lucky folks that make up the alphabet on twitter? It’s gotta be the most elite of the elite, right? I thought I’d check that, and the results were kind of surprising – full alphabet after the jump.