Skirmish Paintball !

April 24th, 2008
Remember the paintball session on January 19th ? Well, on April 19th we did it again ! This time we went to the probably biggest paintball site in the USA: Skirmish, in Pennsylvania. I started organizing this event about 3 to 4 weeks ago, and I somehow managed to gather 34 people from Siemens, mostly interns. When someone reserves for a group of at least 20 people, the group gets a private field for the day. I convinced several people by telling them stories about out last paintball event and by showing them pictures.

I had to pay everything 14 days in advance, so I collected all the money and then I booked the field. Sounds easy, but believe me, it’s not that trivial :D This is how much we had to pay in advance:

The field is located about 100 Miles away from Princeton, so we met at 7:15am at Siemens on a Saturday morning. Quite an unusual time to get up, on a week end. We split the cars and took the 2 hour drive. Surprisingly enough, only 3 people were late that day (yep, the 3 French guys… how did you know ? :D ) and everything went as planned. I checked in the group, people rented their camo suit for the day and everyone dressed up, and then I ordered the paint balls. I was asked if I was planning on going on a war when a guy in the line saw me buying 35 000 paint balls for more or less $1200.

Our referee showed up, he was very nice and after 15 minutes of safety instructions, we were on our way to the fields. Everyone got his paint gun and goggles, and then a photograph took our group picture: Despite thousands of other players, the organization was very good and we did not have to wait or anything.

We went to the fields and the game could start. My purple team (the best team ever, by the way - except Silvana, the team killer girl *g*) won the first rounds. We had a lot of fun, and the fields at skirmish are really good, especially the urban ones with lots of infrastructure and buildings. We had 5 girls with us: Silvana, Julia, Didi, Wendy and Katherine ! Some of them should definitely wear army suits more often :D Most of the players had never played before, and except Julia who decided that Paintball was definitely not her thing, everyone enjoyed it. Julia took the role of “dedicated cameraman”, after 3 rounds she traded her gun for a camera. She wore the yellow reflective vest I bought for that purpose, and this is why we have LOTS of in-game pictures (see the gallery).

The players were obviously told not to shoot at her :D We played all day, and the weather was really nice. In fact, it was way too hot because of all the protections we were wearing. It’s a good thing we had those protections by the way, some of the more experienced players like Michael tried to be heroes and got shot over 8 times, leaving lovely marks on his back :D It’s a shame that paintball isn’t that popular in Europe. It does exist, but it’s very expensive. As someone once said: “Paintball is a sport for rich people played by poor people” :D We spent about $85 for the whole day, including gas and food. It’s still expensive, but it’s the kind of thing you don’t do every day. We are already talking about the next session …

I guess most of the people will join us again :)


Delightfully tacky yet unrefined

April 20th, 2008
So on my journey to become more of real American, I went to Hooters. Not alone, but with 30 other Siemens interns :D . Every Wednesday, it’s “all-you-can-eat” Chicken Wings day. If in addition the wings are served by hot waitresses, what else could a man possibly need more ?

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We got a special room for our whole group in the back of the very crowded restaurant, and it took ages before we got served. Only one waitress was available at this time, a second one joined her later on. Anyway, almost everyone chose the unlimited chicken wings, which were available in 5 different sauces: Mild, Medium, Hot, 3 Mile Island and 911. Silvia chose the latter and it was really very hot (the wings, not Silvia :D). We shared all the flavors and tried out everything. It’s probably not the most healthy food out there, but it’s definitely worth the experience.

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Everyone had fun, and for $9.99 it was not too expensive. I even got my own picture take with “Cat” (that’s what her name tag said), the tiny waitress !

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The end of my internship … NOT !

April 5th, 2008
Suprised ? Me too. So I’ll make it official: I am staying here ! Time just flew by during my stay in the USA, and before I knew it, it was April 5th and I would fly back to Europe. When I first planned to do my internship here, I also wanted to write my final paper (diploma thesis) in order to finish my studies. As it turned out, the internship I was given was not really suited for a thesis, and now it’s over and I still have not written my thesis.

I spoke to another intern’s supervisor who happened to be looking for a new intern about a month ago, and after a couple of interviews, I got the position and I would start in april ! Not only would I change department (from Automation & Control to Software Engineering), but I would also get a very interesting thesis subject and two very nice supervisors. I took care of all the extension paperwork I had to fill out, and one downside of all this is that my Visa would expire in May and I won’t be able to leave the country until the end of my internship (unless, of course, I got a new Visa … but I could only do this outside of the USA - go figure).

Anyway, here I am for another six months, until september. That way, I would have stayed one whole year in the USA. It’s actually a good thing that I could extend my internship, because there are several things I have not seen here yet (including the west coast). Plus, I really enjoy the casual lifestyle here. For some personal reasons it has not been the most easy decision I had to take, but I think I took the right one after all :)


Fulfilling the American dream

March 24th, 2008
On saturday, I finally did something I had planned a long time ago, and I could finally cross it from my Life-ToDo list. Some interns and myself went to a shooting range, and fired some firearms european people could only dream about. I know, I know, I have always have been attracted by weapons in general, which does not mean that I like war or anything related. Firing a gun doesn’t make you instantly a serial killer. Like the NRA says, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”. And as Eddie Izzard would add, “… but I think the gun helps !”. Anyway, if you judge me for having done and enjoyed that, well no one forces you to read my blog, right ? :D

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I came across the website of the Sunset Hill shooting range as I was looking for shooting ranges in the vicinity of New Jersey, and their arsenal looked very impressive. I told other interns about it, and after postponing it a few times because of bad weather or the availability of some interns, we finally went there on saturday. Lothar, David, Orlando, Daniel and myself drove the 90 Miles to Henryville in Pennsylvania. We left the car outside the range, it was already very loud and impressive. It sounded a bit like a firework that would explode just in front of you, on the ground.

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We went in and signed in, all we needed was an ID. Well, at least one for the group. We got earmuffs and eye protection, and we could go out. At least 10 booths were available, with each one instructor waiting and several weapons nailed to the walls of those booths. All we had to do was to show up at a booth, tell the instructor which weapon we wanted to fire, and he’d show us what to do in a very professional way. The instructors were all very friendly and they were very strict regarding their “Safety first” philosophy, which is a good thing. I asked several questions about the weapons and the laws in Pennsylvania, did you know that all you needed to buy a gun or a rifle was a … valid driver’s license ? And you could carry your weapon with you everywhere you go if you wish. Crazy, huh ?

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One instructor told me that no one gets robbed in Pennsylvania, no one wants to break into a house because the owner most certainly owns at least one weapon. The same goes for assaulting people: It simply does not happen so often, because the whole point of having a gun is that the victim does not have one. Here, it is different because both aggressor and victim are armed. This logic seems to be reasonable at first, but in the end, people get killed more easily. Anyway, don’t f**k with Pennsylvanian people.

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The most funny thing was when I asked what I would have to do to own a full automatic weapon. All you need to do is a “full background check” in order to see if you ever had problems with the authorities. If not (which is usually the case for most people), you can go and order yourself a new M60 or whatever the military arsenal has to offer in the next walmart. In Europe, I could get in trouble if I showed people my air rifle. I like America. So this is me, firing a SA-58 FAL with a mounted red dot.

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It’s probably less impressive on the video, especially the very loud sound is missing. I was litteraly astonished to see how easily I hit the targets. I had never shot such a powerful rifle before, and all I had to do is point and shoot. The targets were approximately 30-40 meters away, and every single shot was a bullseye.

I also fired a .44 desert eagle, the loudest weapon on the range, then an Ak-47 with ironsights, a Defender Shotgun and a scoped AR-15. The shotgun felt like a toy in my hands, I expected a much heavier weight. The AK-47 was also very accurate and loud, I wish I had tried out the scoped version. Maybe next time.

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It was really a great experience, at the beginning when the instructor gave me the AK-47, my hands were almost shaking. Once you’ve fired such a weapon and felt it’s power, you swear to god that you never ever want to be in a war. It’s just so amazingly brutal, and the thought of people actually shooting at each other with those things gives me the creeps. It’s very fun to shoot at targets, though, and I would definitely do it again if I could. Maybe I will :) Make sure to check out the pictures in the gallery ! As you can see, people from everywhere are going there. Some families even brought their small kids ! We met a group of Germans who also live in Princeton and who work at Miele, in the vicinity of Siemens. See, I’m not the only crazy guy out there ! :)


Off Topic

March 18th, 2008
I recently fell in love with that song:

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It’s from the movie “Once”, which I have not seen yet. Thanks Katherine for showing me this !