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The city itself, big, fat, loud, stinking, sitting in the middle of Attica and growing. Athens, Greece, to be sure.
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29 September 2011

No battle today

... but someone made a mess

This Tuesday there was a battle again in Athens, with the riot police attacking people (and there was one scene where they hit an 8 year old girl). The "online tv station" stopcartel transmitted images and commentary live. Good job, lots of people from all over the world paid attention.

Today (Thursday evening) though, there is no battle going on, instead stopcartel decided to replay Tuesday's video on their live streaming site. Huge success: Since they did not remove the "live" label on the video, lots of people believed that police attacked demonstrators right now and again today. Right now there are still twitter messages repeating the story. Stopcartel had placed a message "now playing back video" on there, but only in Greek.

This kind of thing does not work. I have previous work experience at a TV station and back then I learned one thing: If something looks like "live" and it isn't, you have to make it absolutely clear. Leaving a logo that says "live" in there is a disaster.

Posted by betabug at 23:58 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
19 October 2011

Wie viele Menschen sind auf der Strasse?

Bitte kurz durchzählen

Diese Luftbildaufnahmen zeigen sehr eindrücklich, wie viele Menschen heute in Athen auf der Strasse sind:

Diese Regierung hat jede demokratische Legitimation verloren. Werden die Schweizer Zeitungen jetzt wieder schreiben, dass "tausende" demonstrieren?

Posted by betabug at 15:58 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
14 November 2011

It got cold

At least for our standards
Petralona Metro Station

Last year we had a summer that seemed to last for a long time and the real cold of winter with snow in the mountains was delayed until something like February. This year it got cold early. This weekend feels really cold, at least for our standards. While the temperatures aren't that low, there is a lot of wind.

I remember discussing with an old lady in the trolley bus at the end of last year. She said "thank god we have a mild winter, now that people don't have so much money for the heating." Oh, those were the days. Not only was the winter mild, but compared to this winter, people were rich.

This year, according to the "Eleftherotypia" newspaper, in 50% of appartment buildings, they didn't buy any heating fuel. Because the tenants have to agree to buy heating fuel, there is a big problem if some of the tenants don't have the money (for example because they are part of the officially 18.6% unemployed).

If there is no central heating, what are the options? Heat up your place with electricity in some form (air conditioner, electric radiators of various kind - quite expensive in my oppinion), or use oil / kerosene / gas stoves (often really messy and not always very safe). Oh, and apparently wood stoves are in big demand these days, while forrests all over the country get plundered. Newspaper writers were reminded of similar damage done to the forests in the last war.

Posted by betabug at 13:25 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 December 2011

Subway Line 1 Back in Full Service

It tooks some time

Actually I didn't record when the big project of a total overhaul of Line 1 started (the "Ilektrikos" or "Treno" as the Athenians call it, "green line" as the foreigners seem to call it). In July 2009 I posted an image of the Petralona subway station under works, probably because until then, the project hadn't really interfered with my moving about. Now, lots of time and some delays later, the project is finished. Again I'm late in reporting, it was last week on Monday that trains started to roll normally through Omonia station again.

Part of the delay was due to the archeological findings that were expected to be found - and indeed found - near Thision station. There was part of a temple of the 12 gods under the lines. Make that right under the lines, while the train was in part operation it was possible to see the findings quite clearly. A smallish court battle later and the findings were covered and the track again laid over them.

As everybody will tell you, subway line 1 is the oldest line in Athens, 100 or so years old, and for a very long time it was the only line there was. As my flat is very near one of its stations, I can tell you that it's really convenient. Sure it's slower than the new lines (maybe with the rework not that much slower any more), but it sure beats taking the bus.

Posted by betabug at 12:04 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 January 2012


Gar nix ist passiert

Letzten Sonntag hat es seit längerer Zeit wiedermal eine Demonstration der "Empörten" (Αγανακτισμένοι) gegeben. Es waren viel weniger Menschen als letzten Sommer, nach Schätzungen so um die 2000 Menschen. Das ist aber auch verständlich, für Athener Verhältnisse war es saukalt und viele der Demonstrierenden waren gesetzten Alters. Ausserdem ist die Angst vor Repression gross: Bei den letzten Demonstrationen ist es jedesmal innert kürzester Zeit zu Angriffen der Polizei mit massivem Tränengaseinsatz gekommen. Auch diesmal hat die Polizei mit Gewalt reagiert. Die Polizei räumte mit Gewalt den oberen Teil des Platzes. Eine junge Frau wurde verletzt.

Ich selber war nicht dort, da ich den Sonntag in den Parnitha-Bergen verbrachte. Der interessanteste Punkt für mich war allerdings zu sehen, wie sich die Medien zensieren lassen bzw. wohl selbst zensieren. Es gab keinerlei Berichterstattung über die Demonstration. Ein privater Radiosender (Skai), der alle halbe Stunde über die Verkehrssituation im Grossraum Athen berichtet, verschwieg sogar im Verkehrsbericht, dass der zentralste Platz Athen und die dazugehörige Amalias-Strasse blockiert waren.

Posted by betabug at 09:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 January 2012

A space to hack... what else?
Main room of the Athens hackerspace

Right now I'm in the Athens hackerspace. What's that? It's a semi-subterranean space, set up by some dedicated geeks, hackers, tinkerers. It's being used for all kind of open source projects, both in software and hardware.

The first time I came here, I walked into the middle of an impromptu lecture on mail and DNS. One seasoned system administrator explaining stuff to some other peeps. Other days there are events for all kinds of more or less open source related groups.

Today there are just some people banging on their laptops and discussing some internal projects. Myself I'm working through a tutorial, and listening with half an ear to any topics that might be interesting.

On the hardware side, there are some tool benches and even a Makerbot. In fact, there is another, different 3d printer in the process of being assembled too. I'm not too much of a hardware hacker, but this stuff is definitely interesting.

Makerbot in tthe Athens hackerspace

Posted by betabug at 19:17 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
22 May 2012

Arriving without leaving

It's the little things

I've been living here (in Athens) for so long, that I sometimes forget where I am. Today I sat at the taverna, reading a book after having eaten lunch. I had just fed two little morcels of meat to a friendly stray cat. It's sunny, but not too hot, and I was sitting outside. Suddenly it came back, this feeling of being here, being in Greece and enjoying life. I was at once coming back to old memories and being very happy in this particular moment of now. Lucky me.

Posted by betabug at 13:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 May 2012

Back To The Square

One year after or so
Approaching the square from below

So, it's been one year since I've been on Athens' central Syntagma square, demonstrating with ten thousands of others. Demonstrating "against the thieves and embezzlers in parliament and government" and "for real democracy, transparency, and a referendum", as I reported the following day. In the following months, I was there almost every day. In very short time, "direct democracy" had turned from something totally unknown, to something that people demanded to change the political system to. It wasn't long though, that the government let the police snap down on their people with brutality, ultimately "cleaning" the square and ending the right to demonstrate freely.

The people on the upper part of the square

This pre-history in mind, when there appeared a call to go to the square again, I very much wanted to go. There might have been a small part of nostalgia, a slightly bigger hope that things would pick up again. Even more important, I wanted to be there, show presence and be counted. If there were to be very few people only, it would not have been due to me having failed to show up. And indeed, there were few people. Don't let my pictures fool you, there were large parts of the square empty. On the other hand, the picture of the assembly looks more empty than it was.

But then, this year things will have to pick up again in their own pace. The call to go to the square hasn't been spread very well. People are busy with other political means. There are elections coming again next month for example. What's more important for me: This year people will have to find new ways to express their will. The corrupt, criminal politicians have on one side learned how to respond (with police brutality), on the other hand they have been dealt a big blow. They didn't step down when "the street" demanded it, but then they had to step down in the first round of elections early this month.

The assembly on May 25, 2012

One reason I was reluctant to go to the square was obviously all the police brutality: I've had my exposure to tear gas and I didn't look forward to any more of it. It seems though that our "technical government" has less desire to follow up right in the footsteps of the last government. There was no police in view, I dind't even see any traffic police.

The coming sunday there is another call to go to the square. It might be that more people will get it, I don't know. The press obviously does not whisper a single word of all this. They have their masters to obey and their business to attend to. The bigger question will be if there is an online wave of raising attention.

Posted by betabug at 10:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 December 2012

Ein weiterer, trauriger Jahrestag

6. Dezember 2008

Gestern hörte ich in der Metro eine Ankündigung, dass die Stationen Syntagma und Panepistimio "auf Befehl der Polizei" ab 9 Uhr morgens heute geschlossen sein werden. Griechenland mag sich als Geburtsstätte der Demokratie preisen, doch die aktuelle Regierung betrachtet die Verfassung und die Rechte ihrer Bürger als nicht bindend.

Heute vor 4 Jahren erschoss ein Polizist einen 15-jährigen Schüler. Ohne Grund oder wirklichen Anlass. Danach gab es wochenlang Proteste von Jugendlichen. Wider erwarten sitzt der Polizist im Gefängnis, doch sein Kollege und Mittäter wurde trotz mehrjähriger Haftstrafe nach ein paar Monaten entlassen. Wie jedes Jahr gibt es auch dieses Jahr wieder Demonstrationen von Schülern und Studenten an diesem Tag. Die Polizei lässt in diesem Fall keinerlei Schuldbewusstsein erkennen. Statt dessen haben sich auch dieses Jahr wieder die Demonstrationen in eine Gewaltorgie entwickelt.

Posted by betabug at 19:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
09 December 2012

Train Information on Line 1

It took some time
Information panel at Metro Line 1 station

Ever since the Athens Metro Line 1 (ΗΣΑΠ / ISAP, what athenians call το τρένο, "the train") was overhauled, there were those information panels that should show the waiting times to the next train on the stations. But they were not working. Until now. I noticed some days ago that they were properly showing the waiting time now. Very convenient.

Posted by betabug at 12:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
11 January 2013

Wood Smog

Athens is Smoking

Athens is smoking. I'm not talking about the ban of smoking in public places which has completely disappeared (some months ago, restaurants would place small candleholders that could serve as ashtrays on the tables, now they reverted to simple ashtrays, apparently all legal fears are gone). I'm talking about people burning wood to stay warm. The thing is, there are a lot of people here who don't have money for heating oil. There aren't that many people who don't have the money, but since the heating systems work on a per-apartment-house basis, if out of 15 tenants, 2 don't have the money to pay their bill, then nobody gets to heat their apartments, money or not.

The first step was that people would light up their open fireplaces. That of course is a futile move it you want to stay warm. Open fireplaces have energy efficiencies below zero, your place gets colder if you use them. Then people started to set up small stoves that burn wood and "pellets" (which are some kind of pressed wood throwaways if I got that right). Rumours about people going into the woods to cut wood illegally made the rounds and were promptly picked up by the press, but a friend of mine with links to the WWF and forest preservation societies denies these things happening at any scale. I see a lot of turnover at places that sell bundled firewood and I see people bringing firewood from their villages.

So far the effect for me was that it was smelling of wood fires in the evenings outside some times. But yesterday, when I came home from the hackfest at, inside Omonia Metro station, I had a sensation of almost not being able to breathe freely due to smoke in the air. Inside the station, next to the tracks, I don't know how many meters under the earth. It was so strong that I was looking around, expecting to see someone who had foolishly lit up some papers or something. More likely someone had lit up a fire outside, near an air intake. Getting out of the Metro and waiting for the bus, the air wasn't much better.

This morning I heard from a couple of other people that it has been the same in other areas of Athens. It seems that Athens notoriously smog prone setting (hills all around it, except on the sea side) meets those wood fires and if the wind conditions are wrong, we get "wood smog". Also we had some cold days, so people needed to get warm more.

Posted by betabug at 22:09 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
28 January 2013

Going to Work by Bike

Well, getting there
You will not find "Paralia" on a map

We're on the 12th day of public transport strikes today. During those 12 days, either the busses or the metro or both were on strike (along with tram, trolley busses etc.). So, it wasn't easy to get to my office. For two days while only the Metro was on strike, I took the bus. It wasn't so bad, since I get on at the first stop, I had a place to sit. But it was hard to get off the overstuffed bus and the traffic jam was epic. (Sidenote: I think the strike is justified, even though I would prefer if they had another means to fight for their rights.)

On Saturday I got myself a bicycle. This morning I went to my office by bike. I tried to avoid the big roads. Result: I got lost in the small streets. It wasn't that bad, since those were quiet streets with some nice old houses from time to time. I stopped a lot to check where I was on the gps. I got lost again, more stops for the gps.

On my way I also came across the spot in the picture with those three signs. I know those signs for many years and always I wanted to stop and take a picture. With the bike it was easy. If you speak Greek, please don't read on and try first to spot what's wrong with those signs. Το βρήκες; Μπράβο! For everybody else: The Greek word Παραλία can indeed roughly be transliterated as "Paralia" (it's not pronounced the way an english speaker would pronounce that), but that makes no sense. Παραλία is no place that you will find on a map, it needs a translation, it means "beach" or "coast". So the sign say: Stay on the 2nd lane if you want to pass through to the coast.

All in all, it took me a bit more time than the trip with bus and metro would have taken. My guess is that when I find a good route (and not get lost) I can make it in 45 minutes, which would be half the time from taking public transport. Well... except, tonight it will be all uphill to get back, so I will see how I will manage that part. One option is to take the Metro for a part of the way, as today the Metro works and it's ok to take a bicycle on the Metro (it used to be possible only on line 1).

Posted by betabug at 14:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 January 2013

Biking Home at Night

Easy ride, no Metro

Yesterday's ride home wasn't so bad with the uphill as expected. For one thing, the bike seems to be quite good. The gear lever system works well. I seem to have the most important "clicks" (shift down) already in my muscle memory. I could do with a lower first gear though, I've been in first gear quite some times, so I wonder what will happen if I have to go really steep uphill somewhere.

Traffic wasn't bad. For one thing, I started around 22:30. Also I took mostly smaller roads and where I was on big roads, I took the by-lanes (παράδρομο). I must admit that in one stretch I was on the by-lane, even though it was one-way. I also drove on the sidewalk on two occasions. Once (very slowly) near a Metro station, where the traffic is a bit crazy with all the taxis in line. The other one on a looooong uphill on a road with fast traffic. Nobody was walking there anyway. Oh, and I didn't put the bike into the Metro, the ride was easy enough. IIRC the online map planner said it was 13.5km or so.

The light system of the bike seems to be good too, I sure didn't notice the dynamo doing some work. The backlight that keeps the light for some time even when the dynamo is stopped is great: I'm still visible, even when standing at a traffic light. I wasn't so happy with the front light. It needs some tightening, it was jumping all over with the slightest shake. Should be fixed with a (torx) driver in no time at all.

Posted by betabug at 09:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 February 2013

Bike navigation in Athens

Still biking on, times are getting better

So I've been biking to and from the office for one and a half weeks now. Not every day, last week I made the trip 3 times, this week not even as many yet. Still I already got totally used to it. I developed a bit of a routine procedure. I check the route before I leave on the computer (in detail in the beginning, more loosely now), sometimes making adjustments or trying out new routes. I then transfer the route to my phone (manually, the version of navigation software on my phone doesn't sync).

Neither the Nokia navigation nor google's maps navigation have a "bike mode" in Athens. So the routes that these two suggest always take the biggest roads they can find. I counter by setting strategic waypoints that force the route to more bike friendly small roads. It works ok mostly, but it's not yet totally bike friendly. For one thing the notion of uphill is totally lost on the software. Due to Athens being a maze of one way streets, the both halves of my ride take different routes, and in the one direction I end up with some lousy steep uphills to climb. I guess with time I will map around them as good as I can.

I also skip navigation for the last bit of my trip to the office, where both navigation systems insist on putting me on a big and extra aggressive piece of road. So I end the navigation route early, because at that point I know my way myself anyway. For the most part of the ride, I place the phone with voice navigation turned on to almost full volume in a sweater pocket. I don't see the display, but I get the voice instructions (and I guess it must be funny for bystanders to see this guy drive by with a voice blaring to "turn left after 200 meters"). I've been used to using the nokia maps navigation like that for driving a car too and I consider it much safer than trying to look at the display while driving. I expect that over time I'll get to know my route better, so I won't need the GPS any more for navigation.

The other thing I use the GPS phone is to track my ride and my times. I'm using a sports tracker software that shows me afterwards on the computer my times and where I rode on a map. It's interesting. It also makes me want to ride faster, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I have this tendency to wanting to ride fast on a bicycle anyway and arriving tired and sweaty isn't always the best thing. In any case, my fastest times have come down to 46 minutes, which makes it about half the time of the average that I plan for when I take the public transport. Not bad at all.

Posted by betabug at 23:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
13 February 2013

Bike in Rain and Metro

Come rain or shine, another bicycle post, hope you won't get bored
The bike in the Metro

This morning, after doing some work at home, I decided it would be a good day to ride the bicycle to go to the office. Sure it looked dark and cloudy outside, sure the weather report talked about rain, sure it had already rained, but... it was only some sprinkling. The bike has fenders, good brakes, lights, what could possibly go wrong? I started well enough, at first driving very carefully, until I noticed that the tires have a bit of profile and work really well in the rain. Then I pressed on some more. When I was about the distance away that makes you not wanting to turn around any more, the heavy rain started.

I went on. It started to pour more and more. I was starting to get totally soaked, except where my upper body was covered by the nylon windbreaker. I decided that I would put the bike into the Metro, to avoid a part of the trip that would take me either on big roads with cars (which will be more stuck than usual in the rain) or through small streets with multiple steap uphills. Good plan, but even up to the Metro, it was pouring on, and what's worse, large parts of the road turned into rivers. My feet were soaked by the water splashing up when I was crossing deeper ravines. It was slightly less agreeable than my previous bike rides.

Now in Athens it used to be that bikes weren't allowed in the Metro lines 2 and 3 (and there were some restrictions on line 1 too). Now you can take your bike into the Metro and put it into the first or last coach, in the outermost door. Up to two bikes per coach. No other bikes were riding with me today. A few days ago I had seen a guy with the bicycle in the Metro, taking it slowly, and I had thought: Since you gain on a big part of your trip using the Metro, this guy does it right. So I followed his example and took it easy to get in and out of the station and train. Relax.

When I came out of the station I had hoped that the rain would have let up a bit, but no such luck. I thought about waiting a bit, but then decided that I couldn't get any more soaked, so might as well go for it. When I arrived at the office, I changed into dry (and clean clothes) and warmed myself up. It wasn't the most clever idea to drive off into the rain, but having a change of clothes and a warm place at the end helps to amend things.

Posted by betabug at 22:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 February 2013

Critical Mass

Freeday Ride to Keratsini

Now that I have a bicycle, obviously it's time to finally take part in the Critical Mass ride here in Athens (where it's called "Freeday" and is held every Friday night, with the exception of August). People assemble outside the Thisio subway station at 21:30, where the route is going is announced on the evening before (on f*book, which I totally disagree with, and on the site). I was there the first time, didn't know anybody and had a great time. The ride was taking us to Keratsini, an industrial area near Piraeus.

It had rained a lot on this Friday, but the weather report had claimed that after noon the rain should stop. Ha! When I rode to the center, the rain started again, just as I had decided not to take the metro. It wasn't the full on assault as in the morning, but it made the evening's ride look suspect to me. Thing is, I don't have proper rain gear since, wtf, I live in a place where we are supposed to get more than 300 days of sunshine a year! So I was at home and expecting not to go, when the sky cleared totally around 8 in the evening. Off I was, at 9:30 in Thisio and... waiting. We left a while later and I had almost gotten cold, but it was well worth it.

We went on Piraeus Street to Omonia, rounded the square once and then drove off back in direction to Pireaus. Being in a group of about a 100 bicycles (my totally uneducated guess), going around Omonia, up Agiou Konstantinou and in the Process blocking all traffic there, it was wonderful. The streets got quiet around us. Lots of bicycle bells to be heard. I was riding about in the center of the mass, occasionally looking back just to enjoy the view of the riders. I guess this is where the name "Critical Mass" comes from. When I'm alone in traffic, it's always me stepping back. Car drivers tend to look out for me, but much more I have to look out for myself. But put 100 riders or more on the road, and the thing turns. Not only does it give us an open road for the night, but it puts up a signal too: there are cyclists even in this city.

We kept on riding at a very slow and easy pace (my gps said we had an average speed of 11.7 km/h). I felt like I was coasting all of the time, with only an occasional push on the pedal. It actually felt as if I was coasting even on the few uphills. (Upon returning home, my legs were far from being tired, but my back told me that a bicycle with a more upright position would be nice for rides like these.) Around me a lot of people knew each other well and/or were there in small groups. Lots of talking and laughing. I didn't mind riding by myself, enjoying the quiet and easy ride, leaving the route and coping with traffic to the others. It was like a sightseeing tour on bicycle. In fact I knew a lot of places from old times down there, so often I played the "guess the place" game with myself.

We made a tour of the Piraeus harbor (saying hello to the big ferry boats that I will be hopefully soon be a passenger on again), then entered even more industrial areas till we stopped for a break in a small park in Keratsini, with a view on some industrial harbor installations, oil tanks, all that nice stuff. This is still Athens, so on the back of the park there were apartment buildings with people living there. After the break we rode back, on a different route. The end point is again Thissio, but I broke off a little bit earlier to take a directer route to my place. I had ridden 3 hours (not counting the break and the ride to get to Thisio). This really was an enjoyable experience, I would suggest it to anybody who wants to see more of Athens on bicycle, without having to slalom through traffic.

Posted by betabug at 11:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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