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06 April 2009

Bugs (or rather: Insects)

Funny little critters
 
Black ant up close

While I'm "debugging" a piece of code I wrote last Friday, I'll take a moment to publish some pictures I took on Saturday.

Today it's raining here, but on Saturday the weather was quite nice and warm, so I took the opportunity and went for a nice walk in the big park near my place. I took my camera with me, but didn't really have the intention to go for pictures. At some point I remembered the macro on the camera though, so when I saw some ants (ants are everywhere) I started some experiments.


Alsos Ilision park/forest in Athens

This is the park (or rather called an άλσος / alsos a small forest in Greek). It's really big enough to loose oneself in it, at least metaphorically. Go deep enough into it and you won't even hear the traffic any more. There aren't that many people visiting it, so it's relaxing really. (Click on this image for a bigger view.)

Macro shot of a red ant

The first few pics I took on some marble benches, where I sat in the sun. I held the camera steady, pointing approximately 45º down, with my hand resting on the marble. Then I waited for an ant to pass in front of the camera and pressed the shutter button. It took some tries to get something, because those ants move quite fast.

Worker ant carrying a piece of something (wood?)

I like this shot, because this ant is working: It's carrying something, maybe a piece of wood? Unfortunately the load is a bit unsharp due to movement. Still an amazing view into their little world.

Last picture here is a nice yellow flower. I have more or less stopped (or much reduced) taking pictures of flowers, because it's just too easy. I mean, come on, take a nice flower, stick your camera close to it and press the button and almost no matter what you do you get a nice picture. Too easy. Anyway, this one I took, without really spotting that there was something red on the flower. Turns out those red spots were some living little critters and they show up quite nice in the pic.

Yellow flower with some red critters on it

Posted by betabug at 09:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 April 2009

Running Round on Sunny Easter Weekend

Sporty betabug
 
Flowers, trees, stone near the Acropolis

The long Easter weekend I was at home in Athens. It was a quiet weekend (very quiet, as Athens is almost totally empty those days), with a lot of time to think and reflect. There was lots of sun shine to help me along. I spent many hours in the park near my place and on Philopappou hill next to the Acropolis. Due to the lots of rain we had this winter (good thing!) there were lots of flowers.

So, I didn't eat any lamb till after Easter (when I went to graffic's place and got some incredible katsiki and lamb from Stella's village), I slept a lot, I read a little bit, I enjoyed the quiet.

On Sunday evening, I got an urge to a more healthy life and went for a run in the park. Since I haven't run since a looong time, I expected to be out of shape, to end up out of breath, with hurting legs. But no, I enjoyed running 3.1km at a fairly decent speed and felt empowered afterwards.

I had used "Sports Tracker" on my mobile phone (e71) to keep track of the distance I had been running and the speed. To make the task easier, I had bought the stupidest/craziest/weirdest accessory Nokia probably ever produced: A sweat band with a pocket for the mobile phone (CP-218 also see this review). It worked quite well, despite the e71 not being on the list of supported phones. Forget about being able to push any buttons while running though. "Sports Tracker" uses the phone's GPS to track your activity and the GPS had no problem to keep the signal in the sweat band pocket.

The running story continues though: Since I felt so good about running on Sunday, I went back to run some more on Monday evening... big mistake. Now my legs hurt a lot, I was able to run only half the distance and then I felt that it was more than enough. It took some days for my legs to get back into shape.


Posted by betabug at 10:55 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
13 May 2009

Working on Naxos

An old dream comes true
betabug looking on the Naxos landscape

Since last Sunday I'm on the island of Naxos. I live in an old two-story stone house, in the middle of the island. The sea is not near, from the terrace I can barely spot a glimmer of it, but I can see the mountain of the neighboring Paros island.

Having the sea nearby isn't so important, I'm here to work. I brough my MacBook, a bit of paper, and a little device to get Internet over a 3G mobile connection. When I'm sketching out plans, I can sit on the terrace in the sun, otherwise I'm inside on the computer, with a view on the trees and the still green landscape. I hear mostly the birds chirping, with a truck or tractor passing in the distance now and then.

It's a nice setting to think things through and to concentrate on writing code. Working on the Zope on my local machine is fast as usual, but when I connect somewhere over the Internet, results vary. Sometimes the connection is speedy and slick, other times I get a lot of lag. Clearly following Murphy's law, the signal is worst on the nice desk little where I like to work, much better in the middle of the house. Sitting in the middle of the house, I can even talk on Skype with clear and non-laggy sound. I always wanted to try and work like this. Modern technology with 3G Internet connections finally made things possible.

There are a lot of cows on Naxos, the place is famous for butter and cheese. It tempts me to cook swiss style, with a lot of butter. I went to run twice in the evenings, greeting cows and farmers alike. I love that: wind up work, then change into shorts and go for a run, right outside the door. I'll stay here this week, then head back to Athens.


Posted by betabug at 10:46 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
23 May 2009

Bios Green Cube

... already warm enough for an evening outside
Green cube lights on the terrace of the Bios in Athens

Still haven't got a photoblog, so this picture goes here. This "thing" is a green "cube" light on the terrace of the Bios bar/club/cultural center in Athens. They've got what looks like beer barrels for seats too. Been there yesterday evening with friends for some drinks. We were up on the terrace and it was easily warm enough to stay outside in a t-shirt. Some people even wore shorts, so summer is officially here.

The pic was taken when we arrived, a little later the place started to become crowded. At some point we left and went for pork chops to a nearby place that only has... pork chops. Very good ones though. No pictures of that, this time, but I've been there before. There are actually two places like that, right next to each other (called Minotaurus and Telis, IIRC), right at the start of Evripidou street, near Pireus street. Not a nice neighborhood, especially at night, and it got worse at that the last few years. Really a pity, because it was a weird, but safe place "in the good old times", back when I came the first time to Athens. The pork chops are still good though.


Posted by betabug at 16:56 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
25 May 2009

Chasing the Late Afternoon Sun

Some of the best light
Palm tree street scene in the late afternoon sun in Athens

Working steady hours results in a different light situation when I leave the office as we move through the circle of the seasons. In winter, I get home in darkness, in summer in bright daylight, same as most people. Currently, there are various levels of warm, late afternoon sun, which I chase with my camera.

It's simply some of the nicest light to take pictures in. Here I have three pictures taken more or less randomly, from my way home. Click on "continue" to see the other two.


A church glimmering in the sunlight at the end of the street

This church was glimmering in the sunlight at the end of the street. I spotted the sight, as I drove by in the bus. Hopped out, walked back, tried a few shots.

It's really at a point, where my camera is taxed hard, not enough telephoto power! But nevermind, I think I captured what I saw about "good enough" for me.

Tops of the pine trees glowing

Here I saw the topps of these majestic pine trees glowing. I think here I did the worst job of catching the moment, but I still like those trees. Even if the picture is not too impressive for you, it will remind me of the moment.

Posted by betabug at 20:06 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 May 2009

Μάθε και εσύ να παρκάρεις σωστά!

Δεν είναι μαγεία...
 
Creative parking in Athens

Δεν είναι πάντα εύκολο να βρεις μια θέση να παρκάρεις το αμάξι σου στην Αθήνα [1] . Γι' αυτό και είναι πολύ σημαντικό να μάθει κανείς να παρκάρει σωστά και υπεύθυνα. Μας το έδειξε χτες ένας κύριος που - όπως φαίνεται - έχει σχολή οδηγών.

Και εξηγώ: Η ρόδα είχε ανέβει ακόμα πιο ψηλά... αλλά πριν προλάβω να βγάλω την φωτογραφική μου από την τσέπη, μάλλον άλλαξε γνώμη και το επέστρεψε. Για λίγο μόνο, το άφησε παρκαρισμένο περίπου έτσι. Πάλι καλά που δεν το έχωσε έτσι σε πεζοδρόμιο.

[1]το συγκεκριμένο σημείο όμως είναι ένα από το λίγα που έχει ελεύθερες θέσεις σχεδόν πάντα

Posted by betabug at 10:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
31 May 2009

Geschichten vom Dorf

Vor langer, langer Zeit, da war einmal...
 

Dieses Wochenende bin ich "auf's Dorf" gefahren. Ich habe ein Dorf auf dem Peloponnes besucht, eines das ich noch nicht kannte. Hier habe ich bei einem Projekt mitgeholfen, bei dem es um die Menschen und die Geschichte dieses Dorfes geht.

Meine Mitarbeit bestand daraus, bei Gesprächen mit den (vor allem) alten Menschen dieses Dorfes zu übersetzen. Die Geschichten, die sie erzählen, sind interessant und wert, erzählt zu werden. Die Leute freuen sich, jemanden zu haben, der zuhört. Dabei hab ich mich bemüht, auf sie einzugehen und sie reden zu lassen. Aber manchmal wurde es schwierig, gleichzeitig zuzuhören und das bereits erzählte immer wieder zu übersetzen. Ab und zu flogen von zwei Seiten Geschichten herum, während ich noch am nacherzählen der letzten Geschichte war.

Die Geschichten spielen vor dem Hintergrund der alten Zeiten, als die Menschen in harter Arbeit ein karges Leben führten. Sie berichten vom Krieg, von den Bergen, von den Ziegen, von Oliven und Orangen' von Schulen und Schulkindern. Sie spielen in einem Dorf, dass früher viele Einwohner hatte und in dem heute, wie so oft in den griechischen Dörfern, fast nur noch Alte leben.

Inzwischen ist die "Arbeit" des Wochenendes getan, wir waren noch baden, nicht weit vom Dorf. Jetzt geniesse ich noch den Ausblick aufs Meer in den letzten Stunden eines spannenden Wochenendes.



Posted by betabug at 17:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 June 2009

Greek Urban Surrealism

Ελληνικός αστικός σουρεαλισμός, as named by Panos
Workplace of the "parkadoros"

My friend Panos names these things as "ελληνικός αστικός σουρεαλισμός" (ellinikos astikos sourrealismos) - "Greek urban surrealism". Those spots of life where things go that little extra step that make them "get out of hand". We're pretty much used to these things here in Athens, we'll just look and walk by, often times not even notice or just do as much as chuckle. But quite often if you keep your eyes open and then really think about it for a moment... life and people here produce bizarre stuff really. A few posts back I already offered an example.

There used to be a time when parking lot guardians had little transistor radios. They were parking your car in front of that restaurant and then watching over the lot like a modern version shepherd. While they sat around doing that (i.e. nothing) they listened to the match on that squeaky radio. This guy here went a step further. He installed a portable LCD tv, complete with remote control and "suck on" antenna (antenna unfortunately not pictured). Coincidentally this scene was found less than 50m from and at the same time as the previous example. Maybe there is a strong surrealism force field at that spot?


Posted by betabug at 11:24 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
11 June 2009

Moved to New Garage

Workplace in the Sky
 
laptop at new office

Last Friday our company moved to our new offices. We're on the 7th floor, with a great view over a lot of Athens. No, we can't see the Acropolis, there's a building in between, but if we go up on the roof we can see it.

There's still a lot of things to do, some furniture hasn't arrived yet. My computer is placed on a "borrowed" place, on someone else's desk. Except that in this office I can really sit and work wherever I want. There will be some sofas (still to arrive), some coffee tables (still to arrive) and some regular desks to work at.

Instead of an office phone, I've got the SIP phone client on my Nokia e71 set up to connect to the office PBX. One less device to carry around or place on a desk. I could run a SIP client on the laptop too, but I find the mobile more practical.

We've got a nice, clean, climatized server room too now. Makes a huge difference when server's aren't just standing around in a rack in some corner of a workroom.


Posted by betabug at 10:25 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
18 June 2009

Euro-Elections: More Greek Urban Surrealism

Football or Politics
 
Party fan

While most of Europe (and Greece along with it) showed the lowest participation in any Euro elections and others take things really serious, there seem to be some for whom it's all just a game - something like a couple of football teams to root for.

This young lady left a lasting impressions one or two days before the election Sunday, when I saw her in the subway, dressed in a short skirt partially made with a party flag and carrying another party flag. Her attire was suitably party-style too... but the other kind of "party".

Obvioulsy I tried to snap some pictures, but stupid me had forgotten the camera's ISO setting on 100 ISO (for some long exposure shots) and there wasn't enough light for that in the Metro station. The picture has some movement blur, but with a bit of tweeking this daily surreal scene from Athens life (ελληνικός αστικός σουρεαλισμός, ellinikos astikos sourrealismos, term coined by libero) is viewable I believe.


Posted by betabug at 10:24 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 July 2009

Καθαρός αέρας

Ποιότητα ζωής
 

Δύο μέρες είναι τώρα που μπήκε ο καινούριος νόμος σε λειτουργία. Δύο μέρες έχουν περάσει που δεν καπνίζουν πια στο γραφείο μας. Η ποιότητα ζωής αναβαθμίζεται. Αυτό ισχύει για μένα που πάντα με ενοχλούσε ο καπνός, αλλά ισχύει και για τους καπνιστές και ας μην θέλουν να το πιστέψουν.

Εδώ και κάποιο καιρό αρχίζει να με ενοχλεί να βλέπω ανθρώπους που έχουν σημασία για μένα να καπνίζουν. Ίσως να με ενοχλεί γιατί έχοντας εμπειρία από άλλους πολύ κοντινούς ανθρώπους και τον εαυτό μου, βλέπω τη ζημιά που κάνουν στον εαυτό τους. Με ενοχλεί όμως και η έλλειψη σκέψεις στο όλο πράγμα. Ο καπνιστής στην ουσία είναι εξαρτημένος από τις καπνοβιομηχανίες. Το έργω με την "ελευθερία" και τα άλογα που τρέχουν στην άγρια δύση δεν έπαιξε ποτέ.

Όλο αυτό όμως έχουν μπει στην άκρη. Απλά μπορώ να αναπνέω καθαρό αέρα στην δουλειά. Οι σκέψεις τρέχουν πιο άνετα, πιο ελεύθερα.


Posted by betabug at 10:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 July 2009

Garage Summer Towel

The "not a t-shirt" year
 
The "ibeach" bag containing the summer towel

Going for a swim? My employer, the famous Graphics Garage usually sends out a bunch of funny / cool / interesting t-shirts to customers at the start of summer. This is a little business gift to let everybody remember that we're off for usually 2 weeks when all the rest of Greece is off too.

Well, this year the ideas ran into a different direction: We're sending out beach towels, complete with our "bolt" logo. Packaged in a nice little bag that you can sling on like a primitive backpack. Click on "continue reading" to see the towel itself...


Towel with the "vida" or "bolt" logo

OK, I probably should have taken a day off to properly picture the towel on a nice beach somewhere. But hey, our new office is nice too! The back side of the towel has the "bolt" in black on a white background, there's choices!

Now please let me get back to my calendar to count the days till I hit the sea...

Posted by betabug at 14:48 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
31 July 2009

Quiet Evenings on Naxos

Way off the tourist centers
Olive grove under early evening moon

I've closed one week of working "out of the office" here on Naxos now. There were spouts of really good productivity, some slumps and some medium productivity times. Overall I'd say it was a week with above average output. I blame the quiet surroundings.

Here on Naxos all the stress of the city, all the running and reaching, worrying and trying seem to be far, far off. I can concentrate on work and on the view outside the window - which is nicer than in the city too, obviously (even though the new office is a huge step forward). On around Thursday some city business had reached me, but appart from that I had it all left behind and no worries.

Another part is that I gain two hours every day: Time that I would spend each day going and coming from work. Now I spend a part of it working longer and a part of it having time for myself. In the evenings I take walks or sometimes manage to get a ride to the beach. The beach is far away, I'm in the center of the island, far off from the tourist places.

The picture is from one of the evening walks. An olive grove, under the moon of the early evening. The heart longs to stay there, linger on, forget everything and let time pass as it does for these ages old trees. Their work is growing food, slowly and quietly since ancient times.


Posted by betabug at 20:10 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
30 August 2009

Hello Octopus

A visit to an interesting sea creature
 
A little octopus in its nest, next to some colored mussels

Yesterday I went swimming and sunbathing on the beach with a bunch of friends. At one point I went out swimming alone, with my waterproof camera (Pentax Optio W60). I crossed the part of the water that still had sand on its floor and went to a big plate of rock that lies parallel to the beach. There I dived around, taking mostly "seascape" style pictures and harassing some small fish. After a while I followed a small crack in the plate outwards, as there were many small fish. I saw something purple there and thought it would be nice to get some color into my pictures, so I took a dive. I was surprised to notice a pair of eyes looking at me from a little head sticking out of a hole in the crack. Hello octopus!


This is the second octopus I've seen in the wild. The first one was about 4 meters down and if a friend hadn't shown it me (again and again until I finally saw it, while the drift and strong wind was always carrying us away), I would never have spotted it. Nonetheless, now I knew what I was seeing. I wanted to take a good picture. So I put on the "macro" setting in my camera and took dive after dive. This little octopus was living in only about 1.6 meters of depth, meaning I could even stand to relax and take air between attempts.

But still it was hard to take a good picture. The main problem was, that between the time that the camera focused and when I could take the picture my buoyancy would always float me up maybe 10 to 20cm and pictures would be out of focus. Even standing upright and taking pix with a longer focal length didn't help much, as I'd still start to float and the pictures were too "milky" due to more water between the lens and the object.

A little octopus in its nest, next to some colored mussels

Finally in a second tour to my "model", a friend came along and he gave me a helpful push to keep me down, while I held the camera maybe 15cm from the little octopus. I now have maybe 5 or 6 good picture and another 5 or so who are acceptable. This one here is one of the best ones I think. You can see one eye with the pupil that is always held horizontal. One of the arms is turned before and wrapped around the head with the suction cups showing. There is a nice drawing on the skin - which could have changed at any moment for camouflage. The green mussel and the purple stones have been placed there by the octopus itself. At some point I held out my finger and touched the ground about 15cm from its "lair" and the octopus moved more out of the hole, showing a lot more of its arms. Don't have a good photo of that though.

You can't really see the scale, this octopus is quite small. The width of its head - the distance between its eyes - is maybe 1.5 - 2cm. Not much too eat if you'd decide to hunt this beautiful creature. Nothing that I would do really. On the same afternoon, after the octopus adventure, a friend saw something much bigger in the water, another adventure that I will write about in another post.

Posted by betabug at 08:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
31 August 2009

Winding down

After a working day on the island
 

The nice thing with working on the island is, that after a day of writing code you can go to the beach and hang out a bit to relax.
The last week's work output has been very productive. Let's see what this week brings. Soon I'll be going back to Athens though and then my rhythm will change again.


Posted by betabug at 19:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
01 September 2009

Swimming with a Sea Turtle

A few hours after the octopus meeting
 
Sea turtle swimming above the sand

Last Sunday, after my meeting with the Octopus, I was lazily lying in the sand, working on my tan, when a friend called out from the water. At first I didn't notice, but finally I made my way into the water, still thinking that it was all a joke. When I arrived, I heard that there was a sea turtle Caretta Caretta. I dived down and after only a second or two, I was able to spot it. It was such a beautiful thing! Majestically gliding through the depth.

We swam along the turtle for about 15 to 20 minutes. The turtle did not appear to be bothered by our presence, still I was trying not to be too bothersome, not to get too close etc. (especially when it came up to breath). At the same time I was trying to get a good picture and enjoy the experience. Busy moments, but wonderful!


Sea turtle caretta caretta from the side

The beach we were at is usually crowded by surfers and kite surfers. It has a lot of wind, so they put up a big spectacle there. Normally it's not the place to go for a swim, but that particular day, there was little wind. Still during the day there were a lot of people around. At the time when the turtle appeared, most of the surfers were packing up though, the afternoon was getting late. I don't know if the turtle sensed less activity and appeared, or if it just didn't care at all. After all, it was there a loooong time before the surfers.

The turtle was moving along the lenght of the beach, maybe 15 to 20 meters out. The three of us were swimming along without problems, the turtle was moving slowly and majestetically through the waters, gliding, giving a push with the front "legs" here and there, in general not displaying any haste.

I took some pictures, dived little stretches to take more pix and to have a good look and enjoy the company. At some point my camera started to act up though: the shutter button had jammed. I couldn't take any more pictures and none of the buttons would react (except to power down the camera). Damn! In between following the turtle I tried to get some sense into the piece of digital plastic, trying about any button presses I could, short of taking the battery out (which I couldn't do while in the water).

Sea turtle swimming above the sand

At one point, while I was fiddling with the camera, the turtle was right under our feet. It was the moment to take a good picture of the shell, all together with the moss and sea plants that stuck there. Too bad I was only able to save the picture to my mind.

After we had traversed most of the width of the beach with the turtle, we decided to say good bye to this wonderful sea animal and leave it alone in it's world.

Posted by betabug at 11:48 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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