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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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27 October 2005

Laaaanges Wochenende in Sicht

28. Oktober, Feiertag, in historischer Variante

Morgen ist der 28. Oktober, Feiertag in Griechenland. Passenderweise fällt er auf Freitag, um ein langes Wochenende zu generieren. Das hinderte einen grossen Teil der Einwohner Athens nicht daran, das Wochenende noch weiter zu verlängern und bereits gestern (Mittwoch) abzureisen. Lokale Radiostationen meldeten Staus an den Ausfallstrassen. Die ausnehmend angenehmen Temperaturen haben sicher ihren Teil daran.

Historischer Hintergrund: Der 28. Oktober... der italienische Diktator Mussolini stellte dem griechischen Diktator Metaxa ein Ultimatum. Durchmarscherlaubnis (faktisch Übergabe des Landes) für italienische Truppen nach Nordafrika oder Krieg. Der 28. Oktober ist der Tag, an dem Metaxa mit einem kategorischen "όχι" ("Nein") dieses Ultimatum zurückwies. Das Resultat war Krieg, zuerst zwischen Italien und Griechenland, später auch mit Deutschland.

Passend zum historischen Event plant die WG vom betabug die Anschaffung (und öffentliche Präsentation) einer griechischen Fahne. Weiter Pläne für das Wochenende: Sounion, Karagiozis, Museen, Ausschlafen. Mal sehen, was wir alles schaffen.


Posted by betabug at 13:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 November 2005

100 Jahre Athen

Ausstellung im Gaswerk



Sonntag morgen früh aufgestanden. Mit meinem Arbeitskollegen Andreas zur U-Bahn Station Thission gefahren. Von dort aus noch ein Stück gelaufen bis zum Γκάζι (Gazi), dem alten Gaswerk Athens, heute ein Kulturzentrum. (Siehe Bild.)

Ursprünglich war mein Plan, dort die Reproduktion des "Antikithira Mechanismus" zu finden, einer antiken Maschine, ähnlich einem Uhrwerk, die den Stand von Sonne, Mond und Planeten anzeigt. Das Original hatte ich im archäologischen Museum gesehen. Auf slashdot hatte ich gelesen, dass im Museum Technopolis in Athen eine funktionierende Reproduktion ausgestellt ist.

Von der Reproduktion wusste niemand etwas, aber wir sahen uns die Ausstellung 100 Jahre Athen in Fotos an, zumindest zum grössten Teil. Wir sahen alles ab ca. 1950, danach waren wir abgefüllt. Die Fotos sind sehr gut, ausgewählte Bilder von grösstenteils sehr guter Qualität. Dazu enthält die Ausstellung alte Zeitungen und andere Objekte wie Spielzeug und Kostüme. Auch gute Kommentare, allerdings nur auf Griechisch. Eintritt kostet das ganze keinen und es war gut besucht.

Was habe ich gelernt? Zum Beispiel, dass Athen früher schon ein Tram hatte, das wusste ich. Warum das Tram irgendwann abgeschafft wurde, erfuhr ich hier. Schuld ist Konstantinos Karamanlis, damals Minister für öffentliche Bauten, später lange Ministerpräsident. Ausserdem Onkel des heutigen Ministerpräsidenten. Der wollte die Trams verstaatlichen, was für einen konservativen Politiker doch recht erstaunlich ist. Doch die englischen Eigentümer wollten das nicht, also liess er über Nacht die Schienen rausreissen. Gut gebaut.


Posted by betabug at 22:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 December 2005

Lucky Weather, nice Chocolate

Sitting in the sun



Todays excursion took us to the Πάρκο Ελευθερίας (Parko Eleftherias) where we hoped to find the christmas bazaar of the local animal protection society. We had been there last year and I had picked up a warm sweater and some used books. No such luck this year, the bazaar had already been last weekend.

So we went to the cafeteria named after the same park "Πάρκο Ελευθερίας" and enjoyed the sun and the wonderfull warm weather. 20°Celsius on December 3rd, really acceptable. The prices are the usual athenian road robbery, but the selection of drinking chocolates is excellent. The one with white chocolate, lemon and pine seeds was out. We tasted white chocolate with pistacchio, creamy, not too sweet, wonderfull. And I'm no big fan of white chocolate.

The menu lists a range of chocolate fondues too. If those are of the same quality as the drinking chocolate, then the place is a real recommendation for chocolate lovers in Athens. But then my "fresh" orange juice was a mix of fresh and boxed juice, a pitty. The cafeteria is situated real nice, right next to the park, almost in the park. Our table with the white sofas invited us to sit a long time and enjoy the sun.


Posted by betabug at 20:15 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
08 December 2005

Weihnachtsbeleuchtung, volle Dröhnung

Ihr Lichterlein leuchtet und so
Weihnachtsbeleuchtung auf der Vassilissis Sofias Strasse

Athen zeigt sich so langsam in Weihnachtspracht. Mit Schnee ist natürlich nicht zu rechnen, aber dafür fängt es überall zu glühen und zu leuchten an. Das Bild zeigt den Ausblick auf die Βασιλίσσης Σοφίας (Vassilissis Sofias) Strasse, gleich neben Syntagma Platz und Parlament.

Auch bei mir zu Hause leuchtet und glüht es, mit WG-Weihnachtsbaum, aufblasbarem Weihnachtsmann und Lichterkette. Und zu meinem Geburtstag (grad vorbei, uff, wiedermal überstanden!) gab es hausgemachte Nudeln, Bücher und eine flasche feinen Wodka. Was will man mehr?


Posted by betabug at 09:17 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 December 2005

Streik - Mit dem Auto zur Arbeit

...und dann endlich wieder mit dem Bus
Mittwoch und Donnerstag war hier in Athen grosser Streik. Unter anderem hat der öffentliche Verkehr gestreikt, Mittwochs funktionierte nur die U-Bahn und nur von 11 bis 18 Uhr, Donnerstags war alles dicht. Teilweise gab es Donnerstag nicht mal Taxis. Wie komme ich also zur Arbeit? Vom Büro bekam ich ein Auto ausgeliehen und so gings auf in den Berufsverkehr. Da kann man was erleben...

Dienstag abend also mit dem Auto nach Hause, Mittwoch und Donnerstag hin und her, Freitag nochmal den Weg zur Arbeit. Der pure Wahnsinn. Ich frage mich, wie sich die Leute das antun. Diese Stadt ist trotz weit verbessertem Busnetz, Tram und U-Bahn vor dem Verkehrskollaps. Es gibt einfach zu viele Autos. Gut, an den Streiktagen war das Problem noch verstaerkt, denn ohne ÖV ist natürlich das Auto (und das Motorrad) das einzige Fortbewegungsmittel und daraus schliessend auf den Strassen die Hölle los. Aber Dienstag Abends war der ÖV noch funktionstüchtig und trotzdem war es sinnlose Zeitverschwendung, sich in einer Blechbüchse Meter für Meter durch den Verkehr zu schieben.

Dazu noch die Parkplatzgeschhichte. In meinem Stadtteil gibt es einfach keinen Platz mehr, um noch ein Auto mehr hinzustellen. In meinem Stadtteil? In sämtlichen Athener Stadtteilen ist es das gleiche Theater. Mit viel Glück habe ich es doch jeden der Abende geschafft, die Kiste halbwegs legal abzustellen, ohne eine Garageneinfahrt zuzustellen. Morgens beim Büro das gleiche Theater. Stressfaktor ohne Ende. Da ziehe ich es doch vor ab und zu mal im vollen Bus zu stehen.

Freitag abend dann endlich wieder mit dem Bus nach Hause. Aber ich weiss nicht was los war, der Verkehr erlitt gerade den Vollkollaps. Für die Strecke bis zur U-Bahnstation "Fix", für die der Bus sonst 10 Minuten braucht, gingen locker 30 Minuten im Stop-And-Go Verkehr drauf. Also besser mit der U-Bahn weiter, sonst brauche ich 2 Stunden bis nach Hause. Doch da ging es nicht viel besser weiter: Die U-Bahn hatte wohl technische Probleme, meine U-Bahn stand schon 10 Minuten in der Station als ich dort eintraf. Nach nochmal gut 5 Minuten gings dann los.

An der nächsten Station warteten durch die Verspätung locker nochmal soviel Fahrgäste, wie schon im vollgestopften Zug selber waren. Allgemeines Geschiebe und Gequetsche. Zum Glück konnte ich an der folgenden Station umsteigen, dort war dann entsprechend das Chaos noch grösser. Anscheinend hatte sich durch einen defekten Zug die ganze Linie blockiert. Nach dem Umsteigen ging es dann etwas zügiger weiter nach Hause.

Posted by betabug at 00:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 December 2005

Christmas Light Impressions

Right from the center of Athens

The last two evenings we went to Syntagma square and the Zappeio Megaron in the center of Athens to see what the municipality has prepared for christmas. It's all quite nice to look at, here are a few pictures to give you an impression...


Xmas tree on Syntagma square
The big Christmas tree on Syntagma square, right outside the entrance to the metro station. This is the place where all the action is happening.
Caroussel on Syntagma square
The caroussel on Syntagma square. There are caroussels on other big squares of the city too. Of course lots of children enjoy the show. It doesn't quite show in the pictures, but all the square is illuminated with christmas lights and there are lots of people admiring that. There are small houses with shops that sell sweets, there is a human sized, open to the front "doll house" where fairy tales are impersonated by actors.
illuminated trees near the Zappeio
Illuminated trees on a park way to the Zappeio. The blue shimmer in the distance is the blue and white illuminated installation near the ice rink.
Installation outside Zappeio
A blue and white illuminated installation near the Zappeio building. Stylicised trees and large balls sprinkled with a white substance resembling snow.
Ice rink outside the Zappeio
The ice rink outside the Zappeio (of which some column are on the right in the background). A fun match with guests chosen at random was conducted, later there was supposed to be a "show" hockey match. We got bored waiting in the cold and left, but I will come and see the game another time.

Posted by betabug at 09:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
27 December 2005

An Evening Out with Jazz

Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars

Yes, I went to see Paula West at the Half Note Jazz Club in Athens Mets area. It was a most remarkable evening. The Jazz was sweet and intense, I met the artists of the next nights events and Sharon, one of the clubs more peculiar residents. When it was all over, I walked home, which took me about an hour...


It had started to rain when I left home yesterday evening, a steady sprinkle, not the heavy downpour so common for winter here. It did not bother me much, but I was a bit worried that I would have trouble finding a taxi, this being the second christmas day. Indeed it took me some waiting time and two tries, the first taxi dropped me off again, probably the driver dreamed of a bigger fare. But the second cab got me there, Τριβωνιανού 17, Μετς (Trivonianou 17, Mets), right opposite the main gate from Athens 1st cemetery.

The club

There were about eight people waiting in line to get inside the Half Note Jazz Club. There was more grey than black hair and I wondered if Jazz had become the field for retired accountants and managers assistants. To my surprise the cashier let me pass, but to the tune of 30 Euros and the warning "standing and packed only". Fine with me.

The room was really packed, but I liked the atmosphere none the less. In my memory it has settled as warm, wooden tones, and red brickwork, with patches of black. There is a floor with small tables, bars and seating on the sides and the middle, with some standing room in-between. They have something like a balcony with more tables above. I went once across the audience in the standing room and back, then left my jacket at the wardrobe, where I met Sharon for the first time.

Meet Sharon

Although we were formally introduced only later, I said hello and Sharon half blinked back at me. She sat next to the wardrobe girl, keeping an eye on all those strangers passing by. I guess there are just too many guys passing by for a beauty like her to notice one more of them much.

The artists in the audience

When I had pried myself loose from her fascination, and conquered the shoving masses again to my standing place, I found my view blocked by a couple of (as usual oversized) americans. They signaled the bar for gin and tonics and started conversation with a couple standing to my left. They turned out to be the artists to perform the next nights: Dave Berger and (I believe, sorry I did not remember the name) Wayne Goodman) from "David Berger and the Sultans of Swing".

Intercultural exchange

During the evening we had drops of conversation ranging from topics like what to see while in Athens (the Acropolis, eating out at night in the meat market's restaurant), where and how to drink Ouzo (in an Ouzeri is best, where they serve small dishes of food with it, but anyway never drink Ouzo without something small to eat or nibble), gas prices (Dave hasn't had a car in years, no use in New York), to politics (which country will the americans invade next, and it's likely impossible that an artist from New York would support Bush).

What I really came for

In most of the conversation I was just a bystander, and then started what I really had come for. At first the trio of musicians began to play. Piano, upright bass, drums. As I had no idea what really to expect, I was happy to note that the sound was coming along easy and agreeable. With meaning, but not overly extraverted. After one or two numbers, Paula West came on stage and started to sing. The program had described her as "cabaret style", whatever that means, but thankfully there was no such nonsense as I would associate with cabaret: No dancing to mimic the Moulin Rouge, no attempts at comedy or clown masks. What we got was a female jazz singer with a full voice, a jazzy groove, wide phonal range and depth in her song. Her mood was often amused and happy, sometimes soulish and sad, fewer times touched by the pain and melancholy of love.

So how did I like it?

I let the music vibrate in me, was swinging and tapping to it. Even though for most of the evening I had a good view on the stage, I sometimes closed my eyes and just swam in the melody and rhythm. Paula West's voice has enough power to never sound pressed. It was her last night in Athens, but I only sensed what I thought to be tiredness in the last few pieces before closing. Yes, I liked it very much, the one song that stayed with me most was "fly me to the moon", but I had many favorites.

Getting to know Sharon better

When the last applause died down, I sat on the chair that I had inherited a short while before, and I didn't move. The music was still humming inside me. When Paula West passed me by on the way to the bar I was speechless and couldn't congratulate her on her art. After the audience was thinning out a bit, I went to pick up my jacket, inquiring after Sharon's name with the girl from the wardrobe. She told me that Sharon comes here almost every night, but that she comes only when she's hungry. I was ready to doubt that, when I noticed that Sharon was sitting right next to us on a chair. At this point I introduced myself to her. After letting her sniff my hand I carefully offered to caress her neck. To my surprise she let me touch her and if it wasn't for the music, I would have heard her purr as I crawled her furry head, while she closed her eyes. There are probably only very few Jazz clubs with resident cats that are so friendly to strangers.

Evzone Guards outside
Athens Parliament 2 in the morning

The way home

Again I pried myself loose from the cat and the club and stepped out into the night. The rain had stopped, the street was still shimmering wet. There was a taxi outside waiting, but I had a desire to walk a bit first. I like walking in the night. And I like the smell of Athens after it had rained. In most parts of it, Athens is not dangerous at all at night. As I continued walking, I passed by the columns of the Olympian Zeus (wonderful smell of the pine trees after the rain), Amalias street with the National Garden, Syntagma square with the Evzone guards (see the picture that proves the guards are there at night too), then up Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (where I met more Evzone guards, marching) to Zografou. A couple of times I thought about taking a taxi, but in the end I enjoyed the walk all the way. When I finally fell into my bed, music was still ringing inside me: Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.

Posted by betabug at 15:46 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 December 2005

Eislaufen nicht

Eisbahn ausnahmsweise vorhanden, aber nass



Heute morgen wollte ich früh (ok, "früher", schliesslich habe ich Ferien) aufstehen um bei der Eisbahn vorbeizugehen, die am Ζάππειον (Zappeion, in der Nähe des Syntagma Platzes) für die Weihnachtszeit aufgebaut ist. Aber schon vom Bett aus habe ich es tropfen und tröpfeln gehört. Da die Eisbahn nicht gedeckt ist, wird die Eisfläche wohl schwimmen, nichts für mich. Gestern abend durfte ich schon bewundern, wie die Eishockey-Mannschaft heroisch versuchte, die Eisfläche vom Wasser zu befreien. Anstrengende Sache, da keine Maschine vorhanden ist.

Schlussendlich hatten sie es einigermassen geschafft. Daraufhin haben die Jungs eine Art "Show-Spiel" vorgeführt, offiziell um dem griechischen Publikum Eishockey vorzuführen. Inoffiziell wohl auch einfach um mal eine Gelegenheit zu bekommen überhaupt zu spielen. Denn schon seit ein paar Jahren gibt es in Griechenland keine Eisbahnen mehr. Früher gab es zwei in Athen, eine in Thessaloniki und eine in Halkida. So toll fand ich die Leistung der Spieler nicht, bis auf wenige Ausnahmen machten sie einen eher untrainierten und ungeübten Eindruck.

Die Eisbahn im Zentrum von Athen wird dort noch bis zum 8.1. sein, da werde ich vielleicht doch noch mal Gelegenheit bekommen für ein paar Minuten Schlittschuhe auszuleihen und aufs Eis zu gehen.


Posted by betabug at 23:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
31 December 2005

Books... and Bookshops in Athens

Looking for something to read

This Xmas break I spent mostly reading, I'm halfway through my third book since Christmas, I've been going through most of the big bookshops here in Athens, and I've been enjoying most of it. Right on the morning of the 24th I began looking for books to read, found two then, but kept on looking. Yesterday I finally found two more books too my liking. So let's sum up the books and bookshops in a bit more detail.


First for the language question: I do read greek books sometimes, but in general it's still hard for me. So when I want to relax, what I need is books in German or English. Also I prefer to read in the original language. Even though there are a couple of german bookstores in Athens, most of them have gone educational. They carry mostly schoolbooks, teaching books, and some classics. English books should be easier here. There is one big bookshop with english books, but I constantly forget name and address. But some other bookshops have english books too.

First I went to Παπασωτηρίου (Papasotiriou), a big shop that also has a branch specialized on computer books. I looked in their branch on Akadimias and on Stournari street (where the 'puter stores are). They seem to have a small assortment of english books, standardized across branches. It's not much, but I found and bought "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini and "TechGnosis" by Erik Davis. An interesting combination: Eragon is something like a Tolkien sing-along contestant, with Elves, dwarfs and dragons. As I understand it, the author was about 15 when he started to write it. It's a relaxing, interesting read, carried me along nicely in its world, though it's not really deep or meaningful.

Techgnosis on the other hand tries to explain why our technical class of information technology lends so much to mystical stuff. I came across a wide description of all the phenomenons that couple tech stuff with mystical and magic stuff, the cults, lunacies, phenomena that people build out and around technical inventions, as well as the dreams and desires that leads programmers and sysadmins to talk about demons, magic and wizards. The book is at once instant buzzword overflow, a fly through through all the esoterica in the world. But it is more a description than an explanation, it won't really explain why people choose Tolkien figures names in chatrooms (unless you count "people have a desire for that stuff from ages ago and it won't go away" as an explanation). TechGnosis is a full book, I could only read it while awake enough, otherwise the text would just flow through for a page or so, without any understanding.

Those two had carried me over the Christmas days, but in the middle of the week I was through. In the meanwhile though, I continued my walk through the bookstores. I went on a bigger excursion, took the "train" (as athenians refer to the old subway line that connects Piraeus and Kifisia) to go to "The Mall", a hyper, mega, supersize, bulging mall that is all the hype these days. Over there they have fnac, a french bookstore and technology chain. I'm not really into the "shopping experience" thing, so I found that 3 (or 4?) store supersize shopping palace to be a perfectly dreary and cold place. Sure you can bring your family or clique and shop till you drop, but you will not likely meet someone new, talk to someone you have not known before. Fnac did not impress me either. For one thing there were no foreign books, and the greek book selection was just everybody's. The technology section is just your average mobile phone, computer, CD, audio, DVD, tv store. I was happy to leave.

One "foreign language" bookstore here is Librairies Kaufman, which is mainly french books, but apparently some english, german, and spanish books too. They have two shops, one on Akadimias, the other on Stadiou (28 IIRC). A nice atmosphere, Kaufman is an old fashioned store. Very family style, friendly and overall "booky". But either their english section is indeed very small, or else I did not find most of it. After this personal bookstore I went to IANOS, a book megastore from Thessaloniki that opened a three floor shop on Stadiou street. No english books there, but I saw a lot of nice greek books, especially some great photographic books. Obviously they have a big selection on greek books, so if that is what you are looking for, they might be good. I've even seen some of William Gibson's books in greek translation.

Yesterday I met with a friend for a quick bite in Εξάρχια (Exarhia) and before that he wanted to shop for some books. Fine with me. We went to the Πολιτεία (Politia) bookshops on the corner of Asklipiou and Akadimias. There are 3 or 4 shops and basement shops belonging together, forming an old fashioned variant of a "book megastore". I had been there before and knew that they had an english language section, but back then it wasn't so great. But I can't go to a bookstore and not look for books. So without expecting much I looked through the shelves. I picked up "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt, a kind of student life "mystical society" experience thriller book (which I'm currently almost halfway through, so I can't say that much yet). Also I found "Burning Chrome" by William Gibson. A collection of short stories by the author of "Neuromancer" and a couple of other of my beloved books. I knew about this book all along, but just hadn't come around reading it (or owning it) yet. I guess I'm deep into cyberpunk, lost. And looks like after going through 5 big bookshops I have something to read till work starts again and on the way to work for the next days.

See also: The list of all "my" English language book shops in Athens.

Posted by betabug at 12:39 | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (3)
08 January 2006

Shakin' Athens

Another small quake shaking up

Right when I was putting the "vim and Greek" post online, my desk and chair started to shake. At first I thought that my knee had touched the desk (the desk is a bit underengineered), but the movement got stronger. Then I realized: It's an earthquake. I called out to the other people in the flat and we went under a doorframe each [1]. The quake lasted for quite some time, I would guess 20 seconds more or less. The candelier in the living room shook for a long time after that and I thought I'd still felt a tiny little bit of movement even a minute or two later. TV cut its program for a special news bulletin, but they did not have details yet. Nature knocking at civilizations door.

1: The trick with the doorframe is that above the doors there are concrete and steel reinforcements. These could protect you if small pieces of plaster or stones come down (if the quake would get worse).


Posted by betabug at 12:54 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
25 January 2006

Snowy Athens

2 meters of snow... in the width - snow in Greece is exceptional!

Yes, it is indeed snowing in the center of Athens. Yesterday I stayed home, because I have a cold and did not want it to get worse. But today I feel a bit better and got bored of staying at home, so I went to work. I had a bit of a delay, since we wanted to be sure there is indeed working public transport (busses and the subway are working just fine). It's not too cold, it's not really too snowy, only thing ugly is that it's a bit wet. On the way to work I took two pictures...


Venizelos in the snow

This picture is on the Vassilissis Sofias avenue, near the Megaron Mousikis (big concert hall). It shows the monument to Eleftherios Venizelos in the snow. As can be seen, it's really snowing, but the snow melts on the roads and sidewalks. Not much danger of falling down or getting up to your knees into snow. The next picture is taken closer to my home. It shows a couple of trees and tropical plants snowed in.

palm trees in snow around Athens

The situation here is mostly funny for me. Most Greeks (or rather Athenians) have very little experience with snow. They overreact a bit. Since the cars do not have M+S tires, it's probably a good idea that they leave them parked. The roads are much more empty than usual. Even in the subway there are less people. Looks like most people stay at home along with their cars. Schools and universities are closed, to the delight especially of university students, since currently they have exams. Lots of shops are closed too, either because the shopowners prefer to stay home, or else because they expect no business since everybody else is staying at home.

Up in northern Greece and in any parts of the country with mountains, there is of course more snow. But I don't really worry, since the people there are also much more adapted to the climate. It's only Athenians and the news that make a big deal out of it. For example in any weather forecasts they always show the pictures with the worst storms they can find, no matter if that matches with what the weather is supposed to be like. All day long currently TV repeats showing snowed in roads and cars. They just blow it out of proportion. Yesterday they even attacked one of the official weather service people, because it wasn't as cold as promised. Too bad for the news headlines.

Posted by betabug at 09:53 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
06 February 2006

Looking For (English) Bookshops Again

Science Fiction isn't what they think

Saturday's nice weather found us going into the center of Athens, looking for bookstores with English language books again. On the "athensguide" web site I had found a mention of a shop called Compendium (or Compendeum) which we looked for on Nikis Street (near Syntagma square), but it was gone. No link to that page, as it is outdated, should be either updated or removed. Next to where that shop was, there is a branch of Eleftheroudakis, but only with a small English section. We went on to the "big" Ελευθερουδάκης (Eleftheroudakis) on Panepistimiou street (which got relabelled to Eleftheros Venizelos street btw)...


Eleftheroudakis is really the first name people give you for English books in Athens. They have one floor of English books we are told. We arrived there and found the "English" floor in the mezzanine (labeled floor 1/2), so I joked that in truth they have only half a floor really. It turned out that they have a lot of English books, but either there aren't that many, or else their selection isn't to my tastes. I had a hard time to find something I like. Annoyed the crap out of my gf while I made up my mind, again and again.

Not Science Fiction

Oh, and did I mention that they have no clue what Science Fiction is? For starters: The Lord of The Rings is not Science Fiction. Marion Zimmer Bradley is not Science Fiction. Anything with swords and dragons is not Science Fiction. Anything with fairies and knights is not Science Fiction. I wouldn't mind so much if they put all the fantasy stuff into the SF section (because they were too bored to slap on another label on the shelves), but did carry some science fiction. But the only thing actually belonging into the SF section was Isaac Asimov, plus one or two stray space opera pulp novels. That's just not doing it.

See also: The list of all "my" English language book shops in Athens.

Posted by betabug at 09:58 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)
11 February 2006

Greek Mac User Sunday

HelMUG meetings in Athens and Thessaloniki

This sunday we will have HelMUG meetings in the two biggest cities of Greece: At 12:00 in Athens (Flocafe Thission), and at 17:00 in the "Clocks" in Thessaloniki. These are relaxed meetings in a Cafeteria, no speeches or presentations, no protocol, just a bunch of people hanging out and talking the Mac talk. Since the weather turned nice again, we will possibly be sitting outside. And since I am in Athens, I will go to Thission. If you are around this sunday and want to pass by, consider yourself invited! The meetings are open to non-members too.

The guys from Thessaloniki plan to do a live streaming of their meeting. To do this we (the admins who look after the HelMUG server) will have to setup the QuickTime Streaming Server. We haven't done this before, so we have some QTSS RTFM to do. If we can pull it off in time, I will post a link here, so stay tuned.


Posted by betabug at 11:08 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
19 February 2006

Παζάρι βιβλίου

Πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος, μέχρι 26.02.2006

Στην πλατεία Κλαυθμώνος (απέναντι από την πλατεία Κοραή) υπάρχει αυτή την εποχή ένα παζάρι βιβλίου. Είναι οργανωμένο από τον "Σύνδεσμο Εκδοτών Βιβλίου". Οι εκδότες βάζουν τα βιβλία που δεν πουλάνε εκεί. Ανάμεσα από πολλές παραξενιές (συνταγές από το 1970 - με φωτογραφίες πολύ της εποχής) έχει και κάτι ωραία. Μερικά όμως δεν τα βλέπω να "τραβάνε", όσο φτηνά και να τα βάλουν: "Windows 3.1 σε εικόνες", κανείς; Εμείς πάντως διασκεδάσαμε μια χαρά, και πήραμε και τόσα βιβλία που μου πόνεσαν τα χέρια από το κουβάλημα. Ξένα βιβλία δεν έχει τίποτα όμως, μόνο λεξικά και λίγα φροντιστηριακά.


Posted by betabug at 22:52 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 February 2006

First Glimpse of Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network

...and Wifi mucking around at home

In Athens there is an open wireless network. I knew as much and had visited the website of the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network. Apparently they use directed antennas to build "backbones" that at some point connect to the greater Internet. It follows that you need some equipment to find out if you have any connectivity. They have a map where you can look up access points and "connectors" in your area, but this won't tell you if you really have a signal. This morning, due to mucking around with my own miserable wireless connection, I catched a glimpse of an AWMN signal myself.


With my own wifi access point I'm having a bit of an interrupted love affair at times. Or rather it's my Titanium PowerBook that has a problem due to the (known) problem of the case shielding the Airport card and antennas. It has happened to me before that I was sitting next to someone with an iBook and the other guy got a signal just fine, while I was out myself. At home the result is short bursts of misery, trips to the access point to wiggle the antenna, and starting KisMac to see if the signal is really that low.

This morning I woke up early, cuz I had an idea: What if my problems were due to the channel setup being on "automatic" on the AP. One symptom was that KisMac reported good enough signal strength usually, but dropping to 0 for a second or a half a lot. So I went and tried it out. At first I got kicked off the net after switching the setting to a fixed channel. But then it worked reasonable enough. We'll see how well it will work in the long run. But then I noticed my version of KisMac to be grossly outdated. So I went to download a new version of KisMac.

And funny enough, this new KisMac showed me a glimpse of a wifi access point with an ID starting with AWMN-... Hello Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (site in Greek)! Unfortunately the reception wasn't good enough to actually try and connect: KisMac only gave it about 3-4 points, sometimes going back to 0. But with a proper antenna setup I likely would have gotten a useful connection out of it. So, "bummer, I could have gotten Internet for free"? Somehow yes, but on the other hand getting an antenna and hax0ring my PowerBook to use an external antenna would have cost money too. Having my own connection gives me another level of support and quality-of-service. Also we have telephone at home too now. But taking part in the wireless network is still an interesting option for the future, even if it is just for fun.

Posted by betabug at 11:10 | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)
23 February 2006

Traffic Cops

Throughput and chaos

My bus line to work goes along one of the bigger traffic arteries of central Athens. On some days when traffic thickens, someone from the τροχαία (trohaia - the traffic department) sends out traffic cops on bike or car to each intersection. These cops are equipped with one whistle each and some of them have white gloves to go with their uniform...


They set up shop in the middle of the intersection and - ignoring the traffic light - they start to increase throughput on the "big artery". Or they try to. Not all of them know their job so well. The best ones increase the number of cars that are able to pass the "light" in a certain timespan by...

So much for the good guy and the theory. There are some cops which had obviously good training and they get lots of experience too. But not all of them are that good, and not all of these measures can be handled by a lone ranger busy with Greece's chaotic drivers. It has happened to me that I had to wait 15 minutes to cross the street as a pedestrian, because the traffic cops tend to ignore pedestrians completely. Lots of drivers sigh (and complain) too, when they see a τροχονόμος (trohonomos - traffic cop) at the intersection.

The concept of adjusting the "traffic shaping" at certain times of day or under certain conditions is good. As a technology guy I would of course prefer a technological solution. Modern computerized and coordinated traffic lights with feedback loops could do the trick. The μπάτσοι (batzi - cops) themselves could be free to do other duties like ticketing speedsters or helping old ladies to cross the street.

Posted by betabug at 22:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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