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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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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)
24 February 2006

Nebliges Athen

Aussergewöhnliches Wetter... und Staub
Neblige Leoforos Vassilissis Sofias Neblige Syggrou Avenue

Nein, meine Kamera ist nicht dermassen schlecht, in Athen ist es heute neblig. Geparkte Autos sind ausserdem mit einer feinen Staubschicht überzogen. Das ist aussergewöhnlich und errinert mich an einen solchen Tag im April 2005, an dem wir Sand aus der Sahara zu Besuch hatten. Diese Nacht hatte es ausserdem geregnet, so dass die Luftfeuchtigkeit auch höher ist. In den Nachrichten habe ich noch nichts zum Staub gefunden. Einfach auf die Bilder klicken, um eine etwas grössere Ansicht zu sehen.

Posted by betabug at 10:09 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Not Seeing Salif Keita in Athens

I prefer to remember the old times

Saw some posters on bus stations, Salif Keita is coming to Athens. He has concerts in Thessaloniki and in Athens, each in the respective Megaron Mousikis. The Athens Megaron Mousikis is the biggest and shiniest music hall for classical music here. I understand that these are a "Stop AIDS" concerts. Some Information from the Megaro Mousikis website (in Greek, direct link, because the website of Megaron Mousikis is plain unusable). The prices are very steep (starting from 40 Euro and going up to 300 Euro for VIP tickets). I'm just not going to do that, no matter that I really like Salif Keita's music.

I have seen and heard Salif Keita play life in Athens before. It was back somewhere in 1988, in a big open air concert on the beach in Kalamaki. It was a wonderfull night filled with some of the best african bands. There were a few african immigrants too, back then these were still very few and likely all of them who were able to raise the money for tickets were there. I had left at 5 in the morning to go home and sleep, even though the concert was still going. Lucky me I lived just a 5 minutes walk from the concert beach. When I briefly woke up around 8 in the morning I still heard them play. I will always remember that concert. Please excuse me Salif Keita, but I will continue remembering you in that concert. I don't think a lot of the african immigrants today in Athens can raise 40, 70, or even 90 Euro for a ticket. Also: How appropriate is a classical music concert hall for this music?

P.S.: Woody Allen had played with his big band in the Megaron Mousikis some time ago too. Tickets started around 240 Euro and went up to 360 Euro. This is around half of a monthly salary for "normal" jobs here. And it wasn't even a benefit concert. I've heard that Woody has some psychological problems, and given these circumstances I might believe that.

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

Es wird heller

Der Winter ist in Athen Ende Februar schon fast vorbei
Syggrou Avenue, frueher abend

Die letzten Tage wurde es hier schon einiges Wärmer, Höchst-Temperaturen von 15 bis 18 Grad Celsius, manchmal bewölkt, aber ab und zu auch mal Sonne. Ende Februar ist in Athen der Winter schon fast vorbei (obwohl es im März schon noch genug Regenfälle geben wird). Ein weiterer Effekt ist, dass ich aus dem Büro komme und es noch hell ist. (Siehe Bild.) Das wirkt sich immer auch auf meine Stimmung aus, ist halt schon was anderes noch etwas hellen Himmel zu sehen. Bis ich mit dem Bus quer durchs Zentrum zu Hause ankomme ist es dann schon dunkel.

Posted by betabug at 22:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
15 March 2006

Zuhause arbeiten am Streiktag

April-Wetter im März, teure Taxen, billige Flüge

Für Heute ist hier in Athen Generalstreik angesagt. Geplant war deswegen, dass ich am Abend vorher mit einem geliehenen Auto von der Arbeit komme und heute mit dem Auto hin und her fahre. Dann habe ich gestern gehört, dass die Athener Busse ab 7:30 Uhr doch fahren. Da ich nicht unbedingt ein Fan von Autofahren in Athen bin und noch weniger ein Fan von Parkplatzsuchen bin (weder Zuhause noch an meinem Arbeitsplatz gibt es wirklich Parkplätze), habe ich doch lieber den Bus genommen. Ist aber etwas anders rausgekommen als geplant...

Ja fährt er denn jetzt?

Die Information war richtig, nur hatte der Busverkehr heute morgen gerade einen Schluckauf als ich mich auf den Weg machte. Es fuhren schon Busse, nur meiner kam nicht. Ich wartete eine Stunde, in der Zeit kam ein passender Bus vorbei, aber der war so voll, dass er gar nicht erst anhielt. Da über 10 Polizei-Transportbusse an der Bushaltestelle vorbeifuhren nehme ich an, dass es im Zentrum Demonstrationen gegeben haben könnte, die vielleicht gerade meine Buslinie blockierten. Möglich ist es ja. Schlussendlich entschied ich mich, von Zuhause aus zu arbeiten. Internet habe ich ja jetzt.

Zuhause arbeiten

Hat auch fein geklappt, ich habe über SSH-Tunnel meinen Programmcode aus dem Firmen-CVS gesaugt und los gings. Aber komisch wars schon so tagsüber Zuhause zu sein. Früher habe ich auch schon von Zuhause gearbeitet, aber heute hatte ich ein Gefühl als wäre ich krankgeschrieben. Ich alleine Zuhause und alle im Büro. Naja, geht auch vorbei und in Ruhe arbeiten zu können ist auch mal was.

Dafür haben wir feines April-Wetter. Nein, nein, es ist noch März, aber in Griechenland ist der März der "Wetterwechsel-Monat". Heute morgen hat es erst geschüttet, dann genieselt (als ich mich auf den Weg machte), später kam die Sonne raus und jetzt nieselt es wieder. Dafür haben wir mit 12 Grad Celsius brauchbare Temperaturen.

Zum Flughafen trotz Streik

Apropos Wetter: Meine Mitbewohnerin ist für eine Woche nach München. Dort ist es laut Wetterbericht -2 Grad Celsius kalt. Da kann ich doch nur hoffen, dass der Klimawechsel sie nicht aus den Socken haut. Vor allem, nachdem sie der Streik heute schon ganz schön geschockt haben musste. Der Bus zum Flughafen fuhr nämlich auch erst ab 7:30 Uhr, was doch schon hinderlich ist, wenn man um 6 am Flughafen sein muss. Wäre mein Plan mit dem Auto durchgestiegen, hätte ich sie hingefahren (und wäre für längere Zeit in den Genuss von erlassener Geschirrspülpflicht gekommen). Statt dessen hat sie sich ein Taxi bestellt. Wird wohl so um die 30 - 35 Euro gekostet haben bis zum Flughafen, was an sich ja geht. Aber die Pointe ist, dass sie für den Flug nach München dann auch nur noch das doppelte wie für das Taxi bezahlt: Schlappe 70 Euro dank gnadenloser Preisrecherche.

Posted by betabug at 17:48 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 March 2006

Evening Window Shopping Walk on Ermou

A small relaxing walk through Athens center

Some catching up with the weekend's events: Friday evening was relatively warm and nice outside, so we wanted to take a little walk. Our choice was to go from Syntagma Square down Ermou street to the Monastiraki metro station... for window shopping.

We took the metro to Syntagma, crossed the square and walked up Ermou street. The square is well lit and populated even in the later evening hours. Greeks like to go out and now that the unpopular winter weather is mostly gone, people are out on the street. The place looked a bit empty to me, but that was just me. The last time I've been there in the evening was in the pre-christmas season. The square was really crowded then and brightly decorated too.

Crossing the street on the "lower" side of the square to Ermou street is a bit of a hassle. The pedestrians light turns to "red" much too fast. But the shear mass of the pedestrians counteracts that, we all just keep walking no matter how red the light has turned, and the automobilists can't really run over 50 people at once.

Once on Ermou things get much more relaxed, no cars on Ermou. This is one place where you can lazily stroll all across the street and look at the shop windows. Ermou is mostly clothes and shoes. There used to be textiles too, but those moved to locations with cheaper rent. You can stroll on Ermou on Saturday afternoon too, but then you will have to share the street with thousands of others, the place gets crowded with shoppers.

I like the atmosphere on Ermou in the late evenings. It's more or less silent, with still some street musicians around. There are people around, so it's not frightening (even if I was the type to be frightened). Everything is well lit too and even though the boutiques are closed, some cafes and bars are open.

We did not see a car almost till Monastiraki, where the traffic free zone ends. We turned to the left there and approached the metro station on the Monastiraki square through the tourists food street. I got me two "kalamakia" (souvlaki without the pita bread to those less familiar with Greek traditional fast food), an excellent little meal which I downed before we went home by metro.

Posted by betabug at 22:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Griechischer Unabhängigkeitstag

Samstag war "der 25ste", Stockfisch und Bummel durch die Plaka

Diesen Samstag war der 25. März, griechischer Unabhängigkeitstag, oft einfach als "der 25ste" bezeichnet und einer der grossen Feiertage. Diesmal habe ich lange geschlafen und deswegen die grosse Parade verpasst. Naja, muss ja auch nicht jedes mal sein. Die ganze Stadt (oder eher das ganze Land) ist beflaggt, bis in die Seitenstrassen (siehe Bild). Am 25.3.1821 beschlossen die Anführer der griechischen Revolution den Aufstand gegen die türkischen Besatzer. Deshalb geht's auf der Parade auch recht militärisch zu und im Fernsehen laufen Historienschinken ohne Ende. Gegessen wird auch speziell...

Griechische Fahne in Seitenstrasse

Irgendwie scheinen die meisten griechischen Gebräuche drauf rauszulaufen, dass alle das gleiche essen. Mal fasten sie alle (in der Woche vor Ostern), mal wird nur Meeresgetier verputzt (καθαρή δευτέρα, der Montag nach der Fasnacht), mal brutzelt überall das Lamm (Ostersonntag)... und am 25. März gibt's μπακαλιάρος (Bakaliaros, Stockfisch) mit Kartoffeln und σκορδαλιά (Skordalia, Knoblauchpüree). Stockfisch war vor knapp 200 Jahren das super Sonntagsessen, was extra feines für Feiertage. So hat es sich bis heute an diesem historischen Feiertag erhalten. Schmeckt eigentlich ganz gut und wenn man es nicht so mag, einmal im Jahr liegt es wohl drin.

Wir haben den Tag mit einem Bummel vom Monastiraki durch die Plaka abgeschlossen - passend der historische touch. Eigentlich wollten wir bei der Metrostation Akropolis rauskommen, haben aber in den mit Touriläden gepflasterten Gässchen die Richtung verloren und sind auf der Amalias (beim Syntagma) gelandet. Dort waren wir noch kurz versucht ins neue "Athens HardRock Cafe" zu gehen, haben es aber doch sein lassen. Passt halt doch nicht so ganz zum Festtag.

Posted by betabug at 23:09 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 March 2006

Spring and Comics at the Park

From last Sunday afternoon
Flowers at the Parko Eleftherias

This is a picture from last Sunday. We went to the Parko Eleftherias, sat in the grass and read newspapers in the sun. Watched playing children. Just as relaxing as you can get in the neighbourhood. The flowers have been set in a short while ago, I've seen the job from the bus. It didn't look like municipal people, more like a neighbourhood group.

Then we wandered over to the small culture center in the park. They had the "international realistic comic festival" there. Which sounds much bigger than it is. It's just a hall with comics on the wall and some talks. I understand the program is on If you are into comics, the "festival" is still up a few days, till April 1st, go have a look, admission is free. The comics are of course the serious kind, not the Micky Mouse variety, that's why it's called "realistic". I liked the comics good enough, though I wondered a bit of the use of showing them in an exhibition. Some of them were obviously originals, and seeing the work of the artist more "up personal" was indeed interesting.

Back to Athens: Spring is here. It's not so much the weather (warmer all the time), but much more the smell. Ever heard them tell "the air smells like spring"? It does now.

Posted by betabug at 10:12 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 April 2006

My Bus to Work

What makes an everyday's thing special

My bus to work is pretty average in that it crosses town, is sometimes crowded, sometimes almost empty and comes by reliable every day (except on strikes) in reasonable intervals. What makes it special are some small things: First of all, some of the busses have a system that announces stops with a recorded voice. This is likely supposed to be working in all busses (they have speakers), but I observe it in working order only in one (or a couple?) of the busses on one of the two lines I can take. It sure would be usefull for visitors

The other thing that makes it special is the route it takes. It's almost a sightseeing tour. I can see the Acropolis (especially nice in the evening), the Zeus temple, Lycabettus, and the Stadium. Actually there is a real sightseeing line (Nr. 400) of the Athens busses, which goes along a piece of the same roads.

Posted by betabug at 17:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
17 April 2006

Short Visit To The 2CV Club

People on the streets

Monday and Friday nights the folks from the Greek 2CV club open their beautyful club house [1]. Tonight is an easy warm night, so I dropped in for a short visit. Enjoyed the oil talk, but didn't see any close friends. On the way back home I noticed how warm it has become. The thermometer on the pharmacy near my neighbourhood said 20C - at 23:00 at night. No wonder the cafes near Thision were full and people out on the streets, enjoying the easy evening.

[1]: Hellenic Club of 2CV Friends, 38 Thessalonikis str., between the Thision and Petralona stations of the subway.

Posted by betabug at 22:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
09 May 2006

Send In The Cows!

Cowparade in Athens
First cows of the cow parade

This morning as I was still sleepy riding the bus to work I saw a couple of bright painted cows at the Parko Eleftherias - quite a herd of them actually. In reflex I grabbed my camera phone and was able to shoot this pic. I expected to see more cows along the way, but no luck. Maybe they are more towards the center, maybe they just started being herded out... what's going on is the Athens CowParade.

The cowparade is an event that originated in Zurich, life-size plastic cows are painted by various artists and placed all over town. After being a success in Zurich, the cowparade went to other places (first stop was Chicago IIRC). The City of Athens has some information about the locations of the cow parade.

Posted by betabug at 09:25 | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)
14 May 2006

Sun, Sea, and Turtles in Glyfada

Sea breeze on Sunday

Took the tram to Glyfada today, was in need of some fresh air and a look at the waves. First thing I noticed upon arrival: Should have brought my swimming trunks. The sea was very inviting. Not too cold either. We took a little walk along the coastline instead. By chance we walked into the Greek sea turtle rescue center...

This is something like a hospital for sea turtles. It's run by a volunteer organization called ARCHELON. Wounded and sick sea turtles from all over Greece are brought here. The turtles are medically treated and rehabilitated. Then they are released to the wild again. The length of their stay depends on circumstances, but we heard about one example of a patient who stayed there for three years. One of the volunteers showed us around, explained how the place works, and told us some of the turtle's stories.

After that visit we went to eat something in Glyfada, then to sit a bit in the sun at the beach. We stayed all the afternoon. Glyfada has changed since I have last been there, but that was no surprise. What hasn't changed is some of the funny greek-american atmosphere. It's one of the main places in Athens to see greek american kids speak half Greek half English. They have "Canadian home made ice cream" and we saw a BMW with New York license plates.

Posted by betabug at 23:10 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
21 May 2006

...wherein the betabug watches Eurovision

No, I didn't believe it either

I've always been ignorant to the Eurovision phenomenon. I mean, we surely must have watched Eurovision once or twice when we were kids, but I can't remember any details, and then I didn't as much as think a single second about the Eurovision Song Contest... until I came back to Greece two years ago. Suddenly people around me started to get all heated up about what, please? A f* european song contest? I couldn't believe it either. Despite my surroundings I have tried to continue to avoid everything about it. I say "tried", because with those surroundings the thing keeps coming after you. Yesterday I went with friends to watch Eurovision in a cafe...

To my defense I would like to state that I was there clearly for the company only. But I had spent enough time trying to find out if the city of Athens or ET (the greek state television) had set up large projections of the event in public places for the unwashed masses to see (you know, the washed masses paid 150 Euro for tickets and had the luck to get a ticket in the first 25 minutes after they started to sell and before they were sold out). I learned that there were no such public showings, but never mind, it's Greece and lots of cafe owners had projections and large TVs around.

Hanging out with the homies

Sitting in a cafe with friends is much more the greek way anyhow. So after having searched the web thing and asked around for some time, I thought it to be prudent to pay at least a bit of attention to the screen. Some thoughts about that business up there came to my mind, thoughts which probably are cold coffee for the folks who are really viewing that "show" every year.

So, they're pimping the votes, *how*?

First off, it's so hilarious how voting is really an affair of two systems, none of which has anything to do with the quality of the music or the performance on stage. First there is geography, neighboring countries voting for each other, Ukraine for Russia, Finland for Russia, the scandinavians amongst each other. The second is more economic, it follows the geography of migrant workers... Germany votes for Turkey, because all the turkish people in Germany vote for their home country.

Sometimes it goes the other way around too: Albania votes for Greece, because there are so many Albanians in Greece. Usually they give Greece their full 12 points, but this year there will likely be questions, since Greece go only 8 points from them, likely not a question that is taken easy. Heard someone say on TV this morning (about Cyprus and Bulgaria giving Greece 12 points when others didn't): "This shows who your friends really are." I hope those fools lighten it up a bit.

Lame, but thanks for trying anyway...

The organizers in Switzerland tried to bank on a third, lesser phenomenon: Sometimes artists are from other countries than the ones they represent. So the kluge people put together six singers from different Eurovision countries. It worked to a degree, as they got points from Malta and Bosnia who were represented in the swiss team that way. It made me wonder just how cheap and flat such a rouse can be to fall short.

"Fun"? That must be a mistake!

In the end sometimes it helps to have a new and unique concept. Hard rock at the Eurovision? Well, the finnish organizers tried and it worked out for once. It crashed the cement built voting systems for a moment. To me that song was a welcome break. There is only so much shallow pop muzak I can endure in one evening. Other than that, it was a really nice evening out with friends. We even went to eat sweets at 1:30 in the morning in Psiri.

Posted by betabug at 15:03 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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