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26 July 2006

Before the Finishing Line

More work than blogging

This week is tough at work, so few ideas and little power for weblogging. That is because this is the last week before the company summer vacation, and (as usual) everything has to be finished before the vacation. Instead of witty writings and my usual lame pics, all you get is this service announcement. Hopefully I'll be back soon with more interesting content.

Posted by betabug at 22:39 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 August 2006

The Evening before Work starts

Already halfway into it

My vacations are over now. Tomorrow I'm heading back to work. This year my vacation wasn't as relaxing (nothing beats hanging around in Limnos for a month or so in the "relaxing" department), but for a change I went and travelled around a bit.

One part of my vacation plan was to do a few hours of work every day in the little house on the island. Didn't work out, because we were there only a few days, and also because I bulldozed some changes and broke some CSS that was already done. That discouraged me a bit. Lazily doing some easy work on vacation is nice, but having to sort out boring CSS diffs isn't. So the coming week I'll have to find again what I did and repair it. As you can see, my head is already halfway at work.

Posted by betabug at 00:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Ein paar Gedanken zur Hitze

Gut gebraten in Athen

Wenn man von so einer Reise ans Meer wieder nach Athen zurückkommt, dann kommt einem die Hitze doppelt heiss vor. Ist sie auch, denn momentan ist hier die heisseste Zeit des Jahres angesagt und in der Stadt gibt es fast kein entkommen. Das ist ja auch der wichtigste Grund, warum die Stadtbewohner im Sommer ans Meer flüchten. Für alle Nordlicher ein paar Erinnerungen, was Hitze wirklich bedeutet...

Wasserbedarf: Dass man im Sommer viel trinken sollte weiss jeder, klingt auch als Erinnerung immer wieder gut. Ist aber gar nicht mal nötig zu sagen, denn der Körper meldet sich pausenlos. Ich kippe im Moment alles in mich herein, was trinkbar aussieht, flüssig und kühl ist.

Schlaf: Da die Temperatur zum Beispiel gestern abend um 21 Uhr immer noch mit 35 Grad Celsius gemessen wurde, ist es ganz schön mühsam, Schlaf zu finden. Wer keine Klimaanlage hat, der wälzt sich herum, bis man ihn im eigenen Schweiss marinieren kann. Vor dem Schlafen gehen einmal kalt abduschen hilft etwas, ansonsten wichtigste Regel: Nicht versuchen einzuschlafen, bevor man nicht zum Umfallen müde ist. Lieber nochmal ein Tavli (Backgammon) spielen, bis einem die Augen zufallen, dann nervt die Hitze nicht mehr so.

Klimaanlagen und Strom: Klimaanlagen sind natürlich gross in Mode. So gross, dass alles auf den grossen Blackout auf dem Stromnetz wartet, denn der Stromverbrauch geht extrem hoch und die E-Werke kommen nicht mehr mit. Die Stromrechnung artet aus bei dem Spass. Trotzdem hätte ich zuhause gerade auch gerne eine, Geld und Umwelt zum Teufel, mir ist heiss. Hab ich aber nicht, ein simpler Ventilator muss es auch tun. Die Klimaanlage im Büro kommt übrigens im Moment nicht mehr gegen die Hitze an. Trotz "Vollgas" in der Kühlung sitze ich hier mit verschwitztem T-Shirt.

Rumlaufen: Bewegen tut man sich nur äusserst ungern. Dabei entwickelt man schnellstens den Sinn dafür, jeden kleinsten Flecken Schatten auszunutzen. Grünflächen und Bäume wären auch gut, sind in dieser Stadt aber Mangelware.

Schwimmen gehen: Immer noch das beste. Einmal ins Meer eintauchen, dabei kühlt sich der Körper wiedermal ab, Entspannung stellt sich ein. Denn die Hitze löst auch körperlich Stress aus. Eine Abkühlung gibt dem Körper eine Pause.

Posted by betabug at 16:07 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
24 August 2006

Sunset at Faliron and at Home

Quiet evening for once
Sunset in Palaio Faliron, Athens

Almost at the end of my first work week after the vacation, this evening I did not go for a swim. The first "real" evening at home, and due to being away, there is enough house work for me. Temperatures have fallen some degrees, which makes housekeeping more bearable. At work I still have enough CSS to do (which really started to get boring after doing it before and now after the vacation).

The picture is the sunset from yesterday evening at Faliron. What you see below the sun is part of Piraeus. There was a nice sailing boat moving towards Piraeus, and some people are swimming in the foreground. Myself, I had just come out of the water.

Posted by betabug at 20:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
13 September 2006

Ton-Erinnerungen, Jazz, warten


Sitze in einer Ladenpassage in der Innenstadt und warte darauf, dass ein Jazz-Konzert anfängt, über dass ich nichts weiss als dass es hier ist und mehr Leute warten als Stühle da sind. Gehört habe ich davon über meine Mitbewohnerin, die von einem Bekannten eine SMS bekommen hat. Und dann macht es hier eben so ein Klack im Publikum.

Manchmal lösen einzelne, auch nur halb gehörte Töne Erinnerungen und Gedanken aus. Das "Klack" brachte mich darauf, wie ich als Kind einen Tischtennisball mit dem Schläger in der Luft hielt. Klack, klack, klack. Eine Beschäftigung die bei der Warterei ganz nett wäre, wenn auch unmöglich, denn so langsam wird es gesteckt voll.

Lang werde ich wohl nicht bleiben. Die Soundqualität ist miserabel und das wird sich wohl auch nicht ändern wenn die Konserve durch "life" ersertzt wird.

Posted by betabug at 21:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
15 September 2006

My Notebook

Tough little black book

A few days ago, Eleni's father came through Athens, and in the few hours he was in town we went to eat and walked to Syntagma for coffee. Somewhere around Evripidou street he said he'd want a notebook for a journal and asked me where to get a good notebook in Athens. I pull out the little black notebook I use and recommend it. As it seems he was looking for something cheaper... which is ironic, since we went to Syntagma square for coffee, another term for throwing money out of the window.

The brand of my notebook is in fashion, it's a Moleskine. There is a big marketing hype around these notebooks (that BBC article gives a good roundup of some of the ambivalences about these things). So much hype indeed, that I at times felt an urge to look out for something else. They are quite expensive too. But I didn't buy mine, both the small, plain one and the bigger one have been presents. I keep and use them for some simple reasons: They are very useful and tough enough for me. I carry the small notebook with me every day since more than two years now, traveling all around Greece and Athens. I did not expect it to survive that long, even given that I don't carry it in my trousers pockets. But so far it has kept up and with no prospect of failure apparent either. The binding is enduring, the outer cover is absent of cracks. Apart from that it's a functional notebook.

notebook page with drawing from Palaiokastro, Limnos

With these notebooks it has become a fashion to publish pages from it. Especially the painters and sketchers love it and I enjoyed some good examples online. To show you what I do with mine, I've put the picture online. Mostly I scribble down thoughts and ideas, small things I try to remember, to-do lists, anything. Sometimes I can get enough spirit up to do a little drawing. I like drawing with a normal pen. It is very hard, every little mistake shows up, but when I like the result it is a good reward. The picture show's the cape of "Palaiokastro" near Plaka on the island of Limnos. Of course as I'm not an artist, these pages are very rare. (Click on the image for a bigger view.)

When I went to the bookshop on Wednesday I turned the marketing hype upside down. Instead of buying a moleskine because of the famed reputation Bruce Chatwin gave them (via the marketing hype), I went and bought the book in which Chatwin mentions the notebook.

Posted by betabug at 22:47 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 October 2006

Δορυφορικά... ψάθινα;

Καινούριες εξελίξεις στο τρεντ του "merging"

Υπάρχουνε εταιρείες που κάνουν παράξενα πράγματα, και υπάρχουν εταιρείες που κάνουν κάπως νορμάλ πράγματα άλλα σε παράξενο συνδυασμό. Το πρωί έβλεπα ένα φορτηγό με την επιγραφή "Δορυφορικά συστήματα" και στην επόμενη γραμμή από κάτω "Έπιπλα Ψάθινα Δώρα".

Μπορεί βεβαίως να έχουν "ενώσει τις δυνάμεις τους" δυο εταιρείες (δεν πρόλαβα να δω αν γράφει "Όμιλος Εταιρειών Νικολάκη" από κάτω), άλλα πιο ενδιαφέρουσα θα ήταν η σκέψη ότι πουλάνε ψάθινες δορυφορικές κεραίες που κάνουν και για καθίσματα και έρχονται σε συσκευασία δώρου...

Posted by betabug at 09:14 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 October 2006

Sketching Kerameikos

From my notebook, pen selection, practice!
The Acropolis, seen from Kerameikos

This afternoon after work, I went to Kerameikos again. I had left a little bit earlier, but still had only a short time with direct sunlight. Made two and a half sketches, the last "half" one abandoned and given up on. My newly filled up pen is much better than what I used last time, but I need a lot of more practice. The sketches are from the last visit, the first shows the Acropolis as seen from the Kerameikos archeological site...

Ancient ark and stones at Kerameikos

The problem with the intermediary pen was that it smeared. It's a nice enough Pilot, writes fine, but in the end it's just a single use item. You can see how it smeared in the enlarged are of this little stone scene with the arch. First that pen didn't draw as fine a line when moving it lightly, second it smeared when doing thick lines.

The cheap pen smeared

The Parker refill in my rotring pen allows for finer lines and I can put on darker areas without fear of smearing. The result is a wider range of expression and with it depth. A lot more satisfying to draw with. But then the comparison is unfair, as these two are totally different products.

Some thoughts on drawing with a pen

I like the tonality, it just gives a different mood than a pencil. Blue is cool. Usually people are surprised, "but how can you correct mistakes with a pen?" The truth is, you can't really correct mistakes with a pencil either. If you rub things out, it never gets really clean. A grey smear will stay, and the quality of the paper changes, altering how your pencil strokes appear over it. Making a line with a pen commits you to it, it may be hard to get it right, but at least maybe you start to put your pen where you really want that line.

My satisfaction with my sketches varies wildly. In the end I think I want to continue with them, but I have to learn and re-learn a lot. More drawing is on the to-do list. Maybe I should get a sketchbook, so I won't fill up my notebook with all my trials.

Posted by betabug at 22:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
07 October 2006

Towing, Ancient Recipes, Pictures

Bits and pieces...

While coming home from Αρχαίων (Arhaion, the restaurant with "ancient" Greek food) by bus, we found our bus suddenly blocked in a small street. In front of us was another bus, and before that one was someone who had parked his car in a corner and walked away. We were close to home, so went out and contemplated walking the last bit. While we thought about it, we had the chance to watch the tow car arrive, hook the offending car up, and tow it away. Revenge! The car didn't have a car alarm, so the sound effects were low-key.

Also I wanted to remark on my last post about that restaurant Αρχαίων. Obviously they can't tell you that their food is really exactly like in ancient Greece, because nobody alive today (and out of a psych clinic) has eaten genuine ancient Greek food. But it's the idea that counts, and maybe the old texts and inspiration were enough for the chef to produce something that could pass for ancient food. It's a bit like "experimental archeology", where they build huts and run around in self-made cloths out of hand-spun wool.

Today we went for coffee at the very nice kafeneion in the National Garden next to Syntagma square. I made a little drawing there, which I liked (no bragging here!) and would have really wanted to use to illustrate this post. But somehow with the drawings I am back to where I was before the digital camera in my phone: I'll have to scan it in and then I can publish it. Maybe I should combine taking photos and doing sketches. Adding the drawings to the posts two days later isn't such a great idea in the weblog format, so maybe I'll add small posts just with the drawings as they come along.

Posted by betabug at 19:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 October 2006

Magic Dice & Cloud

Eleni Traveling
cloud tower on blue sky on the hils around Athens

Tomorrow Eleni will be traveling to Germany. So today we met again with friends, this time in the cafeteria in the Parko Eleftherias. On the way home we noticed that there were big towering clouds on the horizon, on an otherwise spotless blue sky.

I snapped a few pictures, hoping to catch the spirit of those huge towers, looking along all the street canyons, as there were different clouds in multiple directions. They were based in the hills around Athens.

Likely they are a weather phenomenon due to the shape of the land Athens is built on. The megalopolis is stretched out over a relatively flat and wide bowl (just a few hills in the middle), with a ring of hills around it (and open to the side where the sea is of course). When the exhaust from cars and heating gets stuck in that ring of hills, we get smog. Today it seems that those hills caused different layers of air to intermingle and produce those clouds.

Despite the clouds it's pretty warm, we saw a sign giving 24C at around 19:00 in the afternoon. Warm enough to eat on the balcony and then play some backgammon out there too. In the process of getting my 3rd or so doubled game in, I dropped a dice... from the third floor.

Luck had it, there was no one down there. I saw it bounce off the street a couple of time. I picked up a spare to continue the game (as I'm a crypto-nut, I always have enough dice at home, the particular one I had bought in a shop selling backgammon and chess sets in Monastiraki).

Right after the game I looked down from the balcony again, in reverence to the dice who went down there. And I saw a light spot, on the opposite side of the street, right next to the line of a car's shade. Must be the dice! I jumped up and went down (the stairs!), and indeed it was! The dice is mostly unharmed, with some grey spots on the corners and a hardly noticeable dent on one side. A magic dice indeed!

Posted by betabug at 21:21 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
16 October 2006

Kühler, also Zeit zu schreiben

...oder lieber gleich mit dem Winterschlaf anfangen?

Die letzten Tage ist es bei uns einiges kühler geworden, vor einer Woche hatten wir oft auch spät abends noch 20 Grad, momentan wirds mit 17 Grad schon richtig kühl. Natürlich nichts im Vergleich zu nördlichen Ländern :-). Die "Temperatureinstellung" des Menschen ist schon was komisches. Heute morgen musste ich noch kurz was erledigen und ging etwas früher aus dem Haus. Ich ertappte mich doch tatsächlich dabei, dass ich probierte ob mein Atem in der kalten Luft sichtbar ist... als ob wir auch nur irgendwo in der Nähe vom Gefrierpunkt wären. Man gewöhnt sich halt an das sommerliche und auch spätsommerlich warme Wetter.

Gerade mit den kühleren Temperaturen habe ich nicht immer so viel Lust rauszugehen und gross was zu unternehmen. Also mehr Zuhause sein und mit etwas Glück auch mal was kreatives machen. So ist zuletzt eben die zu einer Überarbeitung gekommen und neue Ideen für anderes habe ich auch schon. Also nur noch die Tendenz zum beginnenden Winterschlaf überwinden und los geht's...

Posted by betabug at 13:29 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
19 October 2006

Power Day

Blow my fuse, baby!

The last 24 hours were deeply rooted in the power of electricity. First of all on Wednesday evening at home our super quality electricity system blew a fuse, which left me sitting in the dark, right as I was talking on the phone. Then I came into work on Friday morning, logged into only to find that there had been a power failure in the housing, which hadn't worked out so well with the G3 (no, no, I'm lucky there has no permanent problem). And to round things out my new bluetooth headset acted up in the afternoon, which isn't really in the electricity category by itself, but I needed the charger to get it to work again, and the charger was of course at home...

The fuse at home left my room and the kitchen in the dark. This unusual combination of rooms to be on the same circuit is already a sign of how strange our power setup is. All power lines in the apartment have only two cables, no grounding cable. Obviously the setup was for proper three-pronged cabling, but my guess is that the contractor made some extra cash by cheating them to do the job with 2/3 of cables. The fuse board is the old fashioned kind with screw in fuses. That's fine and dandy, but it usually means that either a.) you have no fuses at home when you need them or b.) the spare fuses at home are the old ones from the last failure and you forgot to buy some. Extra note to self: It's nice to own a good flashlight [pats self on back] for moments like these. But it would be even better to leave said flashlight in a well defined place, so I won't have to search for it 10 minutes in the dark.

I then went out at 23:00 to try and buy a fuse. That's not as hopeless as it sounds, as in Greece we have kiosks (or "newsstands") that are open all night, and they tend to have all kind of stuff. The first one I went to didn't have anything electrical, the second had just ran out of the size of fuses I needed. Back home we then discovered that our fuse-board has one unused fuse, so we were able to switch around to get things going.

As for the G3, one problem seems to be that the internal battery is dead. That isn't so unusual for a machine a couple years old, I'll just replace it when I go to Germany. After the power returned, apparently the machine didn't power up by itself. I assume that is because of the dead battery, since normally it's setup to autostart in after power outages. Peter from the "Internet Ulm" club went in and booted up all the servers that didn't do that on their own (thank you Peter!), which were quite a lot. With the G3 he had the extra trouble that the power switch on the outside seems to be stuck or broken, he had to open up the box to get it going.

Then there was the bluetooth headset: I wanted to do a call from the office and had to muck around with the pairing to get the headset to talk to the computer. Despite what people may tell you, bluetooth is still a hack. The only times the G4 at work has ever crashed was with bluetooth problems. This time I went through the little dance of shutting down bluetooth on the G4, starting up the headset, then bluetooth on the G4, then checking through the "Sound" system prefs that input works. It didn't do it. Deleted and recreated the pairing, again the same dance. At one point I thought I had to do it again, switched off the headset and noticed at that very moment that I had input, so I started the headset again, when suddenly everything got stuck. The Mac user interface got unresponsive (mouse still moving, but no clicks registering), though I didn't check through the network if the machine was still alive underneath. A reboot fixed that.

What was worse was that the headset had crashed too. No little blue light flashing any more. No beeps and twingles as feedback for various long and short button presses. No reaction whatsoever. Now on 17 grams of plastic and electronics they don't give you a reset button any more. There is just a button for on/off/multifunction, and volume up/down. My line of thought was that when I plug in the power supply it usually shuts down its function, so maybe it will reset then. But of course the power supply was at home. No bluetoothing and Internet phoning for me then. When I came home my theory proved right, I plugged in the good old power and the blue light came right back too.

When I still was looking for a reviving secret key press for the headset, I went through several web searches. Apparently Motorola's support consists of a page telling you that "when you can't connect the headset to a device, you have to pair them first". Interesting. Then I found out that abc news has the Motorola H500 in the list of "worst product of the year 2006/Q3". Nice to know, even though their reasoning seems based mostly on the headset not having fit their testers ear.

Posted by betabug at 23:58 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
25 October 2006

Long Time No See

Going for a special coffee in Kalamaki
Evening sky over the sea near Faliron

When I was about to leave work yesterday, I made a phone call to my friend Φωτεινή (Fotini, or Fofi for short) from old times, back when I was living in Athens for the first time. We haven't seen each other for what? 15? 16? or 17 years? A very long time. From work I took the bus and went to Faliron, from where I walked to Kalamaki. I could have taken another bus of course, but I had plenty of time and the sea was a sight (click on the picture for a bigger view).

Then we finally met again, went for coffee and had lots of stories to tell. I had the pleasure to see that she's doing very well, turned out to become a successful and busy businesswoman. There were lots of moments when I was just struck by the situation and probably couldn't open my mouth and say a word. Let me say just so much now: That was a very long time.

Posted by betabug at 09:24 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
28 October 2006

Mit einem Lächeln von der Arbeit

Manchmal klappt's halt auch

Manche Arbeitstage funktionieren halt besser als andere... am Freitag kam ich zum Beispiel mit einem Lächeln aus dem Büro. Unsere Applikation wird immer runder, voller und (wenn ich das mal selber behaupten darf) besser. Da kommen dann halt die Enden schön zusammen und wenn die Einzelteile "zusammenklicken" macht das Spielen mit Bauklötzen ja bekanntlich auch mehr Spass. Wenn dann mein Chef noch nach gewünschten Funktionen fragt und es ist alles schon da und eingebaut, da fängt es richtig an witzig zu werden.

Dann habe ich für die HelMUG auf dem Server noch was gebastelt, was sich "greylisting" nennt und den SPAM reduzieren sollte. Zuerst hat es sich beim Einbauen etwas quer gestellt, dann gings doch noch. Und dann habe ich das Logfile vom Mailserver aufgemacht und mitlaufen lassen... die SPAMs prallen auf eine Betonwand. Platsch! Das macht dann auch Spass zuzuschauen.

Greylisting ist nicht ganz unumstritten, aber für den Moment reduziert es sowohl den SPAM, den die Benutzer abkriegen, als auch den Arbeitsaufwand den der Server hat, denn die SPAMs wurden immer auch noch auf Viren geprüft, was aufwendig ist. Für den kurzen Auwand den ich hatte (selbst mit Problemen beim installieren), hat sich's gelohnt.

Posted by betabug at 23:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 October 2006

Business Class Emigrants

The Swiss Embassy performs

After a while where they couldn't get my address change right, the Swiss Embassy here in Athens found out where I am and sent me some mail. Next to the usual bimonthly color news magazine, there was also a letter from the ambassador. He's informing "the swiss colony in Greece" (my translation) about what to do in case of a crisis.

The first thought that came to my mind was that being a swiss emigrant nowadays really is the business class of emigration. I mean, which other country produces a four color magazine for its expatriates? And offers so much hand holding? (Even though the embassy doesn't really help when you come and ask for things like where to do your papers in the Greek bureaucracy, or where to find a lawyer/doctor/whatever.) I've seen the people waiting outside some third world embassies, and they aren't treated like that, they can feel lucky if their embassy gives them their necessary (and rightful) papers in a reasonable time. Ah well, can't change the world (especially not through writing in a weblog).

Then I looked through the info sheet about the crises. It isn't half bad, actually it's quite a good idea. I mean, I'm quite paranoid, but some swiss people arriving here could be ignorant about the fact that, yes, Greece has earthquakes, and yes, all kind of ugly stuff can happen in a middle to major earthquake. It's just good advice, not pushing things up and scaring people. There might be a tiny dose of CYA ("cover your ass") in there, where they state that in any natural catastrophic event, the duty of rescuing people (etc.) is on the Greek authorities. But all in all it reminded me of the usual swiss mentality of planning for the worst too and buying lots of insurance. I'll even go and implement some of their advice.

Posted by betabug at 23:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
05 December 2006

Asphalt Surfing ins Büro

Es rollt sich was zusammen
Longboard im Büro

Eines der direkten Resultate meiner Reise nach Deutschland und in die Schweiz ist, dass ich mein Longboard mitgebracht habe. Gestern hatte ich es dann zum zweiten Mal auf dem Weg ins Büro dabei. Den grössten Teil der Strecke mache ich mit dem Bus, aber es gibt zwei, drei Strassen, in denen es ruhig genug ist, dass ich rollen kann.

Gestern morgen bin ich dann an der Vassilissis Sofia angekommen und nach einem kleinen Spurt über die Kreuzung (kurze Grünphase mit Slalom durch die Abbieger) war ich doch ganz schön ausser Atem. So kann das natürlich nicht bleiben. Nach meiner Zeit auf Limnos hatte ich ja eigentlich eine ganz brauchbare Kondition, aber die Stadt ruiniert sowas schnellstens.

Also bin ich heute gleich wieder mit dem Rollbrettchen los. Jeden Tag liegt der Verkehr anders und wo ich gestern noch um Autokolonnen herumgelaufen bin, konnte ich heute eine schöne, leere Strecke asphaltsurfen. Auf die Schlaglöcher muss ich dabei aufpassen, Athener Asphalt halt. Im Büro macht sich das Brett dafür wieder ganz hübsch...

Posted by betabug at 23:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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