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11 September 2005

Continuing to Search For a Flat

Choices, choices

Yesterday and today I started to speed up a bit with the search for a flat. This morning I looked at a small place in Nea Smyrni, just some minutes walk from the office. Nice and quiet, but the place needs a bit of work to make it interesting. Also living alone will be a change. At noon I went with one of my current flatmates to look at a big flat near her university. Nice, roomy place, I would have company, and I would save some money. But I have to investigate about the commute, it's a long way to the office.

Even if I don't take that particular place near my office, there are others to be found there. Nea Smyrni is a nice area after all, lots of trees. I will have to think about my choices: Company and economical vs. closer and on my own. I will let it settle over night and do some looking up for public transport and then some thinking tomorrow.

Posted by betabug at 20:43 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
19 September 2005

Flat Search Officially Over

Moving in and moving out

My search for a flat or room is now officially over. I will be moving in to the new flat of my current flatmatte-grrl. I won't be so close to the center any more (less noise: good, less creative chaos: bad). I'll still have a long way each day to work. But I won't have to change busses any more, since there is a direct connection.

OK, so lets put some more of the good stuff down with this: First of all, flatsearching sucks, so I have my head free of that business. Second, I'll have good company where I live. The new area is still close enough to the center to be able to go out and party without having to move far.

Posted by betabug at 09:55 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 September 2005

Bookfair Under the Acropolis

Books, books, books, what else?
stalls at the book fair

A few days ago we visited a book fair under the Acropolis. It was already dark, both the old stones up the hill and the book stalls were lit up (see pic). Some things that left an impression on me:

UPDATE: The big books are from Unesco, not Unicef

Posted by betabug at 09:19 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
22 September 2005

Autofreier Tag und andere Auto-Geschichten

Leeren, schütteln, schweissen und... BUUUMM!

Heute ist in Athen "autofreier Tag", "Tag ohne Auto" oder so ähnlich. Die öffentlichen Verkehrsmittel sind umsonst von morgens bis 5 Uhr Nachmittags. Das ist natürlich ein Scherz. Die Strassen sind voll wie immer, die U-Bahn war nicht voller als sonst. Es ist zwar leicht bewölkt (trotzdem ganz schön warm), aber es regnet nicht. Wenn es regnet füllen sich die "öffentlichen" von den Leuten die darauf verzichten mit dem 2-Rad durch die nassen Strassen zu schlittern.

Noch eine Auto-Geschichte: Bruce Schneier berichtet von Rekordverkäufen von abschliessbaren Tankdeckeln im Land der Dumping-Sprit-Preise. Einer der Kommentare enthält den Hinweis darauf, dass die meisten Autotanks eine Entfüllöffnung mit einer simplen Schraube drin haben:

After all, how do you expect a garage mechanic to safely do work (eg. welding, grinding, etc) near a petrol tank containing fuel?
Haha! Das hat mich an die alte Geschichte erinnert, von dem Motorrad-Mechaniker, der einen Tank schweissen musste. Er lässt also das Benzin ab und um sicherzugehen, dass der Tank auch wirklich leer ist, schaut er rein und schüttelt den Tank. Dann fängt er an zu schweissen und BUUUUUMMMM!!! Ein Benzin-Luft-Gemisch ist explosiv, während Benzin an sich nicht mal besonders leicht in Brand zu setzen ist. Beim Schweissen nahe eines Benzintanks ist die beste Option dass der Tank voll ist oder ganz entfernt wird. Beim Schweissen am Tank selber sollte man ihn wohl lieber gut und lang entlüften...

Mein Grossvater war Mechaniker und hatte (der Überlieferung gemäss) immer einen offenen Eimer mit Benzin in seiner Werkstatt. Da warfen sie ihre Zigaretten rein, um sie auszumachen.

Posted by betabug at 09:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 September 2005

Denial Of Service Attack on Athens

Getting wet

Yesterday evening I was at home, snug and dry, when I noticed it started to rain. And it started to really rain, to pour down, thunder and lightning. I was feeling so good to be inside, warm and dry. Then for some undisclosed personal reason I had to go out on a mission. Part of this mission was going to be to get a taxi and go someplace. Mission impossible. Instead I decided to take all this as a personal experience and journalistic expedition. What else can you do when you get drenched in water to the bone...

I had dressed up with warm clothing. Above that I wore a waterproof nylon jacket and a cap. I expected some wind, so I did not take an umbrella. As I stepped outside the door, I hesitated for a moment. What scared me back was not that it was pouring down thick, but more that the street and sidewalk had turned into the bed of a river. But to be on a mission means not to turn back lightly. I stepped out and went on. My shoes were drenched wet after the first 3 steps. When I reached the street corner, my jeans were soaked over the knees.

Then I noticed that it would not be likely for a cab driver to stop for me at this corner. Cars were passing the crossing only in walking speed, but afraid to stop. The water was probably reaching the cars doors at some point and no cab driver would risk to stop and even open the doors. So I headed on. I went up to the next bigger street, where the chaos and flood was even more impressive. People were standing in building entrances, waiting for the downpour to calm down. Some of them were moving fast, trying to get home as fast as possible.

Where are all the taxis?

The streets of Athens are usually populated by lots of yellow taxis. There were very few around now. And of those a lot were not in service. The remaining ones transported passengers on their maximum capacity. I tried to wave down a few, but no such luck. And as my mission involved finding an empty taxi, all hope was gone. Getting an empty taxi in Athens is hard sometimes even on normal days. Quite often you just jump in a cab that heads in your general direction.

Working here

Slowly I moved in my general direction, at this point being soaked head to toe. I tried different streets, most of them with fast and deep currents of water. What I tried was to get to bigger avenues, where usually more taxis are moving. Ha! What vain hope. On Patission, I saw the incredible sight of a municipal garbage truck with two workers trying to do their job, emptying garbage containers. They had to shout to each other, but were barely able to understand each other in the thundering rain. The noise was not getting better by the car alarms that were set off from the thunders. Trying to do any job at all must have been pure lunacy.

I saw a taxi standing at the side of the road, the window open. The driver was sitting inside, with a towel trying to get the steamed up windows clean. I asked him if he was working by any chance. He said he would not go anywhere, as he could not see a thing. He told me he was sitting there for half an hour already. Nature had mounted a Denial Of Service attack on our city. You either stayed wherever you were (preferable indoors) or suffer when you tried to move. I saw a firetruck move by, probably some basement being flooded.

We got to get out of this place

After almost an hour I had to give up my mission. There was just no way to get a grip on a taxi in those circumstances. People were trying to get a taxi on all corners, just a chance to go home. Busses and Trolleys were working too, but given the driving conditions passengers had to wait very long at the stops. I saw one Trolley stop (with a line of two others and a bus behind it) and feared that the contacts had been dropping of the power lines and the driver would have to go out and try to get them back up. I would not have wished it on him, for the getting wet and for the danger of electricity in all this downpour. But after a frightening minute he moved on.

I arrived home and peeled off my dripping clothes right in the entrance. Then I rubbed myself dry, got into something warm and dry. My shoes are still drying up. This morning the sun was shining again, but it was a bit cloudy. Now it's raining again, but not as intense as yesterday. I still got to get home from work.

Posted by betabug at 18:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (1)
26 September 2005

Another Euro Championship won for Greece

I've seen that one before

Yesterday evening the basketball team of Greece won the european championship. Small deja-vu for me: I was around in Athens in 1987 when they won that for the first time. Back then I had followed many games on TV. Then I was around last year (but on Limnos), when the football team won the european championship 2004 in Portugal. And now basket again, in Belgrad. What's next? I must admit that I did not go down to Omonia square to watch the raging masses. I'm blaming a mixture of lazyness, being tired and not interested to scream at the top of my lungs.

Posted by betabug at 09:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 September 2005

Move, move,... moved! (partied too)

The worst is over, still to unpack and a surprise party

Yesterday was moving day. I did not go to work, but instead spent the morning packing things up. Then with the help of the gf (m4d gr33tz to you!), a couple of current and now ex-flatmates and Chris from work we moved everything downstairs. Four stairs of downstairs, especially for the big bookcase, which was plain hell. Chris took the heavy load on him, while Haralambos helped around the corners. More thanks to all of them. Read on for more on the move and a party...

Into a small truck the stuff went and we drove off to New Home(TM). The truck's driver and owner is going on retirement in a few days, so our stuff was his last moving job. Desribing to him where we wanted to go was quite a challenge. He said he has never gone to school, so he never remembers the street names. We of course knew the street names only, having been there a few times only. He knows most streets by features (such as "after the church in XY, do we turn left at the grocery store or at the other crossing?", which had me off guard, cause at the other crossing there is another grocery store a bit more down the road). I enjoyed his descriptions of the Athens of 51 years ago, when he first came here.

Unloading and moving boxes and all into the new place was much easier, mainly due to the elevator door being 5cm wider. That can make all the difference for having to carry a desk upstairs. Now all those boxes and bags are stuffed inside a room there and we just turned around and left. Unpacking is scheduled for the weekend.

Extra surprise: Later in the evening I got a call from my superboss (who not only gave me the day off for moving, but threw in mighty Chris as a helper). I was invited to a small birthday party. So I got to know the Bar "Epitokio" in Nea Smyrni. Nice, good music. Lots of my cow-orkers from the company were there. Had to go early though, tired as a dog after this interesting day.

Posted by betabug at 15:02 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 October 2005

The Cold of the Night in the Street

Going shopping in the evening

There is another big city syndrome next to the one Saad mentioned (and I commented upon). After work on thursday I took the gf on a small "volta", out for shopping and cafe. We went to Victoria subway station (my old neighborhood) and from there up Patission. Patission is a big boulevard with fancy shops and about 6 lanes of traffic. When we went there it was already dark, and the darkness with the lights of the city got me thinking.

There is a certain atmosphere that I started to like, as one starts to like a nightmare that comes back year after year. It is that feeling of being out and lost at night in the city. Having all those big buildings around you, those cold lights and the expensive shops. The shops are an important part of the nightmare. They would offer a place to rest, to go "inside", but they do so only for a fine, only for the ones with the cash to spend. In the nightmare I might be out of money (like George Orwell in "Down and Out in Paris and London"). Always I'm out on the street. When I am alone outside in a city, especially at the hour when the evening turns into the night, I start to dive into this atmosphere of the beloved melancholic dream. This time I wasn't alone, so I just had a look at the well known feeling coming to visit from afar.

In Athens there are illegal merchants from third world countries out on the sidewalks, probably like in all other big european cities by now. They reminded me of how my imaginary nightmare is the truth for many people. Your source of income might be a box of beads and rings on a sidewalk in a city thousands of miles from where you were born, but as a human being you still need a place to retreat at night, somewhere to curl up and not only sleep but feel a bit of safety. It goes without mention that I am and feel privileged in this respect.

After actual shopping and window shopping, we went to eat something and then we went for sweets in a cafe from an american ice cream chain. A place full of light (and it would offer warmth too, but in early October in Athens, there is no big demand for that, you can sit outside all night with a light sweater). Sipping a mild shake and flipping through a magazine becomes much more of a treat after an imaginative brush with the cold night.

Posted by betabug at 23:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
11 October 2005

Beobachtungen am Morgen

Schweizerdeutsch in Zografou

Heute morgen aus dem Haus gekommen und ein kleines Mädchen mit seiner Mutter gesehen. Gehört, wie die kleine sagt: "Dä Mah, isch das de Papa?" Bemerkenswert, wie gross ist die Chance in einem Athener Vorort ein kleines Mädchen zu sehen, das Schweizerdeutsch spricht? Und was da wohl für eine Geschichte dahinter steckt? Ich habe ja nur ein kleines Bruchstück gehört.

Posted by betabug at 08:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Ζητείται συγκάτοικος

Μπες στο πιο blog σπίτι της Αθήνας!

Μια πρώην συγκάτοικο μου, με ρώτησε αν μπορώ να βάλω αυτήν την αγγελία:

Ψάχνω συγκάτοικο, κατά προτίμηση κοπέλα, σε επιπλωμένο διαμέρισμα στο Παγκράτι με ψυγείο, κουζίνα, πλυντήριο, τηλέφωνο, Ίντερνετ. Ενοίκιο 220 ευρώ συν κοινόχρηστα. Τατιάνα
online από 2010-02-02 επικοινωνήστε στο email:

Παρακαλώ μην απαντάτε στα comments από κάτω, στείλτε mail κατευθείαν!

Αυτή η σελίδα αρχικά είχε την παλαιά μας αγγελία, που δεν ισχύει πια:

(Update 2009: έχουν περάσει 4 χρόνια, αυτή η αγγελία δεν ισχύει πια

Ψάχνουμε συγκάτοικο, κατά προτίμηση μη καπνιστή, σε επιπλωμένο διαμέρισμα, στου Ζωγράφου, κοντά στο πανεπιστήμιο. Ενοίκιο €167. Είμαστε ένας (γνωστός) Ελβετός και μία Γερμανίδα και ψάχνουμε ακόμα έναν Έλληνα. (Ναι, ακούγεται σαν ανέκδοτο...) Στείλε mail ή κάνε comment!

Posted by betabug at 17:25 | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)
29 October 2005

ΙΚΕΑ στην Αθήνα ή στην σοβιετική ένωση;

Δεν φτάνει μόνο να πληρώνει κάποιος για το franchising όταν ξεμείνουν και από σακούλες
crowd in front of IKEA Athens)

Σήμερα πήγαμε για ψώνια στο ΙΚΕΑ της Αθήνας, δίπλα στο αεροδρόμιο. Καλή ιδέα, γιατί μας χρειαζόντουσαν διάφορα πραγματάκια, κυρίως για την κουζίνα και για το καινούριο σπίτι (ναι, βρήκε τελικά!) της gf μου. Όμως την ίδια ιδέα την είχανε και πάρα πολλοί άλλοι και το IKEA δεν ήτανε έτοιμο για αυτό. Στην φωτογραφία βλέπουμε την είσοδο του μαγαζιού, με κόσμο που περιμένει, λες και είναι μπουζουξίδικο και τραγουδάνε ο Σάκης και η Πέγκυ. Μας αφήνανε δέκα δέκα στο μαγαζί, μόνο που ο πορτιέρης δεν μας είπε για το ντύσιμό μας.

Μέσα χαμός, τι περίμενες αδελφέ; Μερικά από τα πιο χρήσιμα πράγματα είχανε εξαντληθεί, μάλλον εδώ και εβδομάδες. Είχα την αίσθηση ότι ήμουνα πάλι παιδάκι στο πολυκατάστημα GUM στη Μόσχα του 1985, περνάει ο λαός και βλέπει τα όμορφα πράγματα, μα ό,τι μπορούν να πάρουν δεν υπάρχει πια. Παράδειγμα; Οι Σουηδοί δεν φανταζόντουσαν το κρύο που κάνει εν Ελλάδει τέλος Οκτωβρίου, και το "run" που θα κάνουν οι Αθηναίοι για τα παπλώματα της σουηδικής εταιρείας. Πάπαλα τα παπλώματα! Μεθαύριο που θα ρίξει τα πρώτα 2 μέτρα χιόνι της Αθηναϊκής σεζόν θα παγώσουν πολλά ποδαράκια στην πρωτεύουσα.

Εξαντλήθηκαν και φωτιστικά, καρέκλες, κρεβάτια. Συνήθως τα πιο φτηνά, χρήσιμα και ωραία αντικείμενα. Παρ'όλ'αυτά γεμίσαμε σακούλες και καρότσια με διάφορα και προχωρήσαμε για την ουρά στα ταμεία. Σας έχω μιλήσει για την ουρά; Περιμέναμε πίσω από κάποιον ηθοποιό, αλλά δεν θυμόμασταν το όνομά του. (Συγνώμη, αν είσαι εσύ και έτυχε να το διαβάζεις εδώ.) Περιμέναμε και περιμέναμε. Τελικά ήμασταν έτοιμοι να αφήσουμε τα ευρουδάκια μας και τι συμβαίνει; Το μαγαζί είχε ξεμείνει από σακούλες.

Το IKEA στην Ελλάδα λειτουργεί σαν franchise. Έχει πολλές φορές τις πιο ακριβές τιμές τις Ευρώπης. Και φαίνεται ότι δεν φτάνει μόνο μια ελληνική εταιρεία να πληρώνει για ένα γνωστό όνομα και ένα μάρκετινγκ κόνσεπτ. Χρειάζεται και λίγο σκέψη, business sense και customer service. Μετάφραση κανείς;

Posted by betabug at 23:56 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
30 October 2005

Seeing the Parade

Greece's National Holiday on 28th October

Friday morning I woke up early (well, kind of), in spite of the holiday. Then I walked through the nice and quiet streets of a sunny nonworking day in Athens. The 28th of October is a national holiday, it was the day that started the 2nd World War for Greece [1]. The day is commemorated with a parade in front of the parliament and the grave of the unknown soldier. Lots of politicians and generals are assembled to watch, but on the other side of the street there is also a crowd of normal folks. (The building on the left side of the photo is the parliament.)

The parade was completeley non-military, schoolchildren and some boyscouts, together with some bands were marching. In the crowd were the parents, schoolmates and relatives of the children, and they were applauding when they saw "their" school marching by. Most of the school groops were wearing some uniform like outfits (dark blue skirts and white blouses being the classical style for the day). But others wore traditional greek folk costumes, and these received extra applause.

Also big applause received a group from the Athens 2004 Special Olympics and the very small kids from the boy scouts. As for the bands, I learned that a glockenspiel makes a big difference in the sound of a marching band, which of course reminded me of Neal Stephens Cryptonomicon (where one of the main characters gets to play the glockenspiel, because there is no way he can play a pipe organ in a marching band). I'm no fan of marching music, but the glockenspiel sounded sweet inside all that humptata.

[1]: Actually it was the day that the Greek general and dictator Metaxas refused the ultimatum of Italian generalissimus and dictator Mussolini. Mussolini had demanded free passing of Italian troups through Greece to north africa, something that would have amounted to surrender of the country. After the "No" ("όχι") of Metaxa, hostilities started between Italy and Greece, later resulting in the involvement of Germany and the occupation of Greece. October 28th is called "επέτειος του όχι" ("epetios tou ohi", "annyversary of the no") in Greece.

Posted by betabug at 13:15 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
10 November 2005

Unfreiwillige Überlebensparole

Zwei Tage im Bett

Die letzten zwei Tage verbrachte ich im Bett mit einer deftigen Erkältung. Was mich unfreiwillig an die Parole erinnerte, die in der Nähe unseres Hauses an die Wand gemalt ist: "ΖΩΗ ΟΧΙ ΕΠΙΒΙΩΣΗ" (Zoi ochi epiwiosi, etwa: "Leben, nicht Überleben". Eine Erkältung ist ja nicht gleich eine Frage von Überleben oder nicht. Aber wirklich Leben ist das auch nicht, schnief. Und wozu hat man denn einen "Blog", wenn man sich nicht mal selbst bemitleiden darf? :-) Da hoffe ich doch, dass ich schnell wieder auf dem Dampfer bin, um am grösseren Überlebenskampf in Athen teilzunehmen.

Posted by betabug at 21:11 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 November 2005

Saturday Club Life

HelMUG at COMDEX, 2CV Club Party
HelMUG booth at COMDEX and 1970s video phone

Yesterdays visit at the HelMUG booth at the COMDEX turned into a small hacking project. But I managed to take some pictures (click on the preview for a bigger image). The smallish insert is a 1970s video phone from the booth of the telecommunications museum, absolute highlight of the exhibition. In the big picture there are a couple of its modern cousins: Plenty of Apples iSight cameras at the HelMUG booth. HelMUG webmaster stefbystef even presented the new HelMUG website over a video iChat connection. I came home pretty late from COMDEX, but not late enough to miss the party of the Greek 2CV club.

The HelMUG mini hack: I managed to write a small script to change the password of a lot of imported user accounts at once. Started out with a small expect script (found on the web, but easy to do yourself) to script /usr/bin/passwd. Then changed that a bit to our needs. Finally hooked it up with a small shell script to run on a text file with username and password on each line. The reason I used a shell script for the second task is that I don't use expect very often, and I did not want to mess up a task like this. But I love expect, even though I'm a python programmer, the tcl grammar is very cool and each time I use expect (which is based on tcl) it makes me whish I had more chance to play with it.

Then came the 2CV party: Last year I went on an excursion with the 2CV fans. So I knew some of them. At the party there were also a lot of unknown faces, since everybody had brought their friends. I enjoyed it nonetheless, good music, drinks, good people, and a very nice place. The clubs hangout is a very stylish neoclassical flat. Even at the party I could not miss my geekness. I went and fixed their 'puter. Installed a spam filter and adaware. But the poor machine is loaded with adware and spyware, so I'm not sure that will be enough. Actually it would be worth to install OpenBSD with Firefox and matching mail client, as I don't think the machine is being used for anything besides mail, web, and looking at an image CD sometime.

Posted by betabug at 15:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 November 2005

Children and Dirty Words

Nice quote

"We train our children to drop fire on people, but we won't let them write 'fuck' on the sides of their airplanes, because it's obscene."
-- Marlon Brando (Apocalypse Now)

With my still not quite gotten over cold and a lot of work this weblog has turned into too much technical stuff and too little posts (for my taste). Instead of letting it all cool down till it freezes over, I'll post this nice quote I found on the physics notes wiki of Bob McElrath. I swear a lot, especially when talking Greek, since I first learned Greek in a motorcycle repair shop. The gf often flames me for it, so I liked the quote. It is obviously a random selected quote on that page, but it just hit the spot with me.

Don't expect this weblog to become one lame link blog. I'll be back to posting stuff that interests me about this city, this country, life, technology, culture and the rest of it soon. This weekend I've been to an exhibiton about the last 100 years in Athens, and I've seen the movie "Η χορωδία του Χαρίτωνα" ("i horodia tou haritona", Haritona's Choir), hopefully I'll get around to write some reviews.

One thing that really keeps me going is good posts like Saad's review of the Salif Keita concert in Paris. Technology people posting "cultural" stuff like this is great.

Posted by betabug at 11:54 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
02 December 2005

The Lady in the Peugeot 403

Hello oldtimer!

As I went to the Metro station I saw an old Peugeot 403 parked in front of a hospital. Inside behind the wheel was a lady whose looks suggested that she had bought the car new from the dealer. One used to see these things all the time in Athens till maybe ten years ago. Then the laws about customs and taxes on new cars changed, programs to pull old cars of the road were launched and banks started handing out credits. The result is streets filled with uniformly boring new cars. I prefer to say hello to that beautyfull oldtimer with its steady minded owner!

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