The Baby Foxes

What a painful handball game. It looked like the A-youth playing the national team, the game between the Berlin Foxes and the Rhein-Neckar Lions this evening in Berlin.

The Lions bought up lots of national players who are considered "old". Didn't see much of that tonight, Andrej Klimovets weighs in at 105 kilograms, but flies through the air, grabbing balls and depositing them in some far corner of the net. Christian Schwarzer may be the elder statesman of the troupe, but is always just where he needs to be. And Oliver Roggisch, with a good 90 kilos on his almost 2 meter tall frame, just towers above the little Fox players. They can't throw over him, around him, or underneath him. He is impermeable.

The game finished somewhere around 17-31, the "baby" Foxes only managed 4 (four) goals during the first half. That must be a record of some sort, a sad one.

They let the hero of the World Cup, Henning Fritz, take a few 7m throws. The crowd cheered him when he took the floor. The first time the Foxes Konny Wilczynsiki met him he was very flustered and missed (something he rarely does, he is in the top 10 of the league for goals). Fritz went up to him and rubbed his hair, just like you would do to a 15-year-old who just missed this chance. Konny did get even, though, getting the rest of his 7m past Fritz and Szmal.

Oh well, still a lot of games to play, can't give up hope yet!



What a wonderful launch party this evening! Directmedia has started a new company, zeno.org, that is in the process of putting lots of full-text, digitized texts online. They have been publishing books on CD-ROM/DVD for years - they take old books which are now in the public domain, scan them in, correct the text, wave their magic index wand over the mass, and make them searchable.

Now they are dumping everything online, and including a German-language copy of the Wikipedia in the search. This needs a little tuning - the search only gives a maximum of 400 hits, and for many terms, there are more than that on the Wikipedia. They need to have a button for "exclude Wikipedia". But there are some fun links in a "see also" box, in which a program tries to decide what could interest someone looking at the current keyword.

They are hoping to make money on the advertising - I wish them luck, it is really great to have all of these old texts online, things like old dictionaries and encyclopedias, works of literature and philosophy, some historical stuff and a lot of pictures. Interesting stuff here for sure.

The party included lots of Wikipedians, so it was just like our monthly pub night, but with good Kreuzberger food: Curry Wurst from Curry 36, Döner, vegetarian stuff, and some really, really good champagne. They were planning on having a garden party, but it has been pouring all day AND it is marathon in Berlin, so the caterer could not get through on time and we had to wait for the food. But it was really, really worth the wait.

I wish them luck - if this succeds everyone wins - more free content available, and they earn enough to pay for the servers and the scanning. If you want to sponsor a book that you feel is missing, they are willing to do it for you for a fee.

Web-based Research

Just finished up a small research program that I spent the last half of a year on with the help of a student research assistant. We published our results on the web in a manner that is what I was thinking I wanted to have done over at the Wikiversity, before it got taken over by a hoard of people determine to completely mirror the (broken) university system on the Internet.

I wanted to have a place for scholarship. A place where persons come together to think - write - create - discuss, or as I sometimes put it, for teaching - learning - discusing - creating - thinking. What has happened is that some zealous person or group of persons has gone around and "created" schools and departments for every conceivable area - except that most are stubs with nothing in them. The "original research" page leads in with a "quote" attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Except that this is one of those typical "A said B" things, but no one knows the exact source. I find this also listed as a Chinese saying, and I am unaware of Ben Franklin having been Chinese...

The whole point of the Internet is that we don't have to be in departments, which is what you do when you group things and can only group one thing in one place. On the Internet you can do research that transcends departmentalization. You can link to it from many places. You can publish your data and let others derive alternative conclusions from it, and these can be published there as well.

And this is exactly what we did. We had started out using a Wiki as the basis for our work, on account of me and my assistant normally not occupying the same space-time area. We used the school's wikifarm, which is unfortunately Atlassian Confluence. This is a system which lets me happily write for an hour and then, upon attempting to store the page, announces that it does not feel well and just drops the page (and no, the back button does not work, as they initialize all fields on entry to the page). No, it is not on my list of favorite tools. It would also store pages with umlauts in the name, but refuse to retrieve them. The syntax was primitive and its tendency to really screw up tables just exasperated us to the point that we quit using it.

Since there were only two of us, we just Skyped, sending files back and forth, and set up a WordPress server, which we also used for publishing the findings. WordPress has it's own quirks and needs some interface icing to be really good for this, but in principle it is a great system and did not interfere too much with our work (except for creating tables, which is an exercise in frustration, we ended up making them in Dreamweaver and doing copy & paste on the code).

The research itself ended up being recorded on paper. We had this schema we set up and printed out, but we ended up using the backs of the pages as we discovered that what we wanted to record wouldn't work, but there was lots of other interesting stuff around. We just produced a big pile of paper, and then transcribed the lot. Luckily, my assistant did most of the writing, his handwriting is 10 times better than mine is.

Having it on paper was really good, because we could sort and resort the mess on the floor, until it made sense.

We put together a report, wrote a page on our test methodology and our analysis criteria, linked up all the tests in a big table (including links to the test cases and anything else around), and then we informed the companies we had been analyzing where their report was, and we offered to include a rejoinder, if they cared to write one.

Four actually did, with one going to the trouble of re-analyzing our data for their product (not with the others, though) in order to show that they would come in second. Of course, they would need to have looked at the others and probably given them extra points, too. Whatever - they wrote a four-page rejoinder, which I published and linked from my page.

Of course, understanding the data is not trivial. This is a very complex area. But I have a good feeling that we have our findings, our data, and room for alternate findings, all in the same place. It's not a wiki - so there are no trolls around defacing it. They send me emails with the usual complaints of me "wasting" taxpayer's money on this research. If I'm in a good mood I point them to the constitution of Germany, which ensures freedom of research and of teaching. Of course, if I don't have money I can't do much research. But this was relatively cheap research. And now we can sit down and start to write traditional papers about what we do, linking to the online research collection, which can be updated as I get more data in, I can even include more tests if I so desire!

So I am kind of lukewarm on the topic of Wiki-based research. I would have liked to have had a system that would let us record our results smoothly and reorder them as necessary until we had our findings. And then I need an archive. We piled all the bits of paper on top of each other, printed out the online stuff (I am paranoid) and made a lot of CD backups. A lot of this stuff should not be online, we took a ton of screenshots, only using a few. I like to keep them, but that would just be clutter if I posted them all, and part of research is about inducing order into chaos.

Just some thoughts, maybe this will turn into a paper sometime. Now, gotta get some papers graded.....


Jo Nesbø

The Norwegian author and musician Jo Nesbø is in town, he is on a book tour because a new translation has just appeared in German. There was a good crowd that showed up in Babylon to hear him read and speak, and to hear Jochen Krol, who is apparently a famous German actor.

Or at least he was introduced as such: "Jochen Krol needs no introduction!". Oops, yes he does. I have no idea who he is or what he has played. Just looked him up on the Wikipedia. There is a guy there called Joachim Król who looks a lot like the guy who was on the stage, so I guess its him. Ah, okay, he's the detective in the Donna Leon films.

Anyway, he has a great voice. It was so great to close you eyes and listen to them read. Jo read a few pages in Norwegian. I realized that I read Norwegian with a Swedish accent, I picked out some words here and there, but not the sentences. Joachim did three longish pieces, and then left us hanging on a cliff, meaning people had to go out and buy the book. I have so much to read, I figure I'll wait for paperback.

Nesbø is a great storyteller. Let's see if I can recall a few:

  • The dog - in this book there is a made-up race of dog that is described in detail. People keep hounding a Norwegian dog expert for more information on this race of dog and to find out where they can be purchases. So the expert calls, and Nesbø tells him that it is just a made -up race. The expert is angry at him.
  • His Russian translator calls:
    - Jo, I will be in Norway, can I come to visit you? (They are speaking English).
    - Sure, why are you coming to Norway?
    - Well, I am taking a Norwegian course.
    - Um, aren't you my translator into Russian?
    - Yes, I translate with a dictionary. But it is from 1957 and actually a Swedish dictionary. So I want to learn some modern Norwegian!
  • One of his past books involves a plot to kidnap the Crown Prince. Someone in the audience asks if the court ever responded to the book. No, Nesbø says, but he met the Prime Minister when they were waiting to go on a talk show together. The Prime Minister said that he really liked that book, even though it got him into a bit of a spot. He was in an audience with the king and was making small talk. The king asked him what he was currently reading, and he answered that he was reading this great crime story. "What's it about?" asks the king. The prime minister realizes that he is about to put his foot in his mouth and hurriedly changes the subject, he is, after all, a seasoned politician.


Jörn Donner on Ingmar Bergman on Life and Work

The Swedish Embassy was showing Jörn Donner's Om liv och arbete (On Life and Work) that was made in 1998 for the German/French TV station ARTE - with Donner himself in attendance to answer questions afterwards.

I love having the guys there to ask them questions about the production. The film has Donner asking Bergman questions and Bergman explaining and telling stories and being mischievous and being sad and thoughtful and mostly not being his normal ego-centric, overbearing self. Bergman comes across as a charming old gentleman and Donner as a much younger intellectual asking tough questions of the old guy. The film gives the illusion of this being an afternoon's chat.

Actually it was filmed over a 3-day period in the studio in Stockholm, said the shockingly old and thin man who did, actually, bear a resemblance to Donner. The IMDB shows him to be 74, just 15 years younger than Bergman. The cultural attaché for Sweden asked some questions, then the mike was opened - and of course, no one dared to ask, so I (as always) asked the question that had been building in my mind: what exactly was their relationship? Donner danced around this a bit, but settled on "good friend", they knew each other for 50 years. But he was closer to Michaelango Antonioni, who died the same day as Bergman.

And that was the questions, so we went to get some nice wine served upstairs. Donner did come up, so I went over to listen in some more and maybe get in another question or too. He spoke about producing "Fanny & Alexander" and about his book "Report from Berlin" which was published in 1958 and is apparently to be reprint next year, 50 years later, with a new chapter from him. And about some guys sitting on film material he wants to use and this and that and that other stuff and all about him and I thought: Who is he to be calling Bergman egocentric? He is just as much himself. The sparks must have flown when they had a disagreement!

An enjoyable evening, perhaps only marred by the embassy people forgetting to turn on the subtitles and in the ensuing commotion (I had no problem with the Swedish, but apparently many others did) they had to turn off the film, find the menu for the subtitles, and restart the film. Why don't people do a rehearsal for things like this?


Rush Hour III

I wouldn't normally go to movies like Rush Hour III, but this was the birthday wish for a young woman who enjoyed it tremendously. I found it marginally better than Die Hard 4.0, and actually rather like the Gísli Saga with one of our heros taking out 2-4 others at a time. And since these are modern times, there ware women with guns and kung fu capabilities, not to mention that they swing a mean set of knives.

There is no plot to speak of, other than "find X" and "kill as many Y as possible", and apparently no need for a continuity editor. It jumps around, things just happen, the crowd roars (apparently some jokes they remember from I and II), and Jackie Chan seems to be getting old. Happens to the best of us.

In between gunfight (at least the bullets go out for some of them), car chases, car crashes, knife-throwing contests, lots of kung fu (apparently Jackie Chan, who does his own stunts, hurt himself performing one of them) there are actually a few funny lines. Oh yeah, and a happy end. Who would have thought that?


Are phishers really this stupid? I usually just delete them, but now that I have a PayPal account (had to set it up in order to reload my pre-paid mobile phone while travelling), I was curious. At least it was in German, or some semblance thereof (phishing mail in blue):

First, a copy of the image, inlined directly from PayPal to make it right - and if you click on the image, you actually land at paypal.com:


Then we merrily mix languages:

Unauthorized Zugang zu deinem PayPal Konto!

We beachtete vor kurzem mehr Versuche, zu deinem PayPal account anzumelden von einem fremden IP address.

If, das du dein Konto beim Reisen, die ungewöhnlichen LOGON-Versuche zugänglich machtest, kann von dir eingeleitet worden sein. Wenn du der rightfull Inhaber des Kontos bist, Paypal jedoch bitte so bald wie möglich besuchen, um deine Identität zu überprüfen:

The HTML code is hilarious, as this seems to have been an automated translation, and some of the HTML code has been translated as well:

Schriftkegelfamilie: verdana, arial, Helvetica, GROTESK;
class= " punktiertes "
align=" Mitte "
align=" verließ "

Took me a while to think what that last one was - align=left :)

Now we have the kicker (including a copy&paste error):

zu überprüfen
Hier klicken, um dein account

Really tricky - in the anchor tag we have:

title=" https://paypal.com/us/secure_verify?ID=pp468 ">
And the fun continues (there were links embedded in this which I have removed, all going to the Bulgarian address):

We fragen, daß du erlaubst, daß mindestens 72 Stunden, damit der Fall nachgeforscht werden kann und wir uns stark empfehlen, dein Konto in dieser Zeit zu überprüfen.

Thank du für das Verwenden von PayPal!

The PayPal Team

Please antworten nicht auf dieses email. Dieser Briefkasten wird nicht überwacht und du empfängst nicht eine Antwort. Für Unterstützung, logon zu deinem PayPal Konto und wählen die Hilfe Verbindung, die in der Rechteecke jedes möglichen PayPal page.

To gelegen ist, empfangen email Mitteilungen im normalen Text anstelle von HTML, aktualisieren deine Präferenzen here.
PayPal email Identifikation PP468

Who takes stuff like this seriously? Of course, our spam detector passed this on as a relatively small chance of being spam, despite the links with URLs embedden in the title. Scary.

Back in Berlin

It was so wonderful being away from Berlin for 6 weeks! I even forgot my telephone number and bank account number, not having used either for that length of time.

It is such a culture shock being back in this enormous, loud, dirty, and very complex city. Now, how did I normally get from A to B? There are new constructions sites and train work schedules that are of course not posted as that was reported in the papers when they started work. Lots of surprises every day.

Riding the subway / elevated trains was especially jarring. People are so loud and use their mobile phones constantly to discuss banalities. Or they conduct their real-life, face-to-face relationship dramas out in public, including screaming matches and sobbing.

On the other hand, there is a lot going on here. Your choices out in the country are severely limited, so reading is indeed a great option. I've been easing in, just took in a handball game on Wednesday. For this weekend the options just floored me that I took a cop out and invited a young friend who turned 20 yesterday out - she should pick what she wants to do and I'll just accompany her and foot the bill. Let's just hope it is not a hip-hop concert....


Við sáumst, Ísland!

The course is over, back to "civilization" from the wonderful seclusion of the wild north. The locals had been telling us gruesome tales of planes not being able to land because of wind/cloud/hail/snow. A short overview showed that missing the flight Saturday evening would entail missing the flight to Copenhagen, so I was a bit anxious.

But all was fine, they said, not "much" wind, not "much" clouds. And let's go pick some blueberries in the berjamó. In the pouring rain? Oh no, next fjord over the weather is fine.

It actually was. We turned off the "main road" (euphemism for "at least it has tar on it") and tooled down a pot-holed mud track (known as a secondary road, that's why they all drive 4-wheel drives). We stopped at a deserted farm house.

We walked up the path alongside of a river that actually had a name, Small Weather River. Why it is called that, no idea. The red bits at the top are the blueberry bushes, perfectly ripe for the picking. And the sheep are too stupid to like blueberries.

We climbed and we climbed (I was quite out of breath), and suddenly we were in a landscape of krækiber and bláber. Big, fat, sweet blueberries. We picked and picked in the drizzle, was actually not that bad, as it washed the berries as you picked. I eventually lucked on to a patch where you could just grab into the bushes and come up with a handful of berries. Stuffing these all in your mouth is just wonderful - one bite and the cool sweetness fills your tongue.

When the baskets were filled we went to feast on blueberries. Just blueberries, brown sugar, and cream. I think I had four bowls.... I took a box of them with me on the plane for a friend in Reykjavik who was born up here.

I started getting nervous about the flight - it is at 6.20 pm, and it was already 5.30. No problem, they say. We'll leave around 5.45. And indeed - since the airport was just around the corner from the tunnel and you have the right of way that way through the tunnel, were did get there about 5.55.

Now imagine showing up that late for a flight anywhere else. You probably don't fly. But not here. You check in by giving your first name, dump your bags, and get a little slip with a bar code on it. The suitcases get put on a conveyor belt that slips them outside - and you can watch them get loaded up. No one asked to see my passport. Seems if you made it up here, you must be all right, so you can leave again.

We leave right on time, punch through the clouds, and 35 minutes later we land in Reykjavik. What a large place it has become! And so flat, no mountains! And so noisy - I got used to sleeping with the window open (so as not to suffocate, the heat can be turned up but not down, so your regulate by opening a window. There is so much noise here through the open window of the bedroom.

Gotta get up at 3.30 to catch the 4.30 bus to Keflavik. Ugh. Even though it goes late, we still get to the airport in time. The lines are long, but proceed efficiently. Iceland Express does a great job. And no one complains about that extra 5 kg of luggage, the plane is only half full.

You get one last chance to spend your Icelandic funny money, I got some "Black Death" at the Duty-Free Shop and some breakfast. Last chance for skýr! This plane, too, leaves right on time, but there are 3 hours of sitting behind some Icelanders who are partying on their way to Copenhagen...

I got into my book, I am reading Dáuða Rósir by Arnaldur Indridason ("Dead Roses"), a mystery story. It is hard going, but it is actually a good story, and I am making some headway guessing what words mean. My little dictionary does not have translations for words and phrases like óforbetranlegur eiturlyfjafíkill, nauðgun, samfarir, marbletti víða um líkamann, vændiskonur (no male ending??), þjófnaði and melludólgurinn. Better not translate them, or this blog will be labelled NSFW.

Landing in Copenhagen went fine, suddenly everyone speaks with potatoes in their mouths. Danish sounds really horrible! Suitcases take forever to come (one gets spoiled in Iceland), then the train to Sweden is late and crowded. The Swedish conductor on the train speaks a slow, broad Skanska, uff. After the machine gun speed of Icelandic I feel like she is going to fall asleep in mid sentence!

A friend gives a lift to the cabin, I try to converse with her, but now the words keep popping out in Icelandic! Speaking German, English, Icelandic, Danish and Swedish during one day is very tiring. How nice it is to start a fire in the fireplace and contemplate the rain.... I want to go back to the West Fjords, they were just awesome. What a shame I have to go back to work!