We tried with the usual suspects to attend the Swedish Midsummer festival today, but were dumped in the middle of Berlin by a bus that could not continue because of a demonstration. Since there was no way there from where we were set out (other than non-running busses), we went to a cafe and then headed home.

We made dinner and broke out a DVD we had had lying around, Identity. I can't explain the film, but after the film was over, it sort of went like this:

  • So Ed killed them?
  • No, it was Timmy.
  • Can't be, how could he kill the guy in the freezer?
  • He wasn't dead, that was just imagined.
  • No one died, that was all just in his head.
  • Someone must have died, or else there would not have been the hearing!
  • It was the first cop!
  • No, the second cop.
  • But they weren't cops!!!!
  • Right.
  • Did anyone understand this?
  • But it was a great film - suspense from frame one!
  • But who did it?
  • Was there anything to do?
  • What about the girl?
  • Which girl?
  • And the mother?
  • Didn't you see that frame?
  • Does it rain in Nevada like that?
  • It's all in your imagination.
I don't really want to go to bed after this....


I swear, I am not going to manage to buy shoes! Last week I tried to buy some along with some pants and got really angry at all the sales people asking me every 2.5 minutes if I needed help. No. I don't. You are bothering me.

At least in Karstadt they let me alone long enough to find some nice pants. I was well aware of the sales lady floating around, and she saw me, but kept her distance. So I bought *both* pair that fit and did my part to help save the company. But shoes - they didn't have any I liked at Karstadt and I left three (3) other stores when sales people bugged me.

New Saturday, new shopping mall. I mean, come on, if I want a personal sales person I go to a little specialty shop. But when it comes to shoes I like to look at them, feel them, check for special things I like (flat, easy on, nice color) and after looking around decide on the three that I want to try on. Then I am glad to have someone look and see if they have them in my size. If not, okay.

I entered a mega-shoe-store with lots of different labels that I like to wear (ecco, Think!, Rieker). I was approched by a sales woman in exactly 2.5 minutes. I explained firmly and politely that I preferred to look alone and would call her when I needed her. She nodded and went elsewhere.

About 30 seconds later I see out of the corner of my eye that her colleague is watching me intently from across the store. He makes his way. I try and disappear behind piles of shoes, but it does not help. "Hi, can I help you?" I drop the shoe I had in my hand, say "No, and I told your colleage that I didn't want any help," and strode out of the store.

Darn. They had at least one I wanted to try on. How can I get sales people to leave me alone?

Update: I got some shoes. Dropped into a store with the usual suspects on the way home. They kept the sales people busy while I quickly tried on shoes, and found a pair. I kind of feel like we were organizing a robbery, but it worked.

Twittero Ergo Sum

Okay, you win. Assorted students and associates have been at me for a while to join Twitter. I always asked: What's the point?

But as a Web 2.0 "expert" and with the current Internet breakdown related to Iran news and the death of Michael Jackson (the other Michael Jackson, not the software engineering guy), I supposed I had to see for myself and not just believe the media, who do at times tend to get things wrong.

First problem: what shall I call myself? Will I be open or anonymous? Will I hide my tweets or shall I be public? I started off with my name since the beginning of time (i. e. beginning of the Internet). Some guy in China already has that. Okay, WiseWoman should do. Nope, seems there is some action game with a figure called WiseWoman and lots of folks have that cornered. I tried around a bit before I settled on something. If you know the Real Me and want to follow me, drop me a line and I'll let you know the name.

So I dug up the names of the people who have been pestering me to join Twitter, followed them and went to bed.

This morning I have lots of welcoming tweets, and even some from former students I didn't follow. Okaaaaay. Now I suppose I have to say something profound every day.

There is a lot of advertising of the sort: For a good time / cheap whatever / great this-and-that go to tinyURL. Since you only have 140 characters to think profoundly, you have to use one of the URL choppers to fit the link into the tweet.

WiseMan asked then this morning: What's the point?

I explained the whys and hows and that we have decided that we really need to do advertising for our Master's program on Web 2.0 and since I am the resident expert I need to go out there and do hand-to-hand combat in order to find out how to advertise there.

WiseMan replied: What's the point?

Okay. We'll see. On to StudiVZ next.


Moving to Tehran, virtually

The Iranian police are trying to hunt down the bloggers and Twitterers and Facebook users now that they have the journalists under control. Help make their lives just a tad more difficult by setting all your profiles to have you located in Tehran, Iran. If your service (such as Twitter) has time zones, then set the time zone to GMT +3.30.

The Internet interprets censorship as network damage and routes around it.


New Google Function?

WiseMan is out of town and didn't go along to "State of Play" last night, so I was telling him how much I enjoyed it. He wanted to know if it was playing in the town he is in right now, so I googled "kino X" - kino is German for cinema and X the city he is in right now, hoping to find a movie theater there.

Amazing - the first link is an exceptionally well formated and simple movie guide for the town. Clicking on it gets a list of theaters with the films nicely formatted and the running times shown, as well as the stars given and reviews that Google finds. At the top I can choose to have the films from tomorrow or the day after, and can sort by distance from a zip code or by film title.

No horrible frame sets, no complicated navigation, no stupid contests, no flying windows with advertising. Just the facts, nicely navigatable, and the infos I want to have nicely aggregated. I even followed some of the links and added my 5 stars to their collection :)


State of Play

The usual suspects called this morning to say that they had canceled their out-of-town because their mother-in-law wasn't feeling well. Did I want to go with them and see what Odeon, the local English-language movie theater, had on offer? It was called "State of Play", some sort of political thriller.

I haven't been to the movies in ages, been working too hard. So I said yes first, and then looked up the blurb on the movie site. Okay, reporter-politician-young girl dies-intrigue. I switched watches to my read-in-the-dark glowing binary watch, just in case it was boring and I needed to figure out how long I had to stand the movie.

I didn't check. Not once.

Man, this story is full of suspense, scary (although nothing is happening, but we know the killer is just around the corner, very Hitchcock-esque). I don't want to give it away, except to say that the plot is complicated, but logical. There's a tad of romantic suspense mixed in, and Helen Mirren as the Anti-Queen, ice cold and cussing up a storm, is just superb. The sweet young cub reporter does indeed have a bit too much of the deer-eyed look, but it is funny that this is commented on a few times during the film.

The film is very reminiscient of "All the President's Men", about Woodward and Bernstein digging up the Watergate scandal. And indeed, one of the fake offices is in the Watergate building, as if to hit you over the head with a 2-by-4 in case you didn't get it. There is even a meeting with a Deep Throat....

And at the end, as the papers are printed, you follow the entire way from the "send" button to the truck driving out of the bay full of papers carrying the story (but there is too much light out there, it should have still been night, minor goof). This is cool, as WiseMan and I just visited the printing presses in Berlin a few weeks ago.

Any relationship between PointCorp (in the movie) and Blackwater (the company getting rich on the Iraq war) are probably purely coincidental. And as is pointed out by one of the figures - having a private company do homeland security is a very, very bad idea.

So this is a must-see film, thanks for pushing me, gang!


Quiet Zone

I had tickets in the quiet zone again for a trip to Hamburg. The trip to Hamburg was great - the car was almost empty, and I was able to work very productively in the quiet (and absence of Internet). On the way back the train was packed, and all of the seats that were marked "possibly reserved" were, indeed reserved, and we had to chase away all the squatters before we could take our seats.

I packed out my computer as the group of 60-somethings got settled across the aisle. They were disappointed not to have a table, and got out their tickets to check. They even read off "Ruhewagen", quiet zone, and then began to
discuss (at the top of their voices, I suppose they are hard of hearing) what that meant.

I tried to shut them out, but it was impossible. One of the women had a high-pitched, extremely loud voice in an intense Hamburg dialect. And she was gabbing on and on an on about all sorts of garbage. I shot her one dirty
look, raised my eyebrow, no reaction. I kept trying to write, wondered how I would survive the 90 minutes, as the train is packed and there are probably no other seats and this one has electricity....

I shot her another dirty look, this time it worked. "Do you have a problem?" she shot at me. "Yes," I said quietly, "this is the quiet zone." I didn't even say "Shut up, you fool!" Well, that ticked her off to start telling me off! She
had a ticket for this train and she had a seat and she could say anything she wanted it was a free world (all delivered in an angry screech). I turned back, and tried to continue working.

She continued berating me - she was on her way to work in Berlin, so she was allowed to talk, she worked with words, with talking, and not with stupid clickety-click on a computer. Yes, indeed, she could talk and talk she would, and no one could stop her and.... Luckily, one of the men (a husband? Poor guy) spoke a brief word with her, and she did, indeed, quiet down. She kept talking for the entire 90 minutes (the woman she was talking at at times speaking over her words), but she did do it in a lowered voice that was ignorable.

And I made clickety-click.

[I told this story to Duane Nickull this evening, he gave me a wonderful revenge story for a situation like this and the first reason I have heard to actually use Twitter!

He was in an airport and this idiot was loudly letting the good folks in the airport lounge listen into his end of a conversation. Duane began tweeting the side of the conversation he could hear, and his followers shot up. He took a picture of the guy and posted it to Flickr, which immediately was viewed by many. He wondered how many of the people with laptops looking around were trying to figure out who the twitterer was.]


Privacy on the Internet

A thesis student of mine is doing a survey on privacy on the net - he'd be grateful if you could spare a few minutes to answer his questions: (German
/ English).

Of course, this probably identifies me, but whatever. The blog is only semi-anonymous.

The server died under the amount of people taking the survey after it was commented on Netzpolitik, a popular German political blog. It has now moved to a better location. If you haven't filled out yet - we want to hear about it! Now what do we call being slashdotted like this in German? Genetzpolitikiert?


Who's Rudi Dutschke?

I got a nice T-Shirt for my birthday that the German daily newspaper taz prints. It is just the street sign "Rudi-Dutschke-Straße" (link in German). Rudi Dutschke was a German student activist in the 60s who was shot and wounded in 1968, shortly after another student, Benno Ohnsorg, was shot dead. The Springer press was seen as responsible for stirring up the anti-student sentiment.

It has just recently been determined that the police officer who shot Benno Ohnsorg was actually a Stasi spy for Eastern Germany. This is causing the entire 68-movement to be reassessed in the columns of the newspapers.

The taz even got a piece of the Kochstr. that runs by their building renamed in Rudi-Dutschke-Straße in 2008 in remembrance of the shooting. The street crosses the Axel-Springer-Str, the street to which the Springer press relocated their main entrance so they didn't have to have the mailing address that would cause them such pain.

So anyway, I had this T-Shirt on in the lab today. "Is there something important on that street?" someone asked. Umhum. "But who is Rudi Dutschke?" Google him!

They did, but I still don't think they understood. This was some old guy, shot before they were born. Has nothing to do with the student protests that are bubbling up this week in Germany. I don't hope they turn violent, but we surely need a swift kick in the backside in Germany's educational system.


Passed a Porsche

Tooling down the two-lane secondary highway this afternoon there was a ton of traffic. And I was behind a Porsche doing 99 in a 100 zone. I waited a bit, nothing happened, but there was space for me to hop over and pass. I did, had to speed up to 110 to get past him, but it worked!

Strangely, the Porsche didn't pass anyone, even on the autobahn. Must have been a new owner....


Obama forgets the handshake

Obama was in Germany again these past few days, after a great speech at the University of Cairo in Egypt. His words - most particularly his salaam aleikum greeting - really made people happy. I greeted an Iranian today with salaam aleikum and he beamed at me: aleikum salaam, the rejoinder.

Anyway, Obama wowed many people - but when he felt the meetings were over, he smiled, turned on his heel and strode to his car, completely ignoring Merkel's outstretsched hand. She shrugged (on camera) and turned away.

Mr. Obama: first rule of dealing with Germans is - shake hands with everyone the first time you see them. Second rule - shake hands with everyone as you say goodbye. When in doubt, shake again, and then hear them tell you "we already shook". They have a special mental tracker for hand-shaking.


"Eeeew, watch out!" the lady exclaimed. "Chewing gum on the seats!" She and her companion chose seats not having bits of chewing gum stuck to them, and proceeded to have lunch. He had a nice sandwich with crusty bread (lots of crumbs), she was enjoying a lo-cal box of blueberries. I returned to my reading.

When I got up to go, they were gone, but the empty plastic box from the blueberries was still on the seat. Next to the chewing gum.


Europe Election

Just voted absentee for the European elections this coming Sunday. I have poll duty and want to take my break to go see the Handball All-Star Game, not to vote :)

There are 31 (thirty one) parties on the ticket, most of which I have never heard of. I seriously considered the Pirate Party for a moment, but there were only men on their list, so I found another one. Took me quite some time to read all the names - and then fold it up so that it fit into the teeny-tiny envelope provided.

I wonder how many people will bother to vote?

Trying to order pictures online

I tried to order some pictures online this evening. The idea is great - order from Europe with an American company and save the transatlantic postage. I've been using Kodak, although I was a little pissed at them changing their rules. Must order one thing a year to keep your photos around. I want stuff to stay where it is!

But I'm lazy and they have all my address data, so I scraped the pics off the camera, dove into Photoshop to fix them up (crop, lighten, darken) and then uploaded a nice dozen. My aunt had wanted the pictures, and I decided to send some to Mom & Dad and my brother as well.

I wanted to send double pics to Mom & Dad, as she is in a nursing home, but there was no way to set up a multiple order with double pics here and single pics there. No problem, I'll send off the double pics, then start a new order.

Got that all set up, banged in my credit card number again.

There seems to be a problem with the credit card information you entered. Please verify that the information is correct and submit again.
Um, I just ordered from the SAME credit card a few minutes ago. It was fine. 5$ was okay, 6.50$ is not? What is the problem?

I tried it 4 times, then tried out the cute little "live help" button. I'm a sucker for trying out new, improved, online things. I got a countdown, and then Gisela came online. Gisela had me describe the problem. She asked me what browser I was using (um, this is not a browser problem, dear). It has to be secure, she said. Wow. She suggested I clear the cookies. Doing so also killed the chat (nice one there, Kodak!). So I started again (and now all the sites speak Swedish to me again, as they don't know me 'cause no cookies are stored and my computer is on a Swedish IP so I must speak Swedish.... thank goodness I'm not in China).

Called up the chat again, waited, now I got Monica. Explained how far I got in Gisela's script, and that clearing the cookies was a bad idea. Okay, Monica felt that I needed to try another browser. Sweetheart, I'm a professor for computer science, this is not a browser problem! But I fired up Safari, placed the order again, got the same result.

Hmm. Monica suggested that I try placing the order by phone.

Okay, I've got SkypeOut. So I called and fought my way through some bizarre voice mail "press 1 for whatever". Screaming nastiness at it got me a human being. The human being went through the same thing online as I put in, and guess what: same error message.

Her suggestion: wait 24 hours and try again. My suggestion: Kodak get itself sorted out and have operators that can override the holy web page. I believe there are other companies out there that print pictures.

The problem is probably the credit card company. I live in Germany, and used the credit card last Saturday in France, a few days later in Germany, then today online from Sweden on a US site. This probably caused some "Semantic Web" application to go hog-wild, thinking it had detected credit card misuse. Sigh. There has to be a better way.