WiseMan asked the usual suspects over dinner last night if any wanted to come with him to see Incendies (in German: Die Frau die singt - the woman who sings). Since I have spent far too much time on plagiarism recently and not on being social, I agreed to join in, even if I knew exactly zero about this film which just opened in Germany and was an nominee for the best foreign film at the Oscars.

As it opened, I realized it was the Middle East (the film was shot in Amman, Jordan) and Canada. There was some fancy "hard math" at the beginning - the Collatz conjecture (which I enjoyed playing with as a young student) and Euler's theological discussion with Diderot "Sir, (a+b^n)/n = x, therefore God exists". This seemed to just be there to impress the innumerate, although the film does end with 1+1=1, which is true if + is interpreted as "or".

Anyway. Horrors. I think I have ignored the Middle East because I do not understand why they want to kill each other. I don't understand the Madonnas on the rifles, the fire and rape and shootings, the retributions, and the questions of "honor".

The film is long, but not over long. It is not a happy end (but I'm not going to give it away, because if you know the ending you spoil the suspense that very slowly builds up). I understand that if you speak Arabic it is pretty horrible because the actors speak with so many different accents that, as one reviewer put it, is like watching a film on the American Civil War shot in Brazil with actors speaking with Australian and Indian accents.


Oh, sorry

I was getting my lunch in the Mensa. I had a large cup of water and one small salad on my tray and was getting a second. For some bizarre reason, two small salads - which have more contents - cost less than one large one, so everyone who wants a larger salad gets two. I had the tray on the counter and reached over to fill the second bowl.

A male student reached over my tray to fill his bowl, and dumped my cup of water - all over the tray, the counter, me, and the salad. "Oh, sorry," he says. And walks off.

I call him back - "Excuse me, but this needs cleaning up!" "Oh, that's no problem, they have people to do that. They saw it."

I turn on the Ice Queen voice: "Could you at least get me a fresh tray and some water?" He frowns, trudges off slowly to get me a tray, no water. And hurries off.

So I get my water, loudly complaining to no one about the gall of some people. The cashier hears - and sighs. "We get that - and worse - all the time. One wonders about people's upbringing anymore."
And this is a university, not the local pub.


Lost Luggage

Try googling "SAS Lost Luggage" sometime. It seems that SAS losing luggage is the norm from Kastrup, not the exception. Maybe it has something to do with their fully automated baggage handling system? No wonder people don't check stuff and try and get all their stuff into the overhead bins!

I had flown up to Copenhagen and actually got my bag in time to get an earlier train over to Sweden - which then didn't help, because the Öresund trains now don't stop in our town anymore, so I had to get off in Lund and wait for the milk train....

I dropped WiseMan off in Copenhagen yesterday for a simple flight to Turku for a conference. Get on one small plane to one small destination; get off; get suitcase; attend conference was the plan.

The first two steps were fine - but the third didn't work, although WiseMan had borrowed my shocking pink suitcase. That one can be spotted a mile off to make sure they are loading it, for picking it out of the pile of dark suitcases, and whatnot. And no executive in a suit would dare lug a pink suitcase by mistake.

He got to Turku okay, but no pink suitcase. So he filed a lost luggage claim, and they told him: you can buy toothpaste and what you need and keep the receipts to send it for reimbursement.

Okay - so he got some toothpaste and underwear at the airport and went on to the hotel and sent me an SMS. I tried to get information, but it was the second day of Pentecost, a holiday. No dice.

Today the online systems says: "RECEIVED AT AIRPORT / DELIVERY PROCESS INITIATED" Well, that's promising. But there has been no progress on that all day. So after teaching I started calling around. I "spoke" with call centers who could not help me and with press-one-for-whatever voicemail tangles in five languages, only four of which I understand. I was given numbers to call that are not in service any more. I was told to register online. I was told to go away, SAS chose to use some other ground service and that's not her problem.

Then I had a wonderful mistake. While clicking through some Finnish pages I landed on a lost luggage page for some provincial airport. And an English-speaking human answered! She checked the system: yes, the bag is in Turku. But she can't see if they are in the process of delivering it. But she will check this out and call me back.

She didn't call back. But 2 hours later the bag magically arrived at his hotel. I prefer getting the bag to having her call back and say she can't find it!

Just for laughs I checked the modern, online "delayed" baggage system. It is still listed as being at the airport. I think they could learn a lot from FedEx, and maybe even save a few Kronor to boot.

Booch Pencils

I am doing an exercise with my first semester programming students today on CRC cards and we are using the Booch Method to find the candidate classes. This involves underlining nouns in a printed version of the specification in one color and underlining the verbs in another color.

I have a bucked of felt pens I've used over the years for this exercise, but they have all dried up. So this morning I needed lots of pens, fast. First stop was the Chinese nickel & dime. They have all sorts of stuff, but no pens.

Next stop the drug store which just opened up shop for the morning. I asked the woman: do you have pens and pencils? She answered, just this stuff left over that no one wanted that was on sale. And what was it? Bi-colored pencils, with a different color on each sharpened end. Exactly what I want. I gobbled up four packages and was off on my merry way. They are using the pencils while I write, and it is very effective to just turn the pencil, not put it down and grab another.

If these were marketed as "Booch Pencils" they would cost 3,99 € a piece. I got a package of 10 for 1,99 €.


Let the Games Begin

Anja C. Wagner writes "Let the Games Begin" in her edufuture blog:
Mein Eindruck in Zusammenarbeit mit Studierenden ist schon lange, dass
viele ihr Studium als schlechteres World of Warcraft ansehen: mit
Missions (= Kurse), Tasks (= erforderliche Aufgaben für Schein),
Zeitdruck (vor Abgabe oder vor Klausuren), (Credit) Points und Scheine
als Badges, die mit Bachelor, Master, PhD als Bonus winken.
Yap. Exactly. But even if there is a parallel - that doesn't mean that we have to set up every bit of learning as a game in order to appeal to the younger generation. There's some serious stuff out there, like learning the safety regulations or understanding cultural hegemony that doesn't rather fit into a task that has a beginning and an end, but is rather a continuous process of reaching understanding.


Madame President

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was in Berlin this evening, answering questions posed by Andrea Fischer (former Minister of Health from the Green Party and candidate for local mayor in one of the boroughs here) about her life. The occasion was the publication of the German translation of "Frau Präsident", a biography of the life of the first freely elected female president in the world.  Halldór Guðmundsson, an Icelandic writer who used to lead the largest publishing house in Iceland, Mál og menning, did an excellent job of translating.

Vigdís, very chipper at 81 years old, speaks very good German, but she was convinced that it was rusty, so she stuck to Icelandic and let Halldór translate. It was a very good exercise for me to hear her stories first in Icelandic, try and piece them together, and then listen to the results. I found her very easy to listen to, only a few jokes I didn't get until they were translated.

She spoke of the Icelandic women's strike in 1975, and the search for a female candidate for the presidency in 1980. She was then head of a local theater company, having formerly worked as a modern language teacher in school. People were joking - Vigdís, you do it! What made her decide to run was a long telegram she got from a fishing boat kindly requesting her to please run for president. She said: When the fishermen ask you to do something in Iceland, you listen!

She was elected, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her for the taz on my way over to the States, although the article never appeared because the revolution broke out in Danzig and revolution was much more important than wimmin's stuff. Anyway - it turned out that she is the godmother of the friend I was staying with, so I not only got to interview her in her presidential office but also visited Bessastaðir, the official residence. I interviewed her 20 years later when she was in Berlin after leaving office - she was reelected 4 times - for Nordeuropaforum.

She refuses to talk politics - deftly avoiding Andrea Fischer's questions about the kreppa and other remotely political topics. Fisher remarked over wine that she didn't even start into her questions about whether Iceland wants to join the EU, as it was clear that she would get no answer, but a charming smile and another story.

She spoke at length about identity and language, and language being the glue that holds society together. The only mildly political statement was: "They can take away everything from you except the language in which you think."

Afterwards she signed copies of the biography, having each person sit down with her, tell her a bit about them, have them write out their name, and then she wrote a dedication in each book. Sure, I stood in line, too. Spoke with the consul from Bremerhaven, and got my autogramm - and I very proud that I managed the whole thing in Icelandic.

This is going to be a great year - Iceland is the partner country of the Frankfurt Book Fair, they already have a web site up (Fabulous Iceland) and are churning out German translations by the boatload.


Lübeck and EHEC

Brrr. The news has been full today of some restaurant in Lübeck at which 17 of the EHEC victims had eaten. One of the victims has died. It was the weekend we were in Lübeck. I scoured Twitter and the 'net, looking for the name of the restaurant. I wanted to know if I needed to worry.

Of course, if they publish the name and this is not the cause, they've ruined the restaurant's reputation. But shouldn't the public have a right to know which restaurant it is? A very thorny question.

Luckily, the evening news has no qualms. They didn't mention the name, but the camera showed the name, and they interviewed the owner, who was distraught that his patrons should be so sick. It is a wonderful restaurant. And we didn't eat there this time.

I do hope they soon find the root cause of this - can't be having Spain and Lübeck mad at the same time.


Yes. I finally bought one. Shelled out 28 € for it. It better be good. I wonder if I can sue them for infringement of my nick. I mean, it's registered on IRC and Wikipedia and all.