okay, last day of the year and all that. over the last few days i did reflect a little about the past year. normally i don't post this kind of stuff so this is a first. okay, lets do this thing....
2010 was a pretty ambivalent year filled with extremes. the saddest aspect was that for too many people i know this was a pretty fucked up year considering health issues. most important of all my mom. then again, she is much better now and that is also true for almost all of the others, which is obviously a huge relief. it's horrible if there is something wrong with someone you know or even love and there's nothing you can do about it.
financially this has got to be the most successful year ever for me. the downside of that is that i don't think i have ever worked this much before. i was pretty burnt out shortly before the scotland trip because there was just too much "important" stuff to do. i have put that in quotes because all of these things were obviously important to some people and for that reason i made them important for myself. i have realised that i need to stop that, at least to the degree i did it back then. i've gotta be more relaxed because otherwise i will go mad.
i kind of starting distancing myself from job-related stuff already for the past three months but that is definitely one of my new years resolutions: finding a good balance between job and private life. on the whole i would prefer to get less salary and have more free time but that is a difficult call (i know i have had a lot of luck considering my professional carrier so far so it's easy for me to say that. this is not meant to brag in any way. sorry if it sounded like that.)
oddly, despite what i just wrote i spent probably more time with friends than i had in the past three or four years. the fact that i am back in leipzig where some of my old friends still live and where i met some new ones sure helped a lot. still, meeting with friends has a higher priority for me than ever.
and if you take a look at the book list you will see i also read a lot more than last year.
writing this i just realised that i am engaged in far less activities than in the years before. but for the things i do invest time in i tend to be far more commited. as a consequence, that also means that i played only very few computer games over the year, took a lot less photos, ditched reading comics almost completely. and there are a lot of other things don't have time for or stopped doing completely.
i don't know if this is a good choice and i do miss doing some of the above things and others i didn't mention. (which kind of doesn't seem to make it a good choice but what is the alternative?)
the scotland trip with markus was definitely one of the best parts of the year. leaving everything behind and having no computer or internet for three weeks and no worries except if it would rain in the morning and we would have to pack a wet tent. just getting a completely different perspective. i mentioned before how much i needed this. and i miss it.
the next year could be pretty exciting (in a good way!). as mentioned before, matti has moved back to leipzig. and there are other things i am not sure i am allowed to talk about here.
so ... for a brighter and less terrifying future. until the sun swallows the earth :)
today i finished "tales of monkey island". i mentioned before that i think it's a really good game and i just want to confirm that. it's genuinly funny and the story gets more and more exciting towards the end. and now that i'm done with it i finally started "new vegas" for a change of pace. somehow i was a little disappointed that it pretty much looks exactly like f3 and the whole south-western cowboy style is really not my thing but we'll see how it turns out.
other than that holidays are progressing very well. much snow, icicles with a length of more than two yards, lots of reading, chilling and too much to eat. right on!
and today is the day that matti moves to leipzig. i am surprisingly excited. best of luck to you, buddy!
snow ... so much snow! it's been a while since the last white christmas but the pure amount of snow this year is just mind-boggling. i did a looooong walk today and took some pics and it was all very beautiful and very quiet and peaceful.
meanwhile, this years christmas included a no-presents deal with my family. still, i got the long out of print "cages" by dave mckean from birgit. and a camera-holding-gadget for which i have yet to figure out the way of using it properly. in return i gave her (among other things) the also long out of print "illustrated eric". if you're a pratchett fan grab this while you can!
it also occurred to me (and confirmed by a subsequent look a the booklist) that for as long as this page exists i have read at least two books by neil gaiman each year. except this year (at least so far). so i grabbed my copy of "absolute sandman, vol 1" and starting re-reading the epic sandman story. i cannot emphasise enough how awesome the absolute editions of these books are. volume 1 contains the first three books of the sandman library editions but in a larger format and with a complete re-colouring, re-lettering and some bonus material. i am already through the "preludes and nocturnes" part and by now well into the "doll's house" storyline. but i was still taken aback at how ... mundane ... this whole thing started. "the sound of her wings" is really the first glimpse at how brilliant the story is going to be in later volumes.
and finally: jj (the swedish pop band that i adore immensely) give away a new mix tape for free as a christmas present over at sincerely yours.
aaaah! my two week long christmas holidays have finally begun today and - as you may or may not have gathered from the headline - i celebrated this by joyful event by replaying "portal" this evening. good times!
not much else happened since the last post. i visited thomas and ina and their kids last weekend and we did a few more cookies and had fun. and i helped out matti a bit with the logistics of his move to leipzig (one week to go!!).
meanwhile a whole bunch of books arrived and also the first cd of the kilimanjaro darkjazz ensemble. i stumbled upon them a short while ago and am completely hooked by their music. moody jazz with dark electronic beats. wicked! there's a lot of free stuff scattered all over their page and the page of their label ad noiseam.
and through the reddit crowd i found vi hart's "doodling in math class videos that are absolutely lovely and creative. if you like math or doodling (or both, like me) these vids are a must-see!
also, more news on the new pj harvey record, this time over at drowned in sound. this is gonna be the most insanely non-pj-harvey like album in ... ever!
ps: did you know you can donate one or all of your vital organs to the aperture science self esteem fund for girls? it's true!
a little while ago i ordered the new "sam & max: the devils playground" and "tales of monkey island" from telltale games. by now i finally started to actually play them and they are really good and exactly the right stuff for these long wintery nights. telltale seems to be becoming for adventure games what lucasfilm games was in the early 90s. can there be higher praise?
also, we were making cookies for christmas this weekend. it was fun and we kind of accidentally made more batches than we usually do. they are also pretty tasty.
over at kevin smith's smodcast-site you can find an interview with neil gaiman and amanda palmer. i wouldn't have expected that kevin and neil have very much in common but this is really pretty good. to make things even better, amanda plays a 50 minutes solo set and neil reads "being an experiment on strictly scientific lines" (it's from "angels & visitations", so i guess a lot of people won't know this one) which is a really funny story which gets even better by neil reading it.
and speaking of books: this autumn/winter has been pretty uninteresting for me as far as new book releases go. there was terry pratchetts "i shall wear midnight" which i really enjoyed (although, sadly, there is always a twinge of regret whenever i hear terry's name these days) but that was pretty much it. now i noticed that the new gene wolfe book "home fires" is announced for the beginning of february. i am so looking forward to that! also, to make things even better, he announced in one of his rare interviews that his next book "the land across" is already in the works.
and, speaking of future releases: the next pj harvey-album "let england shake" will also be out in february. a first free track, the surprisingly cheerful "written on the forehead", is up at pitchfork. and markus already got us tickets for one of the two concerts polly will play in berlin.
i guess february will be a hell of a month :)
so much snow! it all started a week ago and while it is much warmer now the snow is staying and last night it even got more again. as much as i love snow, it is not officially winter yet and snow is simply not as much fun if you have to get to work each day. damn.
anyway, last week was pretty good for so many reasons. theresa finally did her housewarming party now that the stove is installed and most of the house is presentable (actually, i like it a lot!). there was so. much. food. lots of specialities and each one better than the next. there also were the other guests of course, most of which i know since her wedding last year and it really was a cozy, charming and very nice evening.
also, matti finally officially revealed that he got fired from his old job. he's gonna move to leipzig again and will most likely live in the same house i do, just two stories below, come january. this will probably mark a significant increase in nerdy activities. but this is good. isn't it?! anyway, the whole thing is just very cool.
and the last of the good news is that also last week i got the affirmation that my working-contract has been extended for the next four years. let's hope it'll be even more...
there are also some small things i want to mention. this whole page is plastered with creative commons banners because i am a big believer of freedom of content and information (don't talk to me about wikileaks or i will start a half hour long rant!). anyway, i finally donated some money to cc and got a nice black (cc)-shirt and a certificate that i am from now on a superhero. yay!
and finally, the bbc is preparing a tv series based on douglas adams' "dirk gently" series. here is a first trailer. i am not sure what to make of this, especially since "dirk gently's holistic detective agency" may be my favourite book by mr adams (although this might actually have changed when i read "last chance to see" last month which is brilliant for so many reasons). so i keep my fingers crossed the show will be good.
anyway, back to work now...
after yesterdays kind of longish post, today it's just a few links that i wanted to share.
first of all, ted chiangs story "the lifecycle of software objects" is finally available for free at subterranean press. it does not contain the cool pics that are in the book but it is still a very good story.
also, the new movie by duncan jones seems to be about ready. his first movie "moon" was arguably the best sci-fi of the past few years and i am very much looking forward to "source code". here is the trailer.
and finally, the new shannon wright album "secret blood" is out and it's a very very good rock album. i absolutely adore her music even when she proved to be pretty bitchy when we went to one of her concerts last year. oh, well.
this night fell the first snow of this winter so this might be as good an opportunity as any to finally write something again.
the worst thing (to start of as depressing as possible) is probably that i had a car accident about two weeks ago. nobody was hurt but my car was in bad enough shape with parts of the passengers side all bent and dented and stuff. insurance issues are not solved yet but keep your fingers crossed that i get some money on this. my poor little car.
okay, now that this is done with, there are also cool things that happened. i was at the 20 year anniverary party of the department i worked for till last year and it was great fun to see everyone again. the party was at magdeburgs festung mark and we got a free tour and all. by now i look back pretty benevolently on everything and i talked to lots of people and had a pretty good time.
and micha and ivonne and some other guys started another rpg group so that last week i spent a whooping three evenings doing roleplaying stuff with friends. this is obviously incredibly geeky but it's also great fun and ensures that i see everyone once in a while.
i also started reading bryan lee o'malley's "scott pilgrim"-books, after watching the movie. seriously, go and watch "scott pilgrim vs. the world" right now. it's brilliant, it's geeky and very funny. here's the trailer.
another hot tip is "machete" by robert rodriguez which i finally went to watch yesterday . this is a movie for real men: it's got lots of hot girls, guns and absolutely insane action. this is one of the most absurd and over the top movies i've ever seen. yeah!
and on mondey i went to berlin to watch isobel campbell & mark lanegan. you might or might not know that mark lanegan is the ultimate rockstar, got a wicked voice, great songs and is often enough accompanied by loud guitars. isobel campbell on the other hand looks like a pretty blonde, has a voice that is a little on the weak side (even for my taste) and is the ex-singer of belle & sebastian. by now they have done three albums together and as unlikely as it sounds, they make a great combination. i very much liked the concert but i do have to say that poor isobel appeared to be little more than a background singer on stage (although i do know that she writes all the songs and all), while mark just had to stand there to be the focal point of the whole club. he has an enormous presence and i was absolutely baffled how he pulled that off. so, as i said, great show with lots of fun.
um ... okay, that's enough for now. this entry is already way to long again. more soon.
some said it could not be done. some said that by now you had to be mad* to even try. and some said that if the webmaster of that darn page wouldn't be so bloody lazy it would never have come to that and who does he think he is anyway, i will punch him in the face if i ever meet him in person.
well, and because i don't want to be punched in the face (or anywhere else for that matter) i did the unthinkable and updated the pics of the week section which had been kind of abandoned since the end of may. that is a grand total of 23 weeks and i am not proud of it. it is a fact, though, that i have taken a considerable smaller number of pics this year than ever before (at least outside my holidays). still, i found a nice subset of pics to post and i even had to cheat only a little with when each one had been taken. you will also notice how much i love the macro lens i bought in spring. it is brilliant and the only drawback is that i tend to take not enough non-macro pics.
i should probably mention that the chief reason i had the time to go over my photos is that i am on sick-leave this week. on monday i was attacked by an erruptive ninja cold from we-hate-rahv-county which was sneaking up on me while i was at work. i had a couple of pretty rough days but by now things are pretty much okay again. and being not constantly tired or dizzy anymore made me realise that i was bored enough to actually do something besides looking for the next box of tissues. so there you go. i am practically a hero. or something like that.
*you know something? we came here for you, a long time ago, when you died. well, it wasn't here and that wasn't you, but we did anyway.
ah, it's too much damn work at the moment.
actually, that's kinda wrong ... it's too much damn meetings and planning and stuff at the moment and you don't get any actual work done because of all the talking everyone does.
but fortunately i got fallout: new vegas this week which - if it is even remotely complex as "fallout 3" was - will most likely be the game i play over this year's christmas break. and just in case i got the uk version of the game because i heard rumors about cuts and stuff in the german version. but for now i refuse to even install it before i finished either "psychonauts" or "wings of liberty" because i just know that i won't play either of them once new vegas is on my hd.
i was also visiting micha a few times this week, playing games and talking and after quite some time it seems as if our plans to get another rpg round started are finally going to work out.
it's a staggering coincidence but a day after writing a rambling post about original games i stumbled upon the documentary "get lamp" about the early days of text adventures, interactive fiction in general and infocom in particular. lots of people talking about the good old time, including a large number of former infocom employees (and one of them is brian moriarty who will forever have a special place in my heart for making "loom").
i never invested enough time in interactive fiction games although i like the concept a lot. the two games i played the most are "wishbringer" (also my brian moriarty!) and "the lurking horror" (based on h.p. lovecrafts cthulhu mythos) but although especially "wishbringer" is a real gem, i sadly didn't finish either of them. i am still a huge fan of the genre and everytime i start a game i am always amazed at how much my imagination makes of these few words on the monitor if the game is well written. it is also worth pointing out that to this day it is no problem to play these games (here's a small selection of interpreters. i use winfrotz, it's got everything you need).
anyway, i think it's worth telling people about the movie ... lest they forget!!
in other news ... well ... there are no other news.
last week i had a cold. the first in almost two years. i was mighty proud of myself when i didn't get anything even remotely flu-y or cold-related last winter because i am doing quite a few thing to toughen my immune system and it really seemed to work. and now this! on the other hand, the cold was tolerable at least and i really wasn't suffering all that much so my immune system might not be that bad. i stayed one day at home to sleep a lot and play "psychonauts" but that was the worst of it. still, it's enough for this winter! seriously!
and speaking of psychonauts: i have this very weird habit of not finishing computer games. i play them every day for hours and hours until i am near the end and then ... i stop. it's almost as if i always want to have a little portion of game left for bad times. so currently, i am two missions from the end of "wings of liberty" and can't seem to get myself to finish it. damn! i distract myself with playing psychonauts, which i bought almost a year ago but somehow never played beyond the first mission although i thought it was pretty good. so last week i played it a lot! and it is amazing! it is without doubt one of the most original games i have ever played, it is really funny and really does inherit a lot of qualities of the old lucasarts adventure games (for instance, it is not that easy to die and if you do, it usually doesn't matter all that much). even yahtzee likes the game and if that doesn't count for something i don't know what does!
and today i installed "planescape: torment" again. here is a very good installation guide for modding and keep the game as much up to date as possible. i did a lot of modding like that back in 2007 when i was playing "torment" for the last time and i was genuinely surprised at how much the modding has advanced in the last three years (keep in mind that the game was released in 1999 and was officially abandoned by interplay a few years back!). so as strange as that sounds: more than ten years after its release you can now play a more complete, robust and technically advanced game than ever before. all thanks to the amazing guys of at spellhold.
currently i have the very ambivalent blessing of having a wagonload of work at my job. on the one hand it is quite fun if things work out as planned and i learn stuff and i really get quite a lot of things done that i have planned on doing for quite some time. on the other hand there is an important deadline when things have to be finished and that means overtime. but since a lot of the things that needed doing got done over the course of the week i will have a day off on monday (because of said overtime. yay!!) and i hope the prolonged weekend will be fun.
on other news i also had quite a bit of bad luck over the last weekend: first, the exhaust pipe on my car broke and then my internet connection also failed to work. fixing the car was easy (i.e. my trusted car-fixing-place did it). the internet connection thingy took a bit longer because the problem seemingly was not with my provider or my hardware, but with the cables. so after being completely offline for two days it worked at least hapharzardly from tuesday on and i keep my fingers crossed that it is really fixed now as it worked pretty flawlessly over the last two days.
and i finally started watching "the guild". it is much more fun than i would've believed and felicia day a.k.a. codex is just plain awesome.
last saturday i ordered a new id card. the reason for that is mostly that germany will introduce new id cards starting 1st november (i.e. in six weeks). the new card will be smaller (which is about the only good thing i can say about it) and will feature a picture usable for biometric feature detection and also a chip containing the information on the card as well as an (optional) fingerprint (... and who knows what else). it will also cost about three times as much as the current id card which might also be an issue for some people. current state of things is that any id card issued now will still be valid for its assigned period (i.e. five or ten years, depending on your age). you can read up on the whole issue here (in german).
it seems to me as if as if information policy on this issue has been more or less nonexistent thus far. however, i concede that my neglect of television might factor into that so if all of this is old news for you i'd be happy if you let me know.
a "nice" topping on the general state of privacy issues is this article that matti sent me today (also written in german). personally, i am kind of scared by the development in monitoring and surveilance of the population and the constant efforts on cutbacks of personal rights. and i can only wonder if people are more or less quietly taking all of this shit because they are misinformed or because they simply don't care.
okay, back to happier news: my parents are back from their visit to my sister and last weekend we already went looking for mushrooms again. this time we found an incredible amount just in the woods beyond our garden, mostly it was very tasty parasol mushrooms and we already had to freeze lots of them or give them away because it was impossible to eat them all. yummi!
and yesterday i went to pick plums with micha and we split them up afterwards. it's not enough to make plum puree but it's more than enough for the occasional plum snack while writing blog entries :)
the time since the last post was horribly stressful for the most part for reasons i won't go into here. let's just say i had lots of stuff on my mind and even if not everything did work out the way i hoped, everything is good now. sorry for being so cryptic.
so here's a short recap on what happend over the last week:
my sis was visiting me for the first time in a couple of years. we don't get along as well as we could but i like to think that she enjoyed the visit.
i had a very nice and easy-going weekend, spending a lot of saturday with theresa and andreas who gave me tips on what to do with lots of yoghurt that i unexpectedly found in the fridge and which i didn't want to go to waste -- and helped finishing off the delicious result afterwards. and most of sunday i was with micha and ivonne, just walking, talking, the usual stuff.
and at work i finally got a new notebook which by now is more or less set up and ready to go. i decided on a dual boot, hoping to get familiar with linux again after so many years. and honestly, it makes a lot of sense to work with ubuntu there because of all the server- and benchmarking architecture there which is linux-based.
and after work i am now finally in full starcraft-mode. i should have finished about half the missions by now and so far it is fun to play.
it is still august and yet there are barely 12 degrees outside. that is an outrage. where can i officially complain about the situation?
still, the weekend was pretty good with a fun rpg session on saturday and walking thru the woods and finding some mushrooms yesterday. a small glimpse of what life could be like without obligations. *sighs*
the new machine is quite ready now after i spent friday installing a bunch of games. so far i replayed the first chapter of world of goo as well as the first few missions of "wings of liberty" (i refrain from using the name "starcraft 2" because this will lead to confusion after "heart of the swarm" has been released!). so far it's great fun although i do have issues with the german synchro of the game. (most of all with the "funny" accent of the scv's. not funny!)
and i forgot to mention that i got copy 186/400 of the limited edtion of ted chiangs new book "the lifecycle of software objects" and it really looks adorable and i can't wait to read it. i will, however, first finish the story i currently read which is egil's saga.
also, another w/7 pro-tip: get ultimate windows tweaker. it makes life so much easier!
for those of you who don't know yet: last friday micha and ivonne have finally married. they did it all secretly so that the micha's suspiciously announced birthday-party ended up being kind of a surprise wedding party. still, lots to eat, lots to drink, good fun. and all the best to the both of them.
and with the weather over the weekend so exceptionally warm we went to pick blackberries on sunday. unfortunately i did not only get a lot of blackberries but also a lot of midge-bites. and they still show even so many days later...
and yesterday the author finally got a new computer. it's been almost four years which must be about the longest time i ever had a single machine (i am not quite sure but i think my very first computer lasted about four years, too). also, it is the first computer in about 15 years which i didn't put together myself. i had a long talk with matti who after all these years still never fails to impress me with his knowledge about up-to-date hardware including lots of little details i don't even want to know. he recommended some specific parts and i let the guys at the shop more or less put that together. fortunately, these things have gotten really easy over the last few years.
so now i got a brand new quad-core machine including windows7 as operating system. i didn't have time to do much with it so far but i already love the tutorials at sevenforums or within windows for all the little tipps on how to tweak win7.
p.s.: installing everything took quite some time and especially the web tools (apache, php, etc.) gave me a headache (which after some googling seems quite normal if you own a 64bit windows7). so as here's a hot tip: switch to xampp. simple installation and it works like a charm.
to preserve the feeling of holidays a little i met up with jule on wednesday and we went to our favourite pub where we once again got some lovely cider and some good (albeit) irish food. and after the visits to various distilleries in scotland i became quite interested in this subject and found out that leipzig has an excellent shop to get whisky. so i started my extensive-whisky-collection-to-be with a bottle of balvenie doublewood which is really a damn good whisky. i was in luck and got a limited edition box including some beautiful whisky glasses for no extra money.
and while trying to get on track with everything i missed in those three blessedly internet-less weeks i noticed that the new terry pratchett book - the final tiffany aching novel - will be released in less than two weeks. and to push a really good online-shop i also want to mention that you might buy it at the book depository which sells it at half price and offers free shipping worldwide.
also, author jason sanford has compiled a nice collection of free sci-fi stories available online. and judging by the few stories i know this is a pretty good selection.
one of the first things i did now that i am back in germany was to watch "inception". and wow, that was a complete mind-fuck. this has got to be the movies with one of the most complex settings i have ever seen and it's definitely brilliant. the concept is well thought-through, the actors are excellent and the story - while simple enough - evolves to a suprising depth. and the whole movie has the smell of it that there is something bigger going on. ellen page's character is obviously named after ariadne of crete who helped theseus escape the labyrinth of the minotaur - just like she helps cobb in the movie. if this was a gene wolfe book i would assume that the real story has a lot more to it than meets the eye and that you have to read between the lines to detect it (spoiler-ish: i assume the whole movie is a dream of cobb but i guess theres even more to it than just that). for instance, why did we see how ariadne create her totem? she did never use it but if the scene was not important then why wasn't it cut from the movie. chris nolan isn't sloppy like that. but i'd have to see the movie again to watch for other little inconsistencies and it might even be worth looking up the other character's names to get further hints.
have i ever written this much about a movie? anyway, go watch it. it's really good!
i also got the special edition of "starcraft 2: wings of liberty today. i haven't had the chance to take a look at the game itself but the special edition is once again something for itself with all its amazing extras such as soundtrack, a wicked-looking usb-stick with starcraft 1 + expansion set, art book and a lot more. blizzard definitely has a knack for doing these things.
on completely other news: i got a new monitor right before the holidays. my old lg-mon died on me and i replaced it by an amazing 23'' samsung syncmaster. i am almost glad the old display broke because the new one is so awesome and it was also suprisingly inexpensive. and when i came back from my holidays the power supply of my old machine had also died. damnit, it's pretty hard to get an old atx-power supply with enough of the old power cables (the ones that combine with ide connectors, whatever their name is). it's definitely time for a new machine, so i can use the current one as a replacement for the old one. oh no ... i start thinking in levels again *beats his own head*
yeah, i am back from my holidays. no travelouge this time so i had to summerise everthing now that i'm back which took a considerable amount of time. should've thought of that before ...
matti had the excellent idea to put everything i wrote on a seperate page because it really got a bit too much for this blog-thing. currently it's all text but i might add some pics within the next days. currently i have not completely sorted through the more than 1.000 pics i took but i sincerly hope i get it done within the week. so if you're interested what markus and me did in scotland and where we went you can simply click here. but be warned - this is gonna be long ...
as usual, i should have written way earlier because much has happened that is worth writing about. but i was insanely depressed over the last few days and had other things on my mind. i had feared one of my harddiscs had crashed and was afraid i had irrecoverably lost a lot of personal data (including the final version of the thesis). yes, i know, i should back-up the important stuff and usually i do. in this case the back-up was on my machine at work, though, and that one doesn't exist anymore. i still don't know what the actual problem was because right now everything works fine again. needless to say that i backed up all the important stuff right away. i am not quite sure if i should trust the hdd again because it didn't work on just one machine (unfortunately the only one i had access to over the weekend). but for now everything seems fine and thus my mood has improved considerably.
starting today i have taken a whole three weeks off work and on wednesday markus and i will leave for edinburgh where amazing holidays with countless adventures and lots of fun await us. i am still in the process of packing my stuff but not yet at the stage where i am convinced that i won't get everything i need in my bag (we are going camping again and that means i'm gonna have to bring big things like a tent, sleeping bag, etc.). i already got an excellent new rain jacket last week. knowing scotland i'll probably put it to good use.
and because of the long gap since the last post i should also mention that matti has been visiting me for the first time in about a year and we had a fun evening out with great food and a nostalgic rpg session the day after.
i am pretty sure there was more i wanted to write but right now i gotta run because there's still stuff to do. i won't post over the holidays but if i might post some kind of travelogue again when i'm back.
it's incredibly and depressingly hot outside and i haven't done much of anything over the last few days. just going outside i feel like someone is holding a giant hair dryer in front of me. my bike is back by now and everything works like a charm. still, aside from going to work i don't use it while this weather lasts. fortunately, my office is climate controlled so work's currently something to look forward to each day.
also, there's news on the privacy front: i am considering getting a new I.D. a little ahead of time because at the end of this year germany will institute a new i.d. card which includes a lot of biometry-stuff i'd rather do without (the 'special' photo of course, but also a chip containing some data as well as optional fingerprint). as of now, old i.d.'s are supposed to be valid for the whole time they are issued for (i.e. for the next ten years if you get it now). here's to hoping that bob dylan was right and until then then times really are a-changin'...
in much better news, kristin hersh's new album "crooked" is finally out. it was a long time in the making and is special in that it was entirely paid for by subscribers, thus allowing kristin to completely avoid any large publishing company. i was one of the contributers as i mentioned here some time ago. this means that over the last two years i got nice little presents via mail, digital downloads of concerts, work-in-progress songs and now, finally, an advance copy of the cd. also, there is a wagon load of digital extras that come with the cd. it sure was an venturous project and i am glad it worked out.
all things considered i have had a pretty good week. i got my first payment from vg wort for the book known as the thesis and it was much, much more money than i would ever have expected. in fact, the sum i got means that some people out there really must've bought the book (the reason for this is beyond me but there you go). mind you, i am not complaining and, whoever you are , it's really nice of you to buy the book. if you want another ten copies just go ahead and buy them. but ... you could've just asked me and get it for free, you know?! (i mention something like that here)
also, i had lots of free sushi this week. corinna was in town for a conference and she and jule invited me to dinner, together with a keynote speaker from said conference. they decided to go to the best (and most expensive) sushi place in town and the speaker insisted on paying the bill for everyone. that was mighty generous of him (thanks again, even if he'll never read this!) and we had a really good evening, lots of talking, lots of fun and - of course - great sushi.
the not-so-fun part of the week was when i got my bike to the local bike-fixing-place today because one of its lights doesn't work. i wasn't aware that bikes today apparently are such hi-tech devices that you can no longer fix such a minor thing yourself but instead have to go to the shop and they told me that it'll take, like, three days and i was like "wtf?!" and they said "no kidding, these things take time" and after i gave up and left the bike there i found out that there's a construction site on my way to work and the tram is taking a different route and then i had to walk most of the way and it was already more than 30 degrees outside and at that point i slowly began to realise that this day kind of sucks. /endofrant
fortunately i got compensated when i went to my parents place in the evening and saw that you can already eat currants and snow peas and cherries. that made up for a lot of things.
people (myself included) are worried that this degenerates to a one post per month site so here's a quick heads up.
had two pretty tough weeks where i had to write lots of important stuff while still doing all the regular work along the way. not surprisingly i was pretty exhausted and thus went on sleeping for large periods over the weekend. i also watched quite a few games of the current world cup and started rewatching "firefly". such a great show. writing this now i realise that i have never mentioned here that the "firefly" dvds where one of the presents i got after i defended my theses last year. so thanks to everyone who contributed!
and i started reading "cloud & ashes" since the last post and as i assumed it is indeed written very beautifully. unfortunately, the language it is written in is pretty much old english which makes reading slow and challenging. and it kind of makes me wonder if greer gilman puts an enormous amount of effort into her stories or if she just talks that way and is regarded with suspicion whereever she goes. (here is an enlightening interview if anyone's interested.)
birgit was visiting over the weekend and she gave me some books for my birthday. at this point i should probably mention that birgit has an uncanny knack to choose books for me that i very much like to have but that i haven't bought myself because i kind of thought something along the lines of "oh my, this seems to be a pretty challenging book to read, i better leave that for later when i am a little more well-read and mature". she's the one who gave me "the road" or "the once and future king". so this time it's "cloud & ashes" by greer gilman as well as "zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" by robert pirsig. the first one should be pure gold from what i've heard. the second is one of the philisophical ones and thus right what i should've expected from her. anyway, i am mighty thankful to be given both of them.
also, we pulled a close one today when i drove birgit back to the airport. there was a kind of longish traffic jam on the way, consisting of an annoying number of sub-traffic-jams and we did something of a photo-finish to get her onto the plane at the last second, including all the phoning ahead, last call to board and fastlane security stuff that you usually only see in movies. but we did it! yay!
and i also got a joanna newsom poster this weekend. which made the fanboy within me very happy indeed.
today i learned that ted chiang will be publishing a new book july. despite the small number of stories he has published so far he is probably my favourite short story writer and his only collection "stories of your life and others" is one of my favourite books ever. i even cited one of his stories in my phd thesis. so you can imagine that i am pretty excited when i learned that subterranean press will be publishing his second book and pre-ordered it immediately. (if you know subterranean you also know that the price of the book is steep, chances are that it will not be available anywhere else and that it might be out of print again pretty soon.)
and to finish what i wrote last time: i got some new shoes, but not any old shoes but vibram fivefinger kso. this is probably the closest thing you can get to barefoot running without actually running barefoot. i have them for a couple of days now and so far they are great and i enjoy wearing them a lot. so far the largest problem is that you need toe socks for these shoes and good toe socks are prohibitively expensive. also, it's kinda funny if people notice the shoes. most people don't look at your shoes (i also don't do it) but when they do they have a wtf-moment and you notice immediatly.
my mom just couldn't stop laughing when she first saw them but that's okay. :)
oh my ... no post for about four weeks. that is not good. there are some things i wanted to write about but somehow i never got around to actually do it. so here's a short recap instead:
- i was at the joanna newsom concert in berlin. this was the second time i've seen her live and if anything the concert was even better than the first one. since the new album was out i once again listen to her daily and she never fails to amaze me. you can download the recording of the show she did in washington from the npr page. although she didn't do a q&a there :)
- i also saw another show of sophie hunger. she also did a good show which sadly pales in light joanna's concert shortly before. which is kind of unfair, but there you go.
- futurama will finally be back on june 24th!! how awesome is that? there's a page on comedy central with lots of gimmicks and previews. check it out!
- i got one of the few "roadkill"-cds from entertainment for the braindead. as always it's done very nicely. and as always you can also get the music for free.
- and i also got a new pair of shoes which i won't go into detail about right now.
and random fun facts of the day: the country i live in (*hint* germany *hint*) is the worlds largest exporter of cigarettes, soap and biocides. make of that what you want.
that's it. hopefully, the next post will happen much faster. i'll certainly try my best ...
i was in berlin on may 1st for one of only three evelyn evelyn concerts here in germany. for those of you who don't know, evelyn evelyn is a "conjoined" project of the amazing amanda palmer and no less brilliant jason webley. in the end it wasn't so much a concert and much more a performance-comedy-impro-cabarett-show-thingy with lots of singing. "support act" was sxip shirey (although this doesn't even come close to the level of how much sxip was involved over the whole show) and he did some seriously weird and cool sound experiments on stage. although i have to admit that my book anyone who makes music with things like megaphones and salad bowls is admirable by definition. next was the evelyn everlyn show which i will say nothing about except that it was utterly brilliant, hilariously funny and uncomparable to anything i have seen before. to get a small impression check out the huge number of youtube clips from the show, such as these vids of "love will tear us apart" or "chicken man".
and to keep people entertained, jason and amanda also did some solo stuff afterwards until after midnite. which was of course genius, too. there was lots of involvement of the audience ("it doesn't matter if you don't know the words -- just sing them really loud!"). and there was also free beer. and a signing afterwards. that day was seriously good. *sighs*
and yesterday i was visiting theresa and andreas in halle for the first time ever. mostly because theresa had mentioned something to the effect that it is a disgrace that i've never come by, especially now that i live in leipzig again when it's only a 30 minute drive and that i should seriously came by soon before they move out again. so i did. and there was great self-made indian food. and it was really fun. so thanks for the invitation :)
this is one of those posts that have been quite a while in the making. mostly because i have forgotten to upload it to the page for days now. well, let's see...
most importantly, my mom's out of hospital again. she's as good as can be expected under the circumstances and now hopefully everything will work out okay now. the weather was brilliant over the weekend so we spent a lot of time outside in the past days. that means lots of fumbling with the new macro lens and and a growing resentment for insects in general for their lack of cooperation when i try to sneak up at them.
on friday i got "bibliomen" by gene wolfe. it's only a small book but a real collectors item as it has been out of print for 15 years. i got it via gavin grant of small beer press so it's just fair to give a shout out to them. if that makes any sense at all, small beer press has become my favourite publisher in the past years, by not only publishing cool stuff but by also getting me a real gem once and again.
and yesterday jule and me finally got on top of the university tower building. this had been planned for a long time but lousy weather and early sunsets during winter had so far prevented us from going up there. and although it was pretty chilly yesterday the sun was out and we had an excellent view over leipzig and took pics and all that.
my mom is in hospital since last week. i try to check on her as much as possible which kind of results in me not being online very much (or anywhere else for that matter). in the meantime i keep my fingers crossed that everything will work out alright.
on other news: i finally bought a macro lens for my camera right before easter. i had planned on getting one for a long time and after checking lots of test sites i finally decided to get the tokina at-x 100. i haven't had too much time to test it yet but from the few shots i have taken so far i am really excited and totally in love with this lens.
also, i have finally updated pics of the week. i know i've been horrible at doing that for the past six months or so, but with the spring coming up and the new macro lens i've got a feeling that i might do it a little more often now.
and in case you are interested: this years hugo award nominees are up. as in the past years almost all of the stories are available for free (at least for the time being), so might wanna check if you find something you might like.
as usual i took a few days off to prolong my easter holidays a little. this time i started on wednesday with a trip to berlin to join matti's birthday party. so i spent the evening with some old friends, good food and a lot of reminiscing about the good old days. and because i am a duteous guest i gave matti a copy of "preludes & nocturnes", the first "sandman" book. and because matti is a good host he gave me a copy of the first oatmeal-book. i don't think this is how things usually work at birthday parties but i won't complain.
and speaking of webcomics: check out the uber-nerdy new unixkcd console! this is brilliant!
also, the fallout 2 restoration project 2.0 has been released on april 1st! basically this is a patch that restores quest, items, etc. that had been cut from the original "fallout 2" game and thus probably makes the game a little more like it was originally intended (there are similar sites for other rpg's, most notably planescape: torment, the best rpg ever released).
and i also stumbled on "the dark side of phobos", the "doom" remix project. this is probably old news but i hadn't known the site before. it's mostly electro/metal-ish music but it sounds pretty good, it's free and ... hey ... it's based on "doom" :)
"... you must first invent the universe."
within a few days the weather hast changed from freezing cold and desolate to springy and warm and it seems to staying this way for a while. we already started gardening this weekend and found an amazing number of toads that also thought it a good idea to come out and enjoy the sun.
and i baked my first bread today. from scratch (well, almost). i opted for a ciabatta with herbs and i was surprised at how easy and tasty it is.
also, i stumbled upon tim schafer's (he of "day of the tentacle"-fame) doublefine productions and found "host master and the conquest of humor". it's a pretty fun and massively self-referential point-n-click adventure which looks pretty much like the old lucasarts scumm-engine games. it's not long but very well done.
okay, no update for two weeks. but this time there is at least a reasonably plausible explanation for this despicable state of things:i have been tinkering with the page again!
"oh no! why do you always do these things when everything was working just fine?"
to which i answer: "ah, but certain individuals have been complaining about a multitude of missing features and were severely dissatisfied with this page."
there you go! it's not my fault at all.
as for new features: i have completely overhauled the blog system and am now employing (almost) the full range of xml-related technologies such as xpath, xsl and schema (see here for excellent tutorials on these topics). as a result the whole post selection system works a lot more reliable than before if you want to select single posts or employ other date-based filters. there is now also a search-function for the blog on the left hand side. don't expect too much of it as i have implemented it myself. it seems to work fine if you don't try any fancy stuff and i seriously hope you cannot exloit in some weird way that will make the server explode or something.
let's see ... anything else? i've watched "shutter island" last week. it's a really good movie. a very suspenseful story, not as creepy as the trailer suggested and with a soundtrack by the ingenious max richter.
and yesterday "the sorcerer's house", the brandnew book by gene wolfe, arrived. i am so excited!
sadly, no new pics yet. i'm working on it. kind of. don't hold your breath.
with the weather this good on the last weekend i went to the botanical garden here in leipzig to see the exhibition of orchids that was on display. unfortunately lots of other people had the same thought but i still had fun and took a lot of beautiful pics.
and yesterday markus came over and we went to see get well soon in the central-theater. support band was abby, whom i hadn't known before. it wasn't really my kind of music but they did a good job and really got people going. get well soon themselves did a really brilliant show, too. everyone in the band playing lots of different instruments and artsy movies playing in the background (it is kind of decadent to have three people playing xylophon on stage. but it's awesome, too!). we sure had a lot of fun.
and talking of music: "road kill" by entertainment for the braindead is out this week and after a first quick listen i'd say it's lovely as always. and as usual you can get it for free.
and on a more serious topic:
i finally got joanna newsoms "have one on me" yesterday - a few days later than planned because germany just doesn't release cds on tuesdays even when the rest of the world does. It is a brilliant album with adorable artwork (i expected no less) and while - at least currently - i still think "ys" is the better album, "have one on me" is still really, really good. pitchfork put out an admiring review that describes it better than i ever could (For better or worse, Newsom is not a pop singer-- that's just not what she does.").
aside from listening to music i did .... not much, actually. i made applesauce this week, because i felt like it. i spent much time outside, lots of cycling and stuff, because the weather has gotten way warmer and suggests that winter will be over now. the snow has melted, in some places obviously for the first time since new years eve since a lot of used firecrackers seem to see the light of day now, which is a rather bizarre sight at the end of february.
and the nominees for this years nebula awards have been announced. to my shame i have to admit i know not even one of the nominees for best novel. this is not a good sign. fortunately, things are a lot better in all the other categories. some of the short stories and novellas are available online, so take a look.
so my lg dvd writer broke this week. it's been mighty old, i think i bought it seven years ago. i never had any probs with it until the day it simply stopped writing anything. so for the second time in my life i went out and got a dvd writer. it's lg again. it's considerably smaller than the old one. it writes way faster. i did cost next to nothing (at least in comparison to the old one). here's to the next seven years! *
and i finally got my "moon-dvd this week. i got it shipped from the uk for just a few pounds because the movie didn't hit cinemas here in germany and it doesn't even look like there will be a dvd release. which is a shame. "moon" is one of the best sci-fi movies i know and the dvd's packed with extras. if you haven't heard of it, it's one of those quiet, intelligent sci-fi movies that you see only rarely but which are usually incredibly good. think "solaris" or "gattaca". here's a trailer (warning, spoilers!)
apart from watching sf movies i waste a lot of my time playing "wii sports resort" which i got from birgit as a christmas present. i took me a while to really embrace it but now i think it's great and it's really a tragedy that ninendo didn't introduce the wii motion plus concept already with the release of the wii. it makes so many things so much better.
also, you might be interested that "tiberian sun" is - as of yesterday - freeware.
*there's this new thing, i believe it's called blu ray or somethin'. let me tell you, that one's got no future. dvds rule!
i saw the new sherlock holmes movie this week together with jule. and i forgot to mention that i also saw terry gilliams "the imaginarium of dr parnassus" last week. both were decent movies but SH was probably still the worst guy richie movie thus far (not saying that it's bad but just just that it could've been much better. well, than again i don't remember "revolver" too kindly either) and i felt a bit let down by "dr parnassus" towards the end (here, too, keep in mind that any movie in which tom waits plays the devil cannot possibly be bad). still, let these things not keep you from seeing either of these. Although the evening would be better spent with just getting the "snatch"-dvd out of the shelf because, really, "snatch" is just brilliant.
and the new joanna newsom cd will be out end of february. this is awesome. and it will be a box set of three (!!) cds. two songs are already available from drag city. i am seriously thrilled!
and i am nearing the end of fallout3 and have been for a while. i've got just one or two quests left and it's that way for nearly two weeks now because i tend to just go and explore the countryside instead of doing these missions since i don't want the game to be over. but now there's hope because the first teaser trailer for "fallout new vegas" is out! yay!
i know, i am currently pretty sloppy at updating the page. on the other hand, nothing much happened. i had a business trip to jülich this week which is only worth mentioning because i went there by plane (actually i went to düsseldorf) and since i enjoy flying a lot that was a nice touch.
i also got some cool stuff, like the wonderful "jj no.2" cd which proved nearly impossible to get except directly from the record label. if you like jj you can get their new single for free. i also got the special edition dvd of "coraline" including an additional dvd with the 3d version of the movie. i have to say that i was pretty disappointed at that because it's an anaglyphic version (i.e. it uses red/green glasses) which is not even remotely as good as the theatrical 3d version (if i'm not mistaken that one uses polarised light). but the movie is still really good so go and buy it.
on the book front i finally fought my way through "catch 22". it's a classic and supposed to be very good but i didn't like it very much. it's not a bad book as such but i just didn't care for the characters and all the weird stuff that was going on felt for me just silly. so now i am reading the first "dirk gently"-book by douglas adams and i'm already near the end and it's genuinely funny and very recommandable.
and i went to my parents' today through the snow that is falling again like mad since yesterday. on the way i went all rabbit in the headlights, just staring at the snow and not at the road. but i got there safely and now i am looking forward to a prolonged weekend because i took a day off on monday and plan to do pretty much nothing the whole weekend except maybe things i enjoy.
i am having some serious issues with my host. couldn't access the site via ftp for over a week and even now i am not sure if everything is working again as it is supposed to or if i'm just lucky. (on the other hand, the whole thing is free for me so i won't bitch too loudly. but still ...)
in case you hadn't noticed: there was snow! a lot of snow!! it was absolutely brilliant (as long as you didn't need to use the car or anything!) and i've had quite some fun stomping through the snow and behaving completly immature.
i also had some infection in my ear for the first time in my life. which sucked badly (but was in no way related to the snow or anything. just saying.)
on other news: pics of the week are up. and i made a gingerbread house.
so we're back in germany again. today is the last day of my vacation and tomorrow it's all work again even though lots of stuff i wanted to do in the previous week are still not done. there's lots and lots of snow over here for the past days. it made our trip back last way longer than expected but now that i am home the snow is pretty fun.
i wanna say thanks again to birgit for having us. it was great fun and we certainly did see a lot of stuff and i still gotta sort through all the pics i've taken (which is a lot!).
definition of the week: total immersion gaming
you're walking around on the old point lookout amusement arcade, minding your own buisness. suddenly a dog is barking out on the street and ingame you spin around in panic, grab your chinese assault rifle and start searching where the blasted thing might be coming from.
morale of the story: fallout 3 is a damn fine game and you should go right now and get the excellent game of the year edition.
p.s.: if you happen to be working for bethesda softworks, you should know that i accept checks, paypal and all major credit cards. also, keep up the good work!
a happy new year to everyone. may you have time to do what you really like. also, be nice to each other.
me, i spent the christmas week at my parents' and just chilled for most of the time. lots of playing "fallout 3" and watching "lost". so far i finished neither but both will have to wait since i went to vienna on tuesday. i am visiting birgit together with theresa and andreas. so far we've been busy enough each day that we were quite tired when we arrived home (which is why i have time to write this while everyone else presumely is sleeping).
on wednesday theresa and i did a tour over various of vienna's cemeteries (some of which are quite the tourist attraction around here). the graveyard i liked best was st. marx, which is one of the oldest graveyards in vienna and a lot of the stones there are weathered, broken or overgrown. as a result the place looks pretty mysterious and rather beautiful. yesterday we saw the palm- and the desert-house as well as the park in schönbrunn and i was reminded why i really should buy a macro lens for my dslr. i took some beautiful pics anyway. the end of year was spend rather quiet with some very good food which was pretty much the way i like it. and today we visited vienna downtown and the "haus des meeres". i've already been there two years ago but liked it a lot nontheless. if you're into the whole reptile/fish/tropical birds thing at all it is definitely worth seeing.
okay, by now people started waking up again so it's time to make some pizza. more later. have fun!