just a quick update before i leave:
i've taken three weeks off work and am now officially in full holiday mode. unfortunately it's been insanely warm most of the time within the last 10 days or so. but on tuesday markus and me will leave for finland where temperatures should be much more tolerable. i am quite looking forward to the trip, especially since i haven't done such a long trip for two years now. the tent is packed and we rented a car so everything should be awesome!
i finally got my super-limited deluxe edition of neil gaimans "the ocean at the end of the lane". i am still not sure if it's worth the price i paid for it (it is officially the most expensive book i ever bought) but it sure looks very beautiful and is a fine piece of work.
apropos good stories: tor.com currently celebrates "five years of stories" and compiled an ebook containing every story published on the website in those five years. the result is a 3.800 page book containing 151 stories and it's completly free!. i guess i've read less than 1/10th but there is some great stuff in there.
second update this month! in your face, world! ;)
july has been wonderfully laid back for the most part in contrast to all stress i had in june. i've actually had time to read and play games ("the swapper" is a wonderful puzzle platformer if you like this sort of thing) and we had an entertaining roleplaying time just last weekend.
i've also started reading "the ocean at the end of the lane" last weekend. currently it just feels incredibly good to read something with this special neil-gaiman-feel to it. the man just has a way with words and knows how to trigger just the right emotions in me.
markus and me have also begun our holiday planning. most of august will be spent in finland and we're currently figuring out where exactly we actually want to go. it's nice to know that this year i will have a proper long time off work again, no worries except where to pitch the tent and what exactly i would like to do next.
so yeah, this is mostly just to let you know that there is currently not much to worry about...
it has been so incredibly long since the last post that i am not sure if anybody is going to read this after all. lots and lots of things have happened so i'll try to pick out a few interesting ones.
at the moment i am most happy about how peaceful my flat is now. i had an extremely annoying neighbour since the middle of last year. there were a lot of issues me and a lot of the other residents had with him. for me it was mostly loud music all through the night. but he finally got kicked out last week and so far i have been enjoying the new quiet and peace a lot.
in the past months i have not been reading a lot but it seems that, too, is on the up again. last week, neil gaimans new book "the ocean at the end of the lane" was finally out and i am all excited about reading it. i'll just need to finish my re-read of pratchetts "witches abroad". i didn't really recall exactly how brilliant this book is. a lot of my all-time favourite pratchett quotes are in that book and i didn't remember!
in mid-june i went to a dead can dance concert at the zitadelle spandau in berlin. getting there was a surprising organisational burden because the concert couldn't have been timed much worse considered my schedule for june. but i've been a huge fan for years and was already quite happy when a new album came out last year after more than 15 years. but finally getting the chance to see them live was quite the event. the concert was immensely impressive. it is hard to describe. words like "majestic" or "stunning" come to mind. i guess you had to be there.i also saw the yeah yeah yeahs live which was simply a lot of fun. they let you know every second that they're a true rock band, something wild happening on stage the whole time and always keeping the crowd moving. support act was bosnian rainbows whom i didn't know before. the songs were quite my thing but their live performance was just brilliant and made up for everything else.
and there are also a few things i bought: i got a new a/v receiver (an onkyo tx-nr414) because the old one was, well, really old and i couldn't overlook some of its technical problems any longer. and i also got a new tv for my parents. and while i know that this is technically nothing special any more, i still get excited by the fact that both have usb-ports that allow me to easily play music or videos on the respective device. and it works, too! this is currently my "we live in the future" thing.
jobwise, june was insanely busy. but all the things i did at least seem to be noticed by some of the higher-ups and this will hopefully work to my advantage in the future. just one thing: i co-organised a workshop within EuroVis (the larges conference on visualisation in europe) which was surprisingly successful and fun. during the conference i also met lots of people back from the old days in magdeburg, there was lots to talk about and it was nice in general to be among computer scientists again, for a change.
turns out the summary post of my recent vacation wasn't visible due to some php-scripting mix-up. it should all be fixed now so don't miss the lengthy post below.
in other news: i got a new camera today! as mentioned below my trusty 1000d died on me somewhere in the dautean mountains of tenerife, so i took the chance to finally get a new one. i had meant to do that for about a year now and no matter if i get to fix the old one i am quite happy that i now own a brand new canon 650d. this is a slight step up from the old one but i am not yet in the semi-pro range. i actually did only a few test shots so far to make sure the camera is working and as of now i am quite impressed by what the camera did despite my dimly lit room. so hopefully to another five years ... or more.
i'm back! chances are you didn't know i was gone. but i was. matti and me spent eight days in tenerife to escape the cold grip of the german winter. we had rented a nice little house on the slopes of spain's highest mountain, el teide, and had a terrific time amongst large waves, even larger mountains and completely insane spanish car drivers.
we went on 22. january from berlin tegel to tenerife sur. to avoid a long drive during the night we went to berlin the night before and stayed at michas place, one of matti's friends, to meet friends we haven't seen in a while and were served lots of food and drinks. upon arriving in tenerife we were immediately blown away by the warm sunny weather, the palms and the insane amount of huge hotels. so we got our rental car and went all around to the other side of the island where our little finca was located in a pretty rural area at an elevation of 700 metres. especially towards the end of that drive that trip was pretty unreal as the route was leading us along insanely steep slopes, narrow serpentines and scary dirt tracks. but when we finally got there we were rewarded with an incredibly beautiful view over almost half the island, very lovely hosts and a nice house to stay.
after that we spent pretty much all days on the road to see as much as possible of the many beautiful sights tenerife has to offer. i guess i'm gonna give a quick overview over each day:
01/23: the very first trip lead us to el teide. the ascent was an amazing drive trough thinly spread fields of shrubs, cloudy lava landscapes and along steep mountain sides with amazing views over the landscapes below. this first trip also revealed what would be one of the biggest problems during our stay: because of the narrow streets you cannot simply stop to take photos of all the amazing things you see. if there is no viewpoint or some other kind of space to squeeze your car into it is impossible to stop. we hadn't got a slot on one of the guided tours of the vulcano so we could only get to the open areas at a height of about 3550 metres (you can get there via cable car, thank god!). it's a weird feeling when you see from up above the clouds that you have been driving through the caldera of the vulcano for the past hour. on the way back we had various stops at viewpoints and also at a strange forest amidst the clouds. the evening was spent eating pompano in puerto de la cruz.
01/24: the next day we returned to puerto de la cruz to visit loro parque. it's basically a zoo although with a heavy focus on parrots. i would guess it's not quite as large as the leipzig zoo but with lots of sights you won't see anywhere in germany such as orca whales and dolphins or the incredible amounts of parrots. the was a very large ice-packed indoor penguin compount, an absurdly large aviary where could walk among the tree tops to see parrots and other birds eye to eye (or eye-to-bootlace when one particularly trusting birdy ventured to steel matti's bootlace). we were busy almost until the parque closes in the evening and once got back home after dark.
01/25: after two pretty demanding days we decided to take it easy the next day and to visit the parque del drago in icod de los vinos (i.e. the town more or less next door to our finca). the park is home to the (supposedly) oldest drago tree (wiki dracaena draco for details). it seems that estimates on the exact ago of the tree vary between 500 yrs (biologists) and one to two thousand years (tenerife natives). the thing is really big and impressive in any case and the park itself is pretty large and beautiful, too and well worth the small entrance fee. it contains lots of exibits of the local flora as well as a number of quite colourful chickens that seem convinced that they own the bloody place. after another small detour up some neighbouring hills we got some fresh fish and had quite a nice dinner as well as some good time at the sauna that was part of our finca.
01/26: for the next way we had a trip to the historic city centre of la orotava planned. in retrospect in was kind of naïve to not take the motorway and instead use some of the backstreets in the hinterland. at some point we decided to let google help us and got one of the most adventurous trips of the whole week out of that. incredibly steep and narrow streets that looked like no tourist had ever seen them before guided us to la orotava at last. but once there we failed miserably to find a parking space. i know it sounds absurd but even after a long search there no place to leave the car in walking distance to the city centre. so we left the city unnerved and went to the beautiful san christobal de la laguna instead. this time parking was no problem and the city centre of la laguna is really beautiful, too, as we soon discovered. as a bonus there were almost no tourists there (contrary to la orotava) and got some nice impressions of old canary island architecture out of it. on the way back matti stopped at one of the many viewpoints along the way, mirador san pedro to be specific. we decided to walk a few steps and discovered an amazing piece of land with beautiful views of the cliffs, a banana plantation, lots of palms and springs and in the end spent a few hours around there.
01/27: oh, that fateful day! we did a tour to the northwestern lighthouse on tenerife, punto del teno, via garachico and buenavista. there were lots of signs on the way that going there is not advised due to the dangerous road but we got there safe. the landscape on the way was stunning already with high mountains and cliffs right beside the road. teno itself gives an amazing view along the west coast of tenerife, the mountains and you can also see la gomera, the island to the west of tenerife, from there. despite the oh-so-dangerous road there where a lot of spanish people there as well as a few tourists. after a quick visit to an abandoned greenhouse compound nearby we decided it was still time enough to go to masca. and on the way there in some beautiful valley amidst the clouds the unthinkable happened: my camera died on me! that was really depressing! of course we went to masca anyway and i simply cam-napped matti's nikon whenever i needed to take a picture. masca was a pretty nice village but completely focussed on tourism. the view of the masca chasm was really impressive though and with more time on our hands (and more strength in our bodies) exporing might have been really nice.
01/28: on our last day we went way north based on the tip a nice man we'd met a few days before had given us. the destination was batan, a village amidst the anaga mountains. after leaving the motorway the route there got increasingly beautiful and batan itself was really stunning. completely hidden in a valley in the middle of eucalyptus-forests, almost no tourists, the rural village was, at least for me, the highlight of the whole trip. we did one of the (really steep!) trails around the village, met a nice cat, and had a wonderful but exhausting time there. we also went to the nearby cruz del carmen, a viewpoint and starting point for various points to the nature reserve there which turned out to be lovely, too.
the trip back was without incidents (except a little delayed start of our plane) and we got back safe and sound. my camera has not yet recovered despite a number of tips of the internet. i did first sweep through the photos and should probably post some here when i get around to it. also, matti did a way more comprehensive blog on our adventures and it should be somewhere over here real soon. anyway, as mentioned in the beginning, i'm back now!
as this was probably my least productive year in maintaining this wonderful and informative online presence you are currently laying your eyes on i decided to put at least a final post up for this year (raising the total number posts within the last six months to a whooping four!).
i took a long time off work this year, starting on december 20th. however, the early start was partly due to a sad occasion as my parents neighbour and a friend of family had died shortly before and i was to attend my second funeral this year. he always was a really nice and helpful man and he will be missed greatly.
from then on out things got a lot better although my christmas break is very unorganised this year. there is no epic game (such as max payne, the gothic series or last years skyrim), there is no dvd-marathon although i originally planned a lost re-watch. i am just doing this and that, whatever comes up next and try to really spend some time with my mom.
so, gaming highlights so far have been "atom zombie smasher", a realtime strategy/tower defense mix-up that is really great fun. it is already two years old and i got it as part of the third humble bundle. i just never got around to play it. but when i realised it was made by blendo games, makers of the infamous "gravity bone" (it's free!!) and "thirty flights of loving", i knew it had to be special.
the second game was an even bigger surprise: "mark of the ninja", which i got through a steam sale just three days ago. it's a 2d stealth game and it's so much fun that i have been doing little else in those three days. it always gives you a number of options to get to your goal, has suprisingly intuitive controls for the many things you can do and it is the first game ever to give me such an authentic ninja-feeling. it is fun even if you fail because even then it looks so damn slick and cool and usually had a checkpoint just a few seconds ago.
(i also had a brief episode of playing "alan wake". here's a good summary why it is a very frustrating game and even though it looks amazing i don't think i will finish it.)
but of course there where also quite a number of non-computer-related things worth mentioning:
besides spending christmas with my parents and getting some small thingies (we don't give any big presents — it makes everything so much more relaxed) i spent some time with theresa and andreas. i played "scotland yard" for the first time in more than ten years and it was a lot of fun.
and because i am not home where we go swimming with matti every week, i simply went to the local place for a very relaxing swim in a nearly empty pool. everything is shiny and new here and i was really pleasantly surprised what became of the old pool where i learned swimming 25 years ago (ohmygodiamsodamnold!!).
and as a final music tip for 2012: i got the newly released "escapement" by pianist/violinist poppy ackroyd. it's a stunningly beautiful work of what is probably best described as "neo-classical" music (think nils frahm or max richter) and the only fault i can find is that i constantly wish there would just be more of it.
i guess i'll finish this post with wishing everyone a happy new year 2013. it's a bit early but you never know when the next post comes and it would be kind of awkward to do in april...
last week i was at a reading for the upcoming book by marc-uwe kling. i am a huge fan of his kangaroo chronicles and the reading was as funny as expected. support (yes, there was support on a reading!) was by native leipzig poetry slam comedian julius fischer and both of them did some readings, some songs and just were immensely funny.
and on friday i was finally able to see bodo wartke live for the first time (after a number of misguided attempts to do so). we went to see his theatre performace on king oedipus. despite the classical tragic story it was immensely funny, not least because bodo was playing all parts himself which lead to some hilarious situations in scenes with multiple personas on stage.
also christmas is getting close and i got a personalised christmas calender from theresa. she had some very beautiful ideas there and i am very happy she did this for me. as a side effect i refreshed my knowledge on greek mythology in the process.
there was quite some snow here over the past two weeks so my bike had some time off to rest in the cellar. Now almost everything is gone again and it is pretty warm outside. During that time my parents have been visiting and we went to see the christmas market here in leipzig. the whole thing is incredibly big and we just saw a small part but it was a very nice day anyway.
and finally, the new "game" by tale-of-tales, "bientôt l'été", is out. i was a huge fan of their last game, "the path" and they generally have a very unconventional approach to the whole concept of what a "game" actually is and how/if it should guide the player in any way.