Internet usage patterns

It happens pretty often that I think about Web technologies and how cool it would be if the web sites were responsive and all the websites would turn into shiny rich internet applications.

And then I end up in one of these hotels where the only source of Internet is the lobby with really poor, dialup-quality bandwidth. Then I ask myself whether it is really, really necessary to build megabyte-sized websites that contain mostly text and a metric ton of fancy design.

After-thesis traveling

So yeah, four weeks into some-kind-of-vacations and I already have visited three cities. It feels somewhat strange, not having obligations of any kind besides my student job that I still have. Other than that, it is a very beautiful feeling of freedom — though it might be whited out by other feelings.

Since the whole Prism affair I had several thoughts on matters of information security. Besides, I also wanted to have an independent web presence, so here you go. This blog is as of now available at , hope you will like it here.

Things you can do in Spain

I am back in Germany, doing things.

What can you do in Spain in summer? Swimming? Sure. Hiking? Possible, if it is not too warm. Blogging? Not really, since the internets in the hotel were rare. Traveling? Well… yes, but at a price.

Having a good knowledge about some possible (putting it mildly) irregularities you can face while being somewhere to the east of Germany or to the south of Austria is often not enough to anticipate this kind of things while being on vacation in the typical “vacation countries”.

Since the German law forbids me to rant about companies, I will anonymize them as much as possible. So yeah. The tale begins when I tried to rent a car. I tried several times: the first time, the hotline was unavailable, the second time, I ran into siesta, the third time, I was successful. And by 10AM in a few days I should be able to see my car.

This was obviously too easy. 10AM in the morning, I am waiting for a car to pick me up and to bring me to the place where the cars can be rented. At 10:15, I decide that fifteen minutes are a sufficiently long wait to declare that the guys are late even by non-German standards and call them. After ten minutes, a car arrives, takes me, drives for a while around to pick up similar-minded people with the wish to actually drive on Spanish streets.

Sooner or later, we arrive at a hotel where the car rental company resides. It turns out that my reservation did not include giving the car back at a different place, and it was in fact not possible to change the reservation accordingly, but it was actually possible to extend the reservation. Trying to extend the reservation worked, but the transaction was however still impossible, since I ran into the transfer limit on my credit card. Obviously, it was impossible to pay with other means.

So traveling by train it was, then. Trains in Spain are a very interesting story. In brief, the station did only feature a human-operated single-threaded and low-perfomance ticket buying interface that used a ticket computer as a terminal. Which was completely okay (as I had a lot of time on my hands), but as the ticket-selling system crashed, the whole ticket-selling process screeched to a halt. When the ticket-selling system was restarted, there were only first-class tickets. As I was cornered, I had to buy the only thing that was offered.

On the route back, I successfully managed to rent a car. In the end, it was marginally cheaper than traveling first-class by train, but far more nerve-consuming. The most terrible part started when I was close to my destination and found out that the city was a hell for drivers. I still somehow managed to get to my destination, but I burned a lot of my nerves on the way.

And now for some cute pictures from the south:

MultiAka 2012

Another ~2500 km in two days and I am in Spain. But the interesting stuff was happening before: For the last 13 days, I have been to Vienna and then to a summer camp in Látky in Slovakia. What was so special about it? Well, almost everything:

  • The location chosen was not a Ritz, but it was decent enough to serve normal food and the landscape was great
  • The people (of which one half was from the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Poland) were absolutely fun.
  • The program was everything: from pure entertainment (a hike into the mountains) to interesting lectures on “economics for dummies”

So, how do I come to participating in such activities? To explain this, there is some context needed.

The whole story starts twenty-something years ago when some bright fellow in Germany decided to organize a series of summer camps for high-school students in their last or second-to-last year. This alone was a great idea, and at some point the participants of these summer camps had the brilliant idea to organize themselves into a club to do different activities together. Long story short, the “Club der Ehemaligen” came to life, and in the last decade it has been organizing different activities for its members, most of them consisting equally of fun and education (which is often fun, too). For some time now, the CdE (as it is called internally) has been organizing activities outside of Germany for its non-German members. And here I am, describing one of them, the “MultiAka”.

My impressions from the MultiAka (and of Vienna where I went in the beginning) can be described loosely as follows:

  • First and foremost, two Slavic languages make it easy to understand a third one, but it does not make you speak that third one. Educated guesses can bring you a long way, though.
  • I fell in love with Vienna. No, really, it is a city with a real summer and a real winter and it is really international.
  • Knowing some ballroom dances makes you at least 20% cooler
  • Austria is really leftish. The parliament sells critical books about the political system, the book shop features a lot of books on hot topics such as heteronormativity, gender and other internationally important subjects.
  • Bratislava is a complicated city: It has a lot of nice parts as well as some not-so-nice aspects. Falling bricks from government buildings and simultaneously a very pretty city center. Incompetent restaurant crew several footsteps from the main street and a cute castle. Ridiculously cheap good beer (“dobre pifko”, LOL) which is actually the cheapest drink per volume unit.

 In the end, I am pretty much impressed.

Thousands of kilometers…

Let’s reconstruct my last days’ journey.

June 15: I departed from Norway and arrived in Dortmund

June 16: Decompressing in Dortmund
June 17: Departing to Kiev, walking around in Kiev and getting on the train to Donetsk

June 18: Arriving in Donetsk, decompressing.

June 19: Football ENG-UKR. No good pictures from the match itself (only mobile phone quality pictures), but some of the surroundings:

Today I took a walk around the city center (which is, by the way, HUGE) and made some nice pictures I hope you’ll like 🙂

These funny towers are kinda typical here.

This monument is known among the locals as “the guy with the brick”

Main text: “Say NO to violence in families” Sub-caption: “The strong ones do not bully”


These windows must offer a great view.

“Sorry, do you know where we can find a McDonalds?” – “Er, right over there” – “Thank you very much”

Last hours in Trondheim

So yeah, in five hours a plane will take me to Oslo. I am leaving this town with mixed, but mostly positive feelings. I want here to thank all the wonderful people I have met here and had fun with, this was an unforgettable experience.

You might ask what will happen to this blog when I’m home. The answer is, I will try to update it on a more or less regular basis with random experiences — be it my current scientific adventures or sketches from life. And, obviously, pictures, as I became quite a photography addict.

Air show in pictures

I managed to witness an air show of the Tigers, which is an air unit of the NATO. Despite my rather suspicious attitude towards that organization, I could not just walk past a major display of toys for big boys.

This is Gripen, a proof that SAAB makes not only good cars, but also good planes:

Continue reading “Air show in pictures”

Arctic trip IV: Tromsø

Monday began for me on the board of MS Lofoten, one of the Hurtigruten fleet. I already mentioned that without an internet connection, the ships are of rather marginal interest, since the available activities are mostly a subset of

  • sleeping,
  • eating (awfully expensive – 130 NOK for a breakfast… thank God I had some apples in my backpack),
  • drinking tea and coffee (at least these are free),
  • taking pictures of the landscape,
  • reading (powered by that neat little e-reader from A.)

But if you have a mobile broadband internet connection and a not-too-tight schedule, the Hurtigruten line is a cool way of combining work, relaxation and travel.

So we arrived in Tromsø somewhere in the middle of Monday, checked in at the (completely empty) hotel and went exploring the city. The coastline looks very ugly, so, if you want to visit Tromsø, avoid it at any cost. It is mostly industry, firemen, industry and old wooden houses.

Tromsø consists of two parts: the island part and the fjord part. The main part of the city lies on the island, which feels like a big hill and is not a great fun to walk around (up, down, up, down, add slippery paths to that…), but offers some nice views from the top.

The two parts of Tromsø are connected with a 1.5km long bridge. The bridge is a fun walk, even more so if you (like me) have this cute little phobia that makes you avoid heights without proper separation between your body and the abyss, but the pictures you can make are worth it in any case.

We tried to see some aurorae, but on the first day, none were to see, and on the second day, the sky was completely overcast and the best shots just show a tiny part of the whole awesomeness that happened behind the cloud layer.

And then we flew back on Wednesday.

Arctic trip III: Say "welcome", Norge, beauty!

(This is a post I should have written yesterday, but I did not get to it)

We left Fauske on Wednesday and traveled to the Lofoten islands. The process was smooth in the beginning: we left early in the morning and the first kilometer or so, it was okay. Then one fellow traveler slipped and broke the (unopened) vodka bottle which was the first indication that things will not go that smooth on that day. In hindsight, it has to be told that he could have broken his arm, so, the damage was really minor.

Then we went to the bus station and took the bus to Skudvik, and from there, we went by ferry to Svolvær (and, if you ever wondered: the Notwegian æ is pronounced as the a in smart). In Svolvær, we did not catch the right bus and found out that (1) the next bus is in two hours (2) the next bus will not bring us to the desired destination (3) the next bus will cost us around 200 NOK each. So we took the only reliable public transport hereabout, which is the Hurtigruten ship line and paid 160 NOK each. Yes, the big one. Yes, it says something about both the roads and the Easter traffic here.

We arrived in Stamsund in a rather cute hostel which looked like (and probably was derived from) a fisherman’s house directly in the fjord. The next four days consisted mostly of wandering around and socializing with the other people in the hostel, almost all of which were in some way or another downshifters, hipsters and French girls. As a means of relaxation from the XKCD-style long walks along the fjord, I was reading HPMoR and taking pictures of varying quality — I have to say that the weather in Stamsund was not exactly predictable and changed on a hourly basis. We managed to see some glowing aurora remnants, though.

At some point we were looking at the book shelf in the hostel and were recommended a book titled “Tod in den Lofoten” (“Death on the Lofoten islands”, most probably not translated). The cover depicted a naked woman sitting on the beach, turned with the back to the reader, which is a direct violation of stage rule number zero: Never turn your back to the audience. I tried to take the book seriously. I failed. While reading the first pages, I had the same feelings I usually get when I read the “tasty parts” of low-class fan fiction, which are some mixture of disgust (“Ew, you can’t write THAT!”) and researcher’s curiosity (“What real-life experience moved the author, a German pastor, to the conclusion that real, non-cardboard characters would act like THAT?”).

On a positive note, I must say that the Lofoten archipelago is really beautiful — in any weather. I have shot about 250 pictures of which only the very best are here (and I wand to note here: I love my tripod!). I recommend to look at these pictures while listening either to classical music (like the Ninth Symphony) or melancholic Scandinavian metal. It fits surprisingly well.

We left Stamsund on Sunday (Happy Easter!) and proceeded to Tromsø with the Hurtigruten line. The ship was very nice, but in the end, rather boring (not so if you are seasick :D), so I was mostly reading, drinking tea and making pictures of what appeared appropriate. I managed to find the limits of my camera (not too hard if you try, really): the evening-night shots are… well… see for yourself. Probably better optics can solve this problem.