Working from home: Less food, more plushy cats.
Being in Germany: Within a sentence of introducing yourself and answering the question what you do for a living, you're likely to find yourself trying to react gracefully to being called one of the world's most evil terrorists (killers of privacy, thieves of data).
What I will never understand is - why does the "theft" of the least private data, i.e., the front of your house that every person walking down the street can see anyway, seem to infuriate ze Germans most? Why do those who are most outraged at Google (and who seem to use it as a catch-all term for "the internet" and "modern life") usually readily give up all their private data to companies like Payback and Happy Digits - just because they get a few cents in bonus points in exchange? Why do they allow these people to create highly detailed shopping profiles for them, complete with age and interest, yet bore me with their ill-informed rants about the pure evil that is Google Analytics?
I'm a wee bit tired of this whole discussion. But I do appreciate the fluffy desk buddy.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Working from home: Less food, more plushy cats.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Snow! In Winter! One should think that this does not really constitute anything newsworthy but Europe, this year, is proving this assumption wrong: People are getting stuck in airports, train stations, or both, airlines tell you to rather take trains while the railway operators advise the opposite. When you find yourself stuck on an island, only one of these options applies anyway, and when you are my landlord, you will claim that you cannot even leave your own home in the first place. (This will not keep the landlord's plumber of choice from showing up unannounced at 9am on a Sunday to tear out large bits of bathroom, only to remember then that hey! Dublin shut down water supplies until 11, so we can't even do anything about anything!)
It is a joyful thing that 2011 will begin with a move. (To a HOUSE! Exciting!) Let's hope that moldy walls and unreliable water tanks and undetected leaks will then be a thing of the past.
For now, I am grateful that I made it home (first to Cologne, then to Bielefeld) with only minimal weather-related struggles, and keep my fingers crossed for all coworkers to get home (or at least somewhere nicer than the airport, for those who already know they won't make it home.)
In the meantime, I'm working from home, with a guest on the window sill to keep me company. He looks a bit apologetic though: He personally wouldn't want any travellers to get stuck!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
For the Linux newbie, there are many such situations, and when you are a complete n00b, you sometimes get the feeling that some people on Linux forums enjoy making fun of fresh Linux meat, and some of their help instructions make me suspect that they might just format my hard drive, rather than fix my issue. And I'd rather not learn the hard way.
But then, the office fridge suggested a safer solution: Ubuntu Cola! I instantly downed a bottle and am now waiting for the Linux enlightenment to kick in. (I do fear that it might just re-set my sound settings so that I will lose my communication skills next time I open my mouth. Not having a console to tweak my settings, this worries me a tiny bit, but oh, the things we do for our shiny gadgets...)
Friday, December 10, 2010
Last February, flying into Dublin, the taxi driver was extremely excited to warn us, repeatedly, about the 3 millimeters of snow that were visible in dark corners of the Dublin cityscape. "It makes a crackling sound like GLASS when you step on it, be extra careful, love!"
Irish people were still in awe of that tiny bit of snow, newspapers printed snowball-making instructions, children maximise the snow output of any surface until they have cleared up the snowfall of an entire playground lawn to make a 30 cm snowman.
THIS is what I had in mind when I moved here.
Fast forward to this year: For two weeks now, Dublin is covered in 10 cm of thick ice. We have seen all variations of wintry weather - rain, hail, sleet, snow, rain that freezes over, snow that melts to freeze over again, and right now, thawing, which means added slipperiness with a bit of water on solid ice. Wheee! It's a wonder I've hardly seen any people with broken limps lately, for Irish people don't quite know what to do with this weather phenomenon. They do: de-ice cars with the help of hot water, and keep water running day and night to keep pipes from freezing and bursting. They do not: wear proper shoes, shovel snow, put gravel on unshovelled snow, have winter tyres on cars, have houses that are built as if we were in a climate zones that might get occasional winters.
So now, Dublin turns off water supplies 12 hours a day (night) because with all those open faucets, there's more water demand than supply. We don't have this issue: A plumber lately diagnosed a leak somewhere on the way to our apartment, only the landlord seems blissfully unconcerned with this, so that we haven't heard back from either of them since. Ireland, you fail at winter.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
a) a limited selection so even your totally unique new work computer may end up being one in many (the same happened with Gelaskins for our Android phones, even if I love my enamoured owl one)
b) often horrendous shipping costs to good old Europe.
So! All you need is some adhesive plastic film (DIY stores have them), a paper cutter/exacto knife, an idea for a design (using the glowing white apple is tempting) and a lazy Saturday. (If your Macbook has a tendency to crash far more often than your old Windows machine, threatening its innocent fruit logo feels oddly satisfying.)
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
To the uninitiated European, this seems equally exotic (if more familiar from Hollywood and other pop culture references) - so you are more acquainted with the general concept, but once you find yourself at a live baseball game, you may still be surprised.
For the Germans, the overall purpose of the game may remind you a little of elementary school sports classes involving "Brennball" ('burn ball') - just with a bat, grown-ups, and bigger stadiums. And more complicated rules. And less noise.
Also, no insults aimed at players who don't move around enough, because frankly - baseball doesn't exactly seem a very active sport. I guess that may be one of the reason why it's so easy to get distracted: The field is large, but most players hardly move - usually, just one or two at a time, in the distance. (The others must get quite cold, just waiting for things to happen.) And if then, you fail to grasp the finer points of the game (you may have to grow up with it - I couldn't really follow all the ways of being 'out' in just one evening), it can get quite confusing. At a very leisurely pace.
However! I may not have understood exactly why, but the Detroit Tigers won in the end, and it was followed by an immense 10 minute fireworks show.
I just wouldn't recommend going to see a live game without friendly company (who know the rules). Added bonus: I can now say that I've been in downtown Detroit (and lived to tell the tale).
Other notable events:
It appears to be an acceptable Midwestern form of greeting a random foreigner in a baseball stadium with "Right. You're from Germany. Are you trying to stay here or are you gonna go back?" (I did not say the obvious - "Gee, of course I go back! You see, our car industry is still doing very well!" - but praised my hosts while still expressing excitement to return to home sweet home in a week. Equally true, more polite. Slightly less satisfying.)
Also: Downtown Detroit has a large number of Greek restaurants, and I am still trying to recall why I believe I remember that from somewhere - from Jeffrey Eugenides' 'Middlesex', maybe? We had lovely Greek food at Pegasus (I really should have taken a picture of their neon sign!). Special recommendation: Grilled halloumi cheese that the waiter sets on fire at your table, exclaiming "Opa!" in the process. It appears that they are required to express their Greek joy in that way for this dish, and it's a very popular starter. So you will hear a more or less excited "Opa!" every few seconds. Hehe. Fun times!
Friday, August 20, 2010
People from the Detroit area seem to agree - both on the filght there, and on the flight back, and from most people I spoke to while in the area, I didn't hear anything good about Detroit itself.
I don't actually know anything about the city (beyond watching a baseball match and eating at a Greek restaurant) and spent most of my time in a lovely suburb where the world seemed peaceful and green. Still, the repeated shock at my choice of pre-California destination made me feel strangely defensive of Detroit, and so I would like to declare that there is in fact one cool thing in Detroit that no other city in the USA can offer (if Wikipedia is to be believed): Feather Bowling.
It is said to be from Belgian, but the two Belgians I asked about it had never heard from it, and so it is well possible even that the Cadieux Café in Detroit is now the only place in the world that lets people play this amusing mix between bowling and boules. Basically, you form two teams, and each one tries to roll some small cheese-shaped wooden wheels as close to a feather as possible. (Who came up with this? Was Belgian beer involved in the creation of the rules? Did they first use real cheese? Were any birds harmed in the process? Nobody knows.)
So, in case life takes you to Michigan, try it. And spread the word that there actually are good things in Detroit.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Grrrr, USA, neither your airlines nor your border control win my heart today - when I arrived at the airport this morning, I looked at the screen with the flight times and my 12.30 pm flight displayed a "delayed to 20.30". I spent five blissful seconds thinking that it was an error... then saw the queue. So I stood in line for two hours, during which time the delay was extended by three more hours to 11 hours delay in total. So... I had a free afternoon in Dublin (how very exciting).
Right now, I will have three hours of rest at the JFK Sheraton. Meh. Will flop down now and try to get as much sleep as I possibly can squeeze out of this, for tomorrow, Detroit awaits me!
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
That's not too horrible, considering I had a moment of inspiration, and spent a bit more time than usual during the afternoon honing my foosball skills.
However, thinking back to Monday last week, what I really miss is a cat eyeing me from behind the screen, rubbing against my shiny Macbook (the cat certainly has good taste in gadgets) and occasionally forcing me to take a break by trying to conquer the space of my keyboard. (I also had a few moments of malicious joy when I saw it battling balls of hair when it currently sheds like MAD - pet it for 5 minutes and you will have a mountain of cat hair next to it that roughly equals the original cat in size. Sadly, the cat owner does not allow me to test hair-prevention ideas like some friendly attention with the vacuum cleaner, or a full-body suit that can be emptied out once a day. Not even if I volunteer to knit that suit.)
I still think that cats are good for productivity at work. Nothing like doing repetitive tasks to the sound of two snoring kittens, nothing like the sudden sound of feline vomiting to wake you from the post-lunch sleepiness. I really think we need office cats.
(Not cat-related, but: I would like to give credit for my desktop background picture, which has been amusing me as well as office passers-by for some time now. You can find it, among with a nice selection of desktop background and icon sets, at pixelgirlpresents.com. Here's the direct link to my background, "Monstruitos".)
Monday, August 16, 2010
I just got back from vacations (in France) and I'm almost gone again (to the US). Wheeee!
France was good (pictures to follow in future posts) - the seagull in the picture is one of the happy creatures that get to fly around the airspace around Mont St. Michel, lucky not to have to wade through the Disneyland-ish masses on the Mont itself. (As pretty as it was, it was TOO CROWDED. It might help things if they introduced some kind of system like Granada in the Alhambra, and only allow a certain number of people in at a time. It might also help small dogs and children to survive the experience.) We decided to skip the actual abbey on top of it because the queue looked like it could take well over an hour to set foot inside, and there, I imagine it would not have been any more peaceful or empty than on the narrow streets leading up to it.
More pictures of Mont St. Michel to follow, but for now, I mostly want to remind the world of my theory on the origin of the species as far as seagulls are concerned:
Thursday, July 22, 2010
But I actually wanted to point out something else. I realised a while ago that my name for this project was misleading: I called it Poladroid and felt very original about it. How wrong was I! Turns out there is software by that name out there (free and pretty nice - get Poladroid here and turn your pictures into virtual polaroids, much like that one above).
My friendly little virtual polaroids, however, were made using the only Android app I have ever paid for (and went through some trouble to do it, even: It required borrowing a German sim card for my phone because Ireland, absurdly, does not offer paid apps for Android yet) - but I digress! What I really wanted to say is: If you have an Android phone, get Vignette. It is an awesome camera application that lets you tweak the picture right on your phone (like, for example, add virtual polaroid frames), but for those less amused with this than me, there are lots of other lighting options. Tilt-shift photos! Colour filters! Really, I obviously like it a lot or I would not be writing promotional copy here.
Also, thanks to Tomek for first telling me about it (visit his excellent Wroclaw photo blog too).
All that to say that I am now renaming my idea to "polandroid". I'm not sure I'll stick to the polaroid frames forever, but for the moment, it represents the fact that I have neglected my blog horribly but tried to find my way back into that habit by taking, well, instant pictures rather than dedicating time and effort to photoshopping and other such time-consuming enhancement techniques.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
But for now, it's still office life for me, with a view of the weather that is now just as Irishly moist as advertised. But the desk is dry, and my Penguin of Death (as a greeting card behind the link) by Edward Monkton seems to enjoy himself tremendously. Or maybe he's just plotting someone's death. I can't be sure, his smile is rather enigmatic.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
Since then, that hasn't happened again. My remaining indoor potted plants didn't seem to like Hamburg much. Only three survived and accompanied me to Poland, and then, the transport back to Germany in winter temperatures killed them off in the end. (I'm still mourning them.)
In my new Dublin home, I only share my bedroom with a potted plant named Colin (he's growing well so far). But I miss growing flowers from seed.
I do, however, observe all the flora that I pass on my way to work. The mild and wettish Dublin climate does seem to be good for front garden plants, and apart from an enormous amount of fuchsia bushes, there are also huge roses, and some funky things by the canal that I cannot identify (but captured on virtual polaroid). Yay for summer flowers, balcony or not!
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
It's stretchy linen with a late 60s-ish print and a 50s-ish shape and I'm quite content with the result, even if I am not sure when/where I'll wear it - maybe it will accompany me to Brittany in a month, and I'll try to blend in with the stereotypically well-dressed French women.
Or at least I won't look German at first glance. Dublin confirms my impression from my times in other places: German tourists have this habit of dressing painfully reasonably, at least once they are over the age of 45. They take the phrase "urban jungle" very literally, and European capitals inspire them to don outdoor jackets and hiking boots, backpacks with big water bottles in their mesh side pockets, and they never quite trust the fact that most European capitals are very happy to sell you all kinds of refreshments on every corner of every touristy area. No, they carry their homemade sandwiches (sneakily wrapped up during the hotel breakfast) and will frown at maps every twenty steps, completely ignoring friendly natives who might be quite happy to help them, if only they ever looked up. Sigh. May this skirt save me from fitting in with them. (Oh, I'm also under 45.)
Friday, June 25, 2010
Sadly, those wonderful creatures seem to restrict their habitat to Wroclaw. I miss them.
Walking around Dublin, I found a few nice stencilled things on houses - generally, Dublin in this area is remarkably graffiti-free. As far as ugly tagging goes, that is fine with me, but I do miss the clever owls that adapted to their specific locations.
The only remotely similar thing is this dinosaur that seems to be quietly taking over Dublin 4. If only it varied a little bit or interacted with its surroundings... then I might see some potential to be a tiny consolation in this owl-free environment.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
This stroll took me along the Liffey to Dublin's newest bridge - looks like a harp, but is named, mysteriously, after Samuel Beckett.
In other news, we started an a cappella group at the office! Amazingly, it has more guys than girls so far (but mostly tenors). Fame is surely right around the corner.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
It worked, too! Surely, the war paint on my face and black/red/gold outfit contributed as well...
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
A brief trip to a cheap optician proved once again that my taste (or shape of face) sadly isn't cheap: On shelves upon shelves of glasses, there was only one type of frames available: Wide, thick and boxy. Nothing else. Nice enough, just not on my face, which does not shift its features to accomodate the latest trend in eyewear, and proved unsuitable for this style.
And so I walked out desperate, and then into a neat little designer optician. And the friendly lady instantly handed me my dream pair. I confirmed that Ray Ban Wayfarers make me look like a large-beaked owl, and that some obscure brands exist that I've never heard of but still demand 600€ a pair, and back to pair number one. They had the right prescription lenses in stock, and so just a day later, here I am, walking out with a pair of Georgio Armani sunglasses, and don't have to squint and risk premature wrinkling or other such dangers, and look stylish in the process.
Yes, since then, there have been clouds for the first time in days. I declare this a partial win.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Happy people, lying in the park after work - good thing that it stays light out until well after eleven!
Sunday, June 20, 2010
The Irish hardly know what to do with themselves, fashion-wise - they were all as unclothed as acceptable already when temperatures went over 15°C, so now in 25°, there is little left to remove. (At the same time, continental Europeans slowly consider taking off scarves and leaving the house without jackets.)
In any case - lovely! And no, this is not related to the daily poladroid, only that the new stadium looked pretty in the sunshine. In a slightly extraterrestrial way. Or, on an empty stomach, like a twisted steel donut.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
So I decided to work on my skills, watched a few YouTube videos to complement my book from the 80s that taught me my first couple of chords, and played away.
I certainly feel the effect in my finger tips... let's see how long my motivation lasts. Or the flatmate's tolerance.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
I'm also very impressed with their... let's call it reproductive productivity? While I can't identify individual birds (and so don't know if it's just a few very fertile parents or if the bird populations takes turns in breeding), there seems to be new fluffy ducks/swans/moorhens/random black duck-like animals at a surprising rate. Sadly, I seem quite unlucky when it comes to catching my favourites, the moorhens, in their fluffiest, cutest stage - I only found a few when they were already in their most reckless teenage phase.
Right now, it's the young swans that attract most attention (for being relatively smallest still) - the lady in the picture had even brought food. I only worry about the state of the canal. When they finished a huge dredging project a few weeks ago, it had pretty emerald waters for a little while. Suddenly, there seems to be a yucky permanent influx of soapy waters that do not look appetizing (nor healthy for birds) but do add interest to poladroidery...
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
So summer is quite wasted on me, but I do appreciate the concept. It's a bit hard to find any truly summery motif inside my apartment for my daily virtual polaroid so I'll turn to my window sill and document one of the coolest things about living in Dublin: You can get on public transportation and in 30 minutes, it takes you right to the beach, where you can find nice seashells and stare at the horizon and think of New York. Let's hope that there will be a weekend soon that allows me to take advantage of that! For now, looking at maritime souvenirs will have to do.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
It was, however, a very nicely colourful crowd - I suppose that most of the stylish lesbian teenager population of Dublin was present - and even though I neither had neon pink hair nor star tattoos nor the average age, we still got asked to pose with a poster advertising for a Pride Week event. We were told that the pictures could be found on Facebook today, but not where exactly they might end up. I was somewhat surprised (creeped out?), however, when I realised that I was able to track down the woman who took the pictures within five minutes on Facebook, even though I didn't know her name. So much for being anonymous on the net...
Oh wait, concert entries should mention music, right? Hm. I did plan on buying their CD but the queue for merchandise was about a mile long. Now I ordered it on Amazon, and it was even on sale. I hope they ship quickly. (I also really wish there was an Irish Amazon shop!)
Below is a live shot from the concert. The cell phone picture quality isn't spectacular, so let's declare this an artsy attempt at capturing the atmosphere. Or maybe just pretty red and blue amorphous shapes, however you prefer.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Then the sun came out and my headache lifted along with the clouds. Hmmmmm.
To keep my hands busy while watching them WIN WIN WIN against Australia, however, I put together a little papercraft boy with his dog. (The printable template can be found on the "free toys" page at marshallalexander.net.) My head kills but I am still amused.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
The only thing missing is TV at home, with the World Cup about to start (yet another danger that could drag me away from my to-do list). Is there any live streaming to be found on the net, I wonder? Or do I have to spend the next weeks in pubs? (Again, the hardships of my life right now seem rather manageable.)
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
The mess from last blog entry has been mostly cleared, and Dublin has been good to me so far. Too bad that none of that made it into my blog! This has to change. Let's try my luck with a simple picture project for now: Virtual polaroids! Pictured above is tonight's knitting. The scarf has been on my needles for a long time and travelled with me quite a bit. Amusingly, now I even met its designer and saw the original when buying wool at thisisknit.ie (lovely yarn shop, especially after seeing only acrylic and cotton yarn in Poland. Their site has the pattern for free!). It's pretty long already. If I keep watching Lost, I might even finish it. The weather has been changing wildly from 12°C and rain back to 23° and sun, so I think woolly things will be useful throughout the year here.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Moving on! I can't say that my new home looks as inviting as the old one yet, but I am still very excited to be here. New horizons! Challenges! Opportunities! Other such pleasant-sounding words!
For the moment, I'm excited to be able to communicate with people around me (and have them understand), see moorhen paddle peacefully along canals rather than avoid the things pigeons dropped from above, and be surrounded by people holding hot coffee on their way to work in the mornings, rather than by people holding on to vodka bottles on their way to their favorite spot to consume said bottle's contents.