Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year Everyone :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

And six months later...

Maria Beach on Crete at it's best! Azure Blue...

I am on Crete. Yeah that's right - Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis Crete! The island bearing the ruins of the famous Palace of Knossos, which by the way I haven't seen yet. There's nothing I could do, since I am here with my research group and on the completely other side of the island (We're on the western shore, Knossos is all the way to the east).

A little view of the 'City' Promenade in Kissamos, palm tree included...

So far we experienced rather nice weather, with around 28°C and crystal blue sky and topaz colored water. Today (Sunday the 27th of September) however someone went out at night and painted both sky and sea in gray. It has been raining constantly since morning, though not too heavily. Still we did a nice little tour to the south side of the island to see if the weather is any better there. It wasn't!!! :(

Crete under heavy clouds on Sunday the 27th of September...

More clouds and fog on a view from our trip through the mountians to reach Phalanasi Beach.

I've attached a few pictures so that you have an impression of how great it usually was the rest of the week. Don't think however that all we did was fool around and order cocktails in the sun. We did some honest work each day, trying to decide about the future of our research and stuff like that. I introduced my nearly finished thesis (about 230 pages) and after much debate, still have to change a few parts of the argumentation and come up with at least one new scenario. So as always, it's still not finally done. :( Everyone agreed though, that I am on a good way and once I figured the discussed things into the 'equation', I could basically hand the PhD thesis in. Whewhew! Well I am guessing I'll need a little more than a month for that, but PLEASE GOD and whoever else can help me let me finish before Christmas!!! I'll need to find a new job and I need time for that!
A car junk jard apparently placed right in front of a company called "Europa" ;) Mind you, this doesn't mean we Europeans are bad drivers, just that trash is part of our lives just as much as yours...

Oh and finally, a little news on Petpet and Kuki. My two frogs were with me on Crete and loved sitting on the beach, as you can see below. But only Petpet decided to take a 'dip' in the water :D

Petpet and Kuki dozing in the nice Cretian sun, safely out of range of the sea...

Petpet is a little hero in my eyes now, because he actually risked everything, just so that I could get a photo of him on some rocks being washed over by the 'raging' sea. He received a whole stick of chewing gum for that perfect feat :) I can only say he was very happy and would do it again without any hesitation. Only drying him up again, took at least 6 hours of sitting on yellow serviettes.

...or not! At least only Petpet got hit by the water and he just laughed and dried up quickly.

Thanks for the patience my friends


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter gone, we enter springtime...

Well don't you know how quick time flies by? I wanted to blog about our nice New Years Eve which we spend with friends in Stuttgart and about the Heinz-Nixdorf symposium we visited. They had a Maserati Gran Turismo Coupe, a Jaguar MK Cabrio and an Audi R8 there on show and naturally I tried them out. Well you could only really sit in the Jaguar, but better then nothing, ey? But since I am wrapping up writing my doctoral thesis (It looks as if I'll finish in April), you may imagine I have been busy. I mean it is not as if I have ever been a busy writer on the net... I do not even like presenting myself too much where everyone has access to, but on the other hand, it is nice to have something you and your family can look back to in a few years to see what you did back then ;)

I will not promise to write any more again, as that is just a plain lie. I mean it is not as if that many people ever read my blog anyways. However sometimes I have a nice picture or twp that I want to share and while I still haven't gotten around to opening a Flickr account (or did I?!?), I will post them here with a comment or two sometimes. So here's one with a little story:

My little Werefrog Petpet (who refers to himself as Pitpit) whom you all met in my Christmas Card last year (last post too *grin*) has been home alone a lot this week, because I have been helping Ping finish her diploma thesis with corrections. So I promised him to take him along to the birthday party of a friend, so that he could talk to people there (the girls just love him, though it is always a little emberassing for me *grin*). Well, honestly, I forgot. So I come back and he had cried and so I promised him to make it up to him.

I know he wanted a companion for soo long now and since he is only 4 and practically an innocent child (meaning that he is happy with tickles and the occasional kiss) I finally gave in and got him a little girl-frog to play with. He named her 'Kuki' which, since he can't write was meant to be "Cookie". Petpet loves cookies and since he loves her too, this is what he chose to call her - following this 'logic' she could just as well have been named 'Kandi' or 'Gabesh' ;) Anyways, its springtime and everyone's hungry for love (probably, I mean how would I know working on the desk with dusty books [well PC notebooks] all the time?). So above's a picture of the two to get you in the mood...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Time...

Hi everyone,

*I'll try posting a fitting photo or picture later - please bear with me, it worked the last time...*

it is almost Christmas again and since I think that I will probably continue to be busy the next days, I just wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays or a Merry Christmas and of course a Happy New Year. I recommend watching the American Dad Christmas Episodes to get into the perfect mood for relaxed days, or for the girls or softer souls out there (those who may get offended easily) I'd rather recommend movies like Love Actually or (though it is not about Christmas) Music and Lyrics.

I'll try to blog a little more again, but I realize I already said that a few times before, so do not expect too much. I am finishing my doctoral thesis and that is taking a lot of time.

I now have a Nintendo Wii and am a newly not yet celebrated Mii designer. I forsee good chances for my current Luigi implementation in the current pre-christmas Mii-challenge however. The Wii has proven a fun and pretty cool console, though other may of course note the lack of high-res graphics and the shifted focus on younger or older audiences that is also reflected in the games available. However I do really believe there are gems for everyone and almost any taste available, so long as you can just live with the Nintendo trademarks of Mario and Co. The Wii-Mote does however also have interesting side uses: See here

I am thinking about opening an account at Flickr. Lots of friends and colleagues already have one, but I never saw much need for myself to do so. I am starting to see certain benefits when taking a look at their libraries, which I will detail in a seperate post, if I decide to join 'that' community too.

Another thing I did, was open a StudiVZ account after my brother invited me. Again: I do not see much of the point for me, since I am no student anymore, but it is always interesting to find other people you know online. I haven't really put any effort into that so far however, but at least I gathered some knowledge about that phenomenon on my own.

Yesterday we went to the Christmas Market in Paderborn with a few friends and afterwards watched The golden Compass based on the first book in the Trilogy His dark materials by Philip Pullmann. I read the first book when it came out in 1995, though even then I thought some things were oversimplified, while other concepts like that of "Dust" as "Conscious Dark Matter" proved interesting points of reflection, as I had contemplated similar concepts when I was eleven or twelve. The movie's direction sometimes really suffered in my opinion. There were some really misplaced cuts and strange insertions.

I did however really like the actors. Nicole Kidman, convincingly playing the beautiful but still somehow erie, dangerous and creepy mother of the protagonist Lyra, shines especially here, but a lot of the other actors were chosen quite well too. I don't know if I can recommend the movie, I think you should rather read the books, but the others who had not read even one of them, all liked the movie. So make up your own mind, however I still think that they totally messed up that trailer. It was probably done by the same person who made those horrible cuts and transitions in the movie.

Again: Happy Holidays to y'all!

FromThe one and only

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Au Canada...

Hi everyone,

this is a report on the conferences I visited so far and first thoughts on the one I am currently at. The i-Know'07 in Graz was a very nice first conference. Lunch, coffee breaks (with a selection of nice cakes) and a nice gala diner with live music were included in the conference fee. There were about 500 attendents and I easily managed to get into contact with a set of nice people. My paper attracted quite a lot of people (the room was so full some people had to remain standing at the sides) and the questions were very focused. I received a lot of positive feedback from people who had seen the presentation, so overall I am quite content. I collected business cards like a madmen and handed out my old one, which reminds me: I need a business card holder.

Graz was also nice as a city, though it was raining most of the time and though it was actually quite similar to most German citys, down to the same kinds of shops. Well I know Austria isn't that far away, but I had expected more diversity. What was funny however was that along the central townsquare there were at least 20 loungerie shops ;) They sure like their sexy underwear the Austrians.

The Bell Tower of Graz - The city's landmark

The Hotel Feichtinger where I stayed was very nice and comfortable and had a simple but nice breakfast included in the price, just as well as free wireless internet access. It was really hasslefree and good service and also located in walking distance from the city center, so if you're
staying in Graz I can only recommend you stay there.

The 'Graziens' sure like their pillars and statues

More proof of 'pillarism' - Sadly the weather was a letdown...

The next conference the GMW ("Gesellschaft für Medien in der Wissenschaft" = "Society for media in the sciences") was quite a different thing: It took place in Hamburg and our research group tried winning the so called 'Medidaprix' which can mean a funding of up to €100.000. Originally my prof wanted to do the presentation there, but when the jurors came over 10 minutes before his presentation, he asked me to do it. So in just ten minutes I went through my prof's presentation, built my own presentation sheets together in a consistent manner, added a few new ones and raced to the assigned room to present out paper. It was rushed and that is also how the presentation felt: Not well prepared at all. A video of that shameful event can be found online, if you can find it.

Food at the Triple-I in Graz was plentyful and of nice quality, not so at the GMW in Hamburg :(

Naturally PetPet and I had a huge piece of wonderful Sacher Cake in Graz! Strangly however I ate some at the GMW as well, since our booth neighbours from Austria distributed them quite liberally. That was the only real food we got at the conference (of course excluding the one nice evening gala).

Needless to say: We didn't win the price, we didn't have a nice hotel and we didn't get any food between sessions. Only the evening gala dinner in Hagenbeck's Tierpark (the oldest and most famous zoo in Hamburg) was quite good, though that might be related to the bottle of wine, each of us must have emptied ;)

The view from my hotel room in the Hilton Quebec. The view was nice the service not as much. No wireless internet and the standard DSL costs extra. Breakfast isn't included in the room proce either.
(Again: I can only recommend "Hotel Feichtinger" in Graz. They had a nice breakfast, very good location, free wireless internet, a very good overall service and everything at one very moderate room rate)

Now I am at the E-Learn 2007 in Quebec-City, Canada and am enjoying the nice weather. I will write a little more on the conference tomorrow or Thursday, but so far it has been a nice experience (although we are again not provided with any food *grin*). The presentation went quite well in my opinion and what makes me even more sure of it, is that a lot of people told me so. The speaker after me however was a little bit lost, which is a nice way of saying that his presentation sucked big time. He had won a best paper award, but aparently was only firm at writing english not speaking it and to make matters worse had apparently pasted his whole paper onto the power point slides with a general font size of 12-14, I guess you can imagine ;)

A very nice fountain, depicting ladies (and a few kids and a bearded guy) bathing, in front of the houses of parliament, her in the nightime overview...

...and for all of you who like more detail a daytime close-up shot.

Edit: Quebec was very nice, we enjoyed beautiful weather and I had the special pleasure of a nice French/Canadian Dinner for 100$. That was really a Lucullan pleasure and totally worth it. Let me note however, that a lot of that amount went into tips and wine (which cost almost as much as the menu at 50$ a bottle for a 2004 Côte Du Rhone). Most of my readers probably know that food is my special hobby and thus, I think one sometimes has to spend (a little) more money to get a special meal. I really hope other people think the same way :)

Btw.: The pictures in Quebec were taken with my brand-new Canon Powershot G9 camera. This thing really makes beautiful pictures, but I still have to learn using its features properly.

The third course of the five course French/Canadian Dinner: Tartar de Caribou (a sort of North-American Deer), with poached quail's egg.

Quebec's trademark - Château Frontenac, which was being restorated at the time of my stay in Canada. I tried to catch a perspective without the massive scaffolding and I think I succeeded. Also notice the blue sky: The weather was pretty nice with about 15°C.

Another trademark of the city, a mural depicting the same view you would get from turning around on the plaza.

Hope you like the update. I know it's been a long time, but I tend to keep my promises (*grin*). Next (recent) post will be up, in a minute too.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Long time, no see ;)

Hi everybody,

as you may have noticed there haven't been any updates for over half a year. I have been busy writing my doctoral thesis and doing other important stuff. There were some nice things that happened in the past month that I might have blogged about, but somehow I couldn't really bring myself to doing it :)

Anyways I do not really think that blogging about just anything is worth the effort, but I wanted to say that I have been accepted with papers on four conferences this year, three of which I am going to visit. So tomorrow, or looking at the time actually today, I will fly to Graz in Austria and participate in the iKnow conference which is part of the larger TripleI. I'll return on Saturday, with hopefully interesting or funny pictures and a report of what a conference and Graz are like.

This photo was taken at the Japanese garden in Leverkusen at the wedding of a friend, it is just meant to illustrate how gorgeous I'll look in one of my new suits at the conference :)

So till Sunday when I might write about these experiences or some time later when I return from the other two conferences (one in Hamburg one in Quebec). Have a good time everybody



Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Well nothing much happened in February this year. We celebrated Chinese New Year in the Bhuddist Temple and we had a Texas Hold'em Poker Game with friends which I naturally won (see pictures below). Then last Saturday I met with some old friends from school, which was really great especially since I hadn't seen some of them in ten years. That's however about all that happened.

Only 4 players left, I got lots of chips and its 3 in the morning...

The whole group of players (except for the kid! what did you think?!? *grin*) at 5am.

I am currently writing papers for two-three conferences, so that I can lift my profile as a doctoral candidate. The topic goes in the direction of enabling new teaching and learning scenarios through the use of graphical arrangements, with a special focus on overlays and using these in test situations. The PhD Thesis will then enlarge the picture with a refeshingly interesting concept that is, admittedly not totally new but has never really been explored in this specific way... WARNING: If you haven't dozed of while reading this, you are on steroids!

Also I am now the proud owner of a Wacom tablet, so I got a new digital signature you can check out. If everything goes well, there may be a lot more to report next time around...


Friday, January 19, 2007

Look what I came across by accident...

Well if that ain't a good starter for a post, I don't know what. This is the dynamic duo of crime-solving anthropomorphic wack-jobs we have all come to love in the classic LucasArts adventure and their new plasti-mensional form in TelltaleGames Episodic Renditions.

As a youngster who got the game for Christmas back then in 1993/4 on CD in German, I was intrigued by some of the one page comics by some Steve Purcell included in the Step-by-Step-Hint-Guide (a Sam'N'Max kind of a walkthough). They were in English as far as I can remember and were of a level that I could only barely master at that time (with only a three or four years worth of School-English). The art and wackyness however came across and I distinctly remember that at this time I wished there was a Comic book for the self-proclaimed 'FreeLance Police'.

Sam and Max as they looked in the intro of the first computer game by LucasArts, called 'Sam'N'Max hit the Road' back in 1993. Oh the pixel glory.

Well in America there actually were several such releases, rare and not in great numbers, but they did exist. None were ever released here in Europe, not even the Sam and Max - Collected ("Surfing the Highway") Edition (see cover at the top) that included most of the previous works and is now considered the 'standard volume' on Sam (the wise-cracker dog) and Max (the totally insane rabbit).

I just happened to pass by some flea-market at our Uni and saw a slightly ruffled book with a dog and a rabbit on the cover. Something inside me went 'click' I had a blackout and when I woke up, I found myself the proud owner of the above mentioned paperback comic book. The events were a blur, I think I might have threatened several people with an axe at some point, jumped on one table and acted like a gorilla to scare an old lady away, but yes in the end it was mine, better yet it still is mine!

If you got any fond memories of Sam and Max or just want to contribute in any way with other memorabilia. Feel free to do so in the comments. By the way: I just saw that the exact same edition I got at the flea-market for 5€ for about $280 on - yeah I am a lucky bastard...soon to get rich, maybe...

Well if you liked the classic gameplay of the Lucasarts game and still have the CD or floppies lying around somewhere like me, the you can enjoy the old game again under Windows95/XP/Vista with the help of a little tool called ScummVM. ScummVM allows you to use filters to upgrade the graphic quality, with in my opinion stunning results. You should definately check it out using the HighQualityX3 filter...

This is TelltaleGames Rendition of Sam and Max in funky new 3D. The game itself however plays like a classic 2D and the jokes are great.

If all this is an old hat for you and you like some more modern looking action, I bestow upon you the link to the genious minds of TelltaleGames. These modern bards have acquired the license to produce new games featuring Sam and Max from Steve Purcell their demi-god-like creator and have thus far spun out two hilarious episodes, the next of which will be released in the beginning of February. No endless wait like in the time before LucasArts cancelled their second game in the universe of the philosophically inclined dog and the schizophrenic rabbit anymore.

No, there's 4 more monthly episodes on their way for all of us to enjoy. The entire season comes at a decent and affordable $30 something price, or if you rather just test the season there is a demo version available (you could also download each episode for 9$ but doing the math - that costs $20 more... which at least for me doesn't make it an interesting option).

And if you still don't have enough, Telltale also has a webcomic on their site featuring the crime-pummeling duo-infernale in a story about cockroaches. Scrolling over the panels will reveal the text-bubbles, if you haven't figured that out already.

In this spirit: "Holy jumping mother o'God in a side-car with chocolate jimmies and a lobster bib! WE'RE ON OUR WAY!"

Thank you Steve Purcel, Sam and Max

Yours Staroc

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year

Wow, it seems like I have been way to busy in the last two months to keep up with a least one decent monthly post here. Nothing much has been happening, that is for sure. So I do actually just want to wish everyone a happy new year and hop you guys spent a nice Christmas with your loved ones...


Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Nothing exciting happened at all, the month was pretty boring if not to say frustrating. Oh well, I guess we all go through such phases at some points in time...

Well since I got nothing else to post, here's a 'Chili-Con-Carne' Recipe that I came up with last week (This is one with beans in it, though I also know a Texas-version without...).

Staroc's Dry-Chili

300g minced beef/pork
2 shallots
1 celery stalk
1 yellow/red pepper
2 medium (Roma) tomatoes
2 large Chilis (one red, one green)
1-2 gloves of garlic
1 small-medium tin of kidney beans (425g) Salt & pepper One big bag of Tortilla/Taco chips/crisps

Cut shallots, celery, pepper, garlic and chillies into tiny cubes (REALLY tiny). Cut tomatoes into quarters, remove stem (some people don't like the seeds and remove them as well as the skin. I usually keep them, because they give a nice sauce - plus you need fewer tomatoes). Now heat a pan with some olive oil.

Put the cubed shallots, celery, garlic and chillies into the pan and simmer them until the shallots look glassy or start getting brown. Then add the meat and fry it. Use a wooden spatula to break up the clumps of meat into tiny tiny pieces, until it is a fine mass and well browned. Then add the tomatoes with the seed sides pointing down and wait for about a minute. Then squash them with the spatula and stir the resulting sauce until the tomatoes are almost gone (the chilli is supposed to be dry, thus there shouldn't be sauce left in the end, the tomatoes are only there for the taste). Add the peppers and finally the beans (well drained - you don't want the sugar water mix they are kept in in the tins). Stir for a while until the beans look ready, mix everything well again and season with salt and pepper after individual taste.

If you like you can also heat the chips for 5 minutes in the oven at 200°C. Now put chilli into bowls and eat fresh with tortilla chips. If you like you can also use some additional salsa dip to round of the taste. I would recommend a nice bottle of Desperados (tequila flavoured beer) to go with that.

Eh voilà a perfect dinner >;o)

Hope December is better - Staroc out