The Ice House

I have just finished Minette Walterscrime novel The Ice House. I can recommend the book, because contrary to many works of crime fiction, it is well written: the plot is complicated, intriguing, yet convincing, and what is best: language and style are good! The book may even be too complicated for bedside reading.
The book was recommended to me as “queer writing”, which it is not! Although some of the characters are presumed to be lesbians, the book is definitely written from a straight perspective. It may be too British for me to understand certain undertones, though. Be it as it may… it’s fun reading!

The Zone-H.org Comics Section

Thanks to the preparations for the Chaos Communication Congress I have come across Zone-H.org * Comics Section. Don’t miss it! I particularly like the second (DEF CON) episode, because of the really thrilling story. My favorite character is, of course, Evil Angelica, a powerful haeckse who can hack without a computer (you’ll know why if you read the Prologue/1st episode). The author characters are based on real hackers, among them the authors themselves, who will attend the Congress by the way! Chances are that there will be a special 22c3 issue.

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Thanks to Dominik’s Homepage, who has replied to my soccer article, I have found a page where Micro$oft explains Leet: A parent’s primer to computer slang – Understand how your kids communicate online to help protect them.
Some time ago I was asked to write an article on leetspeak from a linguistic point of view. So if you happen to have more (even less funny) references, please let me know.
And those of you who read German and have never heard about bitchchecker, don’t miss the 127.0.0.1 exploit, also linked on Dominik’s page.

22c3 Content Meeting

Today we had another meeting in order to prepare the prepare the 22nd Chaos Communication Congress, in short: 22c3. We went through the first submissions and proposals for lectures and decided who else should be invited and get a CfP. As usual, it was quite a lengthy session, but it looks as if this year’s program is going to be really good—and even better than last year’s. 🙂
I think by October, 1st there will be about 300 submissions for perhaps 150 slots; that’s why it will be tough to review and evaluate the proposals. On the other hand, what will be accepted, will be promissing. This is a good perspective…
The theme or motto of this year’s Congress is “Private Investigations” with an allusion to Blade Runner. The theme has two perspectives:

Of course, the theme will not cover every aspect of the Chaos Communication Congress

The Bayreuth Wagner Festival 2005: Parsifal

Whereas the Greek work of art embraced the spirit of a splendid nation, the work of art of the future is intended to embrace the spirit of free people irrespective of all national boundaries; the national element in it must be no more than an ornament, a charm of individual diversity, not a confining boundary.

Richard Wagner in Die Kunst und die Revolution (Art and Revolution), 1849*

This was my first visit to the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. I have been applying for tickets for eight years now, and finally succeeded. We actually got very good seats: directly in the last row of the Prince Regent’s balcony (commonly called “Mittelloge”) which is the best place to be from an acoustic and visual standpoint. The whole stage was visible in front of me and looked like a television set.
The opera we saw was Parsifal, which Richard Wagner wrote especially for the Festspielhaus. That is the reason for its subtitle: Bühnenweihspiel, meaning stage-inaugurational play. It was forbidden to perform it elsewhere until in 1913 the copyright expired. Nevertheless, there are only eight productions up to now. The latest production is by Christoph Schlingensief, a German theater producer and self-proclaimed enfant terrible of the performing arts. The production fails to be provocative, as reviewers had already noticed (review from The New Yorker, NY Times review, Musicweb review, a pro-Schlingensief review from his own website, and a blogger’s opinion).
The only really annoying aspect of the production are the video projections which almost always cover the whole stage. The video clips detract the audience’s attention without adding to the atmosphere or the message of the actual performance. It would be best to ignore them, which is hardly possible.
The vocal performance was very good. This came as a surprise, since all Bayreuth experts warned me that this is the festival’s weak point. I cannot say so. However, the best thing about a visit in Bayreuth is the atmosphere of the event: People come from all over the world, but mainly from Germany, the US, France, and the Far East; Wagnerians tend to dress up in strange ways and there’s always lots of applause and booing at the end of the night (at to a lesser extent before intervals). The local beer at the beer garden, simple but nutritious food (German Bratwurst and Bavarian Weißwurst), and booing reminds of Bayreuth being situated in the countryside…

*Original text: Umfasste das griechische Kunstwerk den Geist einer schönen Nation, so soll das Kunstwerk der Zukunft den Geist der freien Menschheit über alle Schranken der Nationalitäten hinaus umfassen; das nationale Wesen in ihm darf nur ein Schmuck, ein Reiz individueller Mannigfaltigkeit, nicht eine hemmende Schranke sein. Printed on the special paper bags of the festival; I have tried to improve the English translation.

Wikimania Closing & Day #4+

The Wikimania Closing Session was a bit long, but I liked the results of the Wikimania Media Competitions very much. After that, some of us went out for dinner again and had at-length discussions about Wikipedia issues and the like, so it got late once more, but on day #4+ (Monday) we had to get up early for the meeting of the Wikimedia Local Chapters, the word local means something like ‘national’ here. I don’t know why they are called local—perhaps this is a measure to avoid nationalism—I don’t know…
The governing board of Wikimedia Deutschland had a meeting with a possible sponsor, too, which was quite interesting. Unfortunately, I had to hurry away to get my train. I shared the taxi with Hanno Wagner, one of the network people of the event. He had done a good job and blogged about the event. The network was sometimes unstable, but it worked! They even could fix the temporary unstabilities on day #4! I hope that Hanno aka Rince will be actively involved at the 22c3, the 22nd Chaos Communication Congress, the next big event I’m looking forward to.
Back at home, I had guests arriving from Montreal. It’s nice to be home again and have an international atmosphere there too. I’m getting addicted… 🙂 I will, however, continue my blog in German, since more local stuff is concerned [You are allowed to protest!]. Perhaps, I’ll switch to English for another special on my Wagner experience in Bayreuth in ten days and for the 22c3 special at the end of the year.
Brenno de Winter pointed out to me an interesting article on Bruce Schneier’s security blog: It is about the Orlando airport security program where you can get some sort of security-clearance subscription, in order to get to your flight faster than uncleared people. Beside the fact that this “clearance” may be a security problem in itself, it reminds me of Rop Gonggrijp‘s proposal to let people check themselves.

Wikimania Day #2 & #3

The first day of Wikimania was rather long again, so I missed the first morning lectures of the second day.
I went to the presentation of Logos, a multilingual collaborative dictionary. The dictionary would be great, but unfortunately they haven’t thought about a license, so the material is simply unusable, because one doesn’t know to whom the material belongs. Since there are no regulations, every entry and every modification belongs to its creator, which means that the material is not free. Each and every contributor has to be asked, which is simple not feasible.
An old friend of mine, whom I haven’t met for years, had a contribution on Wikitution, an interesting idea of his to create a European constitution in a wiki.
The day’s highlight was Ward Cunningham’s lecture on the genesis and future of the original wiki. Although the topic is interesting in itself, the presentation was a bit monotonous (perhaps the sound system contributed to this, because the sound was a bit low). I had to fight against sleep, which is always bad. I am thinking of suggesting Ward to come to the Chaos Communication Congress, perhaps the audience can make a difference…
We went out for dinner and later to the Wikimania Party. I met some people that were no wikipedians, but had other interests or experiences about Wikis. To a certain degree that was quite interesting too, although the real thrill always is to meet people you have known virtually for a long time and meet for the first time in real life. In the evening there was a very interesting television documentary about Wikipedia on Arte. Before going to bed, I wanted to go online once more. It worked, but the network was rather unstable. I don’t really know why the organizers are so proud of their network.
I started the third day early enough to go to Richard Stallman’s lecture. It was quite interesting to see him, because his old-school hippie appearance is quite spectacular. Unfortunately, he told us what most, if not all of us, already knew: that software and knowledge had to be free as in free speech and not as in free beer and so on… nothing really gnew came out of it.
The session on wikis and scientific publications was partly interesting, but again I gained most out of quite a number of informal conversations with other participants. By the way, don’t miss the pictures on flickr.

Wikimania

Yesterday afternoon I arrived in Frankfurt for the Wikimania Conference. After getting my room at the Haus der Jugend, I went out for dinner with a Frankfurt-based friend of mine. I returned to the Youth Hostel after one o’clock and was at once drawn into some nightly discussions: showed us his bird-whistling interface for Wikipedia: According to certain criteria (concerning contents, author etc.) a Wikipedia article is translated into bird songs on a Mac, and we discussed a system to generate InterWiki links almost automatically. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the person that programmed that system.
It got very late and I missed the morning session on the following first congress day, but I did make it to Jimmy Wales’s opening lecture and its discussion which was quite interesting (perhaps more than the lecture itself). At lunch time I had very interesting discussions with fellow wikipedians and with KDE developers. KDE is now integrating Wikipedia access into their system which happens to be the operating system I use. There are nice things to come: One will be able to access Wikipedia directly from the desktop, get information about the displayed date (some kind of news service) and applications like amaroK or KStars can directly access the Wikipedia knowledge base. Of course, there are problems: is KStars accessing Wikipedia language dependently or is there a language-independent approach, perhaps making use of InterWiki links?
What is most important about such gatherings is that they allow for loads of informal discussions. Just now I’m following the section about NPOV and I’m really looking forward to discussing some of the issues informally.

WTH d #4

The desastrous weather had its show down on day 4 of What The Hack, as one of the bloggers illustrated very well (and here’s another view). Still, my tent was dry inside, so I continued enjoying the festival. I went to The Fnord News Show which was only moderately funny (as Monty Python have put it: „The German humour is no laughing matter!“) and the Closing session, which was quite interesting. Rop told us that the next Dutch hacker camp (in 4 years) could take place in Germany, since the Dutch regulations are about to become to strict and moreover organizers will have to pay for the massive police presence that the Dutch law requires. So What The Hack +1 (in 4 years) may be exiled.
The evening after the closing session was really nice. We could sit outside and enjoy the chilling atmosphere at the $fooBAR…
To sum up the whole event: It was really cool! I learnt a lot of stuff, made new friends and enjoyed a really interesting event! Inspite of the weather (that didn’t really bother me a lot), it was great to be there! A special thx to Radio SubEther. I listened to it from time to time (e.g. when cooking or eating in the CCC-kitchen tent). I liked the John von Neumann-Feature by Conz very much. Those who missed it can go through the radio wiki and archives.