July 2012 Archives

A View into the Netherworld

  • Posted on July 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Are you into astrology? Do you feel these special vibes when walking on sacred ground? What does darkness mean for you? Or do you prefer (sun)light? Do you always know where East is? Do you pray? You don’t need to answer these questions. I won’t either, because I do not care. Your core set of rules and beliefs are your own. It should be a private matter, which means that its yours and you don’t need to demand that others share the exact same beliefs with you. There’s a good chance most people you meet won’t anyway. I respect your beliefs if you respect mine and if you don’t try to convince me to convert to a different belief system. I don’t buy goods at the door or by telephone, so why would I want to buy gods?

Wherever your mind goes, there will be ghosts, gods, souls, mysteries, dæmons, fantastic stories, truths, dreams, lies and everything else you take with you. It’s very easy to contaminate your environment and see things you brought with you. Sprinkled with some emotions and the correct words (some might even says prayers or spells, depending on your beliefs) others can use this to their advantage. In turn this is either to your advantage, too, or something completely different. Regardless of what it is, it’s always tricks of the mind. Your benefit or disadvantage depends entirely on the persons sharing your belief system with you (call them priests, friends, soul mates, members of the church or whatever you want). That’s the human component, and this component creates or destroys communities.

So don’t lose your mind about beliefs. That’s not how things work.

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  • Posted on July 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I use LaTeX for over 20 years now. I have no need for crappy office software. I skipped Microsoft Office, Word Perfect, Open Office and everything similar. However everything has its limits. I am trying to write a document that requires a couple of exotic language fragments (actually it’s only a collection of examples for homograph attacks). So the main text is German, then there’s some Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi and possibly Korean. This means using Unicode text, which is no problem. Up until now I used LaTeX and the beamer class template. Due to better Unicode handling I switched to XeLaTeX, which required to rearrange my \usepackage statements. German, Arabic and Hebrew co-exist now. Now I am trying to get Chinese text displayed correctly. When using LaTeX I did this by means of the CJK package (but only with a Japanese word). Worked fine. Now I am using xeCJK which is basically the same, and I’m getting blanks instead of Chinese characters. I am half-way through the fonts on my system, still trying to find a nice combination.

It’s probably easier to include homograph attacks in Tengwar. Illustrating the ancient spear phishing attacks  of Middle Earth, now there’s an interesting topic.

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In Your Own Words!

  • Posted on July 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm

A lot of people, including me, are fond of quoting song lyrics, TV shows, films, books, graphic novels, pieces of poetry and the random rambling of celebrities and their counterparts. Search engines, fortune cookie databases and online collections facilitate to maintain your own personal library of words and phrases you are fond of. There’s nothing wrong with this – until you use someone else’s words to express yourself. That’s when things go wrong.

If you use a quote you will most probably miss the context. „Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.“ was used by John McClane fighting his way out of a building captured by criminals. If you use it on Twitter, as your ring tone or in an e-mail, the context is definitely different (and arguably wrong). Song lyrics are worse. Take the song „The Riddle“ by Nik Kershaw for example. I liked the song back when it was in the charts. I instantly loved the lyrics. The trouble is that they weren’t supposed to make any sense. In this case you cannot even hope to get the context right, because there is no correct situation. Of course, you can always find phrases that match a certain situation and describe it well. This belief is widespread in religious circles where quotations of the Bible, the Qur’an and other writings, holy or otherwise, run rampant. Too bad „Personal Jesus“ by Depeche Mode isn’t about religious at all. No cookie for you.

 There’s really nothing wrong with borrowing someone else’s words. Just make sure you use your own when expressing important things. And in case you read someone using quotations, be careful. It’s either out of context, right on topic, smoke and mirrors, or something completely different.

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The Filter Coffee Misunderstanding

  • Posted on July 4, 2012 at 9:13 am

We have to talk. We have to talk about coffee. Firstly because it’s not in the tag cloud yet, and secondly because I really like filter coffee. There you go, a blog posting about bad coffee’s coming up. No, it isn’t.

Usually in articles like these the second paragraph is reserved for some historical context. Since we got the introduction somewhat right, here’s the history (the conclusion will be in the next-to-last paragraph while the last paragraph is reserved for a witty pun such as “Or is it?” or similar). I grew up with this stuff. This is a good excuse. It doesn’t make the coffee better and it doesn’t excuse pouring hot water over crushed plant stuff (real coffee beans are optional given the taste of some cups I had). However once you use really good coffee material, ditch the milk and the sugar, you’ll really get something special. A big cup of filter coffee beats the crap out of any espresso or fancy café au bullshit any time. Filter coffee stays longer hot. This means you can drink it over a longer period of time. Yesterday I had a cup I could carry for over half an hour before taking bigger sips. You’ll experience the coffee through a wide variety of temperatures. The really good stuff can even be drunk cold. Try that with your stupid espresso!

So there’s the conclusion. Filter coffee rocks (even in German where it’s called Filterkaffee, easily recognisable). Throw away all the other coffee creations. End of discussion.

And here’s your witty pun: Go and get some!

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Heat Waves

  • Posted on July 3, 2012 at 12:55 am

Writing tweets is more suitable for the hellish Summer temperatures that have turned Vienna into some North African Hell (no offence, just describing my hate for the heat). Focusing thoughts for more than 140 characters is next to impossible with a fried brain. A thunderstorm would be nice. A bit of snow and ice, too. Wishful thinking. So let’s write down some rants to bump up the blog’s July counter.

It would really be nice to know about a place where one can flee until the temperature drops below 25°C (for the uninitiated, Summer starts at 20°C and ends at 25°C; Spring is between 19°C and 7°C; Winter starts below -5°C; there really is no compelling reason to ever have temperatures above 25°C unless preparing coffee). Why is it that hospitality in the form of a cool place, not too bright, protected from the sun hasn’t discovered by entrepreneurs? Combine this wonderful refuge with an ample supply of power, Internet and coffee. People (like me) would really pay for it. It would be a welcome change to the abysmal coffee shops with open windows, scorching heat from outside and inside, and noisy people all around (yes, you can bring your child only if it knows how to shut up; and no, your kid is not special, no exemptions).

If graveyards had coffee and power supplies, we’d be halfway there.