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Archive for March, 2011

Unexpected experimentalism.

March 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Reconstructed rack full of stuff.

Reconstructed rack full of stuff.

As on most days, I was carefully considering yesterday morning which particular part of the computer software or maths I’d be spending the day working on. This plan was quickly scuppered when another Oliver (Olli, in this case) turned up. He has been working in the Netherlands with a system similar to the one I’m going to be building. The system belongs to IPP (where I work) and now that he is finished and is leaving, it had been shipped back here and I have now kind-of inherited it. Unfortunately, he was only here for the day to give a talk, so the morning was instead spent very rapidly putting it all back together. Considering my optics hardware experience is quite limited, it was a bit of a learning curve but fortunately, the only major problem was that the virus scanner on the PC decided it would be helpful to delete a central part of the software that controls the equipment.

Camera and assorted optical stuff.

Camera and assorted optical stuff.

Software problems are easier for me, so today I spent a couple of hours with it and managed to solve that one, get the PC networked, tidy up all the cabling, fix the trolley wheels and align and play with camera a little. Next week some time, I’ll try to get the some of the other bits working.
 
I won’t try to explain what any of this is or does yet but might do a little later on. In the meantime, you can look at some of the photos I took for documentation purposes.

 

Las0r

Las0r

Seethrough hand device.

Seethrough hand device.

Also yesterday, back in Devon in the UK, my mother was moving house so in the middle of this hasty building and rapid discussions with my namesake, I had a call from her estate agents asking if I was at our cottage. The answer ‘not quite. I’m in Germany’, surprised them a bit.

Categories: work

Untitled and dehaired.

March 21, 2011 4 comments

I’ve been avoiding getting my hair cut since I’ve been here because of the obvious communications difficulties this was likely to involve. It’s not a process I was particularly fond of even in the UK but I decided this weekend it was annoyingly long enough to be dealt with, so on a recommendation from a friend, I went to the ‘Friseur ohne Namen’ (lit. Hairdressers without a name).

After a slightly confused introductory conversation, the receptionist told me something I understood as “it is best to sit in the place”, although ‘place’ was ‘platz’ which I know as the word for the market square type place in towns. My confused look was greeted by a hand gesture indicating an empty chain. So sit I did, and after 5 minutes someone wandered up and asked how I wanted it. Fortunately, my haircut is the nice numerical type. In England: 6 on top, 4 round the back. I did remember to convert to millimeters (thanks to my bro for learning that lesson for me) but here she did it with the ‘shears’ instead of the machine. Fair enough. She did a good job in the end as far as I can tell. So here I am de-haired:

Wouldn't it be nice if it were this easy?

Wouldn't it be nice if it were this easy?

For the non-technical of you: it’s black and white for a technical reason.
For the technical among you: I apologise profusely for using an animated GIF, but I could find no other way of getting wordpress.com (the difference between .com and .org is critical here) to let me animate something. If it upsets you too much (I know who I’m talking to here), please be happy: http://www.oliford.co.uk/photos/blogserve/hair.swf

Categories: Uncategorized

Sign hunting, and two much pi.

March 15, 2011 3 comments

It rained.

It rained.

This morning it rained, so I arrived at work with that wonderful drowned rat feeling, and hairstyle. After running through some german vocab on this revision thingy I have on the laptop, I had planned to spend the day coding the last piece of the model that I’ve been working on. Unfortunately I actually spent the entire day rederiving the maths, hunting for a single sign difference between mine and the original.

 
 
 
 

+/-, -/+ ..... it's in there somewhere.

+/-, -/+ ..... it's in there somewhere.

I found it in the end, amidst the es, is, and myriad of 2πs. It had something to do with accidentally putting 45° in as π/2, rather than π/4 and shortly after this I found a new post by someone called Vi hart, on Facebook, about this very subject (http://vihart.com/blog/pi-is-still-wrong/). If you have not seen the others and have any interest at all in maths, watch all of her videos. Otherwise, watch just this one, which I thought was brilliant: http://vihart.com/blog/mobius-story/

Categories: work

Temporary no fly zone

March 13, 2011 3 comments

Who needs corners?

Who needs corners?

On friday night, we investigated a Greek restaurant. There were several of us this time including two Russians, one of which was learning English and seemed to be taking a hyperactive approach to trying, just talking as much as he could. So the night was interesting and I learned some bizarre things about Russian culture. For instance, apparently that ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ kids cartoon is very popular among the teenage/adult Emo culture there. Very weird. The food was very good and was served in large portions. It also consisted mostly of meat, so on Saturday two of us decided to go for a 20 mile cycle ride to burn some of it off and investigate the gliding club here.

 

Windy. Good for some people.

Windy. Good for some people.

It was, as ever, windy and going there was into wind so very hard work. The cycle paths disappear as soon as you leave the town. The roads are plenty wide enough to not inconvenience cars but lots of them still beep at you for riding on the road.

 

Can't fly? well fix something then.

Can't fly? well fix something then.

After about an hour and a half of struggling we arrived at Schmoldov, the little village and the airfield of the same name. We saw no planes as we approached so knew they weren’t flying but fortunately there were people there and the first we met was welding the gate hinges back on. It seems they spend the winter here repairing and fixing things, rather than flying. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find anyone who spoke English, but someone did show us around and Damien had to translate for me. Actually I understood quite a bit of what he was saying but this was more from knowing gliding and anticipating what he would be saying, than from understanding the German.

 
 
 

Fix the Bocian.

Fix the Bocian.

Yep, It's a gliding club.

Yep, It's a gliding club.

The summary is that they don’t start flying until maybe the start April because the field is too soggy. However, they suggested we go back in two weeks time as they may have started by then. They have both a winch and a tug and all the usual stuff I’ve come to know and love at just about any gliding club anywhere in the world. But to fly again, I’ll just have to wait a bit longer. ­čśŽ

Having had a good look around we headed home. The cycle back, now downwind, hardly involved peddling but gave us an average speed of 27kph, rather than the miserable 19kph on the way out. It was nice to get properly outside Greifswald and good to see the GC is alive and well, even if dormant for the moment.

PS: All the photos are on facebook, as usual:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2324426&l=c6bd18044a&id=61305529

Categories: gliding

Wieck

March 7, 2011 1 comment
The Weick 'Holzklappbr├╝cke' (roughly 'wood folding bridge')

The Weick 'Holzklappbr├╝cke' (roughly 'wood folding bridge')

On Saturday we went to a fish restaurant in the nearby village of Wieck (pronounced ‘veak’, almost). All in all, it was a nice afternoon out, the food was good and the weather was verging on the warmish. Without any real clues for translating the various types of fish, I picked something at random, excluding what the other two guys had chosen. I ended up with ‘Lachs’ which turned out to be Salmon. While perhaps less out of my ordinary fare than I was hoping for, it was a very nice piece of fish and was beautifully cooked.

Wieck is on the mouth of the river Ryck (which runs through/past Griefswald), where it meets the Baltic sea. The sea, it turns out, was frozen over. Actually, this part of it is in a kind of semi-enclosed bay area but still, I’ve never seen frozen sea before, so this was fairly novel for me.

Windmill and Luis on his borrowed IPP bike, like the one I had.

Windmill and Luis on his borrowed IPP bike, like the one I had.

See, I told you it was cold.

See, I told you it was cold.

Dinner was some Spannish food prepared by my flatmate. This was followed by the two Spanish guys eating sunflower kernels (a.k.a seeds, but they’re not, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_seed) while the other two of us made a mess, eat lots of the shells and probably managed to ingest less energy than we expended. We had planned to go out to the ‘TV club’ ┬áafterward but ended up watching one of the most horrific South Park episodes ever made. I think this might have been a little bit much for the two Spanish guys, who haven’t seen any/many of them.

A Pole, a Spaniard and an Englishman go to the seaside.... anyone got one?

A Pole, a Spaniard and an Englishman go to the seaside.... anyone got one?

People are asked to kindly label their buildings, so that if misplaced, they can be returned to their proper location.

People are asked to kindly label their buildings, so that if misplaced, they can be returned to their proper location.

PS: The rest of the photos are here:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2323633&id=61305529&l=718db4fa5e

PPS: I was playing with alpha layers in GIMP (linux graphics package) on the weekend. Do you like the banner at the top?

Categories: food

Mmmm, Indigermoenglish food.

March 6, 2011 Leave a comment

On Thursday night a group of us (the internationals) went out to a Curry restaurant in Greifswald. Again, an arbitrary mixture of languages was used by us since there was me, one of the polish guys, three Spaniards, a girl from Chile and another girl, the nationality of which I can’t recall. The waitress spoke only German, so some translation was done by those who were more able, but what amused me is that the menu was written in a strange mixture of languages. The dish titles included things such as ‘Chicken Masala’ which is very definitely English and followed by the German description; ‘Lamm’ curries, which is German for the obvious and finally ‘Mashroom’ curries, which I don’t think is a word for anything in any language, other than the obvious English misspelling. The conversation about exactly how hot they call hot was a slightly confused exchange of Spanish, German and English. For the sake of general education, in German they use the work ‘scharf’, which is also ‘sharp’ but totally different from their word for thermally hot: ‘hei├č’.

My building in the IBZ. Yes, it's wonky for some reason.

My building in the IBZ. Yes, it's wonky for some reason.

Greifswald town centre.

Greifswald town centre.

Categories: food, language

Termination of tea?

March 2, 2011 1 comment
Ahhh, I've run out of tea!

Ahhh, I've run out of tea!

Actually, I haven’t, as that’s just the end of the first box of 50. I’ve another 150 that I brought with me. I do apologise for any distress I’ve caused by the careless use of such a desperate notion, purely for dramatic effect. Please be calmed by the lovely words of wisdom included in the Twining boxes these days. The left one is for Andy, if you read this again, since I believe that over where he is (in the US somewhere) they don’t drink tea quite like we do, but the Germans do quite well in the tea/coffee area.

Anyway, enough of that. What’s been happening? Well, when not working, or going to and fro in the still very cold mornings, I’ve still spent most of my time trying to learn the language. It’s coming along but I’ve still a long way to go before I’ll start to actually understand people.

Kalten Morgen.

Kalten Morgen.

I’ve also been out with the some of the others from the Internationales Begegnungszentrum to a couple of different bars and cafes for food, coffee etc. Of course, beer is another thing they do quite well here. One of them is an avid flight simulator fan so we were mucking about with a WWII sim on his PC, which is hooked up with a joystick, pedals and one of those cool head tracking things. When I’ve got myself installed into the gliding club here and become an instructor (and it’s a bit warmer), I’ll see what he can do with a real one (well, real plane, imaginary engine). This summer is going to be good ­čÖé

Categories: Uncategorized