Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

A student’s toolbox

In Geek Alert, Thoughts, Treasures on September 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm

I have managed to pull a few late night sessions in order to prepare for my studies, which should be starting some time next week. As I have returned all my classic office tools along with my business computer, I have to find a way to make do with what I have, which is a slick little webbook with StarOffice and MS Works preinstalled, and apart from that mostly open source software.
Going through the recommendations from my future uni, I was looking for a few things, namely a journal to keep notes and events organized. Outlook Express does not do that, so I needed something else. I also was looking for something to keep my notes organized, and something to bridge the gap between my office products and the uni standard of MS Office 2003. So here is what I found:

is a slick little text based calendar system, that allows note taking, incl. links, pictures and file reference, tagging with user defined categories, templates for calendar entries and the whole thing nicely laid out.

is a nifty little program to create state of the art encrypted areas on an existing hard drive and mount them, so that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can read everything that is on the computer without much effort. My former employer used to use a much more complicated commercial system, so I am more than happy to have discovered this.

is the extended version of freemind, a software to create and organize mind maps. Now this is where it gets a bit geeky, I guess, but I think that mind maps are a great way to structure complicated things in an easy way fast and without having the gift of shorthand or photographic memory.

The only open question now is whether I want to replace the StarOffice that I have on the machine with a true OpenOffice.org to allow me to use the whole range of add-ons, which StarOffice does not support.

What I hope will come in handy is a template that I made in line with the requirements for uni coursework formatting, so that at least the format is there, and I won’t get penalized for not conforming with the required layout.

Charlie’s and my arrival

In Events on September 12, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Charlie portrait

Charlie's official portrait

I think it is time for an update, otherwise I am loosing the plot, and things get forgotten, and the whole idea of blogging my time of freedom becomes pointless.
Travelling through Luanda for the last time, after saying goodbye to the neighbours, the clients and the colleagues and helping the neighbours ransacking my place and what I had left there, was a bit weird. And when you, after finally packing everything into the remaining bags, sit in the car and get to breath for a moment, looking at the city passing by, you start feeling a bit of the freedom.
At the airport, there was a somewhat expected problem, as in I had about 88 kg of luggage and an allowance of 40. Added were after some negotiations 12 kg for my newly obtained Silver status. The bad news was that excess luggage was chargeable at 50 USD/kg, which seemed excessive, but not negotiable. Also there is a maximum of 30 kg per bag, so that I had to loose 1 bottle of Cachaca, 2 bottles of Detol cleaner and a souvenir, that one of my colleagues had given me (in the unlikely event, that you find this, I am sorry, but I kept the Palanca and the stand :-()
So after all negotiations (I got them to waive another 6 kg and paid with the 1500 USD I had left over from my last salary cash advance) I barely had time to get into the lounge, and then failed to call my wife. She had been a bit edgy, because as part of my quest for freedom, I had handed in my mobile phone the last Friday at work, so I was keen to let her know that I was in the air and all was well, but the WiFi network in the lounge was not working. So then I splashed out some more and called her from the sat phone in my seat. This was really an expensive trip.
I arrived in Bangkok as planned and was met by my wife, delighted son and mother in law, this time without any problems at Suvarnabhumi airport.
My wife told me on arrival that we were due for an appointment in the hospital the next morning, and that they would probably not let her go again, as a preliminary exam showed need for action.
So indeed the next day, Aug 31st my second son Charlie arrived 5 days earlier than planned, so that my wife rightly pointed out that she had been right in pushing me to fly earlier than the originally planned Sept. 1st, and I felt justified in my position to drive my negotiations with the company as hard as I had, incl. the ultimate resignation.
After 4 days, we were all release from our suite in the hospital and have been living in Bangkok, trying to find our first son opportunities to socialize (swimming pool. condo playground and an English nursery school twice a week), while nurturing Charlie into a stable and sustainable growth.
On a separate note, I have enrolled at RGU for the intended Oil & Gas Law course, and pending some administrative hiccups, I should be on my way to development in that direction.

The Hash

In Geek Alert on September 6, 2010 at 5:08 pm

A warning ahead of time, this posting is not about the recreational herb/drug. If that is what you are looking for, please return to your search engine/pharmacist/dealer/greenhouse.
Geek alert: This article deals with the movement that describes itself as a drinking club with a running problem. Now why would that be interesting for you?
The first time I heard about the hash,I was in Nigeria and heard about it from a local colleague and associated it with the herb, but was educated that it is in fact a group activity, where a bunch of people gather with drinks and then follow a previously set trail around a particular area to arrive possibly at the starting point or other destination for more drinks.
At that point, I felt reminded of my childhood in Germany where we used to play a game called “Schnitzeljagd”, which was very similar, but without the drinks at the time. Back then it was fun, but I had trouble transferring the concept into adulthood.
In Nigeria, the education remained academic, and I left before I could see the event in real life.
The first actual time I went on a hash was when I got to Angola, and only then I realized the appeal. In a rather difficult location you get to meet a lot of people outside work (hint, talking shop is punishable by beer shower) from different backgrounds, you get drinks, and because you are walking around (or running around, as is the original concept) in a sufficiently large number to discourage opportunistic assault and robbery, while behaving silly enough to break the ice with the locals whose neighbourhoods you are passing through. So you get to see something of your assigned location, which might not be from the guidebook, but it is certainly the real thing. And it comes with exercise.
Now I have only seen/heard about this in action in West Africa, but I thought I should at least share it.
And since starting to hash in Angola on a more or less regular basis, I have been initiated to the higher mysteries, such as wearing a blond wig, a Merlin hat with German colours, several rounds of punishment for wearing inappropriate gear, haring (as in gather ahead to set out a trail complete with false trails, beer stops, song stops, view points and arrows) and finally on the day before leaving Angola for good, receiving my hash handle (i.e. the name I shall henceforth be known amongst the hashers) Hare today, gone tomorrow. Now if that is not a fitting name 🙂 And following fellow hashers, this limited perception of hash geography is actually due to my ignorance, so if you would like to learn more or find a bunch of hashers, check out the global website