Friday, February 27, 2009

A busy week...

This week has been very busy, for me, with a tight schedule. I was only able to devote to the iCamp which was running this week every day at the Old Broadcasting House two afternoons. Monday I was chair of a PhD viva. First time I attended a UK viva. In the evening I attended a Town Hall meeting in Pontefract, where Brian Lewis presented the project of rebuilding Pontefract Castle. Tuesday I visited Opera North, together with a group from Yorkshire Universities. Wednesday was a meeting about Post-Graduate delivery, within the framework of the new Carnegie PostGraduate School. Yesterday I was in Harrogate, giving a presentation at the St.Aidan's Highschool. Different audience for a change. In the evening I attended the Creative Networks event at Leeds College of Arts. Today I will be at the iCamp this afternoon.
A few deadlines are today as well...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Return from Athens

In the morning I head off again towards the antique sites near the Acropolis. Walk around, then pass by the parliament building, where at 11:00 the guards are marching by in their costumes.

Then back to the hotel, check out, take metro and suburban train back to the airport. A brief snack, than the flight leaves back to Amsterdam, then to Leeds. A long line at the border control at Leeds airport: it seems that several flights have arrived at the same time, and there is only one person to control all the passports.

All the pictures I took during my stay in Athens are here on Flickr

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Day at the Ruins

On Saturday I get out of the hotel around 10:30. Head straight for the Acropolis entrance. The combination ticket costs 12 Euro, entrance to several sites is included. Quite impressive, these remains! The weather is great: blue sky, a bit chilly, but pleasant enough.
Not many tourists, although at the entrance to the Propylaia seems to be a crowd. I took two series of pictures, for the photosynths below (works only with MS Internet Explorer):

Entrance to the Acropolis: the Propylaia.

Theatre of Herodes Atticus, Athens.

I spend some time on top of the Acropolis, look at the remains of the temples. A lot of reconstruction is going on there. Then walking down, to the hill of the Areopag and to the Agora. I am very thursty and abandon for a while the antique ruins, in exchange for the shopping streets around the area. There are actually many nice things to buy, I consider to get a replacement for my laptop bag (another one for my collection of squarish laptop bags), but then decide not to waste time with shopping. Accidentally I come to the flee market: great stuff that is offered there! Many chairs, old clocks, books. For some reason there are a lot of brass instruments for sale: trumpets, horns, and some strangely shaped ones. After having filled up on liquids I visit Hadrian's library and the Roman Forum. There is a part of wall, with a piece of lead cemented in. Original from Roman times? Or just put in there for protection recently?

Around 14:30 the smell of fried calamares makes me hungry, and I stop for a break. Sit outside with a view of these ruins and the Acropolis. The sun is now behind clouds, it starts to feel slightly cool again. As I move on again, the sites are then closed. So I will not go to the Olympian Zeus temple, just take a picture through the fence. I will still have a short time on Sunday morning.

After I return from my walk through the city, I am very tired. Fall asleep. Then when I wake up again around midnight, I post much of the 480 pictures I have taken today to Flickr.

Friday, February 20, 2009


At the hotel I decide to have a brief rest. But I fall asleep, and wake up at 21:30. Damn, missed the dinner! Quickly rush out, should be a 15 minutes walk. Since I have a day ticket for the public transport, I jump into a bus that comes by and appears to go in the right direction. But at the next street it makes a turn and drives down several 100 meters. When I get off at the next stop, I have to walk all that distance back again...

Dinner is nice - I have Souvlaki. Afterwards, one of the local guys offers to drive us up to the Lykavittos Hill with a gorgeous view over the nightly Athens. First I think that they have switched off the nightly illumination of the Acropolis, but then I see that we are so high above it, it melts together with the other lights.

Working Day

Friday is working day. I calculate that I will need at least 1h 15 minutes to go from the hotel to the site, and I am right: the metro takes quite a while, as at some stations it waits, not sure for what. At the station where I get out, I can choose to take a bus, or to take a taxi. The bus is already waiting, I enter, but there is no driver. Since I do not know the schedule, I decide that I will take a taxi instead. Arrive at the site 7 minutes before the meeting begins. The two other main meeting participants are not here yet - they arrive 30 minutes later.

The meeting goes until 17:30. We agree to meet at 21:00 for dinner in the city.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Walking along Antiquity

After dropping my stuff in the hotel room, I rush out to use the remaining day light for a brief exploration of the city. First I grab a Gyros Pita at one of the food outlets - costs just 1.90 Euro. The hotel is within walking distance of all relevant sites. I head towards south, through non-descriptive narrow streets with shops. Then arrive at the site of Agora, the old centre in antiquity. A metro line has been built straight through the ruins...

All archaeological sites appear to be closed after 15:00. I follow the signs to Akropolis, but decide that I will go there on Saturday. Back through the old town centre of Athens, the Plaka.

A short rest in the hotel, then again going out later in the dark. Take a few pictures of the illuminated Parthenon, but is too far away. Have a pizza in the hotel restaurant, but it is a bit strange: too hard dough. This is not a pizza. Similar to the "pizza" in Barcelona. I guess that only Italians can make good pizza! (And of course New Yorkers, and Chicago too).

Go to bed not too late, as I will have to get up early on Friday. The time difference to UK is 2 hours.

Travelling to Athens

The taxi is waiting on time - 4am. At Leeds Bradford I have breakfast. Slightly pathetic ambience. The flight to AMS leave on time, I arrive 25 minutes earlier than scheduled in Schiphol. Not much time for browsing around, have to go to Gate C9, to the Schengen area. Sitting in the next plane, I see my suitcase as it moves into the plane on the conveyor belt.

Flying over Germany - it is snowy down there. I sleep a bit. When I wake up I see the Alps: Inntal, Oberaudorf, Scheffau, Wilder Kaiser. I identify Kitzbuehel, then the Grossglockner. A warm roll is served, together with a box of small things, among them a salad. I wanted to read more, but fall again asleep. Snow also above the Macedonian mountains. Then preparing for landing.

Islands, costs, towns, olive trees. Some archaeological digs. Landing at the Athens airport. Quite modern, just opened a few years ago. My suitcase comes almost last. The directions towards the train station are unclear: the Greek wording for "to Metro" is crossed out, but the English version "To Trains" still stands, so I follow the signs. A bright sun hits the eye, blue sky. But not warm.

Indeed, the Metro is not going since a few days, due to construction work, but the "Suburban Train" is. I had not read about that suburban train anywhere on the web, but on my map printout I see it as the dashed line.

The first sight outside of the airport: the big blue/yellow IKEA. As always, this is comforting and worrying at the same time: comforting, because in case I would ever move to here, I could get inexpensive decent furniture. Discomforting, because this globalisation removes the individual experience of regions in the world. The IKEA store was also one of the first things I had seen in Beijing in summer 2007. There were three IKEAs in Los Angeles. There is one in Leeds. One in Munich. They are everywhere. Ok, the world is growing together, and some common standards are getting accepted. But it is also a bit sad, to see these blue box buildings in every corner of the world. I had not seen one in India...

The suburban train goes quite fast: my GPS shows 176 km/h. Get off at the station Nepatziotissa, then change to the metro green line. Quite a long distance into town still. One more change of trains, to the red line, then I walk out of the subway station exit. As I am trying to locate my hotel, I realise that I forgot to print the map. I vaguely remember that it is two blocks north of the station, so I begin to walk in the direction. It is sunny, so I do not mind. Soon I realise that I am in the wrong street - need to be one parallel. Finally arrive at the hotel "Titania".

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Twestival Tonight

Today in the evening, 18:00, there will be a Twestival here in Leeds, organised by the NTI of Leeds Met at the Old Broadcasting House. This is a meeting of all the Twitterers who use the online service Twitter.

Btw, my Twitter ID is "rbehringer" - anyone who wants to "follow" me there, is welcome!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sonic Spatial Perspectives

On Friday and Saturday, the conference "Sonic Spatial Perspectives" was held in Gandhi Hall at Leeds Metropolitan University. Our Nikos Stavropoulos had invited Jonti Harrison from University of Birmingham to set up the BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre) here. 72 loudspeakers were distributed across Gandhi Hall, allowing the creation of an incredible sound space. Derek Hales from University Huddersfield opened the conference as the Director of C3KE, who funded this event. Then Jonti Harrison gave the keynote talk to introduce the system. During these two days, there were 3 concerts with acousmatic music, two workshops, and a round table discussion. Basically, the playing of a pre-recorded spatialised piece still requires an performance by someone who is "diffusing" the sound at the mixer console, operating an array of sliders which can be mapped to speakers or speaker groups. One point of the discussions was how that interface could be improved: instead of controlling the speaker output, one might imagine an interface which allows to control the sound sources directly.

Monday, February 02, 2009

"Worst" Snow in 18 Years - UK is in Crisis

A nice snowfall started on Sunday evening, with big flakes falling down. Today in the morning, the streets were covered with a few cm of snow. And as it happened in December, also this time the traffic broke down.
One of the reasons is of course that there is very rarely true snowfall here in the UK - winters are usually mild, and the temperature rarely falls below 0 C. But when it does, and when then a few snowflakes fall down, the country cannot cope with it because it is not as prepared as for example Canada, or the Northern US. There are too few "critters" (these are the vehicles which spay sand and salt). So many of the side roads remain snowy.
Also, nobody here ever puts winter tires onto their vehicles; I am not sure if they even exist here. So I experienced today when driving, what it means to drive uphill on a road full of snow sleet just with regular summer tires, and to feel the sliding to the side etc.
Snow kept intermittently falling today, sometimes just a bit of flurry, sometimes thick heavy flakes.
The weather report says we will get more snow through the night.