Sebastian Kirsch: Blog

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Holidays in Slovenia

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 10:43

Since my thesis is progressing well (at least, both my advisor and me think so), I took a week off for some holidays, to clear out my head and get some change of scenery.

Same as last year, I went to Slovenia, to the town of Bovec, near the Triglav National Park in the north-west of Slovenia.

I booked a one-week whitewater kayaking course on the river Soča. The Soča is famous as one of the most beautiful rivers for whitewater kayaking in Europe. It is situated in the Julian Alps, a limestone mountain range. Over thousands of years, the river has carved itself into the soft rock and formed numerous ravines.

Whitewater kayaking is tremendous fun. We had a very good teacher (kudos to Dany) who made me feel safe at all times, and who always seemed to know when I needed a word of encouragement or approval. During those five days, we paddled everything from after the 3rd gorge to Česzoča, and from Žaga to the end of the graveyard section, just before the slalom course starts. This last section (the “graveyard section", called that way because there’s a graveyard at the end of it) in particular made me think, “I wish I was better at this, so I could enjoy this stretch more.” I’m definitely going to look for a kayak club when I’ve finished my diploma and found a job, and take up kayaking in earnest.

I booked the course via Sport Radermacher, and can wholeheartedly recommend them.

Saturday, 20 August 2005

Armistead Maupin: Maybe the Moon

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 19:26

[cover]Most people will know Armistead Maupin from the hugely successful “Tales of the City” series, a kind of poor man’s “Sex and the City” of the early nineties.

The author with the unpronouncable first name (allegedly a mangled version of the German “Darmstadt") wrote another, less well-known book at the same time: “Maybe the Moon” is the fictional diary of one Cadence Roth, actress, and all of 31 inches tall. Cadence is the world’s smallest actress; her star role was the lovely elf Mr. Woods in a fantasy blockbuster – hidden under a latex costume and uncredited. Her diary chronicles her attempts to gain recognition as an actress in an industry that has no need for dwarves and freaks. The tone is much like the Tales of the City – funny, sympathetic, and strong.

The real-life inspiration for Cadence Roth was Tamara De Treaux, who helped operate the E.T. puppet in Steven Spielberg’s movie, but was only credited as “Special E.T. Movement", not as an actress who portrayed E.T.

Tuesday, 09 August 2005

FrOSCon ahoy!

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 21:22

I am pleased to report that my local linux user group, the LUUSA (Linux/Unix User Group St. Augustin), is co-organizing a conference next year, and the web pages have just gone on-line.

The FrOSCon (Free and Open Source Conference) (deutsche Seiten: FrOSCon) is taking place on 29th/30th of April, 2006, in St. Augustin, near Bonn, Germany. A call for papers is expected in November.

Spread the word, and all that.

Mark Haddon: The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 21:06

[cover]I am finishing so many books at the moment that I hardly find time to write about them all. So in order to catch up on my backlog, the next few review will be rather shorter.

Mark Haddon’s “The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime” is a detective story – but a rather unusual one: It is written from the perspective of a 15-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s syndrome is usually described as a “mild form of autism". People with Asperger’s usually have extreme difficulty in social interaction, up to the complete inability to see a situation from another person’s point of view, or complete lack of perception of other people’s feelings and state of mind. Even a slight change in the daily routine may provoke a mental breakdown. At the same time, they are often highly skilled at maths and analytical thinking, which led Wired to label Asperger’s “the geek syndrome”. A flurry of reactions ensued, leading to many people recognizing themselves in the symptom lists and diagnosing themselves as “Asperger"; the most well-known example is Bram Cohen, author of the peer-to-peer filesharing program BitTorrent.

Anyway, back on topic. Christopher is 15 years old, likes order and numbers, especially prime numbers, does not like the colours yellow and brown, and classifies days as “good", “super-good” or “bad” depending on the cars he sees on his way to school. When the neighbour’s dog is brutally murdered, he goes on a journey to find out the miscreant – but which leads him much further, to London by train, and eventually to a reunion with his mother, thought dead for many years.

The book is fascinating in that it allows one a glimpse of what an aspie’s mind might be like, how he might feel like: An entirely logical and literal mind, without feelings or compassion. This view on human customs and behaviour puts many thing into perspective that one takes for granted. It was also a very fast read, since it is written at, well, the mental level of a 15-year-old – so even if you do not enjoy it, it will not take you very long.


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