Archive for January, 2004

Darmstadt, office, home.

Saturday, January 31st, 2004

This weekend I will stay in Darmstadt. It has been a while since I did this the last time. It might have been during last year’s fall, and it seems to me that the weather must have been nice enough to go to the Biergarten and enjoy outdoor sociability. This weekend the program will have to be different. Much lounging in the common office of our Kolleg; tomorrow night will be spent with a few other collegiates in the Sumpf (engl. swamp or marsh) – an institution in Darmstadt’s pub landscape I was told. Perhaps I’ll report on this event. Other than that? Not much I guess. Some work on my project, perhaps an ethnographic field visit to the train station here in Darmstadt, some online gaming on the Avengers of Coramir server, perhaps a Linux install on one of the college’s machines here in our common office?


Thursday, January 29th, 2004

Hopefully, I will post this entry while in the DB Lounge, sipping at a self-mixed “Apfelschorle”, and recharching the batteries of my PowerBook. The DB Lounge in Frankfurt Hbf is located nicely remote in the “Reisezentrum” – you have to climb a stairway, pass a traveller’s cafe and then walk through a small opening in a wall made of light wood (beech?) and opaque glass panels. Proving your VIP status by showing your bahn.comfort card at the entry counter you get access to free newspapers and magazines (though no take away) and free hot beverages, juices and soda pops. Additionally, there are six somewhat separated workplaces where you can get power and ethernet access (there also is a wireless LAN available, which works nicely with my PowerBook). Perhaps I’ll take a picture of this location at some point of time – the way high-tech is presented at this special, access-restricted location might be quite interesting for my project… Also, it is of course nice to lounge and do fieldwork at the same time.

Railway, landscapes and snow.

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

If only I would have had more time to sit back and watch things pass by on today’s railway trip from Frankfurt to Berlin. It has been a constant change of white, snow covered fields, sunny green meadows, grey skies and snowy hills, misty stretches and heavy snowfall, filling the air with a white-speckled light grey. Trees with snow covered branches have always been one of my top favorites visual aesthetic pleasures. I hope the temperatures stay below zero degrees Celsius; otherwise this particular tree-adornment will quickly dissolve into unpleasant wetness.


Sunday, January 25th, 2004

This weekend I will not indulge myself in any work/science related activities anymore. The presentation on Friday went well, I am motivated to continue, but first I will enjoy the wintry whiteness outside through my windows. Hehe.

PS: Happy birthday Tino!

Hamburger Schule.

Saturday, January 24th, 2004

Es ist doch immer wieder großartig, Jungs aus der Heimat zu hören. Heute während der Heimfahrt hab ich zum ersten Mal mit wirklicher Muße das Album “Blast Action Heroes” von den Beginnern gehört. Nicht nur der angenehm zwischen feinsinnig und krude changierende Witz ist tipp topp (am liebsten mag ich vielleicht die Zeile “dann ist mir das wie Kaffee Latte” – Hey! Ho! muß ich da rufen… ); ich mag auch das Lied über Schily und Schill mit seinem netten pseodobiografischen Versen zu zwei wirklich finsteren Gestalten unserer politischen Landschaft. Weiter so, Dicker! Ich groove mich hier durch die Zeit im ICE Abteil und hab ein ernsthaftes Lächeln auf den Lippen. So soll es sein.

Baking bread.

Saturday, January 24th, 2004

Today I presented the provisionary first results of my fieldwork. The thing went reasonably well. The technological setup worked, the projector projected, the PowerBook booted, the external harddisk revolved and the video clips that I recorded at the Darmstädter Hauptbahnhof (main station) and cut during the last weeks stuttered over the screen. My trusty old Pismo Powerbook is a bit underpowered for this kind of high-quality DV movie material presentation, and I am hoping to be able to upgrade its processor during the semester break. Getting back to the point: what kind of video clips did I present though?
The first half of the session was to be about my involvement as a participant observer in the field, or, to be more precise, my impact as a DV camera wielding researcher on the people walking through the station. This went quite well and got a few laughs (I hope to be putting some of the sequences online as soon as I have figured out a way to hide the identity of some of the people that could be identified). The only thing that irritated me was that several people asked me what the sequences which I presented have to do with technology, since we are in a post-graduate college with the title “technology and society.” Well, as I said before I started the presentation, technology in the form of ticket selling machines would be the focus of the second part of the same presentation that they currently witness. Mpf.
I had less time for the second part than I would have liked. Quickly scratching trough the two remaining clips I wanted to demonstrate the first (micro-)sociological result of my work so far: it appears that ticket selling machines generate some ambiguity after the transaction should be finished, that is after the tickets have been printed. I will be analyzing this in more detail, but I want give you some kind of hint of what is happening. After people extract their tickets (which in itself is not always an easy process) it seem to be unclear if the interaction with the machine is actually finished. People turn to leave the machine but then look over their shoulders, even going back to the machine (sometimes in spite of displaying signs of being in a hurry) to check if the interaction is actually finished. Why is that? A possible explanation would be, that the machine does not obey the rules of personal interaction that demand a recognizable token of completion of the interaction and/or a closing remark similar to a verbal or gestual good bye.

What does all of this have to do with baking bread you might ask yours truly. Well, as I was sitting in the local train from Darmstadt to Frankfurt I found a nice introduction for the letter which I have to write to the DB AG (German Railway) representative who has to grant me the right to make further video recordings at train stations: As the mills of science grind slowly I can not yet offer you much. However, I have produced enough flour to bake a small roll for you. With more time in the field I will be able to produce enough flour to bake a bread. Perhaps we can even add a cake as dessert. I am not sure if this is the absolutely appropriate form to address these people. Whatever.

Laughing ladies.

Saturday, January 24th, 2004

This wednesday Calendar Girls was the evening’s entertainment. The movie was presented in one of the larger show rooms in Darmstadt’s Helia movie theater (no. 2). The room was not exactly crowded, but there was a decent number of people present. As we figured out quite soon, the largest part of these people were women of the age 35+. Tending to be a bit more of the ripe side of life so to speak. They obviously really liked to movie – several times they burst out into what might be called an impressively decibel rich kind of laughter. Lars and I (and no, I am not schizophrenic) also liked the movie. However, there were a few formal and content-related weaknesses. The speech of the two main protagonists in front of the WI‘s main assembly was not at all convincing and a few other scenes were not plausible and/or aesthetically rich enough to make this movie a completely smooth experience. It does not come very close to movies such as Brassed Off (IMDb) or Billy Elliot (IMDb).
Take a look at the trailer, if you want to get an impression yourself.

New features.

Monday, January 19th, 2004

I added some new stuff to the blog. In the column to the right you can now choose a category by which to browse this blog. This was always possible – you had to click on the category link below the article to do that. As not everybody is technical-minded enough to use this feature in such an implicit way, I put explicit links to the main categories into the sidebar.
The other feature is really new; I had to install a plug-in for blosxom to enable this feature. The plug-in is called recentwritebacks. It allows everybody to add the ending “?recent=x” (without quotes and a number instead of the x) to the URL of my blog and then see all entries that were commented during the specified last x (number) of days. To make this feature more accessible I put a new link into the sidebar which takes you to the entries commented during the last week. Check it out!

Frankfurt/Oder und siebzehn Hippies.

Sunday, January 18th, 2004

Endlich, lange Zeit nachdem der Film in den Kinos lief, habe ich Halbe Treppe gesehen. Der Film ist zu einem großen Teil aus improvisierten Szenen zusammengeschnitten, die Akteure haben sich lange Zeit mit dem Milieu vertraut gemacht und der Imbiß auf der halben Treppe existiert tatsächlich – all diese Aspekte, zusammen mit einer guten Kamera und hervorragenden Darstellen (wie dem großartigen Axel Prahl) verleihen dem Film eine besondere Kraft und Authentizität. Der Film ist zwar nicht sooo unglaublich super, wie ich nach all den Empfehlungen erwartet hätte, aber er ist immer noch unbedingt sehenswert. Die 17 Hippies tragen natürlich das Ihrige zu der außergewöhnlichen Atmosphäre des Films bei. Die DVD ist sehr gut produziert und beinhaltet viele interessante und gut gemachte Extras.

Spreading blogness.

Sunday, January 18th, 2004

Today I have registered this blog at several sites:,, and
We’ll see if that has an effect and what the effect will be. Any potential new visitors to this blog: you are welcome!


Wednesday, January 14th, 2004

Hmm, eigentlich dachte ich, heute zum ersten Mal in den vollen Genuss meines neu erlangten Status als bahn.comfort Kunde zu kommen und ich Frankfurt am Main in der DB Lounge Zeitungs- und Getränke Völlerei zu betreiben, aber leider hat der Wecker zu spät geklingelt, so dass ich nicht mehr den Zug bekommen habe, der mir einen ausreichend langen Aufenthalt im Frankfurter Bahnhof gestattet hätte. Schade. Einen für bahn.comfort Kunden vorreservierten Platz habe ich auch nicht in Anspruch nehmen müssen, da eh genug Platz war… Immerhin: die neue Bahncard, die ich zugeschickt bekommen habe ist nicht mehr einfach weiss, wie die normalen Bahncards 25 und 50, sie ist silbern wie die Bahncard 100 (alias Netzkarte)! Das ist natürlich schon mal ziemlich cool und hat mich mit großem Stolz erfüllt. Vielleicht war der Schaffner ja sogar deshalb so nett? Man weiss es nicht. So einfach kann man mich zufrieden stellen. Mehr über dieses spannende Thema, sobald ich das erste Mal in der DB Lounge war.

Who am I?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2004

Basic questions like these get answered where? In sociologiy, of course. In a brief essay which I wrote while riding the train today I am dealing with a certain method or a methodological stance in the field of sociology: Ethnomethodology. What this is and what Ethnomethodology has to do with me and my project can be read in the essay, which is titled Am I An Ethnomethodologist?

Back on track.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

I have now fully recovered myself from the illness and took same as an excuse to get involved in some playing of Neverwinter Nights ;-) Today has been a day of work, although it has been hampered somewhat by problems of my system harddisk which made booting the machine not work anymore. I did not want to fiddle around with the file system because the install that I am currently running is not at all fresh (I think I just updated incrementally from OS X 10.1 to 10.3.2 – which surprisingly worked without problems). So I took this as an ocassion to reformat the disk, and reinstall the system plus all needed apps. Myth would have that everything should now be Snappier™, only I don’t perceive any special snappiness. Well, whatever. At least I got rid of some really old apps and files and not-used-anymore settings. Feels good too. (And leaves me with an additional 12 GB of harddisk space.)

The rocket: a movie clip.

Saturday, January 10th, 2004

Kerstin has posted a movie on her site. It seems that the Free University’s web server does not know the .mp4 ending of the movie file and sends it as plain text. If that happens to you and you see garbled text in your browser window instead of a movie or a dialogue asking you to save the file, you can either save the garbled text to disk and then open it with the movie player of your choice (VLC or QuickTime should do the job) or you go back and then right click on the link and select to save it to your disk. Complicated, I know. I just send a “bug report” to the webmaster requesting correct configuration of the web server. We’ll see if that helps.

Postscript: 53 minutes after I sent the e-mail to the zedat’s (FU Berlin computer dept.) support address I got the following reply:

Hallo Herr Frers
* Lars Frers <> [09.01.04 15:37]:
> Meine Vermutung ist, das der Apache Server der zedat mit der
> Dateiendung .mp4 nichts anzufangen weiss und die Dateien deshalb mit
Ihr Vermutung war richtig, wir haben den entsprechenden MIME-Type nachgetragen.
Mit freundlichen Gruessen,
Philipp Grau

I must say I am impressed by the speed with which the dealt with this problem. Kudos!


Friday, January 9th, 2004

Kerstin has made her own website. The URL is – on this page you will find a link to the photos she took in Finland. Enjoy!

Attention: be prepared for crazy layout experiments on the site linked in this entry! ;-)

Some summarizing.

Thursday, January 8th, 2004

The last month has been excellent. The trips to Paris, Milano and Finland were all really intriguing.

I was so much fun to be in Paris for the first time and it left me wondering why it took me so long to visit Paris in the first place (expecially since I have been to France at least once a year for over ten years now… ) It is a great city, with a much better and warmer atmosphere then I expected. It also was a lot of fun to venture there with all the nice people from my post-graduate college. Soon I will have a bunch of photos taken during this trip posted to the web.

Milano has some great food to offer, Florian’s and Rita’s place is very nice and the intermingling of Italian and German people at their party was really nice. If you haven’t been to Milano, don’t expect to much of the Scala’s architecture, one could say it is quite modest. However, it is currently being renovated and it is famous for what is happening inside and for its acoustics. The glass-roofed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. and the Duomo are stunning sights and I thouroughly enjoyed walking around on the roof of the duomo. Look out for pictures and perhaps a movie clip of this trip too!

Though it was not at all cold when we arrived with the ferry in Turku, Finland, the temperatures soon declined to between -12 and -20 degrees Celsius. We had just a little snow which was perfect for our nordic skiing excursions on the lake right in front of the mökki that we stayed in. Timo’s parents also have a seperate sauna mökki which we used quite often. We worked a hole into the ice on the lake and took (pretty short) dives into it to “freshen up” after leaving the sauna. Yes, that was quite cold, but then again, the air in the sauna is quite hot and it is refreshing. Timo also build excellent ice lamps around the hole, so the whole thing was an aeshtetic pleasure too. Kerstin took some neat pictures which she should be able to convert with iPhoto to a nice enough web page for your pleasure too. Finally, let me tell you again that boat trips can be quite exciting! Definitely the best way to travel.


Thursday, January 8th, 2004

Hello, hello. The day after I came back from our new year’s trip to Finland the flu got me. Therefore I have spent yesterday and today in bed, and I am looking forward to changing my diet from “Zwieback” (dried bread for small children) to something more exciting in the near future. Today at least I am able to look at a screen for more then a few minutes without being exhausted – which enables me to pick up blogging again! Look out for more entries in the nearest future.