Thursday, May 29, 2008

Missing those nights...

Now here's something that sucks. It's past 11 p.m., I just finished dinner and I'm slowly settling in what could be a productive night. Except that it won't be because if I don't want to be a complete train-wreck when I get up at around 7 a.m. I should probably head to bed in about 2 hours.

Normally the hours roughly between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. tend to be my most productive ones. Plus that's also what I generally consider me time. For others me time might consist of doing sports, listening to music, doing something artsy, cooking, gardening, whatever. However for me it's the time of the day when I can really focus on the things I'm working on without too many external distractions. This is when it's easiest for me to hit a flow:
"Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity."
A large proportion of the articles and code that I have written in the past few years were produced during such a flow state which more often than not makes me go to bed at dawn. With my university lectures hardly ever starting before noon I can easily work until 4 or 5 a.m., still get enough sleep (4 1/2 ~ 6 hours) and get lots of stuff done.

My current situation forces me to get out of bed at 7 a.m. each day which cuts down my nightly flow-hours to often less than 3 hours. And that's simply not enough time to even come close to getting all the things on my many to-do lists done. Especially with all the increased activity via OLPC lately I often barely manage to answer all the e-mails I'm getting before having to call it a day.

Some (I know who you are!) might suggest adapting my rythm accordingly but that doesn't work. No matter how much I sleep, I'm pretty damn useless in the morning. Due to the current circumstances I've actually attempted to adjust a bit by getting up earlier than I'd really have to. That gives me time to quickly browse through my e-mails and reply to the 2 or 3 most important ones. But beyond that I can't get anything done (right) and so I'm actually reluctant to hit 'send' in the morning. More often than not I'm not thinking clearly at 7.30 a.m. so I've gotten into the habit of drafting e-mails but not actually sending them before 9 a.m. or so.

Anyway, before I spend more time ranting about the whole issue I better get this post out the door and focus on the 3 ~ 4 things I still want to get done today. Needless to say I'm very much looking forward to July when I'm done with my internship and will again be able to cherish all those nights that I'm missing these... nights.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Larry Page - 05/22/08 - Ronald Reagan Building

Even though I didn't have to go to work today (thanks to some Austrian holiday) I kicked myself out of bed at 7 a.m. The reason for that was Google's Larry Page being in town to speak about "Google Unwired, Expanding Broadband Access and Allocating Spectrum More Efficiently".

While the topic generally isn't something that gets me too excited I've been spending some time reading, thinking and talking about topics such as broadband and connectivity (obviously mostly in the larger context of OLPC). Initially Page seemed like a relatively dry speaker, often checking the notes on his BlackBerry. He did warm up a little and after about an hour and especially during the Q&A he appeared to be quite relaxed. My impression was that he is a relatively down-to-earth guy, well, as much as you can be when you own several billions and invented the best thing since sliced bread (literally!).

Google's Larry Page

He made several interesting comments, both on the topic of broadband connectivity and spectrum allocation and also other topics such as Google Android and the recent events regarding Microsoft and Yahoo. One of the key comments was when Page talked about "an open environment being good for business" which directly translated into more revenue for companies such as Google. Another interesting one was pointing out the fact that many people, especially in developing nations, already own a connected devices (a mobile phone) but still can't get online. The most outrageous idea he mentioned was an automated service that would auction off wireless spectrum similar to how Google's ads work...

Well, it was well worth getting up that early, as the session definitely provided lots of food for thought.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

3 quotes from 3 people

"Beer without vodka is money for the wind."
- a Russian proverb, according to my Russian neighbour

"Homosexuals caused Hurricane Katrina."
- a quote from an online forum linked to a Christian group

"Close but no cigar."
- something my neighbour's grandfather used to say (meaning of the phrase)

Can you tell that I had a good Wednesday night?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Back in tech-publishing...

Guess who the new co-editor over at OLPCnews is? Yes, that would be me. :-)

I am honoured to be able to take over the site from the one and only Wayan Vota who built this prime OLPC community over the past 2 years. Over the course of this week the transition from Wayan to the new editorial team consisting of me and Bryan Berry from OLE Nepal will be made. Earlier today Wayan posted this comment which was followed by a joint statement from Bryan and myself where we give a brief overview of our plans for the near future. I'm very much looking forward to taking OLPCnews into the "post-1CC" era, highlighting all the great things that are happening in OLPC communities around the world and I'm sure it will be a great experience.

On a more personal note, I find it interesting that after being the assistant manager (yes, I choose that title myself) over on for the better part of the past 5 years I only managed to stay away from tech-publications for a couple of months. As previously mentioned there's something about writing articles and comments on technology related subjects that I really enjoy. Looking ahead to the coming weeks and months until university starts again on October, 1st I'll be spending most of my waking hours writing one thing or another:
  • two feature articles for work
  • OLPCnews
  • additions to the OLPC Activity Handbook
  • updating this blog
These tasks should certainly keep me busy for awhile. Not that I was ever afraid of being bored! :-D

Monday, May 19, 2008

Only 55 minutes into a Monday...

...and this week is already off to a great start. More details to follow soon!

Anyway, I'll grab a couple of hours of sleep now as I indeed have a busy week ahead of me.

By the way, if you got a minute then check out Metro Station, they've been accompanying me all throughout the weekend.

Serj Tankian - 05/15/2008 - '9:30 Club' Washington, DC

As mentioned in my brief entry about the Apocalyptica concert I decided to go to the Serj Tankian (of System of a Down fame) concert when I found out that he was coming to town. Needless to say it was a great show!

I had spent a lot of time listening to his first record called "Elect the Dead" on his MySpace site where you can enjoy the complete album without any restrictions. The concert started with "Empty Walls" which I embedd here for your convenience (and because I want to look at the video again).

It was followed by the rest of his songs, obviously with only having one record out at the moment there weren't too many surprises. However it was definitely a very lifely concert, with a highly motivated audience that had a serious mosh pit going in front of the stage. Also with Serj Tankian being the crazy f*** that he is there's no chance of boredom. He catered to the crowd with some experimental music sessions which at times reminded me of minimal electro. While he also played the guitar a couple of times it's actually at the piano where he really shines. Plus of course there's his voice which when amplified by the 9:30 Club's great PA system makes for a very memorable experience in itself.

All in all another great concert to be remembered for a long time.

Unfortunately the outlook now is relatively grim as they're no good shows coming up in the forseeable future. Pearl Jam will be in town in mid-June but at $69 per ticket I'm not sure I want to go... Anyway, let's see what happens.

Update to the OLPC Activity Handbook

Back in January I mentioned that we had released the first edition of our OLPC Activity Handbook. Now it's my pleasure to announce a significant update to the handbook which we worked on over the past weeks and months. We have now included chapters on topics such as the Sugar user interface, datastore and collaboration, the Journal and XO Input Devices. The handbook was formally presented by my colleague Daniel Jahre at the Wiener Linuxwochen (Vienna Linuxweeks) on Friday.

At the moment the current version is only available as a pdf that's been optimized for print purposes (alternating margins, etc.) but we should have a normal version soon. I also hope to find an hour or two this week to upload some of the .py and .xo files that I produced for the handbook to the wiki entry.

I have to say that I'm quite happy to have reached this milestone. Going forward I definitely want to enhance the current material however I'll have to see how much spare time I have in the coming weeks and months as I'll have another significant committment starting tomorrow...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

13 hours of sleep

Oh my God, I can't even begin to tell you how unbelievably relaxed I feel. It's like I've received and physical and mental refresh. All thanks to the power of 13 hours of sleep which by the way is more than I got between Tuesday to Friday combined.

I know I could have joined my colleagues for the '60 Years of Berlin Airlift' show, spent the day outside in the sun, or gone to a museum. But you know what, sleeping all day and getting out of bed at 5:30 p.m. really was the best thing to do.

Now I'm off to do some Saturday chores such as a quick cleanup of my room, doing some laundry, buying groceries and cooking something. And then I'm off to a friend's party...

Can you tell that I'm thoroughly enjoying my start into the weekend? :-)

Friday, May 16, 2008


"Following Thurday's news about OLPC teaming up with Microsoft, Walter Bender - former president of software at OLPC - announced the launch of SugarLabs. Consistent with the OLPC mission to provide opportunities for learning, SugarLabs will focus on providing an open ecosystem that enhances learning on the XO as well as other hardware platforms."
Please digg!

More explanations and comments on the subject to follow over the coming days...

When you leave your computer...

...for 3 1/2 hours and have 94 news e-mail messages in your inbox upon your return, you know that the shit just hit the fan. At the speed of light that is.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Proclaiming the second coming of Klondike

My friend Igor from Handy Mobility proclaimed the second coming of Klondike in a recent posting on his blog. His argument is basically that thanks to the huge amounts of money that Google, RIM and others are throwing at mobile software developments these days it's gold rush season for mobile developers. Sayeth Igor:
"More young developers will dive into mobile. Another chance to create apps that are actually useful, without having to figure out a business model right away."
Ah, say what, again? Without having to figure out a business model right away? Good idea, really... I had thought we all learned our lesson from the bubble:
"A combination of ... widely available venture capital created an exuberant environment in which many of these businesses dismissed standard business models, focusing on increasing market share at the expense of the bottom line."
If you look closely most of the currently hip Web 2.0 sites are doing exactly the same thing. Yes, most of them aren't doing too shabby but at the same time I don't see YouTube, Digg, Facebook or whatever rolling in the big dough. None of them have been too successful when it comes to monetizing those eyeballs. Their main asset, their only asset, are the millions of eyeballs looking at their content. Therefore the main income of most of these sites is advertising. However there are only so many ads that you can display before people start migrating to other sites which means that you're losing your only asset. This in turn leads to the value of your business going down the drain.

Now, why do you think Google is spending so much money on the mobile market in general and Android specifically?

They want to increase the number of eyeballs looking at their ads.

Google has realized that there's only so many ads that you can squeeze into the currently available Web content. Turn it up a notch (or and people will start looking for alternatives. (Ever wonder why there are no ads on the Google frontpage even though at first sight this would make them a load of money?) For this reason Google is looking to tap a relatively untouched market: the mobile sector.

At the end of the day the company is betting that you will put up with a certain amount of (Google) ads in order to use services and applications running on the Android platform. Good for you, good for the people designing the service/application, good for Google. Now that's what I call a business model. However I'm not so sure whether this business model will also work for the people developing the services and applications. After all it's one thing to have an ad displayed on a Web site when you're sitting in front of a computer. But it's something entirely different to have to put up with ads on your mobile phone. I dare predict people are going to be significantly less tolerant there. So in my humble opinion people and companies will have to come up with another solution on how to make money with their mobile services and applications. Again, that's what I call a business model and without one I see little chance of anyone achieving sustainable success.

Now, here's an idea that I'm convinced will make tons of money down the road:

Develop a platform independent Adblock that runs on Android, Symbian S60, iPhone, BlackBerry, etc. and sell it for 10 bucks a pop.

How does that sound for a business model?

P.S. Igor, I briefly thought about sending you a link to this blog entry but knowing you there's a Google Alert set up for keywords such as Igor Faletski, Handi and mobscure so I'm certain that you'll read these lines quite soon... ;-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sic Transit Gloria Laptopi

If you're only going to read one thing about OLPC this week then it should be Ivan Krstić's 'last OLPC-related essay for the foreseeable future'. This is definitely a well-recommended read for a good insight into some of the ongoing discussions and their background. A job well done Ivan!

Monday, May 12, 2008

New article at

I just published an article that I co-authored with the one and only Bernardo Innocenti about why putting Windows XO XP on the OLPC XO laptop isn't a good idea. We touch upon topics such as translation, localization, long-term support, collaboration and power-management.

We conclude:
"In our opinion an open-source operating system on the XO offers a vast array of advantages compared to any proprietary solution. Some of these advantages might not be so visible at the moment but in the long run they're going to make a huge difference."
Will be interesting to see what kind of comments people leave below that story...

On a related note, I'm already in the brainstorming phase for my next comment for and hope to have it finished by the end of the week.

What I call a Sunday night...

What I call a Sunday night...

Uncle Ben's Country Inn: Broccoli Rice au Gratin, a glass of water, Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo 1435W laptop with lots of post-its: for documentation writing, a bottle of "Turn Me Red" Austrian Red Wine, a glass of wine: for keeping my sanity, OLPC XO laptop: for testing my Python code (from left to right)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Those damn vikings...

They always beat us. First China. Then America. And now this.

Thanks for the heads-up Daja!

Technology Review's article about OLPC in Peru

There's an interesting article about what's happening with OLPC in Peru in the current edition of Technology Review. While it doesn't contain any radically new information about the deployment and mostly focuses on the general environment and the experiences made at the pilot in Arahuay it's quite a nice read. My favourite quote comes up towards the end where it says:
"The success of OLPC can no longer be judged against ­Negroponte's early predictions and plans, nor by the technical merits of the laptop itself. Peru is what matters now."
...and Nepal, Uruguay and every other country where deployments and pilots are happening these days.

Regardless of all the bad press (no links necessary) and the occassional feel-good what really keeps me going is thinking of the potentially large impact that OLPC and similar initiatives and programs can have on people around the word.

And looking at this video (from the Technology Review article) I realize that I have to find a way to get back to Peru as soon as possible. I really want to visit some of these schools to gain a better understanding of what actually happens when you introduce ICT into educational settings and come up with ways to better disseminate that feedback to developers, the larger interested community and policy makers. Now that mission should certainly keep me busy over the next few years.

P.S. The second video that accompanies the article is also worth looking at!

Solar-powered Web server

My friend Steve over at has been into solar-powered computing for quite a long time. Being the kind of person who prefers actions rather than words to make a point he went on a 10-day bike-tour last year where he only relied on solar-energy to charge all his eletroic devices and he even finished with 80min of battery life.

This time 'round he is talking about hosting one of his Web (see?!) sites on a solar-powered Web server. He's planning on using a Raon Digital Everun S6S which consumes ~6 watts in a worst-case scenario.

It will certainly be interesting to see how it works out. As with many things these days I'm also interested in the results in the large context of the OLPC project as solar-powered servers are certanily something that could be very useful for the deployments in Peru, Nepal, Uruguay and elsewhere.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

An interview with Whozat? co-founder Alex Bäcker

As most of you know my internship here in Washington, DC is at the Office of Science & Technology at the Embassy of Austria. One of the things that kept me busy in the past 3 weeks was the crunch-period for bridges (I shall never forget the italics!), the OST's quarterly online-publication on science and technology. Having quite a thing for technology-related writing (see, and, and entries tagged with 'technology' here on the blog) I had a great time getting the job done. Even though at times my to-do lists were insanely long and I did quite a lot of overtime in the week before bridges was published.

I was also lucky to be able to do an interview with Alex Bäcker who is the co-founder of Whozat?. Whozat? is an interesting people search engine which uses real-time semantics to determine the meaning of words. My favourite part from the interview is the following excerpt:
"bridges: What are the biggest challenges that you’ve had to face while developing Whozat?

Alex Bäcker: When you’re starting something new with existing competition that has millions, as in the case of Spock, and billions, as in the case of Google, people are initially skeptical that a small start-up working out of a garage can actually do something that these companies haven’t done already. However the beauty is that you can actually prove that it works, which is very encouraging."
All in all the preparation, research and writing of this article was a lot of fun. On top of that I also learned a lot about the process behind a professional grade article. While I do have some experience when it comes online publishing over the past few years the environments where I worked were very different. It basically boils down to writing by geeks, for geeks. There simply aren't too many publications where an extensive 11-page review of the AMD GeodeLX DB800 Mini-ITX motherboard would fetch 50.000 hits. Plus normally I served as researcher, author, and editor with some input from my colleagues.

This time 'round I had to answer to an editor-in-chief. Plus my article was sent to a professional native copy-editor before we published it. It's safe to say that these two elements significantly improved the quality of the final work that I posted. Especially in terms of thinking about which audience I'm addressing, punctuation details and the overall style the input I got was invaluable. Who would have known that the 'w' in Web site is writen with a capital letter? At least according to the AP Stylebook which I'm definitely going to order before I leave the United States.

To cut a long story short: A great and very valuable experience! Already looking forward to the bridges vol. 18 where I started with some initial research this week.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The last time that I experienced that much rain...

...was during Computex 2007. I don't quite remember which day it was but I was pouring down to earth as though all of heaven's gates had opened at once. In fact the rain falling on the roof was so insanely loud that it even drowned out all the excessive noise (a.k.a. music) and booth announcements that were going on in Hall 2 at the time.

Same thing happened tonight, on the way from the cab, that dropped me off at the street corner, to the front door I got completely soaked!

Anyway, only 6 more hours before the alarm clock goes off (for the last time this week, yeah!) so I better turn off this machine and get to bed.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

DIY Gamepad for UT04 action on UMPCs

This guy built himself a gamepad for his Sony VAIO UX, presumably so he can frag other people while riding on an elevator or sitting in the bath-tub.

I certainly wouldn't mind having such a setup for either long commutes or regular LAN sessions (unless your laptop almost dies) because it would allow me to shred some buddies to pieces with my rocket-launcher while sitting on the couch.

Just watch the video to see what I'm talking about, lookin' pretty darn good, right?

More details can be found in this thread over on the Micro PC Talk forums.


Apocalyptica - 05/07/2008 - '9:30 Club' Washington, DC

As mentioned earlier today I spontaneously decided to go to the Apocalyptica concert which took place in the '9:30 Club' where I had also seen the Saul Williams concert a month ago. This was the third time that I saw Apocalyptica in concert - I had previously watched them in Vienna's Gasometer and afterwards at the Nova Rock Festival 2006. I really liked the show in Gasometer but was less thrilled by the performance at the festival. To me Apocalyptica doesn't really work at an enormous festival stage, especially not if performed at 6 p.m. or something. Rather the band should be in relatively small and private venues. Venues like the '9:30 Club'.

I really couldn't think of a better location as both the atmosphere and the sound were just perfect. The first song or so the drums seemed to be significantly louder than the cellos but adjustments were quickly made because afterwards the sound was really good.

In terms of the music itself it seemed to be significantly more experimental and crazy than what I remember hearing at Nova Rock 2006. In general I also like their latest album Worlds Collide from which they played a couple of songs. It's definitely an interesting experience to hear these songs, many of which come with vocals on the CD, in only acoustic versions. All in all they certainly performed a good mixture of old and new material, no complaints there!

The concert ended with Nothing Else Matters, still one of my all-time favourite songs, no matter whether it's played by Metallica or Apocalyptica.

Next stop: Serj Tankian (a must-see website) from System of a Down fame at 05/15/2008 in the '9:30 Club'.

Another great day!

My readers must be thinking that I'm constantly stoned or something with all my shiny-happy-Christoph postings these past few days... :-D

However I'm simply having another great day around here. A productive day at work with interesting assignments which will keep me busy for the next couple of weeks. Plus I decided to take off two days in early June so I can head up to Boston for 4 days to attend some interesting meetups at OLPC HQ. On top of that I spontaneously decided to go to an Apocalyptica concert tonight as another embassy employee had some spare tickets. Having previously thought about going to the show (but totally forgotten about the fact that it's on tonight) and with the tickets coming in at $15 it really wasn't a hard decision.

Plus I'm writing these lines sitting in the sun at Dupont Circle before I meet up with some embassy colleagues for beer and dinner.

And the outlook for tomorrow isn't to shabby either as my schedule tells me that the Austrian Happy Hour is on again and the venue just looks outstanding!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Move over iPhone...

I'm still happy with my Nokia 6120c for now but there's a couple of *very* interesting phones showing up these days. In terms of "oh-my-god-me-wants-to-have" my favourite is the HTC Touch Diamond which was introduced earlier this week. Coming up strong in the "I'm a tool, a very effective tool" category is the BlackBerry 9000 which really looks like a kick-ass product.

Don't get me wrong, I'm lusting for an iPhone just like the next guy - especially once it shows up with 3G in early June - however I do believe that these two alternatives and especially the BlackBerry 9000 could end up being better mobile productivity tools as compared to a fancy multimedia focused fashion-gadget.

This is why I love where I live...

So picture this: I came home at around 9 p.m. after a long and productive day at work and a nice but too short coffee meetup with a friend of mine. Two of my neighbors (one from the United States, one from Russia) were sitting on the porch behind the house and less than a minute after I sat down the question of whether anyone was up for a drink arose. Needless to say everyone was thirsty so for the next 3 hours we enjoyed a great mixture of homemade fruit juice and cheap vodka (thanks B.). All while talking about life, goals in life, sacrifices we make in our lives, discussing the differences between the educational systems in Europe, the USA and Russia before having a heated argument about statistics, their meaning and interpretations. Needless to say a good night was had by all!

And now while I'm walking down to the kitchen to grab some water, one of my new housemates - a guy from France who moved in last week but who I only met yesterday evening as I really hadn't been home before - looks at my AFS (the organization with which I went to Peru in 2000-2001) t-shirt and asks me whether I've participated in one of their programs. As it turns out he spent a year in New Jersey from 1998 to 1999.

It's evenings like this that show why I love where I live... :-)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Welcome to Google App Engine

Last Friday I received an e-mail informing me that my account had be set up for Google App Engine. In Google's own words:
"Google App Engine enables you to build web applications on the same scalable systems that power Google applications."
Sounds good, right?

Anyway, after watching this series of videos on YouTube I thought I'd give it a try. While I'm certainly not a Web 2.0 kinda guy I have followed the developments when it comes to Web services and applications quite closely. So I figure this time 'round I can actually get down into the trenches myself and do some coding. Obviously I have something OLPC-related in mind but I'm not quite ready to reveal what ideas my brain is crunching these days. I'd love to try and hack together a simple prototype right now but I'm too tired already but I hope to get something up and running tomorrow.

At the same time I'm currently working on several aspects of our OLPC Activity Handbook where I've also made some progress over the last few weeks and things will be coming together nicely over the coming days.

But now, sleep.

Nine Inch Nails releases latest album as a free download

In the words of the one and only Trent Reznor:
"as a thank you to our fans for your continued support, we are giving away the new nine inch nails album one hundred percent free, exclusively via

the music is available in a variety of formats including high-quality MP3, FLAC or M4A lossless at CD quality and even higher-than-CD quality 24/96 WAVE. your link will include all options - all free. all downloads include a PDF with artwork and credits.

for those of you interested in physical products, fear not. we plan to make a version of this release available on CD and vinyl in july. details coming soon."
It doesn't really get any better than this! I really love the fact that Trent Reznor is so forward thinking and with his attitude I'm certainly more than happy to support him by shelling out 40+ bucks for concert tickets. Plus "the slip" sounds like a great album, I only had a chance to listen to it once today during work but I've now copied it over to my iPod so I'm going to take a closer listen on my commute tomorrow morning.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A weekend in New York

As you can probably tell from my previous postings I was quite excited to go up to New York for the weekend. And rightfully so, in my opinion this is one of the best places to be and definitely very high up in my list of cities I want to live in. (Actually it's second to none!) The very moment I stepped out of the bus which took me from DC to NYC I felt... great! There's this weird feeling, most people would probably call it vibe, which tells me that this is an outstanding place to be in. While I've been to many great cities where I definitely wouldn't mind spending several weeks or months there, the number of places where I could really see myself living for an extended period of time is quite limited. In fact at the moment I can only think of Berlin, Barcelona and Vienna. Luckily I do live in one of these cities and I'm loving it! :-)

Anyway, back to my weekend in New York. The bus arrived at 2 p.m. and we (my colleague from the internship and I) proceeded to move into the apartment where we were staying. Earlier in the week I had had the great idea of checking craigslist for apartments in NYC and sure enough I found something outstanding. One block from Times Square in the heart of the city (and next to a Gentlemen's Club;-) and all that for the very affordable price of $55 per night per person. You really can't beat that!

So off we were to Times Square and - oh my God - had I forgotten just how overwhelming this place is. Needless to say I love it! I could easily spend a day or two just sitting there, sipping coffee and watching all the madness and people on the streets.

Given that the weather was quite acceptable and the forecast for the remaining days wasn't all that good we decided to take the ride up to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Back in 2000 when I was in NYC with my parents we also went up there but I remember not liking it that much. First of all because the weather was quite crappy when we were up there and secondly because I was spoiled by the view from the top of the World Trade Center. However this time 'round I actually really enjoyed it. Admittedly the conditions could have been a bit better and a little bit of sun would have done wonders to the quality of my photos. Having said that the view from the 86th floor is still quite stunning, my favourites are looking along 5th avenue towards Central Park, the top of the Crystler Building and lower Manhattan.

We then went up 5th avenue until we hit Central Park and strolled around there for a bit. The park is definitely an absolute highlight and just looking at all the skyscrapers while standing in the park is a great thing. In the evening we still wanted to grab a beer somewhere and after some deliberation we decided to head towards an area on the Lower East Side which promised to have some interesting bars. Unfortunately we ended up walking through relatively empty streets and somehow we missed the area so we didn't really find anything. So in the end we went back up to Times Square and went into an Irish Pub that was close by.

Friday started with a trip down to Battery Park at the very south end of Manhattan. Since there's really little point in waiting in line for 2 to 3 hours just to visit the Statue of Liberty (which is mostly closed to visitors anyway) we took the free ferry over to Staten Island. Again the weather conditions could have been better but especially the approach to Manhattan on the return trip was still quite impressive with the view of all the skyscrapers. We then walked up a bit to the World Trade Center Site (as it's called these days). There the most amazing thing happened as I bumped into a friend from Vienna! Isn't that crazy, I mean really, what are the chances? Talk about the world becoming smaller and turning into a global village. This is certainly a story that I'll still be telling 50 years down the road.

Back to the World Trade Center Site. I'm not quite sure how to describe how I felt while walking around the construction site. All the images from 9/11 came rushing back to me. I thought of my previous visit in 2000 when the World Trade Center was definitely one of the if not the highlight of the city. It was simply overwhelming to stand in front of this enormous skyscraper, then slightly turn your head, and look at an identical 2nd tower. This time though I was looking at a hole where these buildings used to be. Already from both the Empire State Building and the Staten Island Ferry it was obvious that something was missing in lower Manhattan. The other buildings all looked slightly out of place. I can't quite describe it but it does feel as though the heart of the whole area has been ripped out in one violent motion...

After this slightly depressing experience we proceeded towards City Hall and consequently headed over Brooklyn Bridge. This is another one of those unique sites that makes New York so special. The bridge in itself is spectacular and so is the view towards both lower and upper Manhattan. From Brooklyn we headed to Chinatown and Little Italy to stroll around a bit and get some lunch. Having been to Taiwan and China in the past years I obviously wasn't quite as impressed with the area as last time but it's still a good place to spend an hour or two.

Back up at Times Square I went to an interesting photography exhibition at the International Center for Photography before we got some tickets for the evening's Broadway show of Marry Poppins which we went to with my friend from Vienna and her travel companion. Admittedly I know nothing about musicals but I did find the show quite entertaining. The second act wasn't too great but the 90min of the first act went by very quickly. What I liked best was the stage design, both the 'special effects' and all the sets were really quite amazing! Plus being in New York I felt like I almost had to go to a Broadway show anyway. Though next time I'll probably go for a play that's both cheaper and more exciting. I also had the semi-regular "I should really go to theater performances in Vienna" thought but that quickly passed.

Saturday until noon was spent walking all the way down from Times Square through Chelsea, Greenwich Village and SoHo. (Useless fact #860: Did you know that SoHo stands for South of Houston, which is the street that designates the beginning of the district.) Chelsea is a nice residential area but all in all not too exciting. Things really started to pick up once I saw the Flatiron building which is quite the sight. From there we went down to Union Square which featured a very nice market with lots of organic food and artists who sold cool things such as this t-shirt which I obviously had to get:

$20 well spent

Moving right along we headed to Washington square where many of New York University's buildings are located. I certainly wouldn't mind my university being in such an area, don't get me wrong, I enjoy Vienna's Karlsplatz just like the next guy (or maybe even more) but I'd swap it for Washington square and the surrounding buildings in a heartbeat. Next we walked through Greenwich Village, definitely one of the nicest neighborhoods I've ever seen. Lots of young people on the streets, cool bars and cafes to hang out, nice buildings, relatively quiet streets,... All in all I imagine this being a really good place to live in. SoHo on the other hand is probably the place to do some serious shopping these days. From an Apple store in a beautiful building that used to host the post office to inviting delis and shops the area just screams "spend your cash here if you're cool!!!". While walking through these streets and taking in all the fascinating scenery I couldn't help but think how unbelievably great it would be to live in Greenwich village, shop in SoHo and work somewhere in lower or upper Manhattan. Unfortunately there's this tiny issue of having to pay the bills for such a life-style plus admittedly I don't think I'm cool enough to actually live in those areas. So that bubble quickly burst.

Saturday afternoon was spent completing another one of the items on my "things to be done in NYC" list: sitting in a baseball stadium and watching the New York Yankees while drinking beer, eating a hot dog and waving a foam hand. Ain't I predictable? The time went by very quickly, not necessarily because the game itself was that exciting (it wasn't) but rather because I simply enjoyed the atmosphere in the stadium that much. Some United States Special Forces members being introduced one-by-one before the game. The singing of the national anthem. The guys walking through the ranks and selling beer, hot dogs and peanuts. The Yankees fan behind me who was shouting all the time. The guy in front of me who was overly excited and jumped up even before things got interesting. And so on. If that pipe-dream of mine about living in New York were to come true I'd certainly go to a game every now and then. Because really, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than being in a stadium and having beer and hot dogs ? (Now that doesn't really sound like me at all, right?)

The evening was again spent with together with the other two Viennese folks, first drinking some beers in a cool southern-like pub before moving into a bar/club with decent and danceable music where a great time was had by all.

On Sunday the last few hours in the city were spent the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which is definitely amongst the best museums I've ever been in. I particularly liked one of the special exhibitions which is called "Design and the Elastic Mind". It showcased a large variety of unique designs ranging from "Accessories for Lonely Men" over the OLPC XO, nano-bio kits and "Pixeltape" to visualization of complex data. Good stuff indeed! Unfortunately the photography section was closed but obviously there were enough other great things to look at.

The weekend ended on a high note with an extensive walk through Central Park. There really is no better place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than Central Park! The atmosphere is extremely relaxed, thousands of people and are strolling about, sitting on benches and lawns, others are enjoying a ball game, bike or jog around the park and the more artistic people play an instrument, take photos or draw something. It really is quite a unique feeling to be there and be able to enjoy the scenery.

Afterwards it was time to slowly head back to the apartment and then to get on the bus which took me back to Washington, DC.

All in all a great weekend in an outstanding city! I'll definitely try to head back to NYC for two or three days in the week before I fly home to Europe...

P.S. This certainly being the longest blog post I've ever written. Plus it was all written while traveling from NYC to DC thanks to the free wifi on the bus. After all, what better way to spend a 4h ride than doing some serious blogging? Especially since I really don't feel like dealing with the 220+ e-mails that have arrived in my inbox since Thursday morning... By the way, it was a good idea to bring along the OLPC XO as it made for a great travel companion.

from here I blog

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bloggin' on the bus...

I'm currently sitting on the bus from Washington, DC to New York and thanks to the bus offering free wifi I can surf the web, check my e-mails and blog. How cool is that? :-)

P.S. Yeah, I can see Manhatten already!

16 more hours to go...

New York City, here I come! :-)