My little piece of Greece

I am now moved into my first ever apartment in a foreign country. Up until this point, I have lived in a university residence and a hotel — not including time spent with relatives. Now I am a tenant in an apartment (albeit a short term tenant). I can see why I am paying an extra 100€ per month to live here — my apartment is a fair bit bigger than Daniel's. Functionally they have the same things in them, but I have a bit more space. And while I enjoy having the extra space, I'm not so sure I really need it. I only come back to my apartment to sleep and I spend most of my waking time at the university. But now that I have a desk to work on in my apartment, I might feel more inclined to do work. As long as I don't need it, I find that the internet just proves to be a distraction.

One other thing I think that I should clarify, but I suspect will be clear once you see the photos, is that my apartment is more of a room than anything else. Essentially what in Canada would be called a bachelor apartment. Only I was spoiled in the one bachelor I lived in which was both bigger and better furnished. However, this "studio" apartment is all that I need for the two months I have left. Wow. Only two months left. I really don't know what we've been doing for this past month, but it has raced by. I suspect that the remaining almost two months will also slip by pretty quickly.

1Feb
Location: Αρριανου 10, Θεσσαλονικη @ 14:55

Additional photos

I added a new link on my sidebar to a recent batch of Q's photos. He has a lot more photos from around the city for a couple of reasons. The first being his camera fits in his pocket. The second being that he actually goes out places. Apparently.

In any case, they are well worth checking out.

2Feb
Location: AUTh Lab, Thessaloniki @ 14:39

Rain or internet?

No one likes it when it rains. Except maybe gardeners, those living in really arid conditions or melancholy poets. The funny thing is that when I discovered it was raining, I had literally only minutes before come from a room where my sole purpose was to pour water on myself. I guess if I were to add some shower gel, a sponge and minus my clothes, a trip anywhere outside might seem a bit more reasonable — if not entirely socially unacceptable.

I really have little right to complain — it hardly ever rains here, and it IS Sunday, so I don't need to go anywhere. And in any of my other apartments or rooms I've lived in the past 6 years or so I would have been all for doing just that. But here, I've accumulated a couple of things that I would like to look up/do on the internet and I had hoped to spend a couple of networked hours doing just that. Of course, no one will read this post until I manage to do just that, but therein lies the question: rain or internet.

I've never been one for getting dressed and packing up my computer only to walk in the rain for ten minutes. I could get a bus, and if I do decide to venture out in the rain, that is likely what I will be doing. My real concern is that I'll get packed up, head out, arrive at the school and find those who were supposed to open the lab had chickened out like I am contemplating. Then what? I have a strong feeling that the internet will win this battle especially if the rain starts to abate in the next couple minutes. Or I can plastic wrap all my electronics and jump headlong into the fray. I'll keep you posted on this epic struggle. ;)

The internet won. :)
5Feb
Location: Arrianou, Thessaloniki @ 6:53

The Great of Taste

On Saturday night, my four Guatemalan friends and I ordered a few pizzas and had ourselves a bit of a subdued little party in Sissi's room/apartment. It was a lot of fun, and the pizza we ordered from Romea Pizza was better than expected. In the pizza department we hadn't been very impressed so far with the various offerings around the city. I also managed to witness some of the downright worst parking I'd ever seen. Cars and trucks strewn about anywhere where there was just enough space for them.

As usual when I get together with any of my friends in a social setting, the conversation turned toward language. Primarily because I'm trying to learn spanish and secondarily because english is my first language and therefore know the 'proper' way to say certain things — and am especially helpful with the idiomatic parts of the language. It is sobering when someone asks you something about your native language and you really have no idea — be it an expression, or simply why something is said the way it is. It also makes me realize how little formal grammar I know — at least in english. My french grammar is better than my english grammar. I will say I'm re?-learning some of my grammar while learning spanish with the fact that they often drop the subject pronoun and the object pronoun precedes the verb in a sentence. Things like this keep me on my toes.

That brings me to the title of my post, “The Great of Taste” — it was written on the pizza boxes we received. I used it as an example of something that makes no sense in english. Translated literally into spanish I was told that it would make sense and I suspect that is also the case with greek. Maybe Ion can shed some light on that fact. In fairness, even though it makes no literal and syntactic sense, most people would know what the message was: The Great Taste?, The Taste of Greatness? I'm not sure if I'd go that far, but it was at least the taste of goodness. ;)

7Feb
Location: AUTh CC Lab, Thessaloniki @ 4:02

A little something different

Today was a bit of a departure from my usual routine of wake up, school, eat, lab, eat, sleep. The day started off fairly normally, I shaved, packed a sandwich into my bag and went to school for my 10:00 lecture. At noon, we moved to the central computer room for a practical lab exercise. We had to use a demo database provided for us in MS SQL Server and essentially write some queries to find certain information. So I could have used one of the PCs available in the lab and connect like most of the others, instead I was feeling particularly petulant and decided to see what I could do on my laptop. Long story short — I did the lab exercise without even opening the database.

After that was over, I called Ion and headed to his place for "coffee", which turned out to be a thinly veiled excuse to get some PHP help. ;) I did get some cookies and orange juice though, so I went away satisfied. Then I got on the bus (#8) and headed to IKEA. Since IKEA left Nova Scotia before I can remember, I hadn't actually been in one before — the closest I came was reading their catalogue on a couple of occasions. It is a pretty big IKEA in Thessaloniki too and I found a number of the items I was looking for: pillow, floor mats, blanket, and a bed cushion to put under my fitted sheet because, why not? I overestimated the width of my bed, but everything seems to work out fine anyway. I also bought a nice little desk lamp for 3.95€. I'm attaching a photo of my new colour scheme. :)

Insert at this point a couple of hours of getting back home, then going to the lab for a bit and it was time for my authentic greek meal experience with Ion. Originally a couple of the Guatemalans were supposed to join us, but the timing just didn't work. Regardless, we went to a ταβερνα and it was a fine meal with plenty of meat, potato and cheese. The dessert was also quite tasty and the whole experience was very enjoyable. I must admit that I was really glad that Ion was there because I have no idea what was said during any of the transaction with the proprietors of the ταβερνα and while most people do speak some English, the conversations are often more awkward. Just like this one.

My new IKEA gear.

8Feb
Location: Arrianou, Thessaloniki @ 17:42

A trip to the edge of somewhere

Yesterday was another departure from the normal routine. It started with our accounting professor showing up over 50 minutes late. It continued when he left about 45 minutes early — but not until after assigning us some homework to finish by the end of the month. So we were left in the classroom waiting because our next class was actually a field trip of sorts to the HCI lab at which our professor works. So the remaining few who remained in the classroom as opposed to going elsewhere on campus decided to use our time to watch the beginning of a movie on the projector in the room. We got about a quarter of the way into Fantastic Four before we decided that we should get ready to catch the bus.

We were told to take bus number 10 to the end of the line and our TA would be waiting. So we go outside and cross the street to wait for bus 10 (which I had verified that morning did in fact stop at the bus stop in front of our building). We waited a few minutes and finally the number 10 arrived — and it was full. Standing room only. Normally along my usual route I would have waited for a less full bus, but we were told the 10, so we had little option. And it wasn't like trying to squeeze yourself onto a bus — there were around 10 of us. It was also the first time on a Greek bus for some of these people. After squeezing on, the next stop saw another 5 or so Mundus students get on. The bus ride lasted at least 20 minutes. At the end of the line we found the TA and some of our colleagues who must have taken an earlier bus. We then got on the 66 and headed towards somewhere. It was a pretty desolate looking part of the city if we were even still in the city. We got off the bus when the TA did and then followed him up a road with no sidewalk to the HCI lab which didn't look like much from outside.

I personally didn't think it was much from the inside either, but that is another story. After spending a little bit too much time there, we headed back to the bus stop. We managed to make our way back to familiar territory and a couple of us had a late lunch at Roma Pizza. Then it was back to the lab and the rest of the day passed just as one would expect: in front of the computer — living out my own personal ergonomic hell.

11Feb
Location: AUTh Lab, Thessaloniki @ 8:33

Family affairs

Well, the image says it all. Unless English isn't your first language, then the colloquial use of the phrase "out to lunch" might not convey the same dry humour that is carries for me. In any case, that is simply an aside to my real reason for posting. It turns out that my family is becoming quite the roving band of globetrotters. As you all should know by now, I am in Greece, Out to lunch but what you may not know is that my youngest brother, Devon, is going to Brazil in about a month. Around that same time, my second youngest brother, Peter, is going to Italy and France. If that weren't enough, my mom and dad are going on a Caribbean cruise in April.

I think that it is all great because international travel is a real character building experience, especially if you are young. It opens your eyes to potentially new cultures and languages. Granted that the internet is helping "shrink the world" these days, but it isn't the same as being there. There are early plans for my family to embark on a European tour at some point when I'd be able to join them. Deciding where to go to get the most impact is tricky, and I will let you know if and when something is decided.

13Feb
Location: AUTh Lab, Thessaloniki @ 14:58

International times and calling

Although I link to it from my del.icio.us bookmarks, I thought it warranted mentioning here. If you ever need information on international times and dates, etc. you should check with timeanddate.com. It is a great resource for knowing what time zone is where and anything else you can think of regarding time and date. It includes some information on different calendars and one of the useful features I found recently is that it can also give you proper dialing phone numbers for international calls based on where you are and where you are calling. So if you don't know country codes, local area codes, international dialing prefixes or any of that, this is a great reference.

I've also decided to added the current date and time on my website in the side bar because it could be useful to compare to various other time zones given the international scope of this website. For you general information, my current location, Thessaloniki is in GMT+0200. Cheers.

15Feb
Location: AUTh Lab, Thessaloniki @ 9:05

HCI Madness

I know that this isn't the spot where I'm supposed to post about geeky things, but since it is HCI related and I'm taking an HCI class here, I feel justified. I've seen various technologies for handling multiple inputs on a display before, in fact, I did some preliminary research into it a couple years ago, but this video from Jeff Han takes it to the next level for me. Watch it!

Perhaps a better URL for this is: http://mrl.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/ which actually lets you download the video in various formats. (Including mp4 which should slide onto a video iPod nicely)
15Feb
Location: AUTh Lab, Thessaloniki @ 15:24

Universal Practice

One thing that seems to transcend the cultural and linguistic boundaries and therefore must either be a universal practice — at least one at the university age level — is the response to a dropped tray. I'm talking about a tray of food most often in a crowded cafeteria setting. We have all witnessed it, but hopefully it never happens to us. However, in at least three different universities which I have had the pleasure to eat in the cafeteria, when someone does have the misfortune to drop a tray — or the contents of it, signaled by the loud clatter of glass, ceramic and metal on the floor, the majority of the room will erupt into spontaneous applause.

Without fail. Sometimes all you need to do is drop a utensil and you will receive a light smattering of applause. It is just society's way of telling you that it has noticed what you've done and if you feel bad about it, well, don't drop your tray again. :)

It happened today (Feb. 28) at lunch... twice.
28Feb
Location: Central Computer Lab, AUTh @ 5:35

What Now?

Well, it would seem that for the most part, my Europe Adventure is over. It has been an amazing time. Now, I am reviving the ailing colinbate.com and going to make a go of it over there. All the best.

Times

Nova Scotia, Canada
5:42 (Dec 2, 2020)
Reading/London, United Kindom
9:42 (Dec 2, 2020)
Thessaloniki, Greece
11:42 (Dec 2, 2020)
Madrid, Spain
10:42 (Dec 2, 2020)
Guatemala, Guatemala
2:42 (Dec 2, 2020)

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