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Thought so :-S   
05:06pm 06/01/2005
I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

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Desert Trip   
12:54pm 11/12/2004
  After all the things that have happened in the last couple of months, or so, and which you can follow up on dunkle_feuer's LJ, I'm back on the project in Saudi Arabia (actually I have been back one more time before this one) and the first weekend in the country prepared us a nice surprise: A trip to the desert with almost the entire team from my company, and some people from the customer.

To understand the arab's love for the desert, one must remember two things: Riyadh has only grown to be the 4+ million inhabitants metropolis it is now since the early seventies, and most of the saudi population at that time was still desert nomad tribes. So many of the (now) businessmen in the thriving metropolis are likely to remember to some extent, actually living the simple life they were living.

Taking benefit of this, there are several camping spots. An extremely popular one is the red sand dunes just behind Riyadh's King Khaled International Airport (RUH), where both western expats and saudi nationals go to spend the weekend, sometimes just besides their 4x4 vehicle, sometimes setting up a camp for the entire weekend, with a tent for men, another one for the women, kitchen facilities, porta-potties and the like. They also drive around the dunes in their 4x4, an activity known by the expat community as "Wadi-Bashing", a Wadi being, basically, a dry valley or fluvial bed, which can fill with incredible amounts of water in quite a short time during the rain season.

Slightly more classy than this are the nearby tent settings in the King Khalid Wildlife Research Center. Within the centre, there are fifty or so prepared camps with two or more tents, several fireplaces within or outside the tents, running water supplies and toilet facilities. One rents the tents at the gate for a fee (which I have been unable to find out so far) and is handed several business cards: One for a company providing firewood, another for a company providing carpets and cushions to make the tents so much cozier as well as (if desired) a TV set and a setellite dish for the very popular "ORBIT" network. A third company takes care of your drinks and food, so all you neet to bring along is yourselves, a bunch of friends and your own transportation. Mobile phone coverage in the entire area is excellent, therefore there is no problem in reaching these companies.

Once set up with carpets, we ordered some food, consisting of half a lamb on top of a plate of rice (three of those, mind you, we were around 30 men out there) which we ate saudi style: With our (right) hand. This together with Laban, a sort of rather thick, hearty buttermilk drink combined in tour stomach into what is known as "Saudi Morphine" since it renders the abuser of the "substance" unable to walk, move or interact too much with his environment.

The afternoon and evening, after a spectacular desert sunset was dominated by chit-chat, arabic coffee (made from cardamon and unroasted coffee beans) and tea. We sat around the fire (it gets spectacularly cold after sunset in winter in the desert) and enjoyed conversation with our hosts until 19:30, when we decided it would be wise to return home.

All in all, quite an interesting day, and a good exercise in teambuilding, which now has members from Spain, Germany, India, Syria, Argentina, Bolivia, Britain, Canada, France, Switzerland and of course from our host country Saudi Arabia.

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Meme Alarm   
04:39pm 07/12/2004

found this one via woofiegrrl

random quiz of trial & error by girlina
primate type
favorite color
most wants to be your love muffintherocketqueen
secretly videos you taking showerswikdsushi
thinks you should talk about sex moreforestgreen
has a karaoke machine in their bedroomwoofiegrrl
owns a closetful of elvis jumpsuitsweepingpixie
wants to see you in a black pvc catsuitcedara
writes dirty books under a pseudonymdunkle_feuer
was once a sex pistols groupiemichaelnolan
does things so utterly depraved it's illegalsapphiredyke
Quiz created with MemeGen!

As for the results


Therocketqueen has left her existing Live journal. Still on my friends list, well, let's call it "for historical purposes"
Wikdsushi: So, you're into shower videos of slighty overweight guys... I hadn't thought that of you. Or maybe I did ;-)
Forestgreen: I, on the other hand, think i should be having more sex. Although it's maybe not my fault I'm not getting as much as I'd like.
woofiegrrl: That sounds like fun!
wepingpixie: As attracted as you seem to fashion, I'd expect nothing less. Any leather Elvis Jumpsuits in there?
cedara: Are you sure? Really sure? See my note to Wikdsushi first!
dunkle_feuer: Spot on, isn't it?
michaelnolan: I agree. The Bass player really had something.
sapphiredyke: Well, well ;-)

Ah, yes and I'm back in the USSR, er, I mean, Saudi Arabia, for those interested and eager to know. And I hope I'll find the time to update more often in the following couple of weeks, just before Christmas drousiness hits again.

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[VGTdLJ] - Day 3   
02:59pm 11/10/2004
  Hi there, folks!

All my "Volker's Grand Tour de LiveJournal" entries will now be marked with [VGTdLJ] in the subject. I found yet another LifeJournal Social Network browser at this place which is sort of thinner, and not so hard on your PC as the one I mentioned yesterday. It will not show the nice icons for everyone, but it will load the data in seconds, not minutes or hours, so waaaaaay to go.

As today's random search did not come up with any journal making the faintest bit of sense, after pondering for long, I decided that I would fire up this new tool, and look at FOAFs again. Today's pick is (drumroll):


The reasons are simple:

1. I have always liked your cool icon on forestgreen's Friends page. You know. The one with the owl and the monster teeth
2. Common interests are: Terry Pratchett, Discworld (how else could it be), Harry Potter, Cooking (yummie) and reading.

Since I am going to be in Dubai for the next couple of days before I get back home, and with an uncertain status of internet access, I'll also add two other FOAFs more, by recommendation of dunkle_feuer. Well, it's a bit of cheating in [VGTdLJ], also since they're not strictly FOAF, but FOMW (Friend Of My Wife).

The chosen ones are michaelnolan and weepingpixie

As usual, I'd really, really, really (pleeeeeeeease, blinks eyes, just imagine the Cat with boots in Shrek II) appreciate being friended back, especially if your journal is friends only.

Read you all again in a couple of days, or earlier.

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Expanding your LiveJournal network - Volker's Grand Tour de LiveJournal 2004   
07:54am 10/10/2004
  I just came across a really neat tool. It is called the "Live Journal Social Network Browser". It is based on the FOAF principle (please do the google search yourselves, but everyone of us has a FOAF file at http://livejournal.com/users/<user_name>/data/foaf, in .rdf format (sort of an XML, for the ones inclined to know about the gory techie details)

This Java application connects to your Live Journal, and using information publically available from your Info Page will create something like this, after anything from between 30 minutes and a couple of hours, depending on the size of your social network on Live Journal.

The yellow circles over each of "Friends Of A Friend" will indicate how similar your interests are to a given person in your FOAF network. The bigger the circle, the more common interests. Not really strange that the biggest circle on my social network map is dunkle_feuer, who accidentally happens to be my wife.

How does this go with expanding your LiveJournal Social Network? Well, as I said, the circles indicate how many common interests you have among FOAF. Yesterday I decided that in order to bring a bit more of live to my journal, and at least to have something interesting to read on my friends page every day, I'd use Live Journal's random journal function to find a journal which somehow appeals to me, looks reasonably active and add the journal to my friends page. The first person to which this had happened is woofiegrrl, who uses Livejournal only to mirror her actual weblog. Check it out, there is a lot more of stuff out there than there is on her LJ. It is also on her log where I stumbled over the FOAF principle, and started investigating it.

As I said, I want something to interesting to read on my friends page, so I am going to add another person, alternatively using the FOAF principle and the Live Journal random journal function, to my friends list every day. Today's pick of the day is form my social network, and has fallen upon xandria_ii with whom I link through dunkle_feuer, and with whom I share a whooping 13 interests. Of course, I'll notify the person friended with a comment in her or his journal, and I would appreciate the courtesy to be friended back, especially if this is required to read the person's journal.

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08:57am 09/10/2004

Pretty american women, real americans, patriotic americans as can be seen in the poster above have decided to get rid of Bush for the benefit of their county. A bit in the line of Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore, just being prosecuted by the republicans for trying to motivate slackers to vote by giving away free underwear at his tour for the gents, or instant noodles for the ladies. Well, unfortunately "bribing" (what a nice bribe, some clean undies and cheapo noodles) someone to go and vote seems to banned under some sort of stupid law in the state of Michigan.

Well, in line with this I appeal to all american women to get rid of Bush. And not only the american. Spanish, Arabian, European, what the heck, women of the world unite to get rid of Bush. And as a personal statement, I like women without Bush. And I am sure there are many men in the world prefering women without Bush. It is very easy. These girls explain all you need to know in their video .

By the way, for those a but unsure about what Bush is, just check entry number 7 in this dictionary.

Enjoy, and now, honestly and seriously, fellow american friends: Stop that man from harming your country. You may think Kerry is not the solution? OK, that's fine then. But there is much at stake here. Warmonger George W. Bush is only harming your country. Land of the free? I don't think so right now. Grab a foreign newspapaer once in a while, read the BBC News online as a trustworthy news source from outside of your country, and get to know the news the Bush administration and your governement are keeping from you.

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(Not quite so) Weird Science   
07:51am 29/09/2004
  One of my common morning readings is the excellent web page (if you can read German, mind you) of Heise Verlag Telepolis, Das Magazin der Netzkultur. Besides just plain geekish stuff, politics, comments on breaking news you'll also find bits of popular science, or just complex science made popular. An article today explains possibly the longest physics experiment in the World. But mind you, it also mentions what is possibly more interesting to the average people than the traditional Nobel Prizes: The IgNobel Prizes, awarded to those who make people laugh, then think. Hurry to the page, and find out that you can rent all of Liechtenstein for your company's conventions, or just for Joshua's Bar Mizwah; or why a statue in Kanazawa, Japan will fail to attract pigeons.  

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Schenkelklopfer des Tages   
08:54am 13/09/2004
  Sorry, german post only! It's a joke based on a dialectal pronounciation and on joining two words into one which sound alike, so it's not translatable. Not into any other language I can think of.

Worum han die Araber ka Brot?
Weil's Kamel han!


Doch, wenn man bedenkt wo ich gerade bin, ist der wirklich lustig!

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A trip to the pharmacy   
06:06pm 11/09/2004
  Yesterday I ran out of antihistaminics. The dry climate in Saudi Arabia causes havoc to my skin, so I need them on an almost daily basis.

Pharmacies are a funny indicator of the contradictions between the restrictions imposed by Islam and the actual struggle for modernity in the country. The consequences are not always coherent, at times bemusing and at other times just funny or bizarre.

Also, Islamic sexual moral is quite restrictive. Along with it goes the strict separation of the sexes, at least between men and women who are either married or who they may not marry. Homosexuality, at least officially, will get you a close shave at midday on Friday on the town square.

Well, I get into the pharmacy through the automatic glass door, into the air-conditioned temple of creams, pills and ointments. The left is reserved to the personal bodily hygiene and cosmetics department, whereas the counter ois on the left.

Most medicines are either in open shelves behind the counter or in the glass counter itself, so I can't but notice the presence of a huge stock of Viagra® and Levitra®. Right next to it, the oral contraceptives are found. It is a fact, such sexual energy must not go unused, and it must not be uncontrolled. As our Islamic Law expert commented:

- It is a man's obligation to sexually satisfy his wife. The use of Viagra® and the like is not only allowed, but encouraged if he needs to do so.

- Use of contraceptives is not forbidden, but recommended so that only "truly wanted children" are brought into this world. However these are also not 100% reliable, and so should it be Allah's will that a pregnancy occurs, abortion is strictly forbidden.

To follow my pharmacy visit, the mechanic contraceptives, A.K.A. condoms were also on display. Not hidden in a drawer right next to the cash register, as they usually are in Spain to add to the embarassment of the (eventually) inexpert customer, but right on the counter there were displays of all varieties: Plain, ribbed, flavours, colours, extra-strong and ultra-thin. So far so good. But then my view wandered slightly to the left. I was taken by surprize at the incerdible choice of lubricants, all condom-safe, of course, that could be found. If they stock it, they'll certainly sell it, so I thought, but what for. Here are my theories:

- Some men in the country are crazy about (literally) losing their head for another man.

- Desert climate really affects a woman's vagina's ability to naturally produce lubrication

- It could also be, that after being recluded to her home, allowed only out on the street in a black gown, only in the company of the man she is married to or one she may not marry, being banned from driving and being seen as, basically, property of her husband that Aisha may not get too aroused at Mohammed's advances in the evening, or not be in the mood for sex, with equally catastrophic consequences on her natural lubrication capabilities

- Other sexual games, not necessarili reserverd to gay couples, which is, by the way, the only sexual practice explicitly forbidden in Islam, not that trying it with your wife you might like trying it with a man, afterwards.

I really do not dare bothering our expert in islamic law with these matters.

Anyways, somehow I can't rid myself from the impression that the entire country could perfectly well pass a gay hangout. Sometimes, anyways.

By the way, they were out of my antihistaminics. Tomorrow, Sir, Inshallah. I'll go back tonight. I'll also take some (10 or 20 boxes) of condoms back home. They're dirt cheap. 10 Riyal (2,75 US$ or 2,10 €) for a dozen. Orders from mainland Europe welcome, shipping will take place on 17th September, add 4,95 € shipping and handling. (Just kidding. On the orders welcome part, of course.)

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Gmail Invitation up for grabs   
12:25pm 10/09/2004

First one to comment on this entry gets invited to join Gmail, the new by-invitation-only (for nor) Google webmail service with one GB (1000 MB) of space for your Email, free of charge.

Please include something like a first name, a last name and a currently valid e-mail address (appropriately spam-secured) in the comment, so that you may get the invitation properly delivered.

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Mobile phones and Friday Prayers...   
12:46pm 03/09/2004
  ...at the mosque next to our office look like this:

Why outside? Well, the mosque is so crowded on friday midday prayers that there simply isn't enough space inside. To all that comes a lengty sermon (I'll post a soundclip when I get a chance to record some of it and convert it to a suitable format)

After the midday prayers on friday, the city suddenly springs back to life. A small fruit market right next to the mosque, selling (acceptably) fresh fruit of the back of pick-up trucks opens. Here is what we shopped for, and the price is next to it:

2 Kg Fresh Dates (it's the season now, and they're a real treat) 4 Riyal
2 Kg grapes, mixed white and red 5 Riyal
5 Kg bananas, nice and ripe 7 Riyal
2,5 Kg Guave (which we mistook for pears) 5 Riyal

For these not aware of the exchange rate:

1 US$ = 3,75 Riyal
1 € = 4,4 Riyal

Sorry, no picture of the market, the one-way, tinted windows in the office make some pictures possible, but since mobiles with cameras are banned in the country, I'd rather not use mine in public places.

One of the alleged reasons for the prohibition can be found here, in an article in Saudi english-language newspaper Arab News

My personal opinion is that the need for covert photography would decrase substantially if the separation between the sexes was a bit less strict, and normal social interaction between men and women was possible. Islamic scholars may care to disagree with this opinion. Then, on the other hand, if non-related men and women were allowed to mingle in public places, the chaos would possible be incredible, due to both sexes not being used to it, and the following measures to counter the chaos would possibly be worse than the initial prohibitions.

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Life in Saudi   
11:40am 03/09/2004
  Below you'll find one of the things making life in Saudi Arabia a bit more tolerable:

These are just our set of compressors for the omnipresent air conditioning. By saying "our" I mean that these monsters are serving two stories of a not particularly huge building.

Without Air conditioning the temperatures way in excess of 40ºC during daytime in the summer would be unbearable, especially in a city like Riyadh, where the buildings and the roads help keeping the heat in place, so even in the evening the place is anything but pleasant.

Albeit, there are places where the night can be quite pleasant. Like the weekend villas of well-situated Saudis, where nightime temperature yesterday was a comfortable 26ºC. Or about.

These places are anywhere from 35 to 100 Km outside of the big city. I was invited to one of these yesterday, along with my team colleagues, for dinner. The place belongs to the wife of one of the managers of the company we're developing our project for, so our hosts were him and his father-in-law.

The place was a 3000 square meter piece of land (rough estimate) enclosed by a suitably high wall (sorry, no pictures). Inside this was a central garden, a grass patch of which any english Golf course's fairway would be proud of, space and tents to the sides of it, and the house complex on one side.

After the normal greeting we would sit on four enormous oriental rugs for the compulsory arabic coffee (made from unroasted, green coffee and cardamon) and tea. After some small talk we were ushered into the dining room. The indoor pool of the place had been set up for this, with proper tableware and d seating, possibly as a defernce to us western guests.

Smalltalk is not being done during dinner, and so after desserts we were ushered ouside. Tea and coffee was served again at the carpets, and smalltalk continued.

Why the haste? Well, it was the women's turn for dinner, they'd use the dining room after us men, to keep the rather stict separation of sexes in force in Saudi Arabia.

Anyways, the place was impressive, the whole lamb was excellent, the people nice. And I've gotten to know another quite interesting aspect of Saudi Lifestyle.

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My other blog...   
10:35am 31/08/2004
  ... is also up and running again. See it at http://sysarch.blogdns.com. It is in spanish, though  

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Saudi Menu - Issue 1   
07:35am 31/08/2004
  Virtually everbody in Saudi Arabia has, to a certain degree, a conduct of the English Language. Except maybe Beduins who have freshly moved from some dwelling or camp in the desert to Riyadh.

However, the degree of proficiency in the use of English is as rich in variety as the nationalities doing what is considered "lower work" by the "Grade 1" or Saudi citizen. And so you get everything, from Oxford British English to barely a couple of loose words; from excellent pronounciation to heavy indian accents that make Apu (the shop owner in "The Simpsons") spring to your mind immediately.

And then there is the issue with the use of written English. Most of the times they'll get it right, sometimed they don't, but is is very common to find things like the one below. Not wrong in themselves, but still funny.

By the way, at the bright spot on top it says "is" and at the bottom you're missing the "s" for "restaurants" and an "&".

You'll have to excuse, but my good digicam had to stay at home this time, for the sakes of security and comfort, so the best I can get is from the one in my mobile (mobiles with cameras are supposed to be banned in the country, but every 14-year-old Saudi schoolboy seems to have one), but I think it'll do, nevertheless

When work and circumstances allow, I'll keep posting this sort of stuff here.

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Note to self....   
04:42pm 30/08/2004
  I really need to get around to fix my other MoveableType based weblog... The problem is just that I had (again) to leave to Saudi Arabia on very short notice. Extremely short notice, for what it may be, and so I did not have the time to migrate the site.

Anyways, I'm in Saudi until the 22nd (gasp!) of September. More than a month. We're kicking off a new project, I'm not allowed to disclose any details yet. No, I'm not in the spooks business, if that comforts you, and not in defense, so it's not a state secret, but rather one for commercial and market strategic questions, and of course the usual lore of non-disclosure-agreements which are part of certain businesses. I can just tell you that we're now setting everything up for the real project, due to start in about 6 weeks time.

What can I say about the country? Nice beach, besides the fact that the sea is quite far away rom Riyadh, the capital, it's hot, as you would expect from a desert in summer, both day and night, and that the security attentions at our hotel, in view of the recent incidents are higher than ever. Our company would not even allow us to use the usual self-drive rental car, but only one with a driver. He definitely does a good job in not sticking out in the completely chaotic and undisciplined traffic of Riyadh.

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I know, I promised, but...   
11:54am 16/04/2004
  the last couple of weeks I really heven't felt much like posting to my blog, neither this one nor my spanish weblog. Let me quickly update you on significant events that happened over the last weeks:

- Was in Saudi Arabia again last week. Saudi Arabian Airlines definitely has the most comfortable economy class I've ever seen, the drawback is that they don't serve alcohol on board, and that the movies are censored. For instance, when watching Lara Croft II and she is sporting a tight tank-top, the relevant area will be covered with a milky spot. Ugh! Ah, yes. All this spoiled my Easter holidays. Of course!

- Passed my Ham Radio License exams for both Class B (Restricted, VHF-UHF) and class C (Beginner for HF, did not pass Morse Code :-( ) Now I have to wait 'till I get my diploma and then submit an application to get permission to install a radio station to get a Callsign. Spanish law sucks in this aspect, it's much simpler in other countries. A new Ham Radio law has been due for about a year now but not much has happened and it's not going to happen before...

- We get a new government in Spain. One that hopefully will bring Spain back into line with "Old Europe", which is where, in my opinion, we belong and end an era of 4 years of absolute majority by the former ruling, conservative "Partido Popular". I hold high hopes that our socialists will fare better than New Labour in the UK and SPD in Germany. Ah, yes. And France is "red" all over again as well. Today the new spanish president will be voted by the parliament, previsibly with absolute majority in the first cotation, since many regional political groups, who hold quite a stake in the parliament will be voting for him as well.

- Kadira has been keeping you updated on the rest of the stuff going on at home.

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The three investigators   
02:26pm 17/03/2004
  The three investigators are a series of mystery novels for young readers (although some more seasoned readers find pleasure in them as well) originally written in English, but also quite popular in other languages, especially in German, where the popularity of the book series has been backed by Hörspielkassetten or tape renditions of the novels. Up to now more than a hundred adventures of teenage detectives Peter Shaw, Justus Jonas and Bob Andrews have reached a huge fan community in Germany and other countries.

Well, what's this guy talking about now, in view of the recent events? I'll be there in a minute.

It happens that the three teenage investigators have devised a pretty clever method of gathering facts and information. In the german rendition it's called the Telefonlawine, in English this could possibly be translated as telephone pyramid or avalanche. Here is how it works:

From their headquarters in an old camper hidden behind a pile of rubble in Justus' uncle's scrap metal yard, each of the three investigators will call as many friends as he can reach with a request for information (remember, local calls used to be free in the U.S. even in the late 70's, the start of the series, IIRC), let's say, that they're looking for a red 1969 Camaro with chrome spoke wheels and a license plate ending in '9'. Each of these friends would in turn call as many friends as he could reach, causing the diffusion of the message to grow at an exponential rate, like those pyramid schemes.

Well, nowadays we're not restricted to plain, old phones, but the ubiquity of mobile phones and the availability of the SMS (Short Message Service) and fixed or mobile internet services makes spreading information much easier and much more effective.

And exactly these where the methods used to spread the word to congregate in front of the offices of the (former) spanish ruling party, Partido Popular on Saturday afternoon, when it became clear that they had been lying about the authorship of the Madrid bombings since noontime on Thursday, when the van with the detonators and a tape with Quranic verses had been found in Alcalá de Henares, the spanish town from which three of the four trains with the bombs originated.

From that point on, the government should have informed that a second theory about the autorship of the attacks was in place, and at least that a second line of investigation had been opened.

Not doing enough silencing this information, the same afternoon international newspapers' correspondents in Spain received calls from the government assuring that basque terrorist group ETA was to be blamed for the bombings. The dtetement issued was "don't be fooled, it was ETA" Most found this behaviour higly surprizing, since it is unusual that the government calls the correspondents individually, normally they either call the appropriates ministry's (interior) for information or a press conference is held.

The same night, state-wide, national TV Channel TVE1 ran a documentary dated from 1998 about ETA's victims, with statements from their families and friends. The source and age of this material was not acknowledged, and it was aired in the context of the claims that ETA was the author of the bombings.

The next morning some newspapers opened with headlines carefully issuing statements about the van that had been found. An official statement from the ministry of interior concerning the finding of ths van had not yet been issued.

Strange enough, from this moment on, Internet Access throughout Spain started to be, at the very best, flaky. Telefónica, the main ISP and phone provider claimed "bandwith from the broadband network was being used to reinforce telephone and vital services in Madrid". Matter of fact is, that many IP subnets were completely unreachable from within Spain. Amongst the most notable were:

- Parts of Blogger and Blogspot
- Haloscan, a provider of weblog commenting services widely used by the Spanish blogger community.

This was, as a matter of fact, rendering many spanish blogs unusable. Haloscan being down would prevent many pages from loading correctly, if at all.

Quite convenient, isn't it?

The statewide demonstrations called for in the afternoon by all political parties, including the (still ruling, and leading the polls) Partido Popular where to be held under the headline "Against terrorism, against violence, united we stand behind the constitution" after at midday Interior Minister Ángel Acebes had issued a statement that "A van with seven detonators under the passenger's seat and a commercially available tape containing Coranic verses that was stolen in a qquarter of madrid with a high percentage of muslim population has been found near the train Station of Alcalá de Henares. The righful owner of the van has stated that he is not the owner of the tape. This opens a new line of investigation, although our main focus remains on ETA"

As Saturday, also called "reflection day" because on the day immediately preceeding the elections all political rallies and electoral activities are forbidden by spanish electoral law, awoke more and more evidence started pointing at a radical islamist authorship of the bombings. In one of the sucessfully defused bombs, a mobile phone configured in arabic had been found, to be used as a remote trigger for the bomb, and its origin was tarted to be tracked. This resulted in detentions later the same day.

As these new facts started to leak via independent media, a Flash-Mob of forum and blog entries and SMS messages started spreading across the county, to gather in front of Madrid and Barcelona Partido Popular offices and demand the truth to be revealed. The modern communication technology aided the viral spreading of the messages. Pásalo, "Pass it on" was invariably the last word of the messages.

Thousands gathered in front of the Partido Popullar offices. Police refused to use anti-riot units to disperse the peaceful crowds, despite the Partido Popular officials requiring them to do so. Spanish TVE 1 claimeed in it's 9 'o closk news "a few tens of agitators" were "breaking the dictete of the reflection day". At this time actually thousands were in front of the PP offices in all major cities in Spain, especially in Madrid and Barcelona.

Partido Popular official and president candidate Mariano Rajoy appeared on TV demanding that "those illegal demostrations in front of Partito Popular offices be stopped immediately by those responsible for initiating them", obviously pointing at the PSOE, Partido Socialista Obrero Español the opposition socialist party.(1) He also filed a complaint with the electoral commission, responsible for handling these events. Word has it that the office was close to come to a decision (actually, word has it it was 6 to 5 votes ) to invalidate and postpone the electoral process, which did not happen, because obviously authorship for the demonstrations could not be tracked back to the PSOE but to the people. Word also has it that two documents had been prepared, but never signed to call out a national state of exception, but this is, at the very best, an unconfirmed rumour which both Rajoy from the PP and Zapatero, the new president to be from PSOE have rebutted as an "absurd speculation".

At 22:30 CET, an hour and a half before election day was to start, the minister of Interior Ángel Acebes gave a press conference confirming the detention of three moroccan and two indian individuals related to the Madrid bombings. The findings of a video tape claiming authorship of the bombings retrieded in a dustbin(2) near a mosque in Madrid was also acknowledged

The rest is the defeat of the Partido Popular and alredy history. And that a simple method devised more than three decades ago in a teenager novel is mightier than all manipulation attemps by our rulers. The lion of free speech and flow of information has been unveiled, and will not be brought back to sleep in it's cage easily.

(1)Dear american reader, don't think Socialist-Communist-Marxist-Leninist, rather think Democrat (as opossite to republican)
(2)For fellow american readers: Trashcan

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Election Day   
11:14am 14/03/2004
  Spain's general elections today are heavily tainted by the events. dunkle_feuer has been keeping you conveniently updated on the events and media echo since last Thursday in Spain.

A bit on the media echo: Spanish state-wide media are doing business as usual, it's mostly cartoon time there. Only the brand-new, dedicated 24-hour news channel of the Catalan Autonomy is reporting on the polls. Right now it is followint the main politicians residing in Catalonia, and broadcasting images of them as they vote.

Most polling stations have opened normally, there have only been a couple of incidents so far, in some polling stations the voting papers were missing, but these have been swiftly provided by the provincial electoral comittees. The locks of two polling stations were sealed with silicone, but police responded immediately to the request of the presidents of the polling station and provided access.

Turnout seems extremely high so far. One hour after the stations opened, at 10:00 CET 3,75% of voters had already voted. Polling stations opened at 09:00 and will close at 20:00 CET (08:00 - 19:00 GMT). Typically the big wave of voters appears after lunchtime, which here in Spain ends around 16:00 CET.

What will happen? Those of us mwith an internet access are part of an informational elite able to keep up with by-the-minute information news sites, the BBC, Reuters and other publically available sources are providing on the new findings clearly pointy autorship of the Madrid massacre at AlQaida. Still, statewide television is not broadcating these news all the time as it should, in my opinion.

What could be the influence on the elections? Well, most people will link an autorship of basque terrorist group ETA as a "carte blanche" for voting the ruling Partido Popular (centre-right) who has been leading a policy on unconditional and heavy crackdown on this terrorist organization.

If authosrhip is limked to AlQuaida, it is very likely that the Partido Popular will lose many votes, since it's been them who got Spain involved in the Iraq war, despite massive demonstrations and protests by spanish citizen.

Polling stations will close at 20:00 CET, and usually first estimations arrive at 21:00 CET (20:00 GMT). Spanish media will, no doubt, keep you in the loop. The Spanish Ministry of Interior web site will also contain all results as they become available.

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Friday Five   
08:27pm 07/03/2004
  OK, OK, maybe a tad late. Here we go!

What was...

1. ...your first grade teacher's name?

Can't remember. Honest.

2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon?

Mazinger Z

3. ...the name of your very first best friend?

François L. Last nawe withheld to protect the innocent.

4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal?

Is and was Frosties. On lack thereof, now it's Special K.

5. ...your favorite thing to do after school?

Hanging out with François, watch the building site of my parent's shop and sometimes wreak havoc there. Building little chimneys or ovens with the bricks and sand and then try to bake clay in it was pretty cool. Newer really worked, though. Play hide 'n seek with the other folks from school was pretty cool as well. We lived in a holiday area, and during winter / school season it would be pretty deserted and quite a safe place, since there where *very* little cars.

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Back in Alicante   
10:10am 02/03/2004
  After a relatively uneventful train trip yesterday I'm back in Alicante for work this week. Yesterday night I finished reading Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" after reading his "Digital Fortress" over the weekend almost without putting it down.

The point is, his books are quite amusing and easy to read. Entertainment at its best, he also uses the little dirty trick of relatively short and well delimited chapters, changing chapter whenever the location or focus on characters changes. It's almost like "reading a movie", you start thinking "come on, just one more chapter. since they're so short" but then you want to know what's happening to the guys you last read of two chapters ago, and when he gets there, he's already caught you because then you want to know what goes on in the other plotline / location, and so on.

Those who liked Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" will most likely also kind of like his "Digital Fortress", although it lacks the entanglement of the four different storylines in Cryptonomicon (Digital Vault, Japanese hideout, Bletchley Park and the Special Ops unit), and those who liked Eco's "Il pendolo di Foucault" will like "Angels and Demons" because of the linking to conspiracy theories, although it's a much easier reading. Also, I give for granted that Eco / Stephenson are much more precise in their historical and scientifical background research, although Brown is not really unaccurate, I believe. I mean, it all makes perfect sense, but Eco doesn't stop citing actual old texts and documents, and Stephenson's card deck encryption method actually works and, if used with conveniently short plaintext is as secure as one-time-pads.

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