Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

KLM In-flight media runs linux

April 29, 2011

Just a mention of a fact that may be well know, KLM’s in-flight media computers run linux, yay.  I saw one rebooting on somebody sitting in the next row, unfortunately it took some 5 minutes to (network-)boot showing the booting messages in framebuffer to the poor person.  The machines also get a little hot.  Apparently others have managed to record all of the boot process where you can see they run sshd and what not.  It would be a cool project to try to get console access with the keyboard on the back of the handset, the computer could then become more useful.

In other news USA is overrated.  Grassrootmapping.org’s wiki mentions 95 gallon trashbags that are good as helium-filled or hot air balloons, which I haven’t found in Europe in this size.  Turns out they’re also hardly available in the US.  (I happened to meet some GrassrootsMappers who came to the WhereCamp San Francisco last weekend over from New York, and we have flown a kite, a mylar helium balloon, we have tried shooting cameras into air with a big slingshot and even wondered about aerial photography with water rockets.  Kudos to the designer of the WhereCamp “Null Island” t-shirt)

The frozen pizzas are also not as good as I thought.  I have an old IRC friend from Florida who, for some reason, really likes the frozen pizzas like DiGiorno.  He’s worked as a chef in a pizzeria (in fact four different pizzerias) so it sounds like he knows what he says.  Having found all of the frozen pizza brands in Europe to be invariably tasteless and not showing any resemblance to actual pizza as I know it, I thought it was an american thing and set out on this research project to try various US frozen pizzas.  And they may be slightly better but, after a series of experiments, I haven’t found the difference to be so significant.  (..in case you’re in Europe and just have been wondering the same thing).

I’m happy to report though that 4G data connectivity is nice and, a result of my US trip, you can now use it from under linux with either of the USB modems offered by Verizon.

DRMed TV stream

August 6, 2010

For some time I’m living with a friend who now uses Linux on her computer, but mostly because she likes the idea of Linux, and also because the Ubuntu install breaks less often than the Windows Vista preinstalled on that computer, works faster etc., but not because she likes coding or digging in the intestines to customise things or make rare things work.  As a result every some time I’m asked to make this and that work. This week’s request was to enable her to watch a TV programme she likes, one that is aired on the TVN24 channel.  Since I don’t watch TV, she bought a three-day online subscription to TVN24 after she googled an Ubuntu forums post where someone had success watching TV on Ubuntu.  So it turns out the channel indeed can be watched online if you have a Microsoft DRM-enabled player.  Also it turns out that mplayer does support Microsoft DRM decoding using code borrowed from the FreeMe2 opensource DRM decoder.

That is, only if you have the DRM key, particularly the SID which is a 30 or so digit number and which seems to be unique to the TV channel or a group of songs or a movie if you buy it through one of the online services.  It’s as simple as passing -demux lavf -lavfdopts cryptokey=<The-SID>.  Apparently the SID doesn’t change very often so it would probably enable you to watch the TV beyond the subscription period, but that wasn’t my goal, I just need an open-source player. The activation or deactivation of the subscriptions are handled using some non-cryptographic methods (IOW security through obscurity only).  That means that the SID is well hidden in Windows when Windows Media Player downloads the DRM keys, and it seems the method of hiding it is different in each new version.  Windows Media Player also checks that you’re using the latest DRM version every time you download a new DRM license.  I’m not sure if the method of requesting and downloading the licenses also changes, I’d guess it changes less often or is completely standardised.  Unfortunately all software that I was able to find to extract the SID is based on reading the Windows key storage structures, registry etc. from disk (which change), rather than interpreting the network communications between the client and the server.  It seems the central place for all this software is the undrm.info website which has been pretty stagnant since 2008, so none of these programs work with the latest Windows Media Player anymore.

We restored the Windows Vista partition to a bootable state and launched the closed-source player there, but I have a tcpdump of all the communication that was happening between the client and the license server up to when it started playing.  The protocol (as of 2008) has been beautifully documented by Beale Screamer and it seems the dump contains all of the elements mentioned there.  I’d love to implement the algorithms from that documentation to try to calculate the SID, if I had a week of vacations on a desert island or was retired :)  But if anyone else has time to play with it and wants that achieve undying fame (or an undying subscription to the various TV channels), I’ll happily give you the TCP log, a sample encrypted fragment of the wmv stream, or give links to other places that use Ms DRM, and links to existing code and documentation.

Certified

July 5, 2010

I took one more of those silly, but sometimes recognised, language exams, because my university let me do it for free due to some programme.  This one was in Turkish, and now I’m certified.  But because the exam was for the “A2″ level, I think it’s fair to say I’m a certified Turkish non-speaker.  A2 really really means you can’t speak the language. (So what’s the point?)

I also have these certificates in Spanish and English  (both corresponding to level C2 according to wikipedia chart) that say that I can actually speak, and even teach the basics of these languages (but don’t worry.. I have not the slightest idea about teaching), and I guess these could be useful — but have never been useful so far.

Public transport season is on

January 4, 2009

All the times it snowed this winter it first looked like it was going to stop me from biking through the city but was followed by a soon change in weather and the snow melted before I actually needed to go anywhere.  Today I’ll need to make a small trip and the streets are covered with enough snow that melting it in the time left until I’m leaving would require an amount of energy to radiate that would be dangerous to forms of life, so I think it’s the end of the biking season finally.

Gazpacho a lo guiri

May 19, 2008

Background: I try lots of new things when I make my food and while most of my experiments fail miserably, there are cases that come out well enough that I even repeat them, so I thought I can share (open-source) one of these results, and this is an attempt. But, open-sourcing food, strangely, isn’t so easy because the “code-base” is very ugly – everything is an undocumented hack (or “spaghetti code”), and needs to be documented. My optimisation flags are always set for minimising the number of dishes to wash and ingredients cost.

Gazpacho: gazpacho is a Spanish dish (or drink) originating from Andalusia. It’s made of mainly vegetables, is almost liquid, is consumed cold and doesn’t involve cooking. It’s eaten in the summer only, especially on hot days. (At higher latitudes than Spain, I found the added practical argument is that vegetables are about 3 times cheaper in the summer).

There are a zillion types of gazpacho and some Spanish are very religious about preparing it, especially those who make cookbooks. Every region has its own type, but there’s also the generic type that you can buy in supermarkets or in McDonald’s.

Now, I’m not Spanish and I allow myself to break some of the rules. If you’re Spanish, stop reading here because you’ll find that I’m committing various terrible crimes against the mediterranean cuisine.

The recipe: today I completed a quest for all the ingredients and made a gazpacho again and it turned out eatable again, so it must not be extremely difficult, here’s the list.

  • 0.5 to 1kg of tomatoes (canned tomatoes will also do, even a box of juice – here’s where I commit the first crime).
  • 2 red peppers/paprikas, optionally add one green.
  • 2 or so slices of bread.
  • one half bulb of garlic (maybe less).
  • a medium-size onion.
  • a cucumber.
  • 1tbs or so of salt, some pepper (or none).
  • half a glass of oil (here’s my second crime: use any oil – it really really doesn’t matter that much. It appears that if you’re Spanish a single drop of oil that is not the absolute highest quality immediately spoils your dinner. You will never ever see or hear the word oil (aceite) go alone when you’re in Spain – it is in 100% cases accompanied by the words virgen and extra, as in aceite de oliva virgen extra – it might equally well just be a single word in the vocabulary because it always appears together, I don’t think anyone is even able to pronounce aceite alone).
  • 4tbs or so of vinagre and half glass of water.

Place the bread in a plate with water and let it dissolve a bit. Cut all the vegetables into pieces of sizes that will make your electric blender happy. The peppers and tomatoes are fine as they are (another crime!) – in a real gazpacho recipe they tell you to peel them and remove the seeds, but the seeds are the best part, they’ll get blended anyway and they’ll just make the texture nicer, and peeling is just too much work. Blend the bread, vegetables, and water until liquid. Then throw in the oil, vinagre and salt and mix again until the oil can’t be seen.

The colour is between orange and pink and is most influenced by the red peppers. The taste is most affected by the salt and vinagre and you need to adjust their amounts but it will probably be a lot of vinagre and a lot of salt. Too much onion or garlic makes the gazpacho spicy but at some point the smell is too strong.

When it’s done, just store in a fridge and serve cold optionally with pieces of toasted bread.

Trip

April 21, 2008

So I went to Brazil last month but had no time to put any pictures online, now I uploaded them here. Also uploaded some pictures from a trip to Spain that was just before that.

Brazil cities reminded me a lot of Peru, which was the only place I had seen in America (this comparison must seem awfully ignorant to anyone who lives in some place between Brazil and Peru). We spent one week in Ceará region seeking out best places for paragliding. One of the spots was the launch pad near Nossa Senhora Imaculada sanctuary near Quixada where “Sol” group (Brazil) took off last year and set the current world record in straight distance paraglider flight landing over 460km away. (Obviously this was a different season and incomparable weather conditions.)  I made an attempt to adapt my Neo1973 Linux phone to dub as a variometer using the altitude data from built-in GPS.  Impressively the measures are somewhere on the edge of being accurate enough for that purpose, but time resolution is way too low (normal variometers use air pressure changes rather than GPS).  The speaker is loud enough to emit the familiar beeping of a variometer (so good enough for showing off even if inaccurate).  The GTA02 should be much better with its 3D accelerometers, but I didn’t have time to play with it yet.

The second week the group split and I went Bossa ’08 conference that was in a fantastic setting and from where I brought home a collection of five geeky t-shirts.

OMAP3 resources opened

April 9, 2008

Texas Instruments OMAP series of mobile CPUs have for some time had okay Linux support with parts of the code coming from community, parts from TI and parts from Nokia, one of the vendors. This month we start seeing results of TI’s recent efforts on making this support better by opening various technical resources that were available only to the vendors earlier. Yesterday the announcement of their DSP-bridge framework release under GPL was posted to the linux-omap list, and as of this week you can download the entire TRMs (35MB PDF each) for various OMAP3 CPUs from ti.com. Added to this are various types of manuals, example code and that covers also the recently announced 35xx models.

I had an occasion to be at TI’s Rishi Bhattacharya’s talk at BossaConference last month with a sneak peek on the process of opening OMAP3 related resources that had been ongoing internally for some time. Apparently more releases are planned including among other things some GPLed sources (and some freeware binaries) of DSP codecs for use on OMAP. This also should make life a fair bit easier. One of the interesting points was also the evaluation board for the new processors which looks a bit more like a final product than previously made evaluation boards. It’s called Zoom MDK and it’s sold by a third party. It includes a modem, optional battery and a neat case so it can potentially be used as a (only slightly oversize for today’s standards) phone, and comes equipped with a full Linux SDK. One of the points is also to make it more affordable so that individual developers are not excluded (currently only available through a beta programme but the final price was said to be aiming at below $900). There’s an effort to have Openmoko running on the thing. Looking forward to that and to the rest of the releases from TI.

ZoomMDK external view

Moscow and how to not go there

October 21, 2007

Last Sunday I arrived home from my first trip to the east (not south-east), to the bigger brother, Russia and particularly Moscow.

For getting there I decided for an unusual Warsaw-Moscow route through Kaliningrad to save on time and costs, but ofcourse my implementation of the plan in practice was neither cheap nor quick, although I still think the plan was good (and original) and it could work out if I had reserved slightly more time buffer. I ended up taking four trains to get to Kaliningrad, then a bus to the Khrabovo Airport and a KD-Avia flight to Moscow Domodedovo. Each of the four trains had a delay from the schedule so I missed my bus from Olsztyn to Kaliningrad (would be much cheaper than train) and my Aeroflot flight from there (with an Asian-Vegetarian on-board meal I chose from the list of like twenty types of food that the web-app presented me with when buying the ticket online).

On the Braniewo-Kaliningrad train I was sitting next to a guy from Ghana who spoke neither Polish nor Russian and everyone believed that he speaks English, which was not entirely true, and it turned out I was the only person to understand English on the train so I was automatically assumed to have to help him get through the border. On cheap country-border-crossing routes like this I find that some 90% of the passengers are smugglers who, when you meet them, are making the route for some third time on this day and they form something which I believe you can very well call a community, they treat every other passenger on the train as their co-workers and they see many of the same people a couple of times every day. Crossing the border is the routine for them and talking to the exceptional tourists and the border zone security officers is their diversion. So I was seen obliged to fill in the Dominico’s immigration forms and other documents which he only limited himself to tell me that he couldn’t do because he was too confused. He was speaking something between French and English but this language was evidently not his native one because he couldn’t express many things in it (apart from my understanding or not). Dominico posessed a valid Ghanaian passport, no Russian visa and a Belgium residence card which the officers deemed a fake (as I understand – they were speaking Russian and me Polish) but I’m not sure if that was based on any reasoning or just their guess. In the end for the sake of my own getting through the border I had to invent the purpose of Dominico’s visit in Russia and his legal situation and the story behind it because I was unable to get this information from himself, and the train was already delayed by over three hours at this point. The enterprise succeeded and nobody in the carriage had been forced out.

In Moscow I stayed mainly in a residence hall room of Kate who I had last seen in France and of her roommate Nastya (diminutive for Anastasia..). Most Moscow residence halls employ various techniques to prevent strangers from entering the building so the way I entered and parted the 2nd floor room every day (in Russia floors count from 1st floor which is the ground level) was through the window. Everyday in the evening I would climb up to the window clinging to the tube installations on the wall and the bars on the 1st floor windows and then knock the glass and if it was the right window, the person inside would open it and very quickly let you in. This procedure also had further complications due to issues like room assignment and people in some rooms being out of home this day so actually almost every day you had to use a different room in the morning to get out and in the evening get in but seemingly it is something completely normal for the people of the dormitory, nobody is even mildly surprised when a person knocks at their window, enters the room, says hello and immediately after walks out through the door to the corridor. When there’s a party in a 3rd or 4th floor room the guests will use one of the 2nd floor rooms to leave the building after the party finishes at some 3 am. We spent two nights in a Kate’s friend’s friend’s private flat in the outskirts of Moscow when there were problems with the dorm. In Moscow the university residence halls generally don’t have a free internet service in every room (and there’s no WiFI in range in most places, especially not in a dormitory of a non-technical university like MGOU where Kate studies) which surprised me a lot because I remember that in Warsaw in the 90s when having an internet cable in your private home was still very uncommon and the only way most people could connect was through a 56K dial-up modem, you would usually go to a friend in a univeristy dorm to download the latest movies and get music from P2P. Dorms were one of the first places to have a true cable connection and still today use to have the widest bands.

In consequence a big number of the “cost effective” Moscow tourists go daily to one of the McDonald’s in the centre to use internet. There’s one that offers free WiFi for everyone and when you go there you see at every second table (and even outside in the street when it’s not raining) someone sitting with a laptop surfing away and some people are known to spend hours there. The staff in this particular McDonald’s is extremely tolerant.

I visited most of the main touristic sites in Moscow, and many non-touristic attractions that you don’t find in the guidebooks, thanks to the excelent guidance by my host.

I have seen the dead tovarish Lenin and I take the side of the part of population that thinks the body is genuine and not a plastic replica, but I’m not 100% sure, it might be a fake. Moscow in general was very impressive even despite the very bad weather in which I had to appreciate it.

I was slightly disappointed by the gastronomic offering of Moscow but I didn’t have time to get to know it very well (and in my judgements I only consider the part that has a reasonable economic aspect and I’m very low tolerant to pricing (cf. greedy)). If I was to recommend one place for general eating out it would be the Solecito Italian restaurant (pizza dlya gurmanov!) in Nikolskaya street, and for Russian food the canteens at university departments (but then the access to the buildings is restricted to non-students or those who don’t know the cunning tricks to get in, which is not so difficult).

I went with Kate to some of her classes during this week which was interesting because I speak no Russian and they were all in Russian. I was immediately being noticed also because almost all of linguistics students are females at MGOU so in many clases I was the only male and the only person who had a laptop on during the lectures.

We went to a see a movie in the Moscow’s Iluzyon cinema that plays one French movie in French, no subtitles, every month. It was A nos amours, a 1975 production. Later when Nastya was explaining to us the plot, we learnt that we don’t know French sufficiently for watching movies, yet.

The coming back to Poland was again interesting but this time I decided to take the route that most back-packers take, to really cut down on costs this time, which partially worked out. The plan was to take a Moscow-Brest platskart train, cross the Belarusian – Polish border on a Brest-Terespol bus and take a normal polish train from Terespol on. The Brest-Terespol buses go rarely but there are short elektrichka trains that are only slightly more expensive and carry immensely more colourful adventures involving the said smugglers community. First thing was just when I appeared before the customs clearance office door someone ran up to me and asked if I had any cigarettes in my bag and if not, whether I could traffic one box for her (one big box is a legal quantity). In the black plastic bag that I was assigned by this person I later found out was also a bottle. My conversation with the customs officer was along these lines:

- Do you carry any alcohol?

- Yes, one bottle, Sir.

- What alcohol is it?

- No idea, Sir.

- Cigarettes?

- One box, Sir.

- A paczka [Polish for "box"] or a sztanga? [WTF is a sztanga of cigarettes?]

- A box I suppose, Sir.

I was let in, despite the lack of registration in Moscow, and then on the train I started reading a book. When the train was already running, suddenly a lady climbed one of the tables in the wagon and to my exclusive surprise ripped off a piece of the casing of the ceiling and stuffed a number of big, black, flat packets into the hole. This is when I very carefully produced camera and started recording. While she was doing this three persons of the railway staff were passing through the wagon and again to my surprise, they were completely not interested. Also later, just before stopping for clearance in Terespol I am pretty sure I saw someone run out of a rye field by the rail track and collect some objects that must have been thrown from the train, and immediately run away afterwards.

On a Brest-Terespol train

Note: the registration is a requirement of Russian immigration law that states that if you’re staying three days or longer, you should go to a nearest police office with the owner of the place where you’re staying and have the officer put a stamp with the address in your passport – this procedure takes five days to complete. Hostels, however, will do this for you if you’re staying at a hostel, so many people will go to a hostel before leaving Russia and pay some nights at the hostel to get the required stamp (theoretically you can be asked by police to show the registration stamp any day even if you’re just walking around a city, but the risk is very low). It turns out thought that sometimes you will not be asked for the registration at the border at all, when leaving Russia, and even if you are asked for it, the fine (cf. bribe) is less than the cost of five nights at a hostel so this way is often recommended. (I’m not entitled to give legal advice so don’t take this as an advice.)

So this was my first time in Terespol and while waiting for the train home I had a short walk through the town. I noticed that it is a very little town much smaller than I expected. Later I was wondering why I expected Terespol to not be a little town like this, or why I expected anything from Terespol at all. The answer may be that my expectation came from the board-game Monopoly. In its Polish version, that I played when I was very little, I vaguely remember the main hotels or train stations or whatever it was (say hotels) were named something like Hotel Paris, Hotel Warsaw, Hotel Vilnus and Hotel Terespol. And this is I think particularly the only place I had ever seen the name Terespol before so I imagined it to be something important but it actually has a one main street and a couple smaller streets on its sides, a supermarket and a computer shop next to a church with a tower with a clock with no hands (but otherwise a very nice clock!) on each of the tower’s four sides. I will need to check it.

Pictures from the whole trip here.

Holidays snafu

October 1, 2007

And, I’m back from vacations, (for some time already). To prove that, I have pictures of everywhere I went, finally on the web (so people who were there too and forgot to take a camera can stop chasing me with a fork thank you). The vacations were as always totally messed up and all the very little planning that I did, has failed. But that’s the fun in going for vacations. So starting chronologically (or picturogically) first was:

GUADEC 07 in Birmigham, UK, this was actually before vacations, and long ago, but I didn’t have time to put any pictures online before now.

Next was a paragliding camp near Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia that I didn’t actually want to go to but was tricked into it by somebody’s evil tricks. I was going to go flying for a week in September, to a totally different place, but a friend called me and said I absolutely had to change the plans and go with her on the beginning of August (which was in three days from the phonecall) because she had already booked a place for her there and also booked the hardware and stuff, and I said ok. The only problem was she was in Italy at that time and had a ticket back to Poland for the same day when the rest of the group was leaving for Slovakia in a van, just they were leaving in the morning and she was arriving in the afternoon. So we settled on taking a train the next day. Ironically when she finally arrived it turned out that the baggage of everyone on this flight had not arrived with them, instead the baggage from a flight with a completely different destination, arrived here and the flight operator, Norwegian Air, said it would take them up to a week to find someone who knows how to hold a map and get the right baggage to the right airport. So, having already booked all the stuff I went to Slovakia alone on the next day to meet the rest of the group, most of whom I had been travelling with before. Unfortunately at some 6 am on the train, in some village still before Slovakian border and being the only person in the wagon I had an encounter with three individuals that robbed me of a lot of things that I would rather not get robbed of, like a phone and a wallet with more money than I normally use to carry. They were nice enough to give me back all the coins from the wallet and the pictures of my exgirlfriend that turned out to still sit in there. The use of violence was limited to accidentally breaking my headphones while one of the three guys started to perform monkey acrobatics on the metal bars often forming part of passenger wagon interiors (I must admit they also stimulate my own monkey instinct but there are usually people watching and also I’m not usually on drugs like these three guys). He accidentally hit my headphones with one shoe while also hitting one of his fellow thieves in the head so hard that he (the owner of the head) started to bleed, but fortunately this fact didn’t worry him much. The railway staff who I contacted soon and the police who they contacted after waiting some ten minutes for the 112 to answer, were useless, but I guess nobody expected anything else of them. I had all the documents and the train ticket still with me so I didn’t have any problems with going further on the journey except lots of wondering about what I could do to recover the phone and the money and not get hurt, accompanied by general hating the whole world (which I permit myself to do because I’m still a kid).

The first day of flying was quite good but the following six days it rained all afternoons and the conditions were rather poor also in the morning. Still, I’m glad I visited the places known by all gliders and also I had not done any thermal flights in the mountains before (as opposed to thermals generated by seas), and Mikulas is just in the center of Tatra mountains. The air is definitely more turbulent in the mountains but the lifts also don’t end at the height of the top of the nearest mountain, they’re often a couple of kilometers high. Another nice thing is we used the chairlifts that are used by skiers and snowboarders in the winter to get to the launch sites, so there was no need for one person (known as the shuttle bunny) to always stay on earth and drive the van to the landing spot. I also finally saw the Chopok mountain that I’ve heard a lot about from skiers but never skied there myself (but this was in the summer and the place was full of hikers and downhill bike riders now, who in the first moment looked at us like we were a suicide group).

When I came home I found out that the workcamp in Serbia for which I was trying to book a place earlier, was already full and the voluntary service association assigned me a place for me on a different project, which started on the next day after I arrived from Slovakia. I have never been to Serbia before and also the event seemed quite interesting, it was going to be making mountain paths and some cleaning and also helping out with some local music festival. Instead I went to the south of France to a camp that started a week earlier than I planned and was about renovating a sanctuary called Notre-Dame-de-Livron, the nearest village being Caylus. Pictures are here. It was absolutely the greatest experience of this summer, like all other workcamps that I went to. The group had 14 people and we were there for three weeks basically, after the work, having a non-stop party, visiting the region (called Tarn-et-Garonne, and its neighbour Aveyron and Rouergue) and also generally making idiots of ourselves in the eyes of the local villagers none of us speaking much French. It turned out though that maybe half of the population there spoke Spanish or Catalan to some degree because this was quite close to the spanish border. Also the nuns of the Carmelite order, that is the owner of the sanctuary, were mostly Spanish emigrants from the time of civil war, so we had no real communication issues there (worth noting that our group ranged from muslims to shintoists, and the nuns had no problem with that). As on other workcamps, I have tried a number of things that I had never done before in my life, some of them perhaps embarassing, but all of the camp was rather crazy and far too many fun things happened to relate here.

After the camp I had three days before a plane from Toulouse would take me home so I went on a short hitch-hiking trip around Rouergue region which is full of medieval castles and also the regular towns there in a big part are unchanged (architecturally) since centuries ago and are always constantly amazing people like me that only have a chance to see the south of Europe during vacations. I slept in random places (a la belle etoile) and hunted for free food in the cities and almost spent no money other than entrance fees for musea, which is what I call the real vacations. Moving around was rather easy, although hitch-hiking always involves hours of walking with all your things on your back and lots of other annoyances, too. The car drivers sometimes were very helpful to the extent of stopping in a town only to show me the place and let me snap pictures and some of them even did a good job at being a touristic guide (like the person who showed me Cordes), except for my piss poor French.

I think part of the route I made is called Rue-des-Bastides, which means something like the route of medieval towns (not sure). Very recommended.

Oh, ironically the flight from Toulouse to Warsaw, through Amsterdam, also lost my baggage, but it was found and brought directly to my home on the same day later.

Then I had one week at home and then went for a paragliding camp in Slovenia and Italy (actually at the border), in the Alps, which is where I wanted to go at the beginning but then thought I wasn’t going to go. We spent most of the week at Lijak, which is a mountain with launch point at only 530m but the meteo conditions were very good, for almost any style of flying. In fact it is said to have good conditions throughout all the year and it’s confirmed by the fact that you can see a couple of canopies on the google maps satellite view of the place at high enough zoom. The Lijak camping is just at the base of the mountain, some 2km from the official landing spot, so that I landed just in front of our tent two times. I have set my new personal records in all categories: 5.5 m/s raising speed, 14 m/s sinking (or rather falling?) speed (that was in a spiral), some 1300m max altitude over the landing spot, some 2.5 hours in the air from takeoff to landing. I experienced my first uncontrolled full-stall in which I lost 100m in about five seconds, for a moment saw the wing actually one or two meter below me partially collapsed (which scared me to death) because of too strong “overdeveloped” conditions. It was also the first time I have seen hanggliders (aka launch potatoes) and full-size sailplanes (that speed at over 150kmh) flying in the same place, soaring in the same thermals. It was unfortunately slightly overpopulated by paragliders of all levels of experience leading to some dangerous situations (but nothing fatal). Our team was a bunch of very enjoyable people, with three licensed pilots and six people in a second level course there.

Needless to say that left me with a long queue of things to do, mails to read, pictures to retouch, that I finally almost caught-up with this week. Tomorrow is the first day of classes at school again but I’m counting on having a little more vacations this month, just need to figure out a long weekend or a way to take the work with me. I spent a couple of mornings this and last week standing lines to the Russian embassy to apply for a touristic visa, which proceeded in an unimaginable, complete chaos, but I should have a two weeks visa starting from this Wednesday if nothing goes wrong now. I’ve never been to Moscow before and I should have a place to sleep in the dormitory in Moscow so it looks promissing.

I can fly?

July 12, 2007

My long awaited private pilot’s license (PPL) for paraglider finally arrived and I’m offically a pilot. It came by mail straight from… Slovakia. Why Slovakia? Turns out it’s the nearest place that has some sane law regulating the air traffic. The license is acredited by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and comes in three documents, two of them looking really neat and one that appears to be photocopied in b/w and filled in with a true old-style typewriter plus an unreadable signature of a representative of the Letecká Amatérska Asociácia Slovenskej Republiky in Žilina. This is however totally compensated by the fact that all three papers contain both my name and surname spelt without a single typo! This is an unprecedented achievement in the field of office work and the history shall remember this moment. Hereby credits go to the Slovakian beaurocracy and, of course, to my paragliding instructor.

When I grow up I want to be a Slovakian office worker. (I bet their aeronautic association has a whole department to deal with poles going for the PPL in Slovak Rep. in face of the lack of sane regulations locally).

Unrelated to all that the license was sent to my parents’ house where I went by bike today and when I was coming back a storm was just starting. Let’s just say I had never seen the average of people on the bikeway speeding that fast on their bikes. It’s normally full of annoyingly slow and lazy bikers of all ages. Now, right before the storm everyone, including the moms with children, was beating the shit out of their machines, and it was a real delight. I took the bike path that goes through siekierkowski bridge over Vistula and there’s a place in the middle of the way where there’s no civilisation in at least 10km in any direction and you don’t want to be there when the storm starts. Btw the path connects two slightly suburban but important Warsaw districts and it is most of the way in a nice forest with the bridge in the middle and the view of the city was great from there, especially during the rainstorm on an otherwise sunny day (you could say it almost looked good, which is impressive considering that it’s known as the ugliest city in this part of Solar System).


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