My first glider flight

Today a dream of mine came true – I was passenger in a 39 minutes glider flight! We were lucky with thermal updraft and reached 1800 metres within a few minutes. “Yeehaa, this one is like an elevator!”, Bernd, the pilot cheered while spiraling us up into the sky.

The tiny airfield in Pinnow near Schwerin/Germany is just minutes from the house I grew up in. When I was young I spent many weekends watching the gliders go up and lying in the grass to get the thrill of them flying extremely close over my head when landing. On competition days I counted up to 50 gliders in one big spiral. My mum and my dad used to fly them as well. Yet I never dared to get onto one myself. Until today. 🙂

I am fascinated by how gliders fly with updraft just like big birds. The glider is pulled up by a winch on the ground, unlinks the metal rope (drops a good bit right afterwards, ugh!) and then it’s up to the skill of the pilot and the weather conditions how long you will stay in the air. Free like a bird. No fumes, no noise.

It’s an art to find those updrafts. When like today there are no clouds that indicate updraft, you need to either find some circling big birds to follow or search for it by

flying one direction until you are pushed up a little. You then need to create a mental image of where the column of rising air stands and spiral up in it. You can also “fall” out of the column. That’s fun! Think roller coaster. 🙂

One of the things that made this trip so unreal is how fast you move around space. You are circling over the old city one minute, then a few moments later you are racing down towards the runway and before you can think you are standing on grass again and hear birds twitter. That seriously messes with your head, man. Well, that and the large quantities of adrenalin in your system I assume.

Enjoy some nice views of my home town from above and lots of whistling and howling in this video that I made with my phone.

Legal Warning

Section 6 Criminal Law Act 1977, as amended by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (United Kingdom, applies to England and Wales)

Take notice

  • That we live in this property, it is our home and we intend to stay here.
  • That at all times there is at least one person in this property.
  • That any entry or attempt to enter into this property without our permission is a criminal offence as any one of us who is in physical possession is opposed to entry without our permission.
  • That if you attempt to enter by violence or by threatening violence we will prosecute you. You may receive a sentence of up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.
  • That if you want to get us out you will have to issue a claim in the County Court or in the High Court, or produce to us a written statement or certificate in terms of S.12A Criminal Law Act, 1977 (as inserted by Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994).
  • That it is an offence under S.12A (8) Criminal Law Act 1977 (as amended) to knowingly make a false statement to obtain a written statement for the purposes of S. 12A. A person guilty of such an offence may receive a sentence of up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

Signed

The Occupiers

(To be posted at the entrance of a squatted property, also valid if not signed by name)

This states the current squatter’s rights in England and Wales and basically means that the owner or landlady/landlord of a property can not evict you from your squat without going through court, proving that they are the owners and that the last tenancy has ended. Court procedures usually take weeks or months, so once you are in you will have a home for a while. If they try to evict illegally they can end up in prison for 6 months and having to pay £5,000 (currently around €6000) in fines. This makes squatting more or less legal in England and Wales. Sweet.

We have an upcoming court case for one flat in our squat on 3 September 2010. Visiting the Advisory Service For Squatters (ASS) office at Whitechapel today should allow us to get a good defense going. We suspect that the owner (council) wants to save some paperwork by getting an eviction warrant for one flat and evict the other flat while they are at it on eviction day. Which, of course, is not legal..

Until then we will continue to take good care of the building: keep it clean, fix little damages, trim plants in the garden, prevent decay and be good neighbours — while enjoying a free home with a garden in Brixton. 🙂

Resize Image Nautilus Script v1.0 released

Script in action

I just uploaded the first public release of my Resize Image Nautilus Script. It’s a small extension to GNOME, the desktop manager used by Ubuntu. The script allows you to easily shrink image files to a sane size with two mouse clicks:

Right-click a photo, choose “Resize Image”, done. The files size of pictures will be reduced to around 50 – 150 KB, depending on the selected target size. This one is for all you people that send me 3 MB holiday snapshots by email — who needs 10 megapixel photos anyway? 😉

Thanks to Ani and Tino, who hosted me at Pension Sighisoara while I was finalising my first fully documented GPL software release.

Throwing together a quick hack for your own use is one thing, but preparing your creation to be used and extended by others (translation: make idiot-proof) takes a good few more hours. Add comments and safety nets in the code, polish the interface, think of future extensions, test on other computers (I should have done that, but I leave that part to you, hehe), write documentation, make screenshots, create a software homepage and announce the release — quite some overhead. But I feel it was worth to go that extra mile.

So, if you use GNOME, please try out the script and leave a comment.

Ecotopia 2009

Unfortunately the environmental activist summer camp that I attended the last seven years all over Europe, the gathering of idealists, mavericks and tree-huggers that changed my life into a nomadic hacktivist existence, is not going to happen this year. Unfortunately?

After some 20 years of Ecotopia the organising NGO EYFA, which I am part of as a board member and web-monkey, has decided to discontinue their annual summer camp under the name of Ecotopia. Some people on the EYFA board have not been so happy with this decision, but since the folks working in the office — who are doing most of the hands-on work — wished to radically change the summer meeting, including finding a new name, we found consensus on the issue.

According to what I heard last, EYFA will organise a different, much shorter meeting focussed on activism this summer and possibly the years to come. I heard the term conference-style somewhere. It’s all a bit vague and I’m curious to find out what’s it going to be. Update May 14th 2009: The new event is called Climate Action Camp and will take place near Antwerp 3rd to 9th of August 2009.

However, the Ecotopia biketour 2009 will take place in a similar fashion as before. Check the Biketour website for updates (no 2009 info at time of writing). As for Ecotopia 2010 the Ecotopian community is working hard on what in software development would be called a fork by the name of “Ecotopia?” — taking place near Belzig not far from Berlin. I’ll be there! 🙂

Renew, question, evolve, flow. Always.

Thirty

30 .. days in a month .. hours of work per week .. years of war .. seconds of advertisement .. days of grief .. hours a day .. light-years of Orion .. centuries of over-civilisation .. milliseconds to Otter .. minutes of silence .. months to travel .. years of Meinhard. 🙂

Buy Nothing Day video

We made a short film (8 minutes) on our Buy Nothing Day action on November 23rd — enjoy the show! Thanks to Sabina for filming, Cox for editing and lending the camera, and all the remarkably self-aware zombies for leaving their hide-outs for the occasion.

Buy Nothing Day

Tomorrow I will be part of a small action encouraging people to reflect on their shopping and consumption habits. See all the details on the Buy Nothing Day Berlin 2007 page. I was just contacted by a journalist for a bigger German magazine and he might be with us tomorrow. Funny how quickly small ideas sometimes spread.

Update: The action was good fun! As expected we got we got kicked out of the entry lounge after a few minutes by a more or less friendly security guard. “May I ask what you are doing here?” During the 2 hours of zombie play in front of the shopping centre we handed out 200 leaflets and probably scared about 2000 shoppers. See the photos and join us next time! 🙂

Oil 21 conference, free Berlin

This weekend The Oil of the 21st Century is hosting a conference in Berlin. Tonight at 9pm there will be a free party at Tucholskystraße 6 with free food and drinks. Remember, it’s all free. :o) Entrance to the conference events is 3 EUR though. Today at 3pm Alan Toner, whom I met at several hack meetings before, is part of a presentation about defending your rights in the Digital Rights (TM) world.

Berlin keeps me busy, last night I went to the Ubuntu Linux version 7.10 release event at C-Base, on Wednesday to a rather breath-taking Cum2Cut performance and a few days before I was at a talk of Naomi Klein about her new book “The Shock Doctrine“. I had free Lunch 2.0 at Plazes and promptly got offered two jobs as a web hack0r, one of them related to Free Software which I accepted (more about this from November on).

Next up is Lunch 2.0 at Viif on November 5th and some of the events of Oil 21 taking place during the next weeks. I also got an almost free bicycle and a cosy place to stay at Micha’s in the Kreuzberg district. So I’m all set for being sucked into the urban magnet of Berlin for an exciting Winter 2.0!