Monthly Archives: June 2012

Photo showcase: Cobbles

Cobbles 1

Cobbles 1

Following on from this post a couple of months back, this week I am continuing my occasional series of posting a picture I took some time ago and including a few comments on it.

This picture was taken way back in 2006, when I’d just started getting into photography. If I took the same picture today, I might go for a quirkier composition with the subject more off-centre, or introduce some stronger contrasts in the processing. However, I’m happy with it the way it is overall, with the diagonal slant and the colours that come out in the cobbles. What’s more, it’s a picture that sums up quite a bit about Freiburg.

These cobbled streets are a feature of the entire city centre – you’ll find them in the market place, and many of the streets have these built-in (and also constructed out of cobblestones) water channels – a hazard to tourists but – I am reliably told by M – something that born-and-bred Freiburgers can successfully negotiate without calamity. My entire walk to work is along cobbled streets, including some other quite impressive examples of decorative work and colour. It’s amazing to watch the artisans as they create a new one or replace an old one after street repairs and to explore the older patterns in the pavement that reveal, by means of e.g. a pretzel-shaped design in the cobbles, that today’s anonymous, one-size-fits-all mobile phone shop was once a bakery. There can be a tinge of sadness at this realization, but the pleasure that something historical has been preserved is normally the stronger feeling.

Bikes are another thing you can’t fail to miss in Freiburg, though even locals find it hard at times to avoid (near) collisions and accidents given the challenges posed by narrow cobbled streets, tram-lines, sometimes not-very-visible water channels, exceptions to the one-way system for cyclists, and stand-offs with groups of tourists, delivery trucks, stray (mostly out-of-town) motorists and less roadworthy occasional cyclists in the pedestrian zone (where it is mostly OK to ride a bike, but there needs to be some foresight and care shown by everyone using the area). I always breathe a sigh of relief when I’ve successfully got beyond the urban ring road on my bike and have left behind the juddering, shuddering cobbles, motorized and two-legged (or occasionally four-legged) obstacles and the general noisy, seething mass of moving objects.

Dangers aside, we’re actually jolly lucky to live in a city which is within easy striking distance of an elaborate mesh of purpose-built or dedicated cycle paths, and I rather wish I’d properly discovered the joys of cycling in the area rather earlier. Still, I’m enjoying it now, and long may that last. My only slight qualm is that it’s hard to impossible to take pictures while cycling, but I find solace in the fact that cycling is perhaps healthier than photography. ;)

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Filed under Out & about, Photography

A wayside worth falling by

Alsace flowers

“Alsace flowers” by missusdoubleyou on Flickr (click image to view source) (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND)

Yesterday two friends and I made our first foray this year into France by bike, travelling the by now well-worn route that goes from Freiburg-Umkirch-Bötzingen-Wasenweiler-Ihringen-Breisach and on into Alsace over the Rhine. It was the first really warm day we’d had for weeks, following a period when it rained A LOT; not surprisingly, the arable fields, meadows, orchards, vineyards, riverbanks and woods we passed (through) were looking in fine form, extremely green and lush – all in all, a great advert for nature’s astounding range of fertility, which I have enthused about before here.

Most of the route was in Germany – our actual destination, a supermarket near Neuf-Brisach, may be 35km from Freiburg, but it’s only about 5-6km beyond the Rhine border. You always do notice quite profoundly that you’ve crossed into another country – quite apart from that fluvially based feeling of crossing over to the other side (via several bridges, I might add), the road markings, signs and cycle paths immediately take on a different quality, and the style of building is also rather different.

What bowled me over on this occasion, though – and I suspect this means that we haven’t done this tour at exactly this time of year before – was the sheer variety of wild flowers to be seen in the waysides and verges on the French side of the border. Yes, just as much land (if not even more) is given over to organized agriculture over there, but they obviously don’t trim the edges as assiduously (at least in Alsace – I don’t know whether this is “départemental” policy or a general French thing) as the Germans (or, I would venture to say, the British) do. And it really does make a difference. On the German side, my heart did soar when I saw the poppies dotted among the barley fields – clearly no farmer is going to go through an arable field removing them summarily and selectively – but THIS explosion of hip-high random colour and variety west of the Rhine was beyond compare.

I’m a little sorry to say that we didn’t take the time to stop and actually examine the flowers, but I did look as carefully as I could and spotted cornflowers (in blue, pink and dark red), dog daisies, something (white and frothy) akin to meadowsweet or cow parsley (I will probably never learn the difference), calendula (orange and yellow), not just red poppies but orange and yellow ones two, and a proliferation of other pink flowers that my flower book suggests were probably crown vetch (I’d never seen this flower before so didn’t recognize it at first). If anyone recognizes any of the other varieties that can be seen in the picture I’ve used here, please let me know so that I can look out for them next time…

The whole experience has left me feeling rather thoughtful. I had rather come to assume that floral displays of this kind were largely the preserve of the past, childhood memories, old photos, kitschy films, far-away places, idyllic hidden oases, or of cottage gardens sown with “mixed meadow flower” seeds from a pack to make them look quaint and rustic. The discovery that they are there to be seen in such natural abundance so close to here fills me with wonder and gratitude on the one hand, but on the other hand with disappointment that this biodiversity has been so widely suppressed by policies of orderliness or environmental “control” in so many areas that would not so very long ago also have boasted such a rich variety of native flora.

 

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Filed under Out & about

How to upload a file

This is probably the most boring blog entry I will ever write. Or at least I hope it is.

The university’s content management / e-learning / blended learning platform is clunky at best, and although I wouldn’t deny that it offers some useful functionality, it is positively user-hostile when it comes to pretty simple tasks such as uploading files. Here is the procedure, which I have moaned about on numerous occasions, most recently today….

  1. Log in to the e-learning platform
  2. Click on “Content management”
  3. Click on “Course management”
  4. Click on “Course manager”
  5. Enter search term in the box, or look under “My content”
  6. Select course (checkbox)
  7. Click on “Edit”
  8. Click on “Contents”
  9. Select the folder you want to upload your file to (checkbox)
  10. Click on “Create”
  11. Prompt: Please choose element type
  12. Select “Content”
  13. Click “OK”
  14. Prompt: Where do you want to paste the components?
  15. Select before, after or in the hierarchy below the selected element
  16. Click “OK”
  17. Prompt: Please choose a category
  18. Select from animation, audio, CBT or twelve other categories
  19. Click “OK”
  20. Prompt: Please choose a language
  21. Select from English (US), English (GB), German etc. (note: only German offers full functionality so it’s not worth choosing anything else!)
  22. Click “OK”
  23. New popup window: Type in title of file and name of creator (these are mandatory, other fields may also be filled in)
  24. Click on “Upload” and select the file you want by the usual route – clickety-click-click
  25. Click “OK”
  26. Another new popup window appears with the  prompt: File successfully uploaded
  27. Click “OK” – second popup window closes
  28. Click on “Save” – first popup window closes
  29. Prompt: Your changes have been saved successfully. Would you like to go to the Release Manager now?
  30. Click “No” (note: I’m not even sure what the Release Manager is, only that I’ve never experienced the need to go there)
  31. Hey presto, your file now appears in the place you wanted to insert it
  32. AND NOW……. repeat stages 9-31 to upload another file to the same folder, or – deep joy – go a few steps further back still if you want to add a file to a different course
  33. BUT DO NOT FORGET TO CLICK ON “SAVE” BEFORE EXITING ANY GIVEN COURSE, OR ALL THIS WILL HAVE BEEN IN VAIN!

Today I uploaded 22 audio files to one folder for one course. It took me over half an hour.

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Filed under Technical stuff, Work stuff

Ten things I have discovered this week

I’m in a rut. Again. There’s nothing I feel like writing about at length, and I’ve got too much hanging over me at the moment, too many people making demands on my time (in good ways as well as bad, I might point out), for it to be possible to work up enthusiasm for going in search of a new topic. Grr!

However, not updating this blog at least once a week isn’t an option (if you’re wondering why, see here), so I thought I’d try to salvage a few positive or interesting things I’ve discovered during what’s been a rather bitty, messy week. Ten things I have discovered. In no particular order.

1. I can sit, with my feet up, on the rearranged sofa in my new upstairs work area, for HOURS on end without getting uncomfortable. This. Is. Good.

2. Nothing can come close to real vanilla pods for flavouring cakes and desserts, and I love those black speckles as well as the taste!

3. The German word for silicone is Silikon, not Silikone as I thought, while silicon is Silizium. I’m glad I discovered this in an environment where I didn’t make a fool of myself in the process.

4. Buying fresh garlic from the market, in season, before it’s been dried so that the outside skin is papery, guarantees not only a fantastic taste but you can have great fun popping the “naked” garlic cloves out of the covering (providing they don’t pop out straight onto the floor, that is).

5. I have a new favourite word – “omnifiascoid” – courtesy of this article.

6. I like the Bee Gees an awful lot more than I did previously, thanks to the discovery this week of their album “This is Where I Came in”.

7. You can make CAKE out of aubergines!! (See here – haven’t tried it yet, but rest assured you’ll read all about it here, if and when I do).

8. Dogs and barbecues are a BAD mix.

9. The unicorn in the UK Royal Coat of Arms has a chain around its neck, not as decoration or riding reins but for the reason that unchained, it could prove a Very Dangerous Beast.

10. You should never relegate your toolbox to the cellar, as this will immediately lead to things in the flat breaking, screws coming loose and all sorts of other things needing attention.

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Filed under Domestic