Sunday, March 11, 2018

Everything's fine: the first film about integration in Germany

Trailer for Alles Gut

The original title of the movie is "Alles gut", and it roughly translates to "Everything's fine". It can also be translated to "I don't know where to start. Let's just say everything's fine so we can move forward"

The trailer markets it as the first film about integration in Germany, though it should be clarified to say it is the first film about integration of the wave of refugees that arrived starting in 2016. Movies about integration, especially about the guest workers that arrived from Turkey starting in the 1960s, are numerous. I can think of 2 great movies without much effort: 'Gegen die Wand' and 'Almanya'.

'Alles Gut' follows 2 families, one from Syria and one from Macedonia as they try to navigate German bureaucracy and German society in order to build a life in Hamburg. The stories take place in the here and now. It is not about how they got here. It is not about how their lives used to be. It is told primarily from 4 points of view: the Syrian father, his teenage daughter, the Macedonian mother, and her elementary school age son.

The story is started from the father and mother's perspective, the mother as she enrolls her son in the German school system and the father as he tries to get his family to Germany from Beirut (from where they arrive by plane about a third of the way through the film)

Then the perspective shifts drastically as it is told from the son and daughter's points of view. The most interesting parts of the film are the parts which are shot in the primary school, during classes, during recess, and during school events. The boy is thrown in with the German students and it shows really drastically the chasm that must be crossed.

The German kids come across as understanding and accepting while the boy clearly displays the enormous weight of living as refugee in Germany. He absorbs the fragile nature of their situation from his mother and struggles to deal with that in addition to having to live in a new country.

There are fascinating (and often accidentally funny) interviews with the other kids in the class and a part where the boy is absent from school for an extended period of time due to his refugee status during which the teacher tries to explain why to the kids why he has been missing. There are also meetings during which the teachers, administrators and parent representatives discuss the resources needed for the boy, which enlighten one to the predicament of the school.

The girl's story has a more positive bent to it. Her German is too bad join a German school and so she goes to a school with other kids in her predicament, i.e. kids from immigrant backgrounds who are trying to improve their German to join the traditional education system. It is clear from the beginning why she becomes a focus of the film.

The first shot of her is in a traditional muslim outfit, body fully covered, hair completely wrapped, her face peering out, bewildered at where she is. The film shows her coming out of her shell, realizing that the rules for women in Syria (not allowed to ride a bike, for instance) are sometimes nonsensical. It is not a sudden transformation as she is well inculcated with the rules for Muslim women in a traditional society. But just experiencing Germany on her daily routines, on the bus, in the school, wandering around where she lives, one sees subtle changes that are taking place, questions that are being asked. She comes from a place where there are rules for everything (one hears that about Germany as well) and now she is in a place where a lot of those rules are absent. Some may find that terrifying. She on the other hand seems to find it liberating.

The parents stories lean toward tragedy. They have arrived as adults, as parents, penniless and without accepted qualifications in a very competitive country. They have a mountain to climb in front of them. That is apparent to them from the very start. They place their hopes in their children. What I took away from the film is that Germany needs to as well, help these kids contribute to this country, make them feel like they can play a part in strengthening this place.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Malayalee Heirlooms

On my last trip to India, I ended up at an aunt's place and in the course of conversation, she started pulling out the bric a brac that she had rescued from her grandmother's home (where she grew up). The house was being torn down after her grandmother died and it was a free for all for the contents of the house. By the time my aunt showed up, all the large items had been carted away and she tried to grab a couple of things before they too disappeared.

Below is what a newlywed woman would wear around her ankle from her wedding day till the day she gave birth to her first child
The one pictured is solid copper and weighs in at at least 5 kg. My aunt said that the wealthy had them forged in silver or gold. The custom is long past but it was practiced till the turn of the 20th century. Quite a weight to carry around. I guess it would push one to pop out the first kid sooner than later.

Shown below, what now is being used as a flower vase, is actually a receptacle to spit the remnants of chewing tobacco.
It would be carried by a servant when the master would go somewhere. And whenever, the master needed to spit his tobacco juice, the servant would run up to provide the vessel to catch it. Talk about a shitty job.

I think I need to find the names for these two things.

elementary OS - A postmortem

I finally ended up installing Lubuntu over elementaryOS, after using eementryOS for about 8 months. Just a little background on why I installed it in the first place and why I eventually switched to Lubuntu.

I have an iMac that I purchased in January of 2009. For all the things I use it for, primarily email, surfing, netflix and some hobby programming, it works great. The CD drive gave out a while ago but otherwise, it is a perfectly good computer that I hope lasts a lot longer. I like the design of the hardware, I liked the way the user interface looked and generally worked. What ended up happening though was as the OS kept getting upgraded, the iMac got slower and slower. It just turned annoying to use.

I also use Linux at work and am relatively good at using the tools for development. It annoyed me when I attempted to set something up on OS X, which I already had working on Linux, that cost me a couple of hours of googling to find a solution, time which I had already invested in Linux.

All in all, I just wanted to try Linux on the iMac to see what the experience would be like. I really like the UI design of OS X and was looking for a Linux interface that would mimic that experience, hence elementary OS.

It was relatively easy to get it installed and the UI was a decent attempt at porting the OS X UI. Good enough, I would say. I could live with it. But there were annoying problems that I could not get over.

The most annoying:  I have a bunch of external drives on which I store my files. For some reason, automount on elementaryOS always mounted them read only. I managed to get them mounted as rw using fstab but then on the next boot, they would go back to read only. I never got this to work. It was not a deal breaker but more annoyance than I needed.

Freezes: elementaryOS worked fast and stable for the first couple of months but then it started getting slow like OS X. Then it started freezing, i.e. the I could move the mouse but could not click on anything, mostly when playing videos or using google maps. It would happen like once a week. My laptop at work runs Ubuntu, gets hammered a lot more that my home computer, gets rebooted far less often and it runs without issue. Not sure why elementaryOS has this problem.

Wierdo stuff: Programs started disappearing from the dock (though this could be due to my kids), it started asking for the password to the keyring all of a sudden, the experience overall just got kinda unpleasant.

I ended up installing Lubuntu today. Let's see how I feel about this in 6 months.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Elixir: Don't autostart dependent applications

We wanted to include Wobserver in all our deployed applications but due to security considerations, it was necessary that it not run automatically (in order that the port on which it listens remain closed by default)

I spend about a day trying to get this to work without success.
Finally, this was what succeeded. In the mix.exs file, add the wobserver dependency to included applications:

included_applications: [ :wobserver]

This will prevent the application from getting autostarted.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Avoriaz - a week of skiing

We spent the first week of 2018 skiing in Avoriaz. It was a family vacation with our 2 kids (12 and 10) and we were, at the beginning of the week, ok skiers. Good on the blues, a bit apprehensive on the reds and scared on the blacks.
As a bit of background, we ski between 5 and 10 days a year, in the border region between Germany and Austria, i.e. Bregenzerwald, Montafon etc. My only other experience of a week of skiing was in Val d'Isere.

Ski Passes
I looked into getting ski passes early, i.e. before we got there, but the early bird discount was the same as the family discount that we would get if we bought tickets once we got there. It also turned out that the website only offered tickets that covered the whole ski area, i.e. Port Du Soleil. If the ski area of Avoriaz was enough for you (and it turned out to be just enough for us), then buying 2 day lift tickets every other day turned out to be the cheaper option. We also wanted the option of taking an day off in the middle.

Getting in to Avoriaz
Avoriaz lies at 1100 meters and it is a bit of a climb. We drove in on a day where there was snow and signs posted suggested chains in case of snow. There were cars with chains and without chains on the drive up.
We had reserved a parking spot in a garage in Avoriaz. I think that was the right decision as the other options were to park outside at Avoriaz or outside at Le Pordains, which required you to then take the Gondola up to Avoriaz. A lot of the cars in the parking lot looked completely snowed in. I am not sure how they got into their spots and getting out seemed to be a challenge, both dogging out of the parking spot and then digging out of the parking lot.
We noticed the roads a couple of days later, after a night of heavy snow, and they looked treacherous. I would have not attempted the drive without snow tires wthough people seemed to be making the journey without them.
We drove in, unloaded at a covered parking area and then parked in a garage for which we had reserved a spot. The parking lot was pretty full on the Saturday that we arrived. I would suggest a reservation.

Getting to and fro in Avoriaz
There are no cars allowed in Avoiraz and so getting all your stuff to your apartment involves either hiring a horse drawn carriage, hiring a huge snow transporter that looks like something from the dark side in Star Wars or getting a trolley on skis and pushing all your stuff to your destination. The cheapskate that I am, I opted for pushing. 

The apartment we were staying in was not too far from where we unloaded. Maybe a kilometer. But pushing that trolley was a royal pain in my you know what though we managed to transport everything in one go. I am not sure how we did it as it took us several trips to get everything back in the car on the way out. On our second trip to the car on the way out, we skipped the trolley the second time around as it was seriously heavy and seemed to be more of a hinderance that a help.
Getting to and from the lifts was another adventure. The bad part about being not too far from the unloading zone was that we were a bit far from the lifts. It was not too bad once we figured out the to and fro but again, the town is not made for skiing. It may have snow on the streets and no cars but the terrain is not ski friendly.

Weather
The weather while we were there was decent. There was one day where the entiriety of the ski area was closed due to terrible weather. The day after that, the rain was so bad that we had to quit after about 3 hours. We were soaked down to our skin. All in all though, we got 5 days of great skiing. The weather was sunny in parts and when overcast, the visibility was at least great. The wind was also terrible on some days, now that I think back on it, but I can't remember it affecting us too badly. 

When the weather is bad though, there is nothing else to do. There is a pool but it gets filled up quick when the weather is bad. Get in line before it opens!


Slopes
The slopes were in pretty good shape, even considering the rain. On at least half the days, I was doing my last runs as snow was coming down, sometimes coming down in torrents. The runs were icy in spots but nothing we were too worried about.
It being Christmas vacation, there were a lot of people on the slopes and there were lines at the lifts but never crowds. 
The ski map showed a lot of blue runs but they were more akin to red runs that I had been on. There are a two fun parks with jumps and stuff that the kids loved, which  I was not a fan of (the runs were narrow and crowded with people) and then was an area with big ramps, in case you were interested in serious air (one lift went directly over the area which is the only reason I am aware of it)
I think Avoriaz is a great place for someone who is an ok skier but it may not be challenging enough for someone who is good. There were lots of beginners on some of the runs, and there are a few runs set up just for beginners. So it may suit them as well. I cannot judge that anymore. Learning is just difficult. 


Eating on the slopes
It just varies a lot. We ate once at Le Brocheaux and there was table service and the food was pretty good at a reasonable price. Another time we ate at Les Lindarets, where it was cafeteria style, the prices were insane and the food mediocre. I think the more off the beaten path the place is, the better the quality (just based on those 2 experiences) We had a couple of other meals but I cannot for the life of me remember where they were. 

Avoriaz in general
The bakery next to our place (Le Fournil de Cannelle) was awesome. There are a couple of grocery stores in town where we picjed up stuff for dinner most nights and were a good value. We ate out once as a family and the meal was forgettable. We were to blame as we just picked a place with an open table as we were hungry.
My wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at Les Enfants Terribles and that was really awesome (though pricey)
We were there on New Year's Eve and ventured out to check out the celebrations. There was a DJ spinning records on the main drag and there was a setup for a huge party but due to the weather, there was only a crowd directly around where the DJ was setup. Still though, you gotta give them props for at least the effort. I think it would've been a good time.

Conclusion
I would 100% go to Avoriaz again. I would 100% recommend it for a family ski vacation to anyone. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

German Elections 2107

Disclaimer: I cannot vote in Germany. I do not follow German media. I live in relatively affluent area of Germany (the Bodensee)
I do not know how most of my freinds will vote. Unlike the US, where who you vote for is generally pretty obvious, it is something much harder to determine (for me at least)
I know one guy at work is voting SPD and one of my bosses hates Merkel (nothing to do with immigrants BTW)
I did listen to a rant by a mom of one of the kids that my son play's soccer with about refugees who are refusing to learn German, but that still did not give me any sense of which way she would vote.
Voting for a right wing party (AfD) still feels like quite a hard step for many in this area, regardless of how they feel about the refugee situation. I do not see the AfD getting a lot of support here.
I took the Wahl-o-mat (which is survey of around 30 questions that tells you what party most aligns with your views) and it had me supporting 'Die Partei' followed rather closely by SPD or CDU (don't remember) Suprisingly, 47% of my answers matched the AfDs stances on issues.
The AfD are an out there party but I assume their stances on some issues are surprisingly main stream. Or I am a rascist.
I do find it surprising that the AfD are doing so well in such a good economic climate. The real estate market is booming. I am getting multiple unsolicited mails from real estate agents trying not just to sell me places but also trying to get me to put my place on the market. People feel cash rich and bullish about the future (There is somewhat of a supply side issue to cause prices to be increasing but prices are inordinately high. There's a bubble there). Job growth is kinda crazy as well. The company I work for is hiring and finding nobody. I hear the same story from friends are other companies.
In these conditions, the AfD vote feels like a peremptory protest vote. There's some project management approach where at the beginning of a project, you lay out how the project will fail. It says fuck you if you think things are going well. This is going to end badly.
On the one hand, the vote says too many are succeeding in Germany who are not German. Too many have absorbed the mantra of learning the language, getting an education, and playing by the German rules. The German economy rewards those people. Its a market economy regardless of how much Germans want to not accept that. But that is not what was supposed to happen. Immigrants were supposed to listen to the mantra and ignore it. Germans were supposed to be exasperated at the lack of success despite a bunch of taxpayer money spent. AfD support is about reframing immigrant success. Material success of immigrants is not a success for German. It is rather ruining this country. It is allowing them to change Germany. They're in office, they're starting businesses, they're affectng the culture of this country, which is totally inappropriate. Fuck them is the aspect of this support.
On the other hand, there is a percentage of people who are not learning the language and who are not appreciative of the largesse that the German taxpayer is sending their way. Fuck them is the aspect of this support.
AfD support comes from both the successes and failures of integration. It boils down in both cases to "Fuck them". An easy message to get out.
I am a bit apprehensive about the results. Trump's victory has me ready for anything though.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ERROR: new collation (en_US.UTF-8) is incompatible with the collation of the template database (C)

I was getting this error when installing postgresql:
ERROR: new collation (en_US.UTF-8) is incompatible with the collation of the template database (C)
HINT: Use the same collation as in the template database, or use template0 as template.

The situation was I was trying to install packages automatically (via script) after a machine boots.
The problem was the locale that is set is POSIX and the database needed en_US.UTF-8.

I need to do the following prior to package installation:
export LANG=en_US.UTF-8
export LANGUAGE=en_US.UTF-8
export LC_ALL=en_US.UTF-8

Thursday, April 21, 2016

iPXE pxe could not find kernel image

In addition to making sure the image is in the correct location, make sure the image has the correct permissions:
-rw-r--r-- 1 root   root     6568848 Apr 21 13:36 vmlinuz-3.19.0-28-generic*
-rw-r--r-- 1 root   root    20753184 Apr 21 13:46 initrd.img-3.19.0-28-generic*


The files cannot be a link. They must be the actual files.
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