Helmar Fanselau dies aged 56

I just learned that one of my former teacher, Helmar Fanselau, died on January 13th, aged 56. He was a strange man. Many students liked him because of his antics and strange sense for humor. Others did not like him for his harsh and unforgiving marks in his subjects, Latin and History. I think he was always fair, though, even if that worked to my disadvantage, because he actually liked me, but I got bad marks nevertheless. I still fondly remember him balancing rulers on his nose and for his ability to speak several different German dialects. His “weather show” featured them all in a stand-up comedy-like routine.

He always was a controversial person, though. I just found an article I wrote back in ’96 or ’97 about a school mess held by him during which the school parson actually put out the candles in protest.

There were always various rumours about Mr. Fanselau floating around in the school. For example, he was well known for eating from student’s lunch boxes. So, the story goes, a student prepared a special sandwich with tooth paste and put it on the teacher’s desk. Mr. Fanselau entered, saw the sandwich and ate it. When I questioned him about the story, Mr. Fanselau confirmed it, but was quick to add: “Well, I didn’t eat the whole sandwich.”

Finally, the way I found out about Mr. Fanselau’s death is as bizarre as was his personality: A rogue edit on Wikipedia. Goodbye, Helmar!


I turned 30 yesterday. I’m still not sure whether that’s a reason to celebrate or a reason to mourn. Anyway, there were two coincidences. Late on Sunday evening I was watching the remake of Shaft and started to wikipedia (doesn’t have the same sound as “google”, right?) for among other things Blaxploitation. Funnily, later that evening I watched Live and Let Die, the blaxploitation Bond movie.

Still reading Wikipedia I started to read about Tarantino movies and came across the article of Zoë Bell, the stunt double of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and playing herself in Death Proof. It seems she has birthday on the exact same day as I. So, happy birthday to you, Zoë!


The elevators at mathematical department of the Berlin University of Technology where I work are known to be broken pieces of utter crap. Sometimes they stop at but don’t open the doors. The trick is to push the “Open Doors” button at just the right moment in these cases. But this is especially annoying in the evening when waiting for an elevator with only one elevator operating. When that elevator decides not to open the door on your level, youi can wait forever. You hear the elevator coming, hear the “ping” (the elevator has arrived), and the hear it leaving again. But the call button was not deactivated, so this process repeats itself indefinitely. (Or at least until the next morning when another elevator arrives at that level and deactivates the call button.)

Today the elevator had a whole new trick: I entered at ground level and pressed the “5” (where my office is). I was the only passenger. When the elevator reached the fifth level it didn’t stop, but rode ride on and the pressed “5” button was deactivated. So when we reached the top (8th) level I tried again. Same outcome … Don’t you just love it when your elevators have “personality”?

Public Transport in Winter

It’s winter in Berlin. It’s cold and wet. There’s muddy snow. Using public transport during winter is not fun. It’s crowded and you have to wait on cold, windy stations. But today it was especially bad.

Returning from university I was waiting at the S-Bahn station Adlershof. First, a passengerless train was passing the station without stop. Some wagons had no light, and at least one door was disabled. Then it was announced that the train to Henningsdorf that was supposed to preceed my train was delayed and would actually suceed my train. In my naivety I didn’t perceive this as a bad sign.

My train arrived and I entered. Funnily the radio transmission from the station personnel to the train driver was relayed to the loudspeakers so I could hear: “Türen schließen” (Close doors) and “Abfahrt” (Depart). Two stations later (Schöneweide) the train waited a while. Another train was waiting on the opposite track, going roughly into the same direction as I, but then it drove off. Just when it had left the station we were told to get off the train, because the train couldn’t go on. A signal somewhere had stopped working. Great, couldn’t they have told us a minute earlier?

Well, I had to wait for the next train leaving from the opposite track. You know the train that was supposed to preceed mine? Well, it was the same train I had seen passing in the opposite direction earlier. Of course this was only a short train and is usually crowded at this time of day. Now it also had to carry the passengers of full-length train. It was crowded.

In the end I had to take a detour over Treptower Park, where I had to wait another 10 minutes for a train to go in my direction. Fun.

Blonde Joke

Normally, I don’t like blonde jokes, but this one is really good! Oh and: Happy New Year!

But the really funny thing about this is that I stumbled across it on Planet Debian, a computer-related RSS aggregator. And while following the links, I came across The Ferret’s blog. Ferret is a well-known employee of the Magic web site and store StarCityGames. Small world indeed.

Surprise Package

Yesterday we received a mystery parcel from Hewlett & Packard at work:

Today we opened it. Inside we found two layers of styrofoam and beneath them we found another, smaller package:

Well, we were beginning to get curious. When we opened the small parcel, we found … lots of paper stuffing. But well hidden inside it, we found this:

And here is the package that HP used to ship us a 128MB memory card in all its glory: