Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Exberliner, refugees in Germany

Exberliner is a really inspiring publication (it already prompted this post last year). The base idea (an in English lifestyle magazine for expats in Berlin) should not be particularly appealing to a scarcely social, not cool in the slightest individual like me... but it's crystal clear that Berlin is a different place, and what in other cities would be a hipsters oriented magazine, in Berlin involves articles about social issues, historical background and so on. For example, the April number contained great articles about the urban (gentrification) plans for the city and the wipe out of part of the socialist architectural heritage.

November's issue made a non stop reading session in my flight back, and helped me understand things I'd seen the previous days both in Berlin and Hamburg. Already in October 2012 I had come across a refugees support camp in OranienPlatz (O-Platz), and information about demonstrations and a march in solidarity with refugees. The same landscape has been present in my ensuing visits to the world capital (it's very funny to see how to me Berlin has turned into the Welthaupstadt that the nazi scum dreamt about, but just for all the contrary reasons: freedom, art, dynamism, convergence of ideas, alternative thinking...) This November, apart from the camp, I found many stickers, posters, flags hanging from autonomous centers and alternative book shops... reading: Refugees Welcome and Lampedusa in Berlin/Hamburg.

Also, when paying a visit to one of my favorite Berlin spots, the desolated site between the Spree and Kopenickerstrasse with its abandoned factory covered in graffiti and murals, I found a middle east family trying to build a shanty under the shelter of the factory.

Exberliner's november issue is called "Looking for Asylum in Berlin" and nicely explains the current situation through different interviews and articles. In the last years Germany has become one of the top destinations for people seeking asylum in Europe. The reasons for this are not completely clear, but one of them is the false belief that achieving asylum in Germany is easy. Reading the experiences of some refugees it's pretty clear that it's not. Years of stagnation in a Heim (emergency refugee centre), without any idea of whether your request will be accepted or not, whether you'll be moved to another Heim in another city, the inability to work as you lack the permissions needed for that... As more refugees have been arriving into Germany (and primarily Berlin) and no move has been done by the government to speed up the asylum request procedures or to improve the conditions in which they are kept until the final decision is done different support initiatives has emerged, one of them being the protest camp in OranienPlatz. The "Lampedusa in Berlin" phrase comes from the fact that many of those refugees enter Europe through Lampedusa.

It's shocking to see that lately there's been an increase of Russian gays seeking asylum in Germany on the basis of the wave of homophobia that Putin's government and the Orthodox Church have unleashed. It seems like in the last months Russian neonazis and other pieces of human debris have been moving their focus from dark skinned people to gays.

Apart from these sad refugees stories, there's also an interesting column about Die Linke, their last electoral results (unfortunately, not too impressive), their difficulties to get rid of the past and the permanent boycott they're subjected to.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A slight taste of Perl

Over the last weeks I've been learning some Perl. Yes, I know it sounds like odd, what the hell is doing someone quite obsessed with language evolution learning a dusty 90's language?
Well, let's explain. First, a new project sprang up in my employer involving Perl and relocating for some months to the very beautiful city of Toulouse. Spending some months in Toulouse seemed appealing enough to me to make Perl look as cute as ES6 or even more :-) so I just eagerly jumped into the project.
Second, Perl is way much better than I would have expected. I guess I'll be blogging about it in the nearby future, so I'll just say here that you can do perfectly modern programming with Perl 5. This does not change the fact that the language is riddle with very idiomatic "features" that I frankly consider SHIT (the default variable/parameter thing above all), but well, it's just a matter of avoiding those things (and praying for not having to work with code written by others that consider those features cool and useful).

The thing is that while learning Perl I've come up with some very familiar features that until that moment I used to identify as JavaScript specific. Probably the most obvious are shift, unshift and splice for arrays. While the functionality is common to almost any language/library, the choice of names is not (I guess Append, RemoveFirst... are quite more natural).

A fast search brings up a related entry in the excellent 2ality blog. Well, there are a few more influences not mentioned there that I can think of:

  • Perl's undef is mainly the same as JavaScript's undefined
  • While (contrary to JavaScript) Perl lacks a Boolean type, the coercion rules applied to normal values in if conditions and son on are pretty similar. 0, "", and undef are considered false. Notice though, that "0" and an empty array/list will be considered false in Perl, but true in JavaScript.
  • I would not call this an influence, but an inherited disease... the most basic function to obtain the current datelocaltime, considers months from 0 to 11, rather than 1 to 12... one of the most common JavaScript gotchas.
  • Update, 2013/12/27 Removing a key from a dictionary/hash is pretty similar (and not particularly intuitive, I would prefer a .remove method), use the delete operator in JavaScript:
    delete myObj.key;
    or the delete function in perl:

There has also been some more recent influences. JavaScript 1.7 first (implemented by Firefox since quite a few years ago) and ES6 now, implement destructuring assignment, a beauty that Python also drew from Perl. Moose, a modern object system for Perl 5 sprung up a JavaScript equivalent, Joose.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Stree Crap 2

While being in Hamburg last week, I came across another insult to aesthetics that makes a good follow up to this previous post. I was quite interested in paying a visit to the Bismarck memorial in Hamburg, mainly because its Berlin counterpart makes one of my favorite monuments, though not for the Bismarck statue itself, but for the 4 other statues surrounding it. You can read the wikipedia article for some basic info, I'll just say that they look incredibly imposing and powerful (reminding me in that sense the astonishing 2 statues flanking the entrance to the Altes Museum.

Hamburg's memorial is quite interesting, Bismarck stands sober and serious watching over one of the most affluent cities of the country he managed to unify (specifically over St. Pauli, the most leftist, anarchic, party going district in Hamburg). It's quite remarkable how with his cape and sword he looks more like a Teutonic Knight than like a statesman of the end of the XIX century.

And here you have some pics of the offence, when street art turns into street crap

As for Bismarck, he seems to be a rather interesting personage, and not just for founding the most important country in modern Europe. From my basic understanding of his biography, I have mixed feelings about him. On one side he was deeply anti-socialist, but on the other side he was responsible for creating the concept of Welfare state that civilized people (i.e Europeans, Canadians...) have today, along with trying to avoid war by all means (without him, WWI well might had occurred some decades earlier).