Inside view of the Ikeda dōjō in Niš

Ikeda Dōjō Niš

Inside view of the Ikeda dōjō in Niš

While staying in the city of Niš, I wanted to keep practicing aikidō, if only to somehow counterbalance Serbian hospitality: new year, then christmas, then the host family’s Slava. Lots of food. Luckily, there is a dōjō a few hundred meters from the place we stayed in: the aikido dođo Ikeda (the letter đ should be read ‘dj’).

I was welcomed to train, even though I don’t speak Serbian and managed to get to two training, which were very interesting experiences. The training was pretty standard, with a pretty intense warmup – something I really needed in these days of bloat. The second was weapons, something I’m pretty bad at. The teacher was, thankfully, very patient with me.

The interesting thing of this dōjō is the building itself, it was completely built out of raw wood and plastic sheets. The mats themselves have been improvised out of some kind of tarp, which worked pretty well. The transparent walls with the wooden structure made the place look more like a strange Japanese temple than a sports-hall, which is pretty cool.

In short, a place I recommend if you want to train Aikidō and you are in Niš.

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Skype call icons – 📹 🎙 + 🕽

Icon Failures

Skype call icons – 📹 🎙 + 🕽

Ever since the idea of graphical user interface came out of Xerox labs, icons have been a tool of choice of user interface designers. The problem is that introducing a new icon amounts to defining a new graphical word.

Using analogies with the real world supposedly helps understanding, but this only works if the user has seen that object and recognises its stylised representation. The phone icon (☎) is widely recognised, but pretty abstract for generations Y and following, which never saw a phone with that shape outside of a museum.

Many windows user interfaces used the a 3½” floppy disk (🖫) as a metaphor for saving, which is pretty bad, because they are basically a plastic rectangle with a metallic bit and maybe some label with nothing useful written on it. It has also died out quicker than the old style phone receiver, so it is abstract for most people.

Designers always want to simplify these icons, as it makes them more elegant, and more readable, it also makes them more abstract. Trying to help my mother remotely with the Skype user interface, I got the following reading for the control icons:

  1. Wrapped sweet
  2. Flower vase
  3. Plus sign
  4. Phone

A recognition rate of 50% is pretty bad. The problem here is that the first two icons are both very abstract, and representations of objects my mother did not interact with a lot: a video camera and a professional microphone.

Interestingly, all these symbol became actual characters with the emergence of emoji. But their representation is much less stylised, and depending on the fonts your operating system is using to render them, they might be in color. There is also typically multiple icons for the same concept.

Camera Microphone Plus Sign Phone Headset

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Cover of the DVD of Ivkova Slava: a frame with the four friends in blue background in the center, the young couple on the left, the wifes on the right

Ivko’s Feast

Cover of the DVD of Ивкова Слава: a frame with the four friends in blue background in the center, the young couple on the left, the wifes on the right

Ivko’s feast (Ивкова Слава Ivkova Slava) tells the story of a party gone overboard. More specifically, a Slava, the feast that is held to celebrate a family’s saint. In this case, dedicated to Saint George. The story is interesting because of its setting, the city of Niš, where I spent some time now, and in the time period between the end of the Ottoman occupation and first Wold War, just after the first train line was built to connect Niš, to Belgrade, in 1884.

The movie is a comedy, but also a tableau of a given time. The whole story is presented as a story told by a writer who witnessed it to some visitor from Vienna. Ivko cannot get rid of some guest to his Slava, who party on, driving guest and family away. The guests tell stories, fall in love with women living in the house next door while Ivko despairs.

Title: Ивкова Слава Ivkova Slava
Director: Здравко ШотраZdravko Šotra
Year: 2005


The DVD is in Serbian but has English subtitles.

I found the movie both funny and interesting; the product is a bit unequal: the actors, the sets and the costumes are good, but the montage and the lighting are sometimes a bit weird, giving the impression some scenes were shot using a green screen from the 80’s (the movie was published in 2005). I found the costumes, somewhere between ottoman and european style fascinating. It is also refreshing to see Serbian women looking beautiful without bleaching their hair blond.

In short, a movie I recommend if you are interested in the region. This also could be some interesting inspiration for a steampunk version of the City & the City.

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