Life

This page collects images and trivial stuff that might be of interest to friends and relatives. ;-)

2018-10-02 Work

Back at work. No time to immerse myself in my current pet project. No time to immerse myself in my current book. No time to paint or run or go for long walks. Summer break feels like unfolding butterfly wings. Returning to the office in autumn feels like Moloch and Mammon having paved the way for me to have my soul stretched thin.

And yet, I don’t see how else we will organize society. Just all of us working a bit less sounds like a good start. I’m reading about the history of Vietnam and how productivity of the North north declined sharply as soon as they realized that hard work wasn’t paying off.

The book is harsh. By the end of the chapter I’m reading it has become clear that the North was in the clutches of a Stalinist police state with Chinese self-criticism sessions, forced confessions, torture and injustice and the South was in the clutches of a military dictatorship with rent extraction, an extreme wealth gap, secret police, torture and injustice... Uuuugh! Poor Vietnam!

At least for now, setting up development environments and onboarding is slow, but not bad. :)

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2018-09-18 Running clears the mind

Nothing clears the mind as running in the evening sun. No matter how short, no matter the view. Be it forest or trees, single trails or sidewalks. Running is a blessing and a meditation. Listen to the birds sing in spring or to the music playing in autumn. Everything is good with the air and earth and the sun and your feet.

These thoughts brought to you by Flogging Molly, Arcade Fire, some Kurdish music and Rebetika.

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2018-09-18 It is that time of the year again

Slowly, the end of my summer break has been creeping closer and closer. As we approach the end of September, it’s starting to pick up speed. When we get up, the sun is still lying in wait for dawn to come and pick her up. When we go for a run in the evening, the sun is meandering somewhere behind the clouds, losing itself in the sky and shadows are seeping up from the earth. Autumn is coming!

I still work a 60% job. I take off every Friday, and about four months in summer, more or less. It’s a beautiful life. I was lucky.

What have I done?

  • I worked on the Bitlbee Mastodon Plugin, adding more features: lists and filters in particular.
  • My interest in lists for Mastodon made work on Trunk, a website where you can find like minded people to follow.
  • I tinkered with Mastodon Archive.
  • I started working on an Oddmuse variant using Perl 6.
  • I didn’t like Microsoft buying GitHub and moved my issue tracking to a wiki of my own.
  • I talked to some people about cooking sites and then decided the simplest solution to have a no-tracking site full of recipes was to just start a new wiki.
  • I dropped my English RPG campaign.
  • I dropped my RPG campaign with the kids.
  • I picked up all the tools I need for sumi-e but have only picked it up once.
  • I bought three products by Teenage Engineering, the Pocket Operator Speak and the Pocket Operator K.O. as well as the OP-1 (a portable synthesizer) and have been making funny sounds with them.
  • I’ve travelled to Japan, Sweden, visited Hamburg and Murten, Barcelona (with the company)...

And soon I will be spending a few days in Scotland. And then it’s back to work!

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2018-06-01 Summer Break

Summer break is coming up. Actually, it should have come up. It’s June and I’m the office after 20:00 trying to finish the automated test setup I’ve begun. Truly, maintaining automated tests is super painful! I’m not sure the tests we’re writing are worth the effort. Ugh.

But I’m not here to complain. I’m here to take a break and think about the things I want to do for the next four months.

  • run along the Jura Höhenweg; this will need a fixed weekday or it will never get done, I fear
  • take up alto recorder practice again; I need to buy some Irish folk song sheet music
  • work on creating music using a synthesizer, probably the OP-1 if I can buy it tomorrow
  • work on Hex Describe some more
  • I wonder about running a Classic Traveller campaign (but then again, I always do)
  • I wonder about running a Elysium Flare campaign

(I’ll be adding to this list in the coming days, I hope.)

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2018-05-24 Donations

Collecting donations for 2018. I’ll start with the regular stuff: I regularly donate $10/month to the EFF, $120/year to the FSF, and €180/year to the FSFE.

As for political associations in Switzerland: we are members of Mieterverband (for tenants) and VCS Verkehrs-Club der Schweiz (for sustainable mobility, unlike the Touring-Club, which is pro-cars).

I use Mastodon a lot and so I’ve set up a Liberapay account which pays 1€/week for the Mastodon project and 1€/week for my main instance, Octodon.

I donated 20€ to GnuPG.

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2018-03-31 Love and Death

Off to Japan for three weeks.

I don’t remember the last time I went on holidays with strangers, without visiting family and without my wife. I keep thinking about a hike along the Beara peninsula in Ireland, must have been when I was around 20 I guess. So, 25 years ago? She really is my most favorite person, ever. I hope you all don’t mind my rambling at the airport as I wait for the plane.

Pictures… A trip down memory lane... looking at an album I made with my first digital camera. Back then I thought 640x480 pixels was plenty. We sailed from Portugal to Morocco and back. Fifteen years ago. We look so young.

When we were young, we feared that we might not keep the relationship going. So many breakups all around us. We met in Highschool, both being each other’s first partner. It seemed so hard. So many misunderstandings. So many tears. But now we’re older and we fear simply dying of cancer, in air plane crashes, car accidents, and being left behind.

We used to not fear death. We never even thought about it. But then she got cancer and everything changed. It’s gone now, but it could be back anytime. And the fear is back whenever there is a lumps somewhere, whenever we go do the checkups. The feeling when she gets out of MRI and they didn’t find anything. Such relief!

Anyway, enough rambling. I need to go to the gate.

(Based on a Mastodon thread.)

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2018-02-12 Being Confused

The days pass and my mind is not at rest. Sometimes I feel a cold hand clutching my entrails in the morning. Work? All the things I should do. A very light form of impostor syndrome and feelings of anxiety. I get these mostly when I don’t get enough sleep.

Sometimes, fragments of thoughts appear and as I try to grasp them, they disappear. Did I have a cool idea and can’t remember? Or was the thought but half done, the kind of thing that I hadn’t thought through? I’d like to remember and think it through. Like a manatee in space I flap my sadly inadequate mental flippers, but all I see are the stars turning around me. I can’t get a foothold. I can’t pin it down.

Should I write things down? Or is my life too full of things already? Perhaps I should think less. Focus more? When I need to focus, I often cannot. I want to read and play and talk. I can’t ever get anything done in the office when too many other people are around. Perhaps it is the noise that keeps distracting me. But later that day, around 15:00 or so, suddenly the horizon comes a lot closer. I don’t see people. I don’t hear people. It’s just the words on the screen. And then this. And then that. And it all falls into place.

But then I’m late for everything. I live in a permanent jet lag. I can’t play D&D at 22:00. I can’t have friends over for dinner. I can’t do my Aikido in the middle of the night. My wife has to get up early. I want to spend a few minutes in the morning and a few hours in the evening with her, in her company. We need to talk. We can’t just sleep in the same room. So I get up early and try to go to bed early.

Does journaling help focus, or does it prevent the mind from expanding? I think I’m writing this down in order to tie it down. Dear diary, sometimes I feel confused about the world and my purpose in life.

“Herr, lehre doch mich, daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß, und mein Leben ein Ziel hat, und ich davon muß.” Lord, help me understand my life will end, and that my life has meaning, and that I must go. The translation is mine and surely there are others. You can find the passages from the King James Bible on this page of the German Requiem.

This is something I fear indeed: to have wasted my time. To wake up one day and realize that life is short and that I spent what little time I had on the things I didn’t want.

I still do feel befuddled. Perhaps I should get more sleep.

Screenshot showing Emacs

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Today I’m going to try something else. It has worked often enough: get up with my wife, but then waste an hour or two at home, making and drinking coffee, checking social media, writing some code, writing a blog post. We’ll see how it goes.

– Alex, 8:04 the next morning


I totally feel you.

Andreas Gohr 2018-02-13 13:45 UTC


I’ve found the practice of keeping a paper diary worthwhile, at least thus far; having tried org-mode files for the same purpose, I didn’t stick, but with this I seem to be so doing.

I haven’t yet encountered a case where I felt that to do so prevented my mind from expanding. Quite the contrary! - in the course of an average day, far more thoughts and ideas and stories occur to me than I could ever possibly find the time to develop, and, as anyone, I almost always have something else going on in any case. Heretofore, most of these have simply been forgotten, which seems to me sufficient cause for regret. But I have found that, if I only take a moment or two aside to describe a thought that seems worth saving, and to briefly expand upon what about it makes it seem to have such worth, then when the necessities of life permit, I may review my book, find those notes, and develop their subject further. Not all such thoughts merit or receive such investment, of course! But those which do, I no longer lose between the time when they occur to me and the time when I have effort free to devote to them.

Too, no longer losing them, I need no longer fear such loss. I believe this is why I have found the practice so greatly to improve my ability to focus: I no longer need fear that all the time I will ever have with an idea, I will have in the moment that the idea occurs to me. That’s a very distracting fear! Under its influence, to disregard whatever activity engaged one when an idea arose, and instead spend whatever time one may with the idea before it is gone, makes perfect sense. The diary is a tool against this fear, which I have found to be very effective; in the absence of the fear, there remains no impetus to shift focus beyond the minute or two spent writing down the essentials for later recovery, and I find I may return to my work, or whatever other task initially occupied me, with a clear mind.

I’m not sure why it should be so important in my experience that the medium be paper and ink, rather than keyboard and screen. But I strongly suspect that it has to do with the change of mental perspective that occurs in shifting from one to the other. There is also this about writing words on paper with a pen: the level of incremental effort is much higher than that required to type into a file. Odd as it seems, I think that has value, in that it lends a degree of concentration on the essential, and in its own way that too improves focus: if I start typing to myself into a file about an idea, I’m just likely to wander far off course into inconsequentialities because thoughts flow so easily through my hands into a keyboard that there seems no need to filter sense from nonsense, whereas the effort of shaping words with a pen on paper is such that, unless I am confident the words have merit enough that I’ll be glad of them later, I simply will not write them. With a keyboard at my fingertips, I may well waste time. With a pen in my hand, I find I do not waste effort.

And there is one other thing about keeping one’s diary in a paper book: it has the heft and feel of a made thing. It feels real, in a way that no digital equivalent I’ve ever created has felt. And I find that that means a great deal more to me than I would’ve imagined it could, before I began this practice.

Whether any of this generalizes beyond my own rather strange self, I have no idea in the world. But I hope there’s something here which you may find of use, or at least of passing interest.

Aaron 2018-02-16 16:22 UTC


...certainly, reviewing my prior comment, I can also say that writing on paper has done wonders for my concision. Now just to find a way to transfer that skill to the digital realm.

Aaron 2018-02-16 16:59 UTC


Thank you both. Perhaps I need to carry a paper notebook along with me, and a pen, and use it. Strangely enough, I already use and love to use paper notebooks for my RPG campaigns, for the languages I learn, for some journal entries I leave for my wife – I guess you could say I write love letters into a notebook for her, haha. But it never occurred to me to carry a generic notebook for myself. I need to give it a try.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-02-16 21:13 UTC

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2018-01-30 To The Young Ones

Hey, just wanted to let you know: If you’re around 30 right now, remember that this is as good as it gets as far as physical health is going. You need to get fit now, if ever. Luckily I just barely made the cut.

Growing older is a bitter experience. I knew many people who could eat a lot without gaining weight. I was one of them. I used to think other people should just eat what their body told them to and it would be fine. After all, it worked for me, right? Little did I know that my gut would keep growing, my hunger would grow, my taste would continue to develop. Food gets better and better, wine gets better, everything is better and now we can no longer eat a kilogram of ice cream per week.

Little injuries will take forever to heal. As a kid, you’re so bouncy and light, you rarely ever hurt yourself. And if you do, you’ll heal quickly enough. But later in life, things change. you twist your ankle or wrist and you will suffer for weeks and months.

Everyday stuff starts to hurt. It starts with your back hurting. Are you sitting too long? Is your chair not straight enough? Your table too high? Are you taking breaks, getting up for coffee instead of sitting at your desk for hours on end? You’ll have to change that. Then your shoulders and your hands and your arms start hurting. Bad posture, too much typing. Are you going to risk your job? You’ll have to slow down.

But it’s not just that. Everything starts to hurt. You’re lying in bed, in your favorite position, and your arm starts to hurt. Lie on your back and you’ll start snoring. Lie on your belly and your neck gets twisted. Put your head on your arm and your shoulder starts hurting. Lie on your side and your spine starts hurting. Is the mattress too soft or too hard? The pillow too big or too small? Soon you’ll bring your favorite pillow along on trips.

The sadness doesn’t end there. Hold the love of your life in your arms, kiss and hug, and realize that pleasure is short. You can no longer fall asleep with your love in your arms because the arms start hurting. You can’t have your love’s leg wrapped around you because your pelvis starts hurting. You can’t have your love’s head rest on your breast because your shoulder starts hurting, again.

You sit and your feet hurt. You walk and your feet hurt. I think I must have been around 35 when I started to feel older. And now I know what it is like. Sure, you get used to it. You laugh and shake your head, you still run and dance and fight, but recovery takes longer, and the pain always comes back. You run longer, desperately trying to get your youth and your health back. But it’s not easy to forget. At night, the pain comes back. When you stop, the pain comes back. It’s always there, a constant reminder. Life is short and then you die.

Oh, and another thing my wife’s cancer has taught me. Notice how all the old people you talk to are alive? That’s survivor bias right there. You probably think you’re going to grow old because all the old people around are old. But that’s because all the other people that didn’t grow old are dead. In our society, we don’t often talk about sickness and death, and to talk about your own hurts is something that irritates and bores the young ones. I certainly didn’t care for this conversation. And so I lived in innocent bliss. But once you or your family is hit with a grave illness, you’ll see that behind the happy facade there is a sea of cancer and death. Some people truly have no idea. Others have hidden their pain away and when you talk about sickness and pain you will hear their stories, too. And you’ll start to see the world of the dead. All those grandparents that passed away. All those parents that passed away. All the suicides, drug abuse, mental illness, auto-immune diseases and cancer stories, they’re out there. But we don’t like to talk about them, and many of the victims aren’t around anymore. I lived in innocent bliss when I was younger.

I don’t know what the point of this rambling is. I guess it is this: Party harder. Live more. Seize the day. Don’t waste your life away hoping for change in the future. Your future might not be happening. Find love now. Find happiness now. There is no better time than now. Seize the day like the end of days is coming for that’s exactly what is coming.

Claudia

Also relevant: On the difference of age, or it ain't a big deal by jynx.

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A very nice response over on tfurrow’s phlog.

Thank you very much! It has been a very long time since I got such a long reply from anybody.

– Alex 2018-02-03 09:35 UTC

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2017-12-13 Cancer

I just saw this comic about cancer on XKCD and it hit me were it hurts.

Even when you survive cancer, the fear remains. Every time the checks come around, the fear returns. Every little thing that hurts, the fear is still there. Whenever people make plans for the future, you wonder whether there is a future for you, or your loved ones. Whenever people complain, you think to yourself, well at least they’re alive. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. It’s everywhere. You start talking about it and then you start hearing about it. You start thinking about all the people that aren’t there to tell you about cancer because they’re already dead. Our world is the greatest survivor bias there is. And yet, there is no other way to live. There is no other life. You get what you get and that’s that. Nobody deserves it. But the fear remains.

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2017-08-16 Donations

Collecting donations for 2017. I’ll start with the regular stuff: I regularly donate $10/month to the EFF, $120/year to the FSF, and €180/year to the FSFE.

As for political associations in Switzerland: we are members of Mieterverband (for tenants) and VCS Verkehrs-Club der Schweiz (for sustainable mobility, unlike the Touring-Club, which is pro-cars).

Today I was listening to another near 6h episode of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and liked it very much: $10.

I’ve been using Mastodon a lot: €10. Usually I don’t donate to Free Software because I also write Free Software and give it away so I feel it evens out.

The Internet Archive keeps our data alive, hopefully preventing the future from viewing our times a Dark Age. So much content on disks and easily lost in an upgrade, deleted when bills aren’t paid, taken offline when key people lose interest, encrypted because of DRM, it’s a sad state of affairs. $25 it is.

I’m not a good Wikipedia editor because whatever I know seems to already be on Wikipedia. It’s amazing. I decided to pay Wikimedia CH CHF 25. I think this is the only one that’s tax deductible, for me.

I want a free alternative to Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer. Thus, even though I don’t agree with all their decisions, I decided to donate €25 to to Mozilla for Firefox. Saving screenshots to the cloud? Integrating Pocket? Noooo!

Most of the links I follow on social media seem to take me to the The Guardian and so I decided to pay them 25€.

Plenty of links I’m following will also lead me to the German news site Golem.de and so I decided to pay their subscription of €30/year.

Also donating to Médécins Sans Frontières and the WWF CHF 500 each. And I pay double subscription for the local leftist weekly newspaper, WOZ, CHF 530 in total.

[Note: recent changes at Patreon result in a different fee structure so I’m not at all sure what this means anymore. As you can see in the comments below, I opened a Liberapay account.]

I understand why people might prefer a Patreon to donations via PayPal: easier to plan for. But $1/mo donations means about $5 out of $12 a year are for the middle men, right? 5% for Patreon, and 3.9% (4.7% to France, 4.9% to Germany) and a fixed fee of 0.30 USD (0.35 EUR, 0.55 CHF) for using PayPal from Switzerland to the US, and a currency conversion fee of 3%, resulting in 0.30 + 0.04 + 0.05 + 0.03 = 0.42, or 5.04 USD per year in fees. Well, if you are supporting multiple creators, I guess the fees get split. And you can prepay your PayPal account. From then on, your PayPal fees go down to 1%. All you need to do is make a domestic bank transfer where your name on the bank account matches exactly.

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So much talk about the new fee structures of Patreon these days!

  • a summary of what happened
  • a comparison of recurring payment service providers
  • the problem Patreon might be trying to avoid: being a money services business
  • a positive article about Patreon growth including this statement: “We’d rather have our GMV be made up of fewer, but truly life-changed creators rather than a lot of creators making a few dollars.” – Tal Raviv
  • a long statement by Amanda Palmer: “i did not want to build my own island. i wanted to build a hut in an interconnected village, next to my friend’s huts, with tons of spce for anyone to set up shop. i wanted to be part of a larger community of DIY artists carving out their own paths, making art directly for the people.” I also loved her reference to matreon.com, “where we can support art and smash the patriarchy all at the same time.” Right on!
  • and a long post by Cory Doctorow: “Yes, they did something stupid with their payment processing this week. Yes, that exposes how dangerous it is to rely on a company for your artistic living. But the measure of Patreon’s success isn’t creating an army of full-time creators with middle-class incomes where none existed before: it’s ensuring that the money generated by art goes primarily to artists.”

Anyway, I set up an an account on Liberapay and transferred 100€. I’ll support the Mastodon devs and my Mastodon instance’s admin, maybe more.

– Alex Schroeder 2017-12-11 14:57 UTC

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