Life

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

2019-03-27 Work Life Balance

Some days – almost all the working days – I am troubled by the time structure of life. I want my mornings slow. Reading social media, making coffee, drinking coffee, watering plants. I want to walk to the office. There, I should work for eight hours but when it’s sunny outside I’d love to go for run over lunch and I’m tired after six to seven hours of work. And in the evening I want play D&D or practice Aikido or sit and read with my wife, and time is running out and where did it all go?

To be fair, there are also the days when I’d love to sit in the office until late, the last one staring at the screen, tapping that keyboard, an island of light in a sea of darkness. But it’s rare and it usually means plans fell through for the evening.

Is my schedule too full? Is age creeping up on me, trying to tell me I must slow down? I must slow down even more? I already work a part time job and yet there is so much left to do.

I’ll have to try and focus. Tell myself to be positive about it. My life is full. I want to work because I want the money in order to be carefree the rest of the time. It is the carefreelessness that enables me to fill it with all the things I enjoy and thus it will always be the case that I want more of it. A certain unhappiness is unavoidable and has to be dealt with.

This work-life-balance thing is hard, even if you work a part-time Job like I do.

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Comments on 2019-03-27 Work Life Balance

How did you convince your employer to let you work part-time, and how part is it? 🙂

Adam 2019-03-27 22:10 UTC


I work 60% over the year, usually Friday’s off and a four month summer break.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-27 22:16 UTC


@sajith recommended the book The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, by Jonathan Haidt. I just read through How to Become Happier and I am intrigued.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-28 06:05 UTC


I’ve always been skeptical about self help books. I think less time put on them, and more on real books, is a better strategy to become happier. On that line, I suggest Herman Hesse’s “Siddartha”, Tolstoi “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” or Jorge Semprun’s “L’écriture ou la vie” if you haven’t read them yet.

On the topic of work life balance, it seems to me that you have a very healthy solution going on. Perhaps you could use a creative mid term goal to spend your free time on (pottery, woodworking, painting...) away from the screens? Even if that would mean reading your posts less often...

– Enzo 2019-03-30 09:55 UTC


I’ve read Siddartha as a teenager. Another one that was a big influence at the time was Erich Fromm’s To Have or to Be?. I haven’t read the two others. But perhaps you are right and reading good books where advice about the good life is incidental is actually the better thing to do.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-30 12:39 UTC

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2019-03-10 It has been 27 years

Today my wife and I have been together for 27 years. It still amazes me how wonderful this time has been.

Ever since cancer came and went, I also keep thinking about the frailty of life, how we cannot be sure of anything, and most importantly, that it is far from a given that we’re going to spend another 27 years together.

XKCD knows so much about cancer, it scares me. Three days ago I was looking at two of the comics linked and I started crying. These situations tell me that the hurt is real, that even though almost all the days are happy, the body still remembers.

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Comments on 2019-03-10 It has been 27 years

Congratulations to both of you 🙂

– Enzo 2019-03-12 06:27 UTC


Thanks!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-12 16:09 UTC

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2019-03-02 The need to relax

Joe Bush wrote Deep vs. Wise and in it he talks about his frustration with how he handles his hobbies and how he is unhappy about himself.

I pick up new things pretty easily, but I put them down just as easily. Rarely do I dive super deep on a given subject, nor do I ever really attain mastery at anything.

– Joe Bush

I can relate. I tried to learn Arabic for four years with a private tutor. I spent at least two years trying to learn Japanese on my own. I’ve tried to learn playing the flute (the alto recorder). I’ve tried to learn to draw using a brush and ink, using a dip pen, and using an app.

I’m also a 1st Dan Aikidoka but I’m too lazy to practice for 2nd Dan. I’m a hobby programmer but I don’t want to tackle any big projects. I used to read voraciously but I just don’t make the time any more.

I can relate to Joe Bush’s plight.

I a recent conversation with Chris we agreed that we’re all 60% or 80% people. the exact percentage doesn’t matter. The important thing is that our hobbies take us only so far. They never take us to the top. My French teacher in Bangkok used to say: “Les cimes!” Aim for the peak!

Our culture tries to push us to the top. Struggle! Practice! And increasingly: Monetize! Hustle! But I don’t want to. This is not Otium (Muße in German). This is not leisure time in which to play, rest, and contemplate. Thus, I tried to get away from this mindset. I tried to look at it from the other direction: If I don’t read, then obviously I no longer enjoy reading as I feel I should. If I don’t practice Aikido or Japanese, then obviously I don’t feel as strongly about them as I feel I should.

And thus the truth is revealed: it is this image of myself that I need to get rid of. I need to face the truth and learn to love it, and to love me as I am: an eternal dabbler, a playful, curious, loving mammal. Mastery is not for me. Yearlong dedication is not for me. Laser focus is not for me.

I think it would be healthier to just get the respect of ten people for a thing you do. Ten people like my Aikido, even though I feel like I should do more. Ten people like my podcast even though I could polish it more. Ten people like my drawings even though I should draw more.

Learn to love things as they are.

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Comments on 2019-03-02 The need to relax

Lovely musings. It reminds me: a few years ago when I was making my living doing a bunch of things (acting, directing, teaching yoga, PHP programming, web guru-ing) I started referring to myself as a “professional dilettante”. I was not an adept or master of any of the things I was doing to make my living, but I was good enough at each of them that they could each form a piece of the puzzle that was my livelihood. I remember it was frustrating at first not be a “the person who does [this]” and know that I was a master of that one thing. But eventually I came to enjoy the breadth.

acodispo 2019-03-03 14:51 UTC


Yes! 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2019-03-03 14:58 UTC

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2019-02-23 Hayfever

The last week or two have been warm, and tonight was the first night where hayfever woke me up. This early in the year? I remember April?

Prognose von Samstag, 23. Februar 2019 bis Dienstag, 26. Februar 2019

Das sonnige Wetter begünstigt die Ausbreitung einiger Pollenarten. Haselpollen finden sich in den Niederungen in hohen Konzentrationen, ausser in Gebieten mit nächtlichen Minustemperaturen wie Senken oder Alpentäler. Erlenpollen erreichen im Allgemeinen mässige Belastungswerte. Auf der Alpensüdseite ist die Blüte weiter vorangeschritten, und Hasel- ebenso wie Erlenpollen finden sich in den Niederungen und Talsohlen in hohen Konzentrationen.

Pollenprognose

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2019-02-14 Narcissism

I was commenting on a post by Anne Hunter about Zak S on Google+ and since that platform is about to disappear, I’m posting something similar here as well.

Please note that I’m going to use “narcissist” in the following without there being an actual diagnosis by anyone. The Narcissistic Personality Disorder page is interesting: “characterized by persistent grandiosity, excessive need for admiration, and a personal disdain and lack of empathy for others … arrogance and a distorted sense of superiority, and they seek to establish abusive power and control over others … … typically value themselves over others to the extent that they openly disregard the feelings and wishes of others, and expect to be treated as superior, regardless of their actual status or achievements … intolerance of criticism, and a tendency to belittle others in order to validate their own superiority” and so on.

The reason people are now all speaking out against Zak is, I believe, that the all experienced some of the above in some degree and so Mandy and Viv’s stories seem so plausible.

I talked about the entire situation with my wife. Zak is the first narcissist in my life but unfortunately she has seen quite a few at the workplace and had started reading about the entire thing. But it’s only now that I’ve been able to put it all together. I was simply unable to prove anything and didn’t (and still don’t) want to judge people on vague statements and exhortations to “believe”. I wrote about this back in 2016: “That’s why I agree with people like Zak: there needs to be more accountability online. Posting online is not like talking to friends. Posting online is like writing for the press if more than a handful of people can read it. Accountability is key. Politeness is key.”

I have so little to do with Zak and Mandy and Vik and all the others in this story that I’d like to move away from the personal. I wish them all the best. Let the victims heal. Let the perpetrators learn and grow as a human. I don’t know the truth. It’s hard to know what to believe.

The only thing I know is what many people are writing about right now. Online, Zak exhibited many of the traits I quoted from the Wikipedia article. It’s interesting to see how the entire spectrum exists between different people, and over time: association, disengaging, hiding, blocking. I want to focus on that part, because that’s the part that affects us all, I think. As a society, it’s hard to know how to deal with narcissists.

How do we deal with the smart and charming but ruthless and heartless people, the manipulative abusers? I liked the unprofessional looking How To Deal with a Narcissist. They have big pictures. But read what it says. It matched the things my wife had read and experienced even if it was couched in super friendly words. I feel the part about walking away and ending relationships was super important based on what my wife had been telling me and I think that’s what many of us have been doing, gradually, each according to their own needs to be safe.

I also noticed that the article talks about “a spouse, a parent” and I realized that sometimes narcissists are family and it’s not always as (comparatively) easy as quitting a job or cutting ties on social media. 😥

As for myself, I definitely want to get better at spotting and handling narcissists. This is a skill I totally need to improve. I still don’t know how to do that without compromising my values. I don’t want to participate in angry mobs, I don’t want to believe every accusation, I still want people to be able to defend their position. It’s hard to do all this in the workplace, and it’s hard to do on social media.

Thus, I don’t feel bad for my slow and silent retreat, I don’t feel bad for liking the interesting things Zak did, or standing up for my values, but I definitely want to get better at spotting and handling narcissists.

Things to watch out for:

  • people being callous towards the other side in a conflict (no mercy, no understanding, no forgiving, no healing)
  • noticing how other people you like disappear (when they stop blogging, stop posting, stop commenting)
  • noticing the same feeling of caution, trepidation, or fear in yourself (when you hesitate to post or comment, fearing to get involved)
  • people being defended by others on purely rational grounds (like I did: sometimes we assume the others are simply socially awkward or inept and we hope that they actually mean well or just can’t help themselves; look out for emotional words that point in the other direction, like the words I used: “aggressive” and “angrily”)

Keep track of these things and use these as early warning signs.

Here’s what not to expect:

  • call-outs are super rare because of the anxiety and loyalty (a web of guilt and fear holds it together: you’ve seen other people put down, or you got help in the past)
  • confrontations and proof is hard to find (because they are smart: they keep records and the other side does not; the make sure to exert pressure where others cannot see)

Here’s what to do:

  • most of all: disengage (like somebody said in Anne Hunter’s thread: “The first rule of responsible care is to not create a second patient.”)
  • help the targeted (if your early warning signs went off, contact people in private and support each other – this is something I need to do, definitely)

Here’s what to expect:

  • all those people suffering in isolation, all those people quietly retreating – they remember! – and when the dam finally breaks, there’s a shit ton of resentment that has built up

Anyway, that’s why I feel like I can say this in public: I don’t know whether the accusations are true or not (they seem very plausible!) but the thing I know for sure are the warning signs I mentioned:

  • callous treatment of others
  • people I liked disappearing
  • noticing the trepidation in myself before getting involved.

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Comments on 2019-02-14 Narcissism

Wow, this is a great post.

– Anonymous 2019-02-14 21:55 UTC


I also recommend Thank You, Mandy by Michael Prescott about the importance of feelings, and how the idea of using legal arguments to decide who to be friends with is a “reasonable-sounding bad idea.”

If you want to see examples of how the duping actually went – because it’s hard to imagine if you haven’t experienced it, and because it’s important to recognize it when you meet somebody with narcissist tendencies, here are some links:

  • Crossroads. Ben summarizes a conversation he had. “When we talked it was like I was speaking to a completely different person … He was generous. He said nice and empathetic things about some of the people he feuded with. I was actually grateful to him at the time for handling it all so reasonably.”
  • Thoughts on the zaklash, personal stuff. Cavegirl talks about the duality of the experience: they are nice to you and make you feel smart and valuable, and yet at the same time you see things blow up elsewhere. Also, a transcript of a conversation.
  • OSR: On Zak (Sabbath) Smith. Skerples has some screenshots of how one-on-one conversations went.

I’m listing these blog posts because it’s interesting to see how the magic works, and it’s important to me that it not work again the next time.

Sadly, in our lives, we will probably meet more narcissists. Some of us will be charmed and end up entangled in a web of obligations and deception, others will feel something is wrong but can’t put their finger on it, and most of us will want to lead our lives and will not want to be part of lynch mobs and witch trials. And yet, we will need to work together. We need to realize as a group that there is a somebody amongst us taking advantage of how we feel.

I don’t want to fall for it again.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-15, 2019-02-16


Also interesting: In Repercussions, Brendan talks about the slow realization that friends are disappearing, that you you need to watch you words near somebody who is as aggressive online as Zak was and how that drives people away even if they didn’t do anything wrong. And he talks about one of the remedies I mentioned, too: sending direct messages.

We really do need to warn each other, support each other, organize our response. Together we stand, divided we fall.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-19 06:50 UTC


And also interesting: In I Don't Know What to Think, with a more legal mindset, basically expanding on the point how most people who have practically no connection to accused or accuser cannot sure (”beyond all reasonable doubt”) of what happened.

But then again, that’s self-evident to me (now, I guess I should add?) – we can believe things without convicting people. We can end friendships and make financial decisions based on hearsay. There is not perfect justice in this world.

I loved this anonymous comment:

Lord save me from ignorant people who bandy around legal terms on elf game blogs. I include myself in this.

Hearsay refers to a statement not made as oral evidence in court during trial. It can be evidence in some circumstances.

More importantly, if this situation is being treated as a criminal trial […] the statements by Mandy and co should be treated as being made in the course of the trial, i.e. as oral evidence, which is admissible without any of the caveats that apply to hearsay.

You can’t have it both ways - requiring people to apply the standard of proof that only applies during a criminal trial, while treating the accusers’ statements as being made wholly outside any legal process.

Like, I don’t know whether people have just watched too much CSI and think that ‘evidence’ only refers to CCTV and forensics and all that exciting HARD PHYSICAL EVIDENCE in little plastic bags, because they’re in for a rude surprise if they ever end up in court.

Statements made by people are evidence. That’s what a witness statement is. Multiple statements that corroborate each other are generally pretty good evidence, and can certainly be sufficient for conviction. People get sentenced to prison (actual prison, not ‘no one will buy my books or art and now I have to work a normal job’) every day on the basis of oral evidence. All this bleating about hearsay and evidenceless accusations and people’s lives being ruined is based on ignorance about what’s actually involved in the criminal process - which, again, this is not, so you would be perfectly justified in not requiring the same standards of proof, evidence, etc.

– Anonymous

Definitely stuff I hadn’t thought through myself.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-19 15:54 UTC


A thought I had about Narcissists, but about domestic abuse: Werewolves as a Metaphor for Domestic Abusers.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-22 16:55 UTC

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2019-02-13 Donations

Collecting donations for 2019. I’ll start with the regular stuff: I regularly donate $10/month to the EFF, $120/year to the FSF, CHF 120/year to Digitale Gesellschaft, 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 donated…

More to be added throughout the year, I hope.

And I pay double subscription for the local leftist weekly newspaper, WOZ, CHF 530 in total.

Something new for me: people I know or knew on social media. This is very strange for me.

  • EUR 20 for somebody with MS in Portugal
  • USD 10 for the gravestone if somebody I knew in the US
  • USD 20 for somebody who lost their job in the US

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2019-01-25 Tea

Preparing some Yame-Cha after an 80min run with my favorite person.

Image 1 for 2019-01-25 Tea

And this morning I made Zopf for the first time.

Image 2 for 2019-01-25 Tea

I’m thinking of using my blog more like I use social media: more insights into my daily life, pictures, shorter snippets.

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2018-12-19 On the table

OK, when I’m not programming, what’s on the table?

Other stuff:

  • drawing faces using Zen Brush 2
  • drawing stuff using actual ink and an actual brush
  • making music on the Pocket Operators and the OP-1 ✓
  • practising on the alto recorder

Programming...

  • add ActivityPub to Oddmuse
  • write an extensible, grammar-based Markdown library in Perl 6 for Oddmuse
  • add web socket support for Bitlbee-Mastodon

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2018-11-04 No Future

I don’t know what it is. Ever since I set up the RPG Planets because I wanted to do a little something to support blogs in the face of Google+ going down I’ve been reading more blogs, and Brad J Murray’s blog in particular. Is he on fire or what? Did I miss all his blogging for years?

Well, just now Brad writes about post apocalyptic gaming and how he was basically traumatized by the idea of not having a future for fear of nuclear war.

Ouch, this one goes deep. Here I am, a childless nihilist and the world did not burn after all! I guess I should be happy, now. But waking up from the nightmare of no future, of reading about the blind children in our future, of seeing the mushroom clouds again and again in the movies, I still feel unease. Did this not happen? All these stories start shaping the realities we live in and when they turn out to be wrong, it’s as if part of your reality was wrong, too.

Should I have led a different life?

Well, with the sixth mass extinction event life in the news, perhaps I can go back to my nihilist self. After all, children are out of the question. It’s too late for us.

Everything’s too late.

I do like the blogs coming back, though!

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2018-10-31 Stretched Thin

These days, I feel like Gollum when he told Frodo how he felt stretched thin. I talked to a friend about it. Being tired in the evening so you don’t sleep but you don’t live, either. You sit. You scroll. You read the newspaper and other garbage. Or maybe you watch TV and YouTube. In silence, alone together. Time passes. Dinner is done. It is not time to sleep, yet, but it’s also too late for something creative. You’re not going to get your musical instrument, your pen, your brush, your typewriter or your text editor. Instead, you’re browsing, and waiting, and life passes you by.

Recently @hcs linked to The Power of Shutting up and Sitting in Silence. I liked the author’s style:

In line for breakfast, shuffling in my socks on linoleum floors in the cafeteria for tea and oatmeal, it occurred to me I had no choices to make; I was completely surrounded by people, but I didn’t have to deal with them one bit. It was not being alone, exactly: It was more just like not being at all. And it suited me.

I relate to many things in her essay. Life passing us by. Mortality creeping closer. Loving the daily minutiae and still wanting to let go. Wanting to understand the world but seething with anger and hate and despair when you do.

I have no answers, though. Perhaps I should just sit in silence for a bit.

Strangely related: this review of a phone. The Google Pixel 3 Is A Very Good Phone. But Maybe Phones Have Gone Too Far.

This is a great phone. I highly recommend it. But it’s no longer totally clear to me that the information systems we’ve built to help us navigate life are net beneficial to society. I mean, I think they are. But, Jesus. Jesus. What’s happening to us?

Indeed. What is this?

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Comments on 2018-10-31 Stretched Thin

Life is what you do while waiting for something interesting to happen...

I can relate to your feelings, but still you have to get up and do something - start a new hobby, try to meet new people. I took up piano lessons one year ago and I am loving it! A completely new world of learning and mental challenges is opening up.

Smartphones and social media are a wasteful addiction.

– Peter 2018-10-31 21:01 UTC


I recently read Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness; This along with reading books on Stoicism has helped center me.

There’s a rallying cry for Bowing Out amongst a corner of the blog-o-sphere.

Jeremy Friesen 2018-10-31 23:42 UTC


Maybe it is simply the lack of sunlight. I was speculating with a friend that maybe it was a subtle effect of age catching up: you still want to do as much, you still do as much, but at the end of the day you’re more tired. So sadly you suffer the effect when you get home, after a day of work.

Personally, I don’t think social media is the culprit. It’s the only thing left to do at very low energy levels, and those have other reasons. Lack of time. Too short to start any project-like thing. I really don’t blame social media itself. It’s the symptom, not the cause.

Perhaps I feel it more acutely because I’m usually busy with things I love. For now, I decided to read less news, and to actively pick something to do or type or read when I switch on a computer. I’d rather go to bed an hour early with a notepad nearby. That’s what I did before yesterday evening and I immediately felt much better. And yesterday I met a friend and it was very good. And when I came home and opened the laptop, I was happy to chat on social media and fix a bug in a project of mine, and then I closed its lid instead of scrolling forever, because I was feeling good and had achieved something. I was happy.

So that’s my conclusion: if I have more energy I will do more things: meet people, fix bugs, and that’s what helps. If I have less energy, I should focus on getting more sleep instead of whiling away the time. No matter how time is wasted, it is still wasted.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-11-01 07:44 UTC

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