Life

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

2019-09-26 Melancholy

Feeling melancholy. Time to listen to the German Requiem by Brahms although I suspect it won’t help.

Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit;
aber ich will euch wiedersehen,
und euer Herz soll sich freuen,
und eure Freude soll niemand von euch nehmen.
Ich will euch trösten,
wie einen seine Mutter tröstet.
Sehet mich an: Ich habe eine kleine Zeit
Mühe und Arbeit gehabt
und habe großen Trost gefunden.

Maybe a seasonal thing.

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2019-09-23 Phone etiquette

Sometimes we talk to other people about how we use our phones. Here’s what I think future historians need to know:

  1. people don’t us a land line anymore, it’s all mobile phones
  2. the phone is set to silent; having a loud ring is rude
  3. we don’t answer calls by unknown numbers
  4. we search for unknown numbers before calling back (in Switzerland: tel.search.ch)
  5. we never call back if a search indicates a call center

Personally, I have also disabled my voice mail: I don’t want unknown people to leave me messages which I then have to listen to and answer.

The phone world has been poisoned by robot calls and call centers. It’s ads and spam, now. That is, it’s worse than mail because the mail still gets us stuff we ordered online and bills, which we hate but which we still need to pay, or material to cast our votes without going to the polling booth.

The two or three people I know that still feel more comfortable using voice than writing text usually call via encrypted messenger apps. Sadly, that often includes Facebook-owned WhatsApp, but at least in my circle of friends and family we a lot of Threema. Threema isn’t free software, unfortunately, so that isn’t ideal, either. At least it works without me having to upload my address book to those damn servers.

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2019-09-23 Back to Work

My summer break is coming to an end. I don’t work much: I have a 60% job so I don’t work on Fridays and I have a 17½ week summer break, more or less. This works out fine because we have no kids, no cars, and we live in a small apartment at the edge of town.

During these summer breaks I go on trips with my wife — but she only has four weeks of holidays per year, and I do household chores, and then I sit around doing nothing productive: I write software for my games, I write text for my games, I draw pictures for my software for my games, I create a podcast about my games, I make some music for the podcast for my games... and yet, I find that summer is gone and I didn’t practice playing the recorder, not once, and I only managed to practice my Japanese once, on a plane as I didn’t feel like reading (Kanji Teacher), didn’t play on my consoles, not once, I didn’t read any of the big books I still want to read, and there is so much left to do I could cry.

People sometimes wonder what I do all summer and they tell me they’d be bored but I think creativity is like a plant: it adapts to the time you give it which allows all of us to be happy no matter how much or how little time we spend on it. If you work a lot, your tree is small and if you get a break it can be hard. You have a two week crisis but then the tree is growing every day and soon you will have found projects, your heart will have found a way: local politics, local charities, music, drawing, writing, reading, programming, knitting, doing stuff and making things. It comes naturally to us humans, I think.

It is a bit weird when my wife comes home from work and her mind is full of police thoughts and politics, and I try to tell her that my Face Generator now generates dragons...

Remember the final scene of the movie Fargo?

Final scene from Fargo

She comes back from days of bloody murder and he is sad that his mallard only got selected for the 3 cent stamp and not for the 29 cent stamp. 😂

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2019-09-18 Black and white photography

I’ve been taking some black and white pictures lately and I really like the effect. I should take more black and white pictures.

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/IMG_E3353.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/IMG_E3356.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/IMG_E3357.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/IMG_E3364.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9030168.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9090309.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9090312.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9090314.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9090317.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9090321.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9090322.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9120411.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9120412.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9120413.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9120415.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9120416.jpg

https://alexschroeder.ch/gallery/2019-portugal/imgs/P9120418.jpg

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Comments on 2019-09-18 Black and white photography

These are beautiful. Love these, Alex!

Eugene Eric Kim 2019-09-18 17:33 UTC


Eugene! Long time no see! Thank you for the comment. Whenever I feel insecure about my pictures I remember a very old blog post of yours where you wrote about telling a story in a picture. That’s advice that keeps pushing me because by nature I think I just like landscapes and texture and colors and that’s nice but … not a story.

Oh, and eating horse meat, of course! 😅

– Alex Schroeder 2019-09-18 18:28 UTC


Yeah, those have come out very well! Not to geek out too much, but what sort of camera are you using?

Anne 2019-09-18 23:51 UTC


I have an Olympus E-P5 with the 17mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko lens. The camera is a bit on the large side, but the 17mm is nice and small.

I also carry around an Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm 1:4.8-6.7 II, which makes the entire bag very heavy and bulky. 😭

But consider this: I’m picking the images I like from a pool of nearly a thousand images, if I remember correctly. So what did I end up picking?

CountModel
144Olympus E-P5
51iPhone 6s
168iPhone 8
363Total

So where as my old iPhone 6s is a loser, my wife’s iPhone 8 is beating the Olympus E-P5. I guess those phone cameras really are going to win in the end!

Hm, now that I think about it, I think I should set them in context! Thus, here are the pictures in my folder:

CountModel
306Olympus E-P5
176iPhone 6s
595iPhone 8
5other (WhatsApp, Screenshots)
1078Total

And so, dividing one by the other to determine the success rate based on the camera model:

CountModel
47%Olympus E-P5
29%iPhone 6s
28%iPhone 8

Argh! Now I’m confused. The problem is of course that the iPhone 8 was usually operated by my wife. So I guess in terms of iPhone successrate, there’s no difference between the pictures taken by either of us.

It’s still possible I only get out the bigger camera when there’s something more interesting to see and thus Olympus pictures have a higher success rate because of it. 🤔

I guess... the conclusion to draw is... uh... what I’m doing is rubbish statistics! 😭

– Alex Schroeder 2019-09-19 08:16 UTC

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2019-09-17 Dreams

Over time I’ve been thinking about my dreams every now and again. And really why shouldn’t I? We dream every day.

Today, for example, I discovered another limitation of my dream generator: when using a digital camera with a display in a dream, my brain cannot figure out how to change the image on the display when I moved the camera. I was trying to align a shot and the image on the display rolled and waved like crazy. It was like trying to read in my dreams. The brain keeps trying to explain why it doesn’t work. I laughed when I woke up. 😀

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2019-08-25 Creating

Recently, @22 recommended the blog post Consume less, create more. The author argues that there is no moral high grounds to be gained when substituting reading books for social media, when reading newspapers instead of Twitter. Being thoroughly informed is not a value per se. All you get is material for smalltalk.

Let’s talk about the first part, consuming less.

I tend to agree with the idea that most people don’t gain from reading those huge daily newspapers.

  • They don’t benefit spiritually. They aren’t happier.
  • They don’t benefit politically. They don’t vote better.
  • They don’t benefit epistemologically. Their knowledge doesn’t allow them to act better.

So, you need to know enough to be able to make the right decisions in the realm where you can make a difference. You need to know a bit about the climate catastrophe in order to vote green. Knowing all the details, however, isn’t necessary and will most likely bring you down.

You need to know enough to convince yourself that your are right, that your newspaper is good. You need to know what you are doing.

Everything else is entertainment. You might as well read a book, or scroll through Instagram.

I didn’t think I’d ever write something as anti-intellectual as this. But I think it’s important to know what the benefits of being an intellectual actually are.

  • Are you running for office?
  • Are you a policy maker?
  • Are you talking to policy makers?
  • Are you an activist, trying to sway public opinion?

If none of the above, and not planning to change, then chances are that our current system is simply information overload.

Perhaps you should read more as a teenager in order to know whether you want to be an activist and change the system. You probably should. It’s definitely worth changing (incrementally, hah).

I find the following works well enough for me:

  • I skim the international and national politics headlines in free newspapers full of ads that mostly just print what the big news agencies put out and skip all the stuff about music, people, holidays, pictures, and so on.
  • I read a small part of a leftist weakly newspaper, WOZ.
  • I read a small part of a leftist monthly newspaper, Monde Diplomatique.
  • I click on some links on social media from people I follow.

No TV.

But even this reduced diet is often overwhelming. Perhaps consuming less also makes me less suited for consuming what’s left.

The second part of the blog post is about creating more.

I often feel bad about not reading enough. I used to be a voracious reader. These days, I skim so much fragmented social media, headlines and abstracts, articles and introductions, it’s hard to focus on reading long articles, let alone books.

The terrible truth is that I am often bored when I read. As soon as I read something interesting, I want to write about it. Post a link. Write a comment. Or I start thinking about role-playing games and programming. Creating things is more rewarding, these days. And it takes me so little effort it’s ridiculous. I feel like some people must feel like when they’re knitting: flow.

Anyway, I was reminded of an older blog post I had read, Productivity Rules. It’s about reducing your exposure to social media. It’s also about reading more books. Ah, I don’t know about reading more books. It’s also about creativity and being more “productive.”

I wonder. I want to know enough to be able to make the appropriate political decisions, but not so much that it crushes my soul. I often feel crushed and think I’m a fool for it. I often close the newspaper and think to myself: ugh, enough! But this is taking us back to what I wrote above. I guess many books these days simply bore me and that’s that. There are no excuses.

But this talk about being “productive” is weird. I refuse to see my free time in terms of productivity. That’s late stage capitalism talking. I don’t need to improve myself, I don’t need to get ahead in my free time.

Or perhaps we are applying the word to something different? @PresGas suggested “fruitfulness.” Interesting association: fecundity.

I guess the measure I’d have is: on my death bed, what would I say about my life?

  • I was lucky beyond belief in love and life
  • I didn’t work too hard and didn’t suffer any hardship, ever
  • I guess I’m sorry I’m taking down the planet with me?

Even in this respect I don’t think I would say: I wish my blog had been more popular. I wish I had been able to sell role-playing games. I don’t wish to have produced more. I don’t want consumers for my products. I want to meet and play games with my peers.

Thus, the audience is small, and I’m mainly doing it for myself. I think that’s how we keep our sanity: by making things for ourselves. Sometimes, incidentally, some free software project or a book or a track turns out to be a big hit, or a money making machine – but mostly they don’t and we need to be happy with that. And it’s still better than consuming a ton and never making a thing.

At least that’s how I explain it to myself. 😅

I think that’s how I keep my sanity.

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Comments on 2019-08-25 Creating

And a day later, @meta links to Sin-eaters: journalists devour the sins of others but to what end? It’s a long litany of terrible things that happened on a particular day, enraging and numbing at the same time, and there you have it: it changes nothing.

I wonder if there’s a better way to live without abstaining from the feed entirely? What exactly is it we’re doing, those of us who scroll through our newsfeed endlessly like an addict lifelessly pulling the lever on a slot machine waiting for information and sadness to spill out?

Indeed, where to find that sweet, sweet balance.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-08-26 15:11 UTC

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2019-08-23 Invisible Ticks

I’ve had a red spot for a few days on my left leg. I had scratched myself there a few days ago and so at first I thought it was just a minor irritation. It was never a problem but it also didn’t go away. But five days ago it started to develop into a ring and my wife told me to go and see a doctor. A day later and I’m on 10 days of antibiotics. Fucking invisible ticks. Keep an eye on those red spots.

Lyme disease is apparently not too hard to treat if you get started early, i.e. when you can still see the spot.

A friend we have suffered from non-diagnosed Lyme disease and fought against it for months. Wrong treatments, long treatments... It’s just a very long hassle.

As my wife got antibiotics for an eye infection earlier the same day, we laughed and said: “finally I also have something to worry about.” 😆

Later that day I heard my wife on the phone talking to her mom and saying, “you know: he has men’s lyme disease!” And then both burst out laughing. 😭

Anyway, my wife sending me to the doctor is another example of why married men seem to live longer, healthier lives. Apparently they go and see the doctor more often than when they’re alone. So men: go and see the doctor more often. And if your public health care is shite I hope your country gets that fixed ASAP. ☹️

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Comments on 2019-08-23 Invisible Ticks

Jesus! Take care, Alex. I hope you get well soon.

– Enzo 2019-08-23 12:48 UTC


Totally!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-08-23 15:07 UTC


Today was the last day of my antibiotics. I didn’t do any sports in all this time, avoided the sun, was tired, with aching joints. I sure hope this is all going to change for the better, soon.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-08-29 11:44 UTC

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2019-08-14 Achievements in the Anthropocene

@Miredly was musing about life and work:

I’m wasting my life, time is slipping away and the world is ending. I’ll never achieve the things I want to achieve.

I fear this is related to the winner-takes-all job situation some of us find themselves in. In other words, wherever there are rockstars this happens. No matter how well we can sing or dance or program, we are not Michael Jackson or Linus Torvalds. Jobs that don’t scale don’t have this problem: the butcher, carpenter, gardener – they don’t feel like losing at the job because there are no rockstars as far as I know. So the self-worth we derive from our job depends on the rockstariness.

Then again, time is slipping away, life is short and then we die, and apparently the world is ending because we didn’t just fail as individuals but as a culture. I spoke about work because that is where we can do something for our own mental health: look away. Focus on the private life, the achievements of living, of going for a walk, of good food, of beautiful sunsets, of seeing plants and animals and the sky.

The general malaise of being human in the anthropocene and late stage capitalism can only be handled by distraction, I fear. We run and dance in order not to see.

Facing the truth of our insignificance is unnecessary, most of the time. Realize it, ponder it, and then put it aside.

As a kid I was looking at what Alexander the Great had accomplished at my age. But then came the day when I realized I had survived the butcher and I realized that maybe simply being alive is enough. It doesn’t always help, though.

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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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