mikka luster

just a blog. you remember? those things we had before facebook.

I've known Mike forever. We're following each other on several media sites, he sends words of encouragement my way, and I follow, in awe and sometimes a little envy, his travels.

Mike is a special kind of individual. Between his words swings a kindness and love for life, a lust for it even, it makes anyone want to be like him a little.

But this isn't a post about how I want to be like Mike...

I don't believe in archetypes or classifications (a serious shortcoming for someone who works in psychometrics), but I accept that they're useful as illustrative tools every once in a while. One of the few I frequently employ follows me since my undergrad days, when I used them (much to the bemusement of my professors who, rightfully, didn't think undergrads should develop their own archetypes).

In short (you ready?)...

I believe we can classify humans into stair climbers, Tarzan, and BASE jumpers.

Ok, ok, I guess I have to expand on this. And why I believe this to be important. It all starts with Mike's piece. Read this first.


The Stair Climber: Their path is clear, they sees their goal, albeit a little hazy in the distance. And that's OK because the stairs to this goal are solid and well defined.

Stair Climbers approach change and goals with a focus on the path, long term planning, and a demand for solid and defined steps, ideally evenly spaced.

Tarzan: Like its namesake, Tarzans swing from vine to vine. There's an art to this, to grab hold of a new vine, test it, rely on the old one for support while assessing the new. Safety to our Tarzan means, to always have a vine to hold on to, one that has been tested. But, unlike our Stair Climber, Tarzan lets go. S/he discards the old, uses the mileage they get from it, to move on to something new. Their goal isn't far off in the distance, it's the next vine.

BASE jumper: Trust in the chute is the name of the game. The goal is below, clearly defined, the risk is great, but trusting in one's abilities and the chute is all the jumper needs.

Jumpers trust in themselves and the circumstances as well as their expertise to never let them down. This enables them to just let go, jump, fall, race towards their goal, knowing that there will be the soft (or hard) pull from the chute at the right time.

I've always been a Tarzan, I guess. Swinging for career to career, never crazy enough to let go of the tried and true before having solid purchase on something new. What I did, from academics to manual labor and later medicine, always used the old, the safety it gave me, as a fallback and safety device.

Mike is a BASE jumper, and for that I envy and admire him. He trusted, he jumped, and it seems he's having the time of his life gliding towards his goal.

I wonder what my friends see themselves as. Or you, dear reader... I, for one, am happy as the vine swinging kind, I wouldn't be where I am today without it, and I know two things: right now I am scared as all hell, but I know I can let go of this vine and swing back on my old one, and I love every second of it.

When do we truly “arrive?” I came here about a month ago, ceremoniously unpacked my 23 kilos worth of remaining life, found a supermarket and cafe, and life went back to somewhat normal.

This is all that is left from a 1300 sq ft (ca.

All that's left of a 1300 sqft house

I went to the beach for the first time today. The water is blue and green and warm, it's a holiday maker's paradise. It didn't feel like a holiday.

I don't speak Greek, my six or seven phrases get me through the day so far, classes begin next week. Still, everyone speaks English here, and the hardest part isn't communicating but to practice Greek (Cypriot Greek is a whole 'nother animal, too) in a country everyone is so extremely friendly and helpful, they'll switch to English the second they notice someone struggle.

When do you arrive? When we get through our days, get what we need (thanks, Amazon), find what we're looking for? When we make friends? When we call it home? I don't know... but I guess, for the first time, I'll find out.

I've started using write.as and Facebook Live as some sort of diary. Still writing my more personal thoughts by hand, but this might serve as a pretty decent way to get some more memories committed somewhere.

You can annotate and mark up this post or comment on Twitter, I'll aggregate all comments in a coming blog post.

A while back, I wrote:

Where, in the beginning, I cared about dislikes, I stopped being affected by them. In the end, they meant interaction. Interaction meant positive attention by YouTube itself, and with that a chance at the Recommendations.

@cjeller responds:

Interesting to bring up the negative side of interaction. Just because someone interacts with your post beyond a like or downvote it doesn't mean it is a worthwhile interaction. I wonder if there could be a way to make those kind of interactions happen less. {src: https://hypothes.is/a/g-k5uNveEem_f4sgjOSPJA}

Maybe it's because I come from statistical academia, maybe it's because I work in a field where criticism isn't just accepted, it's encouraged and gladly given or taken (after all, lives depend on us not fscking up), but I always liked criticism.

There is, of course, a difference: Personal vs. ideas, ideologies, theories, and interpretations. Personal attacks, ad hominem arguments, are never OK. Attacking their ideas, however, their theories, their ideologies, is. Young parents learn this. Never tell a child “you are a bad kid” but, instead, tell them “you did something bad.” Someone who has been shown that their actions were bad might change them. Someone who is told that they are bad, won't. After all, they're bad already, why not do bad things?

It's the difference between arguing about the extent, impact, and cause of climate change, as well as the solutions, and calling half the country a “basket of deplorables.” The difference between disagreeing with policies and making fun of those who like them. It's huge.

In that vein, let's talk about negative commentary, and why I am a fan.

In academia, any citation is a good citation. Again, citations don't focus on the person behind them, they attack (or solidify) the argument made in a specific piece of writing. Citations yield “Impact Points” (IP), an internet “like” sort of currency used in academia to establish one's worth in the community and get jobs. As someone with little to no impact points to my name, I won't ever make tenure with a good university, for example.

However, IP don't distinguish between solidification and criticism. This is intentional. A criticized publication also gets stronger, since the author will rework, rethink, and redo their thought processes. At least that's the idea. It relies heavily on the recipient's resilience and ability to distinguish between criticism and attacks ad hominem and not to take the former personally.

You might not believe it, but contrary to the common chorus, not all academics are snowflakes.

On YouTube, downvotes are negative comments still count as interactions. This means that, yes, the algorithm will come and check out the posted content much quicker and more thoroughly, but the system itself considers all commentary to be currency into the “trending” tab, while downvotes (dislikes) still count as interactions for the purpose of establishing “playlist” queues.

YouTube's goal, to keep people on the site, is best served if controversy is included. Mad viewers will produce counter-content, link from Twitter or Facebook, and any traffic is good traffic. Within the new “adpocalypse” guidelines, of course.

Those are two different kinds of negativity leading to positive outcomes. The latter simply solidifies frontiers and invites more dissent which, in term, brings in more ad revenue for YouTube and the creator. The former has the potential of strengthening arguments and bringing about a rethinking of ideas.

In our AI powered world, it'll be hard to train machines to discern the two. Even harder might be, to train humans to do so, to not take criticism of ideologies, ideas, and findings as personal attacks. Fighting negativity in commentary is a good thing, but not all criticism is negative, not all attacks are a bad thing. Academia, science, enlightenment, and — ultimately — the lives of real human beings, depend on any and all idea, any opinion, any finding, being under constant attack. Only by defeating those attacks can a theory become stronger. Only by proving it can defeat them, on an equal, unemotional, rational, scientific, level, does it earn the right to inform.

I've started a little collection of pictures from #Cyprus. Includes my 3x2.6m room :)

#nicosia #euc #cyprus

So I am in #Nicosia, #Cyprus. Last divided city in Europe, Greek Cypriots to the south, north and east of me are UN security zones, then the internationally not recognized Turkish part of the island.

Nicosia is fun. Cypriots are amazingly friendly and outgoing, helpful to a fault even. A welcome change to Germany, where general assholery is a virtue in business matters. My digs, on the other hand are something entirely different from the world outside.

This is a student housing thingie. 460 Students have moved in, so far, 80 more are expected until school starts on Tuesday.

People here are unfriendly, often showing open bored disgust with each other and their surroundings, the kind of “cool kid” vibe usually reserved for Jeremy Kyle or Dr. Phil episodes. The art of chewing gum with an open mouth while keeping a frown up seems to be the most practiced skill here.

Four more days until the welcome ceremony, a shindig I'll probably be the only one attending by myself. Still, unless Uni life is anything like the vibe in Student Housing, I'll be fine.

In the meantime I am trying to figure out how to stream a Vysor window with OBS or to find an alternative solution to live stream on screen drawing that does not murder my Surface Pro 6's GPU and CPU.

Way back in the day, I used to have a pretty well-known blog. It helped to have had some press, but most of my traffic came from blogrolls and blog content.

I chased those highs. When I took on faith healers and homeopaths, the shit storm was predictable and scathing, but man did I get some numbers. When I wrote about the sex industry, again predictable, the same happened. So I wrote more, became more controversial and less agreeable in the process. Where before I tended to seek out commonalities and tried to explain differences, I realized two things: there will always be a shit storm because people rarely care about content and more often about their feelings being coddled, and that any storm, no matter what type and where it came from, was good news for my reader count.

I started a YouTube channel. It lingered, attracted a few dozen viewers and a bunch of comments, no more than maybe ten, in its first year. Then I said something that triggered someone with a five digit subscriber count, they reacted, and my subscriber numbers, likes and dislikes, and finally placements on the “recommended” tab on the site, soared.

And, again, I chased the high. Red numbers on Social Blade meant agony, greens ones meant to race back and produce more. More. More. More.

Where, in the beginning, I cared about dislikes, I stopped being affected by them. In the end, they meant interaction. Interaction meant positive attention by YouTube itself, and with that a chance at the Recommendations. I rarely strayed from my competencies, medicine, but I ventured into the swamp that is “alternative” therapies, homeopathy, naturopathy, and other quack and sham “science.”

Milking the channel as long as I could, I sometimes stepped into controversies I didn't intend. Such as the time I flogged the dead horse that is New Aryan Medicine, only to “trigger” someone who both subscribed to Reiki and Ayurveda but knew they had no arguments, so the shitstorm happened about being a cis white man speaking about “Asian Medicine” ... amazing view and subscribe counts followed.

I met an Instagram Model at one of those shindigs. We spent a week together at her apartment, talking about Internet Fame and “the Game” as she called it. Her days consisted of chasing the Like. She rented two rooms in an old house, smoked two packs a day, and wore baggy clothes... except on Instagram, where she lived in a van, cooked her own, healthy, meals, and wore the kind of clothes that left little to imagination. In the mornings she'd field sponsorships and influencer offers, her afternoons were a frantic blur of editing photos, cooking and photographing food (made inedible with glue, wire, hair spray and other tricks to spice up its looks), responding to Patreon patrons, posting a Members Only video of her dangling her feet into the sunset in her van, and stalking other Instagram Influencers for competition and new ideas.

Two years ago, I snapped out of it. Deleted the channel (huge withdrawal symptoms, probably not as bad as heroin or coke, but it did me in for a few weeks), went dark on social networks. My personal, non-nom de guerre accounts remained, but I was careful not to fall into the Like Trap again.

YouTube started being fun again. A few weeks ago, I started a channel, this time under my own name. 22 subscribers, and every single one of them was more fun to welcome and discover as those 10k subscriber rushes in some weeks.

My podcast lingers, but it's been fun thinking about possibly restarting it. And I am back to blogging, right here. I'll be careful not to fall into the Trap again, and Instagram's plans to hide Likes, as well as YouTube's careful forays into the same, might even make this whole thing a fun little exercise once more.

I've always been the type who doesn't do things to write/film/photograph about them, but just does things, makes media about that stuff, and sees what happens. If no one reads, watches, or listens to me, that's OK. And, hopefully, it'll stay that way.

CJ Eller writes:

I hope you will join the experiment.

... done.

Hypothes.is (which I knew way back from our ORCID days) is now active on this site as well. Hypothes.is is an offsite annotation and highlighting service, most commonly used by academics to annotate sites that do not allow it (there's a Chrome extension).

Since write.as does not have its own commenting or annotation service (the former coming some time soon, I am told), this is the next best solution.

Should someone annotate anything on this site, you'll find it either directly on the post/page, or in this collection.

Despite my proclamations to the opposite I am a tech hoarder.

I wrote about this, my inability to let go. This, partially, is a good thing, the #Amiga computers are still with me, as are harddisks with tens of thousands of textual and medial memories. And then it's a bad thing, notably if you're moving across the globe with a 23 kg bag and an 8 kg carry on.

So I am trimming, and the final decision has been made as to what comes with and what remains behind.

Mikka's PhD Candidate Medic Equipment

  • Surface Pro 6 with

    • Surface Dock
  • Samsung Tab S6 (running Linux on Dex) with

    • USB-C Dock
    • Mouse
    • Surface Keyboard Pro
  • Samsung S10+ with

    • Dex Station
    • Mouse
    • Apple Keyboard (not my first choice, but it's fscking hard to get decent US layout keyboards in Germany, Apple are the only ones to sell them in stores, the rest is ordering from the US, which means long waits and often lost packages and the hassle that comes with this and duty collection at the borders).

That's it. I'll be bringing my GoPro Hero 7 and some handheld photo/video gear, but Adobe Rush on Dex is decent enough to cut together some smaller videos.

The next months are, more or less, data and learning. Data stays in the cloud through Jupyter or on the R server, documentation is in TeX, which is also online, and there won't be any time to play games, so the desktop's primary raison d'etre is gone anyways.

I'll purchase a monitor in Nicosia, and I am complete. Let's see how this works out, but expect some whining and celebrating about working on a Tablet as the primary machine.

I work in medicine. I spend my days thinking about SpO2, RR, the Loop of Henle, how oxygen gets in and out of the blood stream, what kind of medication does what, and more. That's my day. My day is talking, probing, testing, and fixing... on humans, not machines.

In my scant time off, I surf. I sail. I hike. I drink and laugh with friends. Sometimes I just sit on the balcony and read a book, or flip through the NEJM, which (like most of us), I just collect to look more medic. Anything away from being inside a room, anything to get my blood pumping, my pores sweating, and my brain off the question if taking someone off doxorubicin and onto prednisone is a good idea.

Training Days

All this means that I don't have time or inclination to maintain code, websites, or hack functionality.

Sometimes it's fun. Hacking humans is not unlike hacking machines, critical thinking applied to creative questions. There's enjoyment in spending a weekend setting up a working Arch Linux system, diving deep into new software, or coaxing functionality out of a website (like write.as). But it's too close to my day job to be the off switch I need.

Coders tend to forget this. That there is a world between the ultimate freedom of writing your own and the walled garden (or skid row) of Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress. We are, indeed, the ignored ones. Too needy to be satisfied with prepackaged solutions, too busy and too much in want for something completely different to do in our spare time, to roll our own or hack someone else's.

In medicine there's an art about this. We deal with prepackaged approaches, applied to vastly different individuals. We learn, early, that “my way or the highway” will get someone killed, that there is no such thing as “the solution.” Instead, we learn to find the commonalities, address them first, and then, from the beginning of our work, create means and ways to solve the differences without adding more work to each case.

In code, this understanding is lacking. No one demonstrates this better than Apple's “Uncle Steve knows best” mindset. Apple managed to do us one better, convincing millions of humans that not only does Uncle Steve know best, anyone not being in agreement is dumb, underedcuated, not enlightened enough. And, miracle of marketing, that a standardized, forced, solution is, indeed, the square peg in a round hole.

The way out of this, in medicine as it is in code, is available: interchangeability. Facebook's Beelzebub, the ability to write once and distribute, to not lock writers or readers into one silo. To, from the ground up, design solutions to never expect to provide one service, but to offer services that can be easily mashed up, integrated, and interchanged with others'. To Facebook, the idea to offer a like/comment system but allow anyone to swap in any other like/comment system, or to weigh all image hosts and video hosts equally, not pushing local content first, is abhorrent. It keeps readers, writers, and ultimately user data out of Facebook's grasp.

But to places that want to challenge this status quo, that want to be more medicine and less Apple, more Usenet/Mastodon and less Facebook/Twitter, this is the only way forward.

There's financial and future proof incentive in being this way, but it's slower. The German Democratic Republic, GDR, managed to lock its users behind the “anti-fascist wall” for 40 years, but eventually freedom won over coerced presence. And, numbers rarely lie, prosperity and presence increased. Opening walls, letting people travel freely and allowing outside influence in, while bringing one's own solutions into the marketplace of ideas, created opportunities, it didn't destroy them.

Me, I am just a medic. I fix people's broken bodies and sometimes soothe their ailing minds. I don't have time to write code, don't want to spend days doing all this. But I still am a wanderer between those solutions out there, hoping to one day find someone, something, that doesn't sacrifice freedom and extensibility on the altar of Steve knows Best.

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