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.
I hope you will join the experiment.
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.
Surface Pro 6 with
Samsung Tab S6 (running Linux on Dex) with
Samsung S10+ with
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.
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.
I am in Frankfurt, my old home town. Saying good bye to people, walking the Red Light District one last time to try to meet some of the social workers and street angels I used to work with.
Frankfurt is changing. It's been a year, almost to the day, that I've left, and yet it has changed a lot since then. I now live in Munich. It is, and some might disagree, but fuck them, they're wrong, the most beautiful city in Germany. The people, the parks, the quality of life (it is the most livable city in the world, after all), the food... it all works, fits together, feels cohesive, warm, welcoming.
Frankfurt is different. It is chaotic, crazy, a city where blight and polished steel occupy the same street, often within spitting distance. A place where multi million deals are made on a cell phone over a smoke while standing, almost literally, on a dying homeless person or someone shooting up.
It's a place where rich mid-20s, sipping 40€ Gin Tonics by the river, plan how to shut down the last bars and restaurants that aren't of “their kind,” while two streets down a few gangs plan how to best murder a competing drug or sex trade ring.
And, yet, it's changed. A new force has entered the game, that of the Urban Hipster. No less than six hipster coffee shops and burger bars line the street that not too long ago consisted of nothing but crack houses and worker families. The former now live on the streets around the organic vegan poke bar with the stand up paddle in the window, next to the gentlemen's barber shop with a nine-week wait list. The latter were priced out of the area, first moving to Gallus, which is now the “Europe Quarter” and commands the second highest square foot prices in Germany, then out into the villages surrounding the City, some of which have also changed. Hochtaunus County, north of Frankfurt, competes with Starnberg for most expensive county in Germany, while the south slowly turns into a new Silicon Valley.
“My” Frankfurt is gone. Maybe it's because it wasn't meant to be. Or, maybe, it is because my kind isn't meant to be anymore. Either way, I am glad it's just a visit.
Pictures: Frankfurt then, and now (https://snap.as/mikka2061).
Know what I miss? I miss Advogato. Advogato was an amazing site, a little bit blog, a little bit navel-gazing, and a little bit tech nerdery.
Users rated each others' competence from Journeyman to Master, votes carrying more weight the higher the voter was ranked themselves. It worked, even though the ten-dollar-word faction (never use a ten dollar word where a five cent one would suffice) doubted and poo-poo'ed the whole thing.
Articles were shown reverse chronologically, the way it used to be, no bullshit, no frills, just content. And content there was. There were the crazies, the hackers, the coders, the commentators, and a lot of stuff in between.
Advogato shut down in 2017, 18 years after its launch.
I am shutting down my PeerTube server — (and I am not the only one) it's just not worth it. This blog is hosted on write.as, my pictures are somewhere in silos, too, and even though I run mastodon.bayern, it's not a “private instance,” either.
PeeTube has no real working discoverability built in. So I still have to head to the Twitters and Facebooks (and Mastodons, but despite a decent following it doesn't get 1/18th of the actual content discovery I get from Twitter) to tell people “hey, I made a thing.” I don't wanna. I want to write. I want to make videos. I don't want to market the shit out of them just so I go from one viewer to three.
I guess it started with Google declaring RSS dead. A bold move to force more discovery into the hands of the search engine itself, but one that backfired and gave Facebook and Twitter the authority in content discovery. YouTube integrates nicely, has its own discovery feature, and it kind of feels nice to actually notice new subscribers rather than just seeing numbers increment by orders of magnitude.
I don't ever want to go back, chasing the next zero or the next higher tier. I don't want to make content designed for clicks anymore, but I also don't want to create for a void. PeerTube is basement jazz, no matter how well you play, it's rarely heard. It's fun to be read, and more so, it's better to be debated, to be questioned, to have to defend one's ideas not from dogma but from reason and science.
The latter is missing here. write.as does not have a comment function, too many users of this software would rather be the pope than Einstein, rather be a preacher than a scientist. So I still remain on Twitter and Mastodon and Facebook, just to have that conversation. Maybe one day this place or somewhere else will grow into something with both discoverability and discussion. For the time being, however, I guess debate will happen elsewhere.
Computer KonMari — moving to #Cyprus has had a profound effect on my tech collection... and serves as a pretty stark reminder that I have a problem with tech hoarding. I simply can't let go. Older computers are still “good” for something, older cellphones can still serve as Arduino controllers, and those mice and keyboards... you never know when you'll need one.
Seriously, I have a problem. Here's to hoping that moving into a 30m³ flat and earning next to nothing for a while will cure me.
The Amigas I learned to code on. That's the 90s, people. Since 2004 those two have been traveling with me, nine moves if I counted correctly.