MICHA.ELMUELLER

 

Backpacking India

 

I have been backpacking through India since the Christmas days for about three weeks. Together with Eva I flew to Kochin, where we met up with two other friends and traveled in this constellation for the remainder of the journey.

I didn’t have a culture shock or anything of that sort. I think this might be due to my experiences in Guatemala, Mexico, etc. — those countries have similar problems of hygiene and waste. Furthermore, we have only visited two states and have not been to Mumbai. I was quite surprised by how little of my stereotypes held true. India is quite a big country with quite a large population (> 1.2 billion) and 29 states. Over 100 languages are spoken in India and there are a number of different writing systems. It is entirely possible for two Indians to meet and speak English with each other, since it could be their only common language. These statements should give you a rough idea of just how diverse the culture, infrastructure, etc. might be in different parts of India.

We have visited two (neighboring) states: Kerala and Goa. These two states were enough to already see differences in mindset and culture and I have to say that I liked Kerala (the self proclaimed “God’s own Country”) more. From my impression the mindset of the people was directed much less towards “tourist = money”. This might be due to Kerala being one of the “richest” states in India (well, “rich” in Indian terms…). Kerala is also a state which has declared the war on alcohol: starting from 2014 over a period of ten years they plan to ban alcohol. In the last years they have already limited the consumption of alcohol in restaurants by allowing only a very small number of restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks. This has lead to the odd situation that even though no beer is available on the menu you might still succeed in ordering one. Though, you shouldn’t wonder why it will be served in coffee cups! As part of the draining efforts the sale of alcohol has been limited to scarce liquor stores. The one in Varkala is the most shady, prohibition-like place I have ever been to (photo below).

India is the most vegetarian-friendly place I have ever been to, we had exclusively very good (and very cheap) food. Astonishingly this journey was by far my cheapest one yet; with flight, food (three meals a day, always restaurants), accommodations (no dormitories, only private rooms), etc.. I have had total costs of about 1.000 euros, with the flight being the most expensive part (~600 euros). But of course this is at the expense of hot showers and other things. In Kerala we were staying in a place where I heard a suspicious gnawing in our room at night. The next night I spotted a rat climbing the outside wall of our neighboring hut and had a hunch. The next morning “someone” had eaten through the backpack of my roommate — he had forgotten to remove an open peanut bag from his backpack.

In Palolem we discovered something nice: if you walk to the very end of the beach (on the right side when facing the ocean) you can walk to a very small island at low tide. There are some huts and we stayed there for a couple of days. The natural foreclosure whilst high tide makes this a quiet and secluded place with very little wild dogs or tourists. Interestingly all huts on the beach are built from scratch each year, since the monsoon is too devastating.

All in all it was a very nice trip and I would like to go to India again. Maybe even this year?

I have attached some photos to this post. As on the other journeys, I had an analogue disposable camera with me (besides the E-M10 Mark ii). I very much like the color faded, blurred look of the analogue photos. Since I got MediaGoblin running again a few days ago, I have uploaded the below photos in a high resolution there as well (under CC-BY, link).

 
 
 
 

Looking back on 2015

Like in the previous years (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010), here comes my recap for 2015.

Podcast which I liked most
Mensch, Otto! Mensch, Theile! — Andreas Kuhnlein (23.04.2014)
The podcast is an interview with the german sculpturer Andreas Kuhnlein. I liked it a lot.

Favorite Movie
Grzimek
The movie was available in the ARD Mediathek for a while, but I am not sure about the situation right now. The movie really impressed me. It tells the biography of Bernhard Grzimek, a german zoologist and zoo director. Quite noteworthy that it is a German production.

Favorite Score
Ex Machina
Also liked the movie a lot. Got me interested to read more about the Singularity.

Best Paper
The UNIX Time Sharing System
Read the paper whilst attending a course on the concepts behind Unix (“Systemnahe Software II”). I think the paper is astonishing. Even though it is over forty years old, you will find that most of its concepts are still very much in use in modern Unix operating systems (process management, etc.).

Favorite Song
Kaleida — Think

Books
I did a separate post on the books which I have read throughout the year.

Technology which got me enthusiastic
Through my job at university I got to examine the Samsung Gear VR…and was blown away. The Gear VR really gives an exciting glimpse on the possibilities of virtual reality. Most of the demos can be experienced without any motion sickness (which at least for me is a typical problem with the Oculus Rift). At one point I was alone in a quiet room, sat on a rotating chair and immersed myself in some of the VR apps. Wow, this really is an immersion! If you have the possibility to try some of the demos I encourage you to do so. I was so enthusiastic about the device that I forced it upon multiple friends. The reaction was always the same: people were quite stunned.

Quote which stuck most
Frusciante on being finished with making music for public consumption.

For the last year and a half I made the decision to stop making music for anybody and with no intention of releasing it, which is what I was doing between 2008 and 2012. I felt that if I took the public into consideration at all, I wasn’t going to grow and I wasn’t going to learn.

Being an electronic musician meant I had to woodshed for a while, so I have a good few years worth of material from that period that’s never been released… At this point, I have no audience. I make tracks and I don’t finish them or send them to anybody, and consequently I get to live with the music. The music becomes the atmosphere that I’m living in. I either make really beautiful music that comes from classical, or I make music where the tempo is moving the whole time, and there’s no melodic or rhythmic center.

John Frusicante
(source)
 

Projects
I am still sewing from time to time. Besides that I was mainly working on university projects throughout the year. In all university projects I was very enthusiastic at the beginning, but in the end always frustrated. I guess this is due to me being unsatisfied with the way the projects went and the way the academic world works today. All projects centered around human-computer-interaction and I had the chance to explore some interesting technologies. I also took a joy out of creating the documentation, videos and presentations around the projects. Sadly, none of this is accessible online right now. This is due to me not being the sole decision maker and the possibilities others see for future publication utilization, though I don’t think this will ever happen. My experiences in these projects are the reason that I won’t pursue a further academic career.

Kindle
Well, I got myself a Kindle. This was a hard decision for me, but in Thailand my backpack contained three books (quite some weight and space) and during the journey I ran out of reading material and thus had to look around for something new. So far, I am not really sure what to make of the Kindle. During my India journey (blog post will follow) it prove very useful, but I am very disappointed by its typography shortcomings. The Amazon saying goes along the lines of “we love books and this is the perfect electronic experience for books”. But the typography is really bad. Sorry Amazon, but fake capitals? Really? And messed up line spacing when a chemical formula is used within a line? “The Martian” has a lot of mentions for CO2… The first Kindle came out nine years ago and I am disappointed that the typeset engine is still so much in the beginning.

Camera
Bought a new camera: The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark ii. I found that I seldom used my 5D Mark II during the last two years, instead I used the Panasonic GF2 much more since I always had it with me. Thus I have decided to go full Micro Four Third. My main requirements for the camera were mobility, configurability and preferably an HDR mode. The camera fulfills all this very well and I like its design very much (I got the black edition). I oftentimes just place it near my laptop on the desk, since I just like to look at it.

Smartphone Usage
During the year I have become increasingly annoyed by the constant accessibility and reachability through mobile devices and services. I found the constant interruptions and forced interactions at some point just too much. They kept me from stuff, annoyed me, interrupted me, got me thinking, were oftentimes irrelevant. All those small interruptions and context switches take a lot of energy.

Since my smartphone didn’t survive Thailand I took this as an opportunity and have since radically changed some things. I don’t use WhatsApp, Twitter or Instagram any longer. My usage of Facebook and Google+ has become very limited. I was a very extensive user of all those services and they have been an integral part to my interaction with other people and the way I stayed informed. After my smartphone broke, I didn’t posses a smartphone at all for a while. I experienced this as an immense relief. Right now I have a smartphone again (an old one which was given to me without ever asking), but it is turned off most of the time and I use it mostly for public transportation information and scarcely for communication (though I don’t have any messaging apps installed).

2016
2015 was quite a stressful year for me and I am relieved that it is over. I am looking forward to a new chapter of my life after my soon to come graduation. Hopefully the “Looking back on 2016″ article next year will end with a more enthusiastic outlook!

Books in 2015

Like last year, I have compiled a list of books which I have read throughout the year.

Scott Rosenberg — Dreaming in Code
The book describes the tale of a talented, experienced and rich software engineer with a vision for a large piece of software: a personal information management tool which is distributed, secure and supports any kind of information. He assembles a team of genius programmers and they try to fulfill his vision.

Well… so far so good. The long story short: the project was basically aborted after 8 years with practically no outcome, even though it had perfect prerequisites. A similar story can be found in a lot of digital projects and the book shines some light on the process of wrong going. It is written by a journalist who accompanied the company from the start. For 2-3 years he sat in a lot of meetings and interviewed a lot people; after this period it became very unclear if the company would ever make it to a product and thus he left.

I found the book a very nice read. As an external observer I read the book in helpless despair, watching the project go mad. In a lot of ways I could relate to my own experiences in projects with other students. Some of my highlights: after two years of still not having anything to show, the developers decide for the third or fourth time to rewrite their backend once again. At this point they still don’t know for sure if the general idea will even work. Once a designer is finally brought into the project to create a user interface (after two years straight into the project) it turns out that a lot of backend things will have to be done differently. The book also shows quite clearly that each newly hired expert sees the project as a mean to fulfill his own life goals. That’s why after a couple of years into the project there is still no prototype, but three or four huge side projects that have very little to do with the initial goal of the project (e.g. the standardization of calendar formats and an entire standalone database software).

The book reminded me of the importance of prototyping as fast as possible in order to fail early and fast. The book also illustrates that projects need management: since the developers were all outstanding experts, no one wanted to tell anyone how to do stuff.

Michael Crichton — Jurassic Park
This book was an awesome read and got it me excited about the Jurassic Park series again. I was surprised by how much it differs from the movie.

Michael Crichton — The Lost World
A nice read, though not as excellent as the first book. There was no necessity to write a second book.

Ashlee Vance — Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
The (authorized) biography on Elon Musk was an interesting read. I disliked that the author sometimes seems to glorify Musk a bit. Perhaps this is the American mentality. Words like “work-life balance” seem to have a negative connotation in the context of this book.

Robert A. Heinlein — The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
This book got my attention after I watched a Q&A with Elon Musk and he mentioned it as one of his favorites. After reading a bit about it, I found that it was often mentioned as one of the best science-fiction books ever written. Reasons enough for me to read it. Heinlein describes the rebellion efforts of a small colony on the moon. The rebellion is planned in a very clever way (which explains the books popularity in the anarchy scene). I found the book quite entertaining and inspiring (not in an anarcho way, in a technological way ;-) ).

Stephen Davies — Hammer of the Gods
The book aims to tell the story behind “Led Zeppelin”. I found this copy whilst poking around in a second hand bookshop in Thailand and it got me interested. From what I have read about the book, not every tale or story from it should be taken for granted, as the author seems to not have done an entirely proper investigation. But the book is an interesting and informative read and I guess even if all the anecdotes in the book are incorrect, there is still a lot of (authentic) information left on how the band got together and came to its success. It certainly gave me a new perspective on Stairway to Heaven, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

Tony Wheeler, Maureen Wheeler — Unlikely Destinations: The Lonely Planet Story
This book is an “autobiography” on the Lonely Planet. Tony and Maureen describe how they founded the company and its following success. I stumbled upon this book in a small bookshop in Bangkok and it got me interested immediately. Only after buying and unpacking I realized that it was pirated. The color-copied cover didn’t give much clues, but the pages themselves were clearly copied — dirt marks, slightly rotated pages, etc.. Well, at least the pirates also copied the copyright and licensing information page of the book…
The book itself contained some interesting infos and some nice anecdotes, but in total I found it had some long parts where the overall story got lost in boring details.

Wolfgang Beltracchi — Selbstporträt
I got first interested in the author after reading an interview with him a couple years back (I think it might have been this one). Basically, Beltracchi was an art forger. A very good one, one should mention. He never copied existing paintings, but rather made an effort to understand the workings of an artist and immerse himself in the person. He then went on to create “new” paintings, which did fit very well in the repertoire of an artist. Beltracchi did very well and remained undiscovered for a very long time. This book is his (and his wifes) autobiography. The book was a rewarding and very good read.

Andy Weir — The Martian
Very entertaining, liked it. Haven’t seen the movie (yet).

Christoph Warmer, Sören Weber — Mission Startup
The book is a collection of interviews with German startup founders (mymuesli, fritz kola, Vapiano, mytaxi, etc.). Some interviews were interesting to read and the book offered nice insights into the German startup scene.
What really annoyed me about the book is that it is typeset in such a careless way. Questions which sometimes are bold and sometimes not and a gruesome usage of word spacing.

Stephen King — On Writing
Another biography! The book consists of two parts: Part 1 describes autobiographical details and Part 2 consists of notes on writing and becoming a writer. It seems to me (after reading Mr. Kings Wikipedia page) that he left out a great deal of biographical details. Whilst reading I oftentimes had the impression that he is reluctant to write about himself and is rather eager to get to Part 2. Nevertheless, the book fostered my understanding of the person.

Sam Harris — Waking Up
Harris describes his personal experiences concerning meditation. This was an accompanying book to me starting meditating regularly again. The book contains a vast number of interesting information and I need to read it again, since I didn’t grasp everything the first time.

Neil Strauss — The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships
Very good read, contains a lot of truth indeed. The book centers around the authors’ search for a fitting style of relationship.

Orson Scott Card — Ender in Exile
I don’t know how I could have missed that Card wrote many more books in the Ender universe besides the Ender Quartett (Enders Game, Speaker for the Dead, Children of the Mind, Xenocide). One of them is “Ender in Exile”. The book fits right in the (multiple thousand years) gap between “Enders Game” and “Speaker for the Dead”. I liked it, it was a rewarding read. I have started reading some of the other stuff in the Ender universe as well. Currently I am reading “First Meetings”, a short story collection with some Ender characters.

Ulrich Ott — Meditation für Skeptiker (“Meditation for Skeptics”)
Ott is (similar to Wolf Singer) a well known neuroscientist who researches meditation. This book is a scientific (but well understandable) report on the state of research concerning meditation. The author gives a very broad overview over the topic and describes in detail which commonly postulated advantages of meditation have a scientific base and which not. It was an interesting read and provided some helpful information to me.



To conclude the 2015 book list, I need to mention that there were some books which I didn’t finish: the book “Robert Bosch” by Gunter Haug aims to tell a fictional autobiography of Bosch. Therefore the author imagines thoughts and feelings of Bosch and enriches this with biographical details. I found this approach not working for me at all. The author presumes a lot of stuff about the inner workings of Bosch without any recognizable credibility.

The other book which I stopped reading — though I plan to complete it in 2016 — is “The Singularity is Near” by futurist Ray Kurzweil. It is a very interesting read and the reason for stopping was solely that I was not in the mood for something technical at that point in time.

I read all books (in total 15) in their original language — 13 were in English, two in German.

Backpacking Thailand

Together with Valerie I have been backpacking Thailand during September. It has been a very nice holiday and it was hard for me to go back to life in Germany after the holiday. This is mainly due to me being dissatisfied with how things have gone throughout this year. This was also the first holiday in which I switched off my smartphone completely. It was a real pleasure to not be reachable and to not use any computerized stuff. During the holiday I became more and more disgusted of using any computers or electronic devices. I also had to drop reading one of the books I brought with me, since it was too technology focused. I just couldn’t bring myself to carry on reading. Out of recent experiences at university, I have developed a mild aversion against technology and computer stuff during August and it grew stronger during the holiday. Once we were back in Germany it took me a couple of days and a real effort to turn the smartphone back on and go back to working with a computer. Even now, a couple of weeks after the holiday, I am still not back on the original track.

Once I tried turning my smartphone back on, I realized it had broken down somewhere in Thailand. This is probably due to the high humidity there and a couple of deep scratches which were in the screen. Probably the moisture crept in and the electronics broke down. I am thinking seriously about not getting any new smartphone at all. I was a heavy user of WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook before, but now it just disgusts me. Besides this it was a very nice holiday and an opportunity to get away from todo’s, deadlines and concerns.

We landed in Bangkok, but — since its Bangkok — left with the next night train to Surat Thani. Our destination was the island of Koh Phangan, where we stayed for ten days or so. Exploring the island, staying in different places, just drifting around. We rented motorbikes several times and spent entire days just driving around and exploring this tropical island with its beautiful landscape of beaches, coconut trees and palms. There were a lot of small adventures during those days and I enjoyed this time very much. At one point we discovered a small festival hidden in a secluded bay: the Floating Man, a small sibling of the Burning Man.

After staying some nights on Koh Phangan we went to the Ang Thong National Marine Park, a foreclosed group of islands, for some days. Few backpackers know that there are some bungalows and tents in the national park and that one can stay there for the night(s). As a consequence we had a nice time and the park mostly to ourselves. During the day, at around 10 am, some boats with tourists would arrive. But before that it was a nice secluded area where we could observe wild (and shy) monkeys strolling through the lonely island in the morning. In the afternoon at around 4 pm the tourist boats would leave again and the island would quiet down again.

Eventually we found a boat which went to Koh Tao and got on board. Koh Tao is an island famous for its diving resorts. Even though we didn’t dive, we took the time to snorkel and stayed there for the remainder of our journey. This was a nice time, accompanied by driving around with motorbikes, snorkeling and Yoga classes.

To quickly recap some other highlights: it should be a commonly known poor-country-travelling fact that the backpack which you store in the luggage facility of a long-distance bus will most certainly get thoroughly searched for valuables. Thus you should keep all the interesting stuff with you. I adhere to this and have never gotten anything stolen. This time though, after leaving the bus and unpacking my backpack in a room later, I found a pair of sneakers (Vans, size 46) buried deep in my backpack. I guess somebody mixed things up whilst unpacking and repacking. I didn’t have anything missing though. Sadly, by the time I discovered the shoes it was too late to return them to its rightful owner. Also sadly, I got size 43.

We had an interesting experience (not worth repeating) when we took a bungalow in a quiet place nearby a jungle. Since it was very hot we opened all windows and went swimming in the ocean nearby. When it got dark we got back to the bungalow. Well…here comes some foreshadowing clue: many places in Thailand (especially on the islands) have power only available for a certain period of the day — when it gets dark. A previous owner of the bungalow must have left the light switched on. We didn’t notice this when we first got to the place, since it was midday and the power was off. But as we returned, the bungalow shined like a christmas tree.
Since this very evening I can’t figure out why there are zoos in Thailand. From my point of view it is sufficient to just take a room and leave the light on.

 
 
 
 

FizzBuzz with Computer Science Undergraduates

During the semester break I was involved in the redesign of a computer science lecture for undergraduates (mostly in their second semester). The lecture is centered around programming topics, such as patterns or object-oriented programming and builds upon the lecture “Introduction to Computer Science”, which teaches basic programming skills in Java (amongst other stuff).

In the week before the semester started, the idea of conducting the FizzBuzz test with the undergraduates came along. FizzBuzz seems to be a popular game in schools within the UK and has gained infamous popularity, since some people started to use it during job interviews as a test for developers. The task seems to be quite simple, but more people than you might think do not get it right, when having to write it down on paper without any debugging utilities.

Write a program that prints the numbers from 1 to 100. But for multiples of three print “Fizz” instead of the number and for the multiples of five print “Buzz”. For numbers which are multiples of both three and five print “FizzBuzz”.

Now you might think “Pfffhh! I can do that!”. Well, you might want to try that out before reading on. So, we decided to conduct this test with the undergraduates in the mentioned course. The goal was to gather a better understanding of their problems and common mistakes. They were required to program the test in Java. The FizzBuzz test was the second task of the quiz, the first consisted of writing a simple class with a constructor and creating an instance of it. The quizz was not rated, the purpose was just to gather a better understanding of the students previous knowledge and problems.

I quickly want to highlight the most interesting results concerning FizzBuzz: of the 176 participants 28 students (16%) made no mistake at all. Leaving minor errors (syntax, type, assignment, etc.) out, five more students (19%) got the task right. 40 submissions (23%) had so much stuff missing, that they couldn’t be rated. Of the 33 students who got the task right (not taking minor errors into account), 21 reported having some programming experience before starting to study.

21 students (12%) made an off-by-one error similar to this: for (int i = 1; i < 100; i++) { ... }.
81 students (46%) made logical errors, along the lines of composing the if-conditions wrongfully. Wrongful code like this was very common (pseudo-code intended):

if (i % 3 == 0) print("Fizz")
else if (i % 5 == 0) print("Buzz")
else if (i % 3 == 0 && i % 5 == 0) print("FizzBuzz")
else print(i)

Note that the third if-condition will never get invoked. One reason for writing down the if-conditions in this order might be that the exercise text described the cases in this order. It seems to me, that the most failure-prone (but also most obvious) approach to the task might be to directly translate the exercise description into code.

The results of this quiz were discussed with the students in the second lecture.

“Any Questions?” Slides

sql questions
The infamous “Questions?” slide in SQL-Syntax
 

A while ago I got bored by the standard “Questions?” slide, which is in almost any presentation nowadays. So I thought about how to create more interesting questions-slides, which could maybe even make the audience smile. These are some of the slides I have come up with and used within presentations. Those presentations were usually directed towards a technical audience and the technical hints should have been clear.

 

JavaScript

C
 

Lambda Calculus

For a Psychologists Audience
 

Shell

Erlang
 

Backpacking México and Guatemala



Acro Yoga. Comic Convergence Festival. Guatemala
 

Over the Christmas / New Years Eve period I have been backpacking through México and Guatemala again (for three weeks). Two friends of mine are on a longer travel period and currently stay in Central America. We catched up with one of them in San Cristobal de las Casas and travelled with her to meet up with the other friend in San Marcos (Guatemala). There we stayed at the Lago de Atitlán for several days. We also joined in for the Cosmic Convergence Festival (where I had also been over the new years eve last year). After the festival we went back to México: first to San Cristobal and from there to Mazunte, where we stayed for the rest of our time.

As last year, I got a lot of impressions. Good ones as well as negative ones. Let’s first get over the negative impressions, before we come to the cool stuff. My main negative impressions are corruption (having to pay “special fees” when aiming to cross the border) as well as the water quality. I think a lot about a story I heard: a teacher who is afraid of stating how disruptive corruption and criminal structures are for any society. Just imagine what goes along with this: a generation of kids growing up without the understanding of how bad these things are for society and with the believe that this is “normal”, since nobody tells them otherwise. Oh my.
Concerning the water quality: this is not just a thing of comfort, it is essential. If you are not able to brush the teeth with tap water or shower with a mouth open because of fear of parasites this affects all parts of your life. E.g. you can’t just cook vegetables or prepare a salad. You need to sterilize these things first by letting them soak in a special solution. You also need to be careful about dishes — have they been properly cleaned? Are they still wet? Not paying attention to these things can lead to complicated problems. I suspect that the bad water quality in some regions (where the sewage system was build to cheap) goes along some path related to corruption.

My most positive impressions are the people. Natives as well as foreigners. There is a huge scene of hippies and dropouts in México and Guatemala and I have the impression that such countries — with fewer regulations than in Europe, and not so enforced restrictions — attract a crowd of interesting, unusual people. Maybe because they don’t fit anywhere else. Or maybe because they have more possibilities there. Or maybe because they find people like themselves in those regions.

I have to mention the extremely fertile vegetation — seeing wild cotton and coffee growing…that’s just beautiful. I also met dropouts who own a 2 hectar permaculture farm. This amazes me a lot. I have the impression that whatever you plant within the vegetation in those regions will just grow. The land makes an incredibly fertile impression. In one hostel in Guatemala I drank coffee which was grown, roasted and grounded within a one mile radius of the hostel.

The two friends I met up with are experienced backpackers, whom I have been to Central America with last year. Whilst I continue studying, they have decided to take time off to travel the world. So far this works very well for them. One of them has been hitchhiking through the USA, México and Guatemala with his tent. Staying here and there. Getting to know interesting people. Before we met up with him he had been helping out teaching at a local school. The other one has joined a yoga community in México and is diving deep into yoga, permaculture and meditation.

Even though I travelled with very good friends I needed to sometimes get some lonely time. If this would have been a longer journey I would have needed to split up. I got two main lessons from this journey: travelling alone often yields more personal freedom and speaking the language of a country is key to the people. I strongly feel as if journeys into such countries expand ones worldview and give one a more appropriate picture of ones own situation.

Now that I am back in Germany I am still a bit off. Quite a hard cut to be in deep México one day and thirty hours later in a totally diverse Germany. Quite hard to go back to the ordinary everyday life. Traveling gives life a different feeling. I want to go back traveling.

 

 
 
 

Looking back on 2014

As I did for 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 here comes my recap for 2014.

Typography
In 2014 I dived further into typography, my main highlights were getting more comfortable with XeLaTeX, reading Robert Bringhurts “The Elements of Typgrahic style” and typesetting more content (especially the Short Story To Go). I also took a lot from hearing the lecture “Digital Typograhy’‘ by Dr. Borchert at Ulm University. Within the lecture I learned PostScript, MetaFont, TeX internals and more typographic knowledge. The lecture was an ideal complement to my interests and already existing knowledge. This was actually the second time I visited the course, the first time (2-3 years ago) it was too advanced for me.

Typography is to literature as musical performance is to composition: an essential act of interpretation.

Robert Bringhurst
 

The font I liked most was Lucas de Groots TheAntiquaB, which is the font used by the magazine “Der Freitag”. De Groot has e.g. also created the font for the “taz” and “Der Spiegel”. Another font I came to like very much is Friedrich Althausens (free) Vollkorn Font.

Best Paper
I finally read the original paper on the vi editor by William Joy and Mark Horton: “An Introduction to Display Editing with Vi”. Even though I work with vi on an everyday base, I still took a lot from the paper. In 2014 I strongly continued my efforts to understand the tools I regularly use, I feel that this paper deppened my understanding of the vi editor.

Best Photo
Well, this of course has to be the monkey selfie (see the Wikipedia if you missed out on that event).

Best Articles
In this article Markus describes his thought process on how to license his own work, discussing different licenses and at last deciding to put everything within the Public Domain (the article is in german).

Autonome Fahrzeuge: Wenn Software über Leben und Tod entscheidet ” is an article on some interesting thought-experiments: what if an autonomous vehicle has to get out of the way and unavoidably will ram either car A or car B — which criteria should be taken to decide which car to ram?

How Wolves Change Rivers” is an interesting article on the vanishing and re-introduction of wolves in a nature reservoir. The article highlights which unforeseen changes thus have happened to the landscape.

I love book covers. This article is full of brilliant ones.

The local press surprised me with an interesting article on underground passages in Ulm: “Zwischen den Bahnhöfen Ulm und Stuttgart”.

Best Blog Posts
I found this post a nice collection of LaTeX/XeTeX features: “Beauty of LaTeX”.

How to Write a Git Commit Message” held some insights and improved my way of writing commit messages.

Riding with the Stars: Passenger Privacy in the NYC Taxicab Dataset” is a post on the de-anonymization of data in a dataset released by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. The author describes his process in detail.

Best Podcast
This is an easy decission: Hoaxilla #107 – ‘Waldorf-Schule’. This was one of those podcasts which totally opened my eyes. I grew up in a region where the so called “Waldorf-School” was a common thing and I never gave it much thought. I knew some people who went there and always somehow associated it with an education with a focus on nature. Little did I know of all the esoteric parts. It got even worse: after further reading on the topic it occured to me that some popular medicine manufacturer is also heavily based on Anthroposophy and some popular agriculture labels as well (German Wikipedia Page). Oh my.

Books
I did a separate post on that topic.

Own photos
I like the two uppermost photos in the “Backpacking México and Guatemala” post a lot. I am also very satisfied with this photo, which I took on the Isle of Seurasaari whilst visiting friends in Helsinki:

Music
The Killers — Romeo and Juliet, Chet Faker’s “Thinking in Textures” album, the Milky Chance “Sadnecessary” album, Tom Odell’s “Another Love”, Kendrick Lamar, Okta Logue.

Technical Stuff
Been using Arch Linux for the most part of 2014, I am very satisfied to finally having made the switch. Stuff I work with each day: tmux, ksh, mmh, nvi, git, dwm, uzbl, firefox, spotify. The tool that improved my workflow most in 2014 is mmh, a mail client in Unix style.

Words which stuck

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes
 

Weil, so schließt er messerscharf,
nicht sein kann, was nicht sein darf.

Christian Morgenstern (from the poem “Die unmögliche Tatsache”)
 

Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. (…) You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present

John Green, Looking for Alaska
 

Each word I write drops a little more of me onto the page. In time, I will be the book, the book will be me, and the story will be told.

 

I found this definition of privacy very striking:

Privacy is the condition of being protected from unwanted access by others.

Sissela Bok
 

Own Projects
Did a lot of stuff in 2014, the most important ones to me were:

The GTFS visualizations
Once I had the idea, I described and sketched it to a guy at university. He told me it was “senseless”. This decreased my motivation enormously. However, I still managed to finish it. The GTFS visualizations have been very nicely received and I am quite proud of this project. Others have done visualizations for other cities with the tool or extended the project. I printed two DIN A1 posters and since early 2014 they are now proudly decorating our living space.

The Short Story 2 Go was a great success. I am very proud on this project.

With the Scratches project I am also very satisfied. Still looking for a way to present the resulting images in an exhibition or something similar.

I had the idea for the reworking typography series in mind for a long time. In 2014 I finally managed to finish two pieces: The Last Question and Hibernation.

The “Kunst oder Kitsch?”-Installation was a “real-world” project and I learned a lot from building an installation that ran for three months and had a couple thousand visitors.

The fragdendienst-project was probably one of the society-relevant projects I did so far. I am proud of the reality-affecting context of the project and the fact that it runs in production.

Also I finally took the time to complete some unfinished projects:
Comic Strip – Why you shouldn’t mail *.doc files
The Principles of Datalove — Audiomashup
Exploring the ZEIT ONLINE API

In 2011 I did a project — Ulm Timelapse. Dirk Maasen has recut the video into a visual accomposition to fit his musical piece Dirk Maassen feat. An imaginal Space – Lichter. The resulting video is amazing and I could not have wished for such a beautiful work building upon stuff which I did.

Good decisions
In early 2014 I switched my newspaper subscription from the taz to Der Freitag. This has proven to be a very good decision. I draw a lot from regularly reading it, mainly improving my general knowledge and staying informed on what happens in the world. I find that reading a newspaper gets me to read articles, which I would normally not have read when glancing through online news sites.

Another good decission was to look that there are always fresh plants in the kitchen. I found this to be uplifting.

University Life
Since April 2014 I have been working on the Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing Project at university. This has been a lot of fun for me, I haven’t written anything on this blog since, but I will after the project is finished (probably in April).

As part of my resarch assistant job at the university I have been working with the OptiTrack system. This is an expensive, professional optical tracking system and it was interesting to see how one develops applications for such a system and interacts with the API.

Best movie
A local cinema had a series of older movies running, I was especially keen by the Banksy movie “Exit Through the Gift Shop” on the topic of Street Art. I found the movie to be very inspiring and I was very enthusiastic for the days after watching the movie.

Looking forward to 2015
In 2015 I want to focus on my Master degree. I aim to finish it in the winter semester of 2015 (meaning I would be finished by April 2015). I strongly want to finish this chapter of my life and start towards new things.

About Me

I am a 27 year old techno-creative enthusiast and computer science student at the Ulm University in Germany.

I care about exploring ideas and developing new things. I like creating great stuff that I am passionate about.

Mobile photos

License

All content is licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International (if not explicitly noted otherwise).
 
I would be happy to hear if my work gets used! Just drop me a mail.
 
The CC license above applies to all content on this site created by me. It does not apply to linked and sourced material.
 
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