MICHA.ELMUELLER

 

Looking back on 2018

Like in the last years here comes my yearly recap. Older flashbacks can be found for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

2018 went by really fast. Faster than the last years. Probably because of having a routine, having a 5-day 40 hour workweek. Rough highlights were our trip to Sri-Lanka, another trip to Portugal where the company I worked at had rented two villas in an orange field for employees who wanted to flee the Berlin winter. Then a really nice summer vacation in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern — a rural German federal state above Berlin. The nature there is really nice and this is a part of Germany that was unbeknownst to me.

Then there were a number of nice visitors here in Berlin and a festival which we visited. I had also organized a weekend on a secluded hut with a couple of friends for my 30th birthday, that was also really nice.

Overall the summer was fantastic, a friend said it was one of those super-idealized summers as you remember them from your childhood, where everyday was super-sunny and the days would never end. I cannot possibly describe it any better. The weather was just fantastic for months.

I definitely feel much more accustomed here now, it’s also comforting to know my way around a lot of areas. Another nice thing is that there are regularly friends showing up in the city because of work, conferences, etc.. I don’t think there is any other city in Germany where this happens to such a great extent.

I had real luck with my job here in the last two years + a couple months. For about 1.5 years our office was situated in an infamous, trendy area of Neukoelln and the time there was really great and I learnt a lot of things. I have a lot of nice memories about this time, the colleagues, trying out the myriad lunch places around, etc.. We then moved to Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg in spring 2018, which was also really interesting. It’s crazy how different the perception of the city is just by taking a different way to the office each morning — totally different people, totally different vibe.

But after the really nice time at this company I have decided to take use of one other great opportunity and have started the new year working for a company which I have admired and followed closely since a long time. The office is in Kreuzberg and the area is the same as the area where the other office was before. This feels a bit strange to me, since I somehow can’t help the feeling of “going back”. We’ll see how it plays out.

Big Topics
In 2018 we basically only cooked vegan. I perceive this as really easy once you get accustomed to basically just not buying milk, cheese, butter, or eggs. I can’t imagine it any other way anymore.

Zero Waste. I have written a whole post on this.

Favorite Articles
I always enjoy reading Tynan’s recap on the gear he owns (he’s one-bagging and owns only this stuff).

The Bachelor thesis Writing Network Drivers in Rust by Simon Ellmann was an interesting read on a topic of which I had no clue (how network drivers work).

Engineering at Parity is a great blog post on the process in a decentralized, modern, open-source company. The way how developers are viewed in this article — as autonomous adults, who don’t need to be forced into a process framework and are able to decide on their own which work style suits them best — resonates a lot with me.

Donations
I donated to archive.org and the Methuselah foundation. The Methuselah foundation was incorporated by Aubrey de Grey and tries to further research into means of reversing the effects of aging. Their slogan is “Making 90 the new 50 by 2030”. I think there are many compelling arguments for this and I think research in this direction has the most potential to mitigate suffering, yet it’s heavily underfunded. If you’re interested in the topic I suggest you read the following short story.

Short Story
The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant is a fabulous story by recognized AI researcher Nick Bostrom.

Best Photos I took
I couldn’t be happier with the photos I took in Sri Lanka.

 
 

Best Photo someone took of me
πŸ™‚

 

Best Music
Khruangbin. Also went to a concert they gave here in Berlin.

Favorite Gadget
I’ve set my eyes on a particular analog camera a while ago and in early 2018 I found a nice exemplar! I’m talking about the “Fuji Klasse S”, which is the last analog camera Fuji made. They basically sat down in 2007 and thought about to make an analog camera with the modern technology available now and with their modern knowledge about how to build cameras. So it’s kind of an analog camera with modern build quality and modern features (though not really what you would call super-modern, they added features like a simple automatic focus for example). Oh and they only built 7000 copies and released them only in Japan.

Favorite Ingredient
Liquid Smoke. There exists a distillation process by which the smoke from burnt wood can be filtered into a liquid. Harmful substances are filtered out and what remains is the fabulous aroma of burnt wood.

In the vegan kitchen this is an often-found ingredient, since you can marinate all kinds of things to get a nice smokey aroma. Great stuff!

Quotes
There was some reddit thread on “What advice would you give your younger self?”. The most upvoted answer was “save more money”. This got me thinking and a big theme of 2018 was to get my finances under control.

“Let them reject you, don’t reject yourself” as a reply in a thread where somebody asked if he should apply somewhere. Can also be applied to asking girls out :-).

Journalist and chemist Hamilton Morris on how he got to work for Vice: “The simple answer is that I went to the Vice office when I was twenty and pitched some stories that interested me, wrote them, got them in print and then never stopped writing stories.”.

“Disruption is all about providing a better service than there was before.”

“Itβ€˜s a greater danger for a company to die because of finding too few developers, than dying because of running out of money.”
I can’t find the article anymore, but it was a major article on one of the high-profile tech websites. Definitely fits with my impression of the scene here in Berlin. The typical turn-around time for software developers here is 18 months and there are many many job opportunities.

“There is always an explanation for a bug.” David Heinemeier Hansson

Movie
Annihilation. Brilliant! Watched it two times on two subsequent evenings. Alex Garland is also the head behind Ex-Machina.

Best Podcasts
There are two which I think are both 1A:
Serge Faguet on Biohacking.

The WRINT episode with the Finanzwesir on personal finances, early retirement, financial independence, etc..

A blockchain project which I’m following since a while is colony.io, I think what they do is really novel and interesting. This podcast outlines their idea.

Best Vlog
I was fascinated with this YouTube channel of Michael Jamison for a while. He lives in South Africa and has raised tigers who due to birth defects were unable to survive in the wild. Thing is, that he raised them in his own house and has integrated their enclosure into his living space. The vlog is an immersive view into his extraordinary life and his daily experiences with the tigers.

Conferences/Meetups
I was only at the “Rise of AI” conference in Berlin. It’s nice that so many conferences are here. There is basically no threshold if the conference is just 20 minutes from your flat.

I also went to two tech meetups at N26. It’s really nice to be able to just go there. Uncomplicated, just after work on some Tuesday. And then you can talk to their CTO there and ask them all kinds of technical questions. Things like this always give me the feeling of being here, in the center, where it all happens.

Most obscure story I heard
During Christmas time we were in a small village in south Germany, there I was told this story. The village typically has storks visiting each year and they build nests on high houses. One of the inhabitants didn’t like that a stork had built a nest on his neighbors roof. So he came up with an elaborate plan to entice the stork into leaving the village.

He employed an ornithologist (a bird scientist) to build him a stork nest as close to reality as possible. He then bought a bit of land at a beautiful seaside, maybe 1 km out of the village.

The further part of his plan involved getting a huge oak tree. The oak was felled and stripped of all branches. A structural engineer was then employed to come up with a way to properly put the oak up in the newly acquired seaside estate. A hole was then excavated on the soon-to-be stork-land. Next a steal cone was cemented into the ground. Heavy machinery was employed to lift the dead oak into the steal cone. Actually, the first crane was incapable of finishing the job. That’s why the work was delayed — a heavier machinery had to come. This then worked out and the oak was successfully mounted into the steal cone. Steal wedges were put into it to secure the whole construction against all kinds of wild wind and weather conditions. The remaining space was then filled with landslide, everything was covered, and even some small trees were planted

The ornithologists nest was then mounted on top of the oak and — to top it off — an outlook bench and a little dog hut (for the dachshund) was placed right next to the oak.

How can the stork possibly resist this offer of a new home? I guess we’ll see. I already thought about sending this in to the Atlas Obscura :).

New year resolutions for 2018 (taken from last years blog post)

  • Spend less money. βœ“
    I had detailed this: “I want to gather a detailed overview over all my expenses and want to meticulously document every cent that I spend in January.”
    This was a really good exercise and I continued doing it throughout most the year. Most importantly it makes your expenses visible, which in cash-obsessed Germany can be quite helpful.
  • Consider meditation again. βœ—
  • One additional, regular fitness exercise. βœ—
  • Bring photography skills to a level that I am satisfied with (i.e. a more serious level). Specifically by thinking more about composition and getting better at it. ~
  • Contribute more to open source projects. βœ“
    I definitely achieved this and made 10-15 PRs to different projects in 2018. I also participated two times in the Stellar Build Challenge and got awarded prizes both times.
    These contributions were a nice opportunity to get mentored. I think that when learning a new technology this is an underrated way to learn something. Basically you can search for an open source project which you respect and start working on issues that interest you. Oftentimes you will receive guidance by the maintainers and they will give you feedback on your solution.
  • Start a technically challenging new project. βœ“
    I learnt a new programming language — Rust, which is a low-level programming language with a similar niche to C++. I then rewrote a (Perl) monitoring plugin which we used at work in Rust and sped it up thereby by >96%. This eliminated issues with false positives which the plugin had due to being too slow. I’ve put my rewrite on GitHub and published it as a Rust package.
  • Develop my own clothing style further. ~
    There was some development, I would have liked to see more though.
  • Decide fast, don’t overthink. ~
    I’m still taking too long to decide, but it’s getting better.

New year resolutions for 2019

  • Every evening make a plan for the next day.
    I got myself a pretty Hobonichi Techo for this purpose.
  • Do Yoga every day. Consider “the gym”.
  • Get really good in Rust.
  • Save more money.
  • Buy max. 5 clothing items
  • Habit Tracker: The idea is to visualize how well you achieve the goals which you have set for yourself and encourage you to keep it up. I decided on these: Zero Inbox, Satisfied with Achievements today, Did something from To Do List, Yoga, Vegan.

Category: Life itself

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About Me

I am a 30 year old techno-creative enthusiast who lives and works in Berlin. In a previous life I studied computer science (more specifically Media Informatics) 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.

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