MICHA.ELMUELLER

 

Elf Pavlik & Moneyless Living

About five years ago Elf Pavlik visited me in Ulm for a few days, when I was still studying there. He voluntarily lives without money since 2009 and shared my interest in free software and (at that time) open data. I found his lifestyle very interesting and we spent a few days together and I took this opportunity to ask him an infinite amount of questions. I recorded some of these conversations and had always planned to cut them together and put these recordings online. For various reasons I didn’t do that for five years. My main reason (which seems a bit silly to me now) was that I had owned my camera only for a short period at that time and was unsatisfied with the way how some of the material turned out. But now I finally did cut a short clip from it! You can see the result here:

 

Moneyless Living / Elf Pavlik / Ulm 2012
(the original file can be downloaded under this link as well).
 

It was very interesting for me to see how different worldviews can be and meeting Pavlik definitely had an impact on me. Pavlik told me about his further travel plans; he had planned to first travel to Paris for a few days, then Lyon, then to Italy to visit some people and then further somewhere else. I found this quite remarkable, he wasn’t constrained by finances in any way. Money just didn’t play any role for him when planning where to go next (or his life in general). This is in stark contrast to how many people would e.g. plan a trip to Paris (train tickets for probably 100-200 euros, booking an accomodation there, etc.).

Also, my dorm refrigerator was never this full during the whole time I lived in this apartment as it was during the time when Pavlik visited me (because of dumpster diving). Certain things which he said (often casually, when talking about something different) stuck with me as well. Sentences like “what some people consider borders” and other thoughts which are mentioned in the video as well.

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 decision was to look after always having 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.

Project: Informative Rights for Journalists

I have followed the NSA leaks very closely from the beginning. When the leaks started and Snowden firstly revealed himself I had been in Berlin and some tech-savy people involved in the Bitcoin scene told me about the leaks. Following the leaks closely, watching Snowdens first video and the upcoming revelations have definitely influenced me. I curiosly read Glenn Greenwalds book and watched the Laura Poitras movie “Citizenfour” soon after they were available.

In the summer of 2014 I got the possibility of creating a tool which, in my opinion, was a reasonable and necessary step in the direction of making the supervision of authorities more accessible. The german organization netzwerk recherche is a journalists association with a focus on investigative journalism. German journalists have certain extended rights to question official institutions (such as secret services) on data which has been saved about them. This is meant to strengthen their journalistic role within a democracy. These rights, however, are seldomly invoked. Concerning the secret services, a reason could be that there are actually 20 (sic!) intelligence agencies/secret services in Germany — one for each state and four for the entire country. Each service has different requirements for answering requests — one might e.g. require a copy of the passport while another might demand other documents. Additionaly each service has a different address, which is not always easy to find. So to ease these hurdles the idea came about of developing a simple PDF generator, where one could just click the agencies one wants to inquire. A PDF containing the necessary inquiry text, attachment information and the address would then be generated.

A special requirement for such a tool was that the PDF document generation had to happen on the client-side — no server should hold any state. It must not be possible for any person having access to the server to monitor who wants to take use of ones informative rights. Also one should not have to trust the organization, instead one should have the possibility of downloading and deploying the generator himself. Making the source code available (as free software) was a natural conclusion.

I have created this tool and it has now been deployd since July or so. I just didn’t get around to do a proper writeup.
The public instance is available at the netzwerkrecherche.org website. The source code is available via GitHub (under the MIT license).

Das netzwerk recherche ruft Journalisten auf, bei den Geheimdiensten anzufragen, ob diese Daten über sie gespeichert haben. Um das zu vereinfachen, stellen wir einen Generator für die entsprechenden Anträge bereit.

Ziel dieses Projektes ist, in Zeiten der zunehmenden Massenüberwachung den Diensten zu zeigen, dass ihr Handeln von der Öffentlichkeit kritisch beobachtet wird. Die Aufmerksamkeit für das Problemfeld Geheimdienste im demokratischen Rechtsstaat muss erhöht werden.

Insbesondere für investigativ recherchierende Journalisten ist eine Überwachung durch Geheimdienste und eine damit einhergehende Ausforschung ihrer Informanten und Kontakte nicht hinnehmbar.

Anlass des Projektes ist der Fall Andrea Röpke. Beim niedersächsischen Verfassungsschutz wurden offensichtlich rechtswidrig Daten über sie gesammelt. Als sie einen Antrag auf Aktenauskunft stellte, vernichtete die Behörde ihre Akte und behauptete, es gäbe keine Akte über sie. Erst ein Machtwechsel in Hannover offenbarte die Vertuschung – die politische Aufarbeitung läuft bis heute.

Keeping this world interesting

“Bespaßung dieser Welt.”

 
 
 

Chaos macht Schule

Chaos macht Schule is a project by the german Chaos Computer Club, in which hackers with a technical credibility go into schools to hold presentations or conduct workshops.

This year the local Chaos Computer Club group has been invited two times to a school to give talks on privacy awareness and participate in a parents evening on the topic of data privacy related topics. Matou, Nico and I went there for the first event. We gave a presentation to two groups of about 50 pupils each, and one talk at the parents evening. Later this year, matou and I went back to the school to do the same event again. I am very satisfied with the whole event and before describing too much here: In February, straight after we were finished, we set up a voice recorder to capture our enthusiasm and remindings while driving home through the nightly, heavy snowfall.

We published this recording as part of the /dev/radio unstable program, which we have started a while ago. Unplanned, experimental podcasts, with completely different lengths and questionable quality, explicitly marked as unstable.

The events had a heavy focus on (data) privacy and we were (specifically) invited to shine some light on this topic. However, I would like to get more into inspiring people to do creative stuff, opposed to describing issues and problems. Just some ideas: The Little Bits project is a great project, which makes it easily possible to build interesting stuff without having to get too technical. Also, if someone would have showed me the endless possibilities of free operating systems when I was 14, I would probably have locked myself in forever. The fact that you can build your complete own system, replace each part of it, modify anything, would have just blown me away. The whole Creative Coding movement with projects like (fluxus) where you build a music visualization just-in-time, Context Free as an easy way to create amazing art, 3D printers and of course Arduinos.

Damn good …

… free music

Tymphony — I wish i could erase (instrumental, symphonic)
My Bubba & Mi — Apple Spell (folk, acoustic, country)
pornophonique — Sad Robot (electronic)
Nine Inch Nails — Ghosts II – 14 (rock, industrial)

… article

Auf die Universitaeten bezogen, ist das das Bild der Uni als Ermoeglichungsplatform. Studenten muessen von Ideen getrieben sein. Die Universitaet sollte dafuer sorgen, dass ideengetriebene Studenten ihr Potential bestmoeglich zum Nutzen der Menschheit entwickeln und umsetzen koennen. Dabei gilt es, den Studenten ein Fortbildungsangebot anzubieten, wissenschaftlichen Austausch zu beguenstigen, durch gute Ausstattung das Experimentieren zu ermoeglichen, und nicht zuletzt muss durch gemeinsame Werte eben diese Welt am Funktionieren gehalten werden.

Markus Schnalke, Die Universitaet

Unsere Gesellschaft zerstört Kreativität.

Das Turbo-Abi macht unsere Kinder zu Lernrobotern – sie schaufeln den Stoff in sich hinein und spucken ihn für Noten wieder aus. […]

Wir müssen Fächer streichen und die Lehrpläne auf ein Mindestmaß reduzieren.
Notwendig ist das eigenständige Lernen in Projekten, in denen unsere Kinder die Kompetenz entwickeln,
die sie für die Zukunft brauchen: Teamfähigkeit und soziale Verantwortung statt Ellbogenmentalität,
Kreativität und Erschließen von Zusammenhängen statt Fachidiotie, Lernen aus Interesse statt Lernen für die nächste Note.

Ulrike Köllner, in der taz vom 20.8.11

Ich beobachte in meinem Studium häufig, dass Kommilitonen die Fähigkeit fehlt im engeren Sinne kreativ zu arbeiten: Sie können Dinge nicht hinterfragen oder aus verschiedenen Blickwinkeln betrachten.

Unser Gesellschaftssystem ist nicht darauf ausgelegt kreative Menschen zu fördern. Das System belohnt Querdenker nicht. In der Schule wird etwa der Schüler belohnt, der fremdes Gedankengut möglichst originalgetreu wiedergibt und niederschreibt. Nicht derjenige, der sich eigene Gedanken macht oder den Stoff hinterfragt.

Nikola Tesla studierte erst Mathematik, dann unter anderem Physik und Philosophie. Er studierte über Jahre hinweg an verschiedenen Universitäten und wurde zwischendurch sogar exmatrikuliert. Tesla gilt als einer der einflussreichsten Ingenieure unserer Geschichte. Wechselstrom oder Radiotechnik etwa sind seine Verdienste. Heute würde er vermutlich als Langzeitstudent abgestempelt werden. Ihm würden Vorwürfe gemacht werden, weil er nicht rechtzeitig fertig geworden ist, die Regelstudienzeit überschritten hat oder noch nicht in einer Firma arbeitet.

Würde er wohl mit solch einer Vergangenheit noch einen Studienkredit oder BAföG bekommen?

Große Wissenschaftler und Ingenieure waren oft vielfältig gebildet und auf mehreren Gebieten tätig. Oft musikalisch begabt und künstlerisch tätig. Als Schriftsteller oder Maler: Der erste Philosoph, Pythagoras, war auch einer der größten Mathematiker. Im Zuge der Industrialisierung im 20. Jahrhundert fand eine Spezialisierung der Berufe statt. Wer früher ein ganzes Auto bauen musste, muss jetzt nur noch drei Schrauben anziehen können.

Wenn ich heute Leuten erzähle, dass ich Vorlesungen höre, die ich nicht anrechnen lassen kann, können die meisten Gesprächspartner das nicht nachvollziehen. Es macht auf sie einen seltsamen Eindruck. Einige Kommilitonen von mir studieren inzwischen seit mehr als siebzehn Semestern. Ein anderer ist im neunten Bachelorsemester.

Wieso wird so etwas von einem nicht unbeträchtlichen Teil der Gesellschaft als seltsam und negativ angesehen?

In Diskussionen mit diesen Leuten habe ich immer den Eindruck, dass sie denken man würde die Gesellschaft aufhalten. Nicht zum Fortschritt beitragen. Faulenzen, nicht fleißig sein, nicht arbeiten. Den ganzen Tag irgendetwas machen, bloß nicht studieren. Meiner Ansicht nach ist diese Haltung enorm kurzsichtig! Für mich ist Studium genau das: Seine eigenen Interessen verfolgen, herausfinden was einen interessiert, fachfremde Vorlesungen hören, seinen Horizont erweitern, sich mit etwas auseinanderzusetzen ohne ein direktes kommerzielles Interesse zu verfolgen!
Letzlich ist Innovation eben nicht von jemandem zu erwarten, der nur das Nötigste lernt und das Studium überhaupt eigentlich nur hinter sich bringen will, weil er später mal ein Einkommen benötigt.

Unser Bildungssystem ist nicht darauf ausgelegt fähige Wissenschaftler, die selber nachdenken, hervorzubringen sondern Arbeitskräfte für die Wirtschaft, die nur das Nötigste zu wissen brauchen.

Dann wird eben nur gepaukt und nicht studiert.

Wieso fällt es vielen Leuten extrem schwer Dinge nicht nur herzustellen und zu kopieren, sondern komplett neu zu entwerfen. Sich neue Architekturen und Ansätze zu überlegen. Bestehendes über den Haufen zu werfen und einen komplett neuen Ansatz zu schaffen?

Weil sie es nie gelernt haben.



Flyer des Bildungsprotests, entdeckt an der Uni Ulm.
Ich finde ihn sehr passend zu diesem Beitrag.

 

About Me

I am a 29 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.

License

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