Pandemic Dust

I had not bought that soap in a long time. I noted the scent as I washed my hands. And all of a sudden, it was the summer of 2018. I had just moved into my studio apartment in Munich. I felt boundless at that time. Everything was possible. I had countless projects and ideas that I wanted to work on. I had learned the value of needing little to be happy. I felt I could do anything because I finally understood that I already had everything. It was the time when I realized that even the most mundane thing is interesting and that I could learn from it. Sometimes I wonder what happened to all of that. And then I realize that it is all still there, just under a heavy coat of pandemic dust. Ironically, it is just one hand washing ritual away.

No wonder I did not buy it for so long; this time machine comes in plastic

Dead End

I spend most of my time alone, in particular since the pandemic started. It took me a while to understand why exactly this is so dangerous. When alone, thoughts do not find any resistance. There is no one around to hold one accountable and to provide a different perspective. Any statement stands with no objection and turns into truth. The mind becomes narrower and all dimensions that do not fit one's understanding, vanish. However, no individual has a full picture of the world. Each of us has only one piece of an infinite puzzle. Attempting to live by a single piece of that puzzle may sound tempting, but is a dead end. The only way out is (healthy) confrontation and dispute. And that cannot come from within oneself.

If one does not see the forest for the trees, time to climb a tower and get some views

True Colors

We often cannot control what happens. And while events by themselves can be devastating, their effect strongly depends on how they happen. For example, if one makes a mistake and tries to cover it up, it is likely to be much worse than if one admits it right away. The mistake itself is the same but the way in which it impacts how others around us feel is massively different, which may result in long-lasting ripple effects. This is the essence of the Life is Strange games. The games tell a story which apparently is almost the same in spite of the dozens of decisions that the player can make. But while the what barely changes, the how is poles apart. And this is key, because what we feel shapes how we perceive the world.

The protagonist is Alex, who arrives as a "transplant" to a small town in Colorado

The idyllic little town of course holds a few mysteries to be clarified

The three main characters get involved in a "David and Goliath" kind of plot

And indeed, the little town does hide a few not so nice secrets

Music plays a central role in the game as a key tool to express feelings

If a real guitar is not available, a broom will do

Headphones are omnipresent, often as a means to escape reality

The strength of the game lies in expressing what the characters feel

Slight expressions reveal the impact of the player's choices, in this case a joyful surprise

Fear is the most prevalent feeling in the game, just as in real life

Blind Mind

I have walked down that street a zillion times. The grocery shop is there. The doctor is there. The parcel pick-up point is there. Yet, I had never looked at the street because most of the times my mind was not there. It was too busy thinking about what I needed to buy, what I was going to tell the doctor, or what ephemeral joy I was about to unpack from that parcel. The vast majority of the time, my mind is somewhere else, worrying and stressed about even the most insignificant thing. The brief moments when the mind stops doing that, feel incredibly liberating. All of a sudden, the world becomes incredibly beautiful and interesting. And the mind-blowing thing is that this amazing world is there 24/7. We are just blind to it.

After a streak of 364 days in a row, I believe meditation does help the mind

What I feel

I am not what I feel. I believe in having the choice of diving into an emotion and getting carried away by it versus keeping it at a distance. The latter does not mean supressing emotions but rather balancing actions, in particular given the heavy distortion that often comes along with strong emotions. However, this approach is a double-edged sword, as it may also be perceived as being untrustworthy, a fake person, or even a lier. The actual motivation for keeping emotions at a distance probably lies somewhere in the middle, as usual. On the one hand, the noble intention of not harming others, and on the other hand, fear and anxiety at its best. I claim the former but I cannot deny the latter.

Music is a loophole for emotions, and thus plays a key role in the game True Colors

Circuit Box

It took me two and a half years. All that time, my Raspberry Pi Zero setup was rather deplorable. The poor device hung from its USB power cord, taped to a shelf in my apartment. While the web is full of cases for this model, few of them are tailored to the Pimoroni Inky pHAT display I had on mine. I finally designed a laser-cut box that fits this particular setup to the millimeter, allowing for a more robust installation. The box includes a generic PCB holder bracket and can be fully assembled without using any glue. Instead, four M3 screws hold it together, which means that one can reopen it at will. Four additional M2 screws tie the circuit board to the bracket. I share below the design for a 3 mm material, such as MDF or acrylic. Enjoy :-)

Download SVG design file

The plain box, showing the Inky pHAT

The box installed with a white passepartout covering the screen borders

Foolish

Insights infect my mind with clarity. Suddenly, a difficult situation or circumstance makes sense. Even if all of the pieces of the puzzle were already known for decades, it is not until that moment that my mind can arrange them to a meaningful picture. The book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is full of such insights. I marked dozens of them as I read it, but one of them fitted my recent blog posts in particular. Towards the end of the book, Siddhartha concludes that wisdom cannot be put into words because as soon as one tries to do so, it sounds foolish. I feel similar when I try to write about any sort of thought. Hence, I will not attempt to reflect what I learned from that book, but can only recommend it.

The book tells the life of Siddhartha and his journey of self-discovery

Details

I see the shelf every day but it must have been years since I actually looked at it. It has blended with the background, becoming one with my room. My brain knows there is a shelf, and every time I see the shelf, it inserts an abstract placeholder for "shelf". But it does not process the shape, the colors, the dimensions. The brain skips all of the details. Meditation made me realise this. After a sitting, the details are back for a few seconds. The shelf is not abstract anymore, the sofa has a color, the pencil has a design printed on it. The world turns from blurred grey mud to a colourful place full of wonderful, well-defined entities. Ten minutes of meditation is sort of the opposite of ten minutes of infinite scrolling on Instagram.

Here is to a more aware 2022.

Though I have to admit that Rudolph's glowing nose is hard to miss on the shelf

Survivor

She is unstoppable. Nothing can get in her way. She gets hit, she stumbles, she falls. But she rises, again and again. She fights back, she continues, she never gives up. She does the right thing, even if it takes her last breath. In the latest trilogy, Lara (Croft) is better than ever. While earlier games portrayed her as a flawless but also somewhat distant super adventurer, Lara becomes a fighter and survivor in this origin trilogy, making her much more relatable in every sense. One truly feels the defeats and victories as her adventures unfold and, rather than just a character to be admired, her fearless and relentless spirit become a true motivation. When I "grow up", I want to have that spirit!

Lara has substituted her dual pistols by really cool bows and arrows

Different from earlier games, Lara now actually uses climbing gear

Mud, sweat, blood. It all does not stop her.

While bruteforce action works with enemies, strategy typically works better

One thing stays the same: she explores lots of impressive tombs

And those tombs are typically full of deadly traps

While earlier games were rather cold, emotions now play a big role

Along with tombs, artifacts are a must as well

Don't mess with her. Really, don't :-)

Running System

It was broken. Really broken. Like an old, rusty cargo ship that may sink any moment, this website was full of patches and quick fixes. I was not proud of it. The database leaked, the engine was vulnerable, and support for the system had ran out years ago. While code does not get rusty, it becomes obsolete as the environment in which it runs evolves. And just like in real life, the best thing that can happen is a regular crisis that wakes us up from the dream that pretends that everything can remain the same forever. A few weeks ago, that (code) crisis finally came and the running system that never had been touched, stopped running. After this hiatus, welcome back to a shiny upgraded site with new blog smell :)

Rusty chains at Völklinger Hütte, a UNESCO world heritage site in Saarland