Marathon

This post was written 2 years ago.
Sun, 29 May 2016
That was quick! Now I am already heading towards the start line with hundreds of other runners. There's not much time left to write.

I don't know whether to regret the fact I didn't collect any sponsoring. I am somehow glad I haven't told too many people. I decided to donate a wadge of my own if I make it to the finish line. About to start now!

Tags: marathon / running / liverpool /
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Programming and

This post was written 2 years ago.
Mon, 23 May 2016
It is 6 o'clock in the morning, last night I fell into bed at 11 which is early for me, I had again slept too little the two nights before. I had also run 14k and this time I felt pretty exhausted after it. It might have to do with the fact that I could not have a rest afterwards, it turned out I had to walk one child to her German class, and then pick up child number 2 from his friend, by bike.

But also, there were all these things churning around in my head again. A few days ago I had been so happy about how things were going with our JavaScript group, and about everything in my life in general. I had also speed-read through a book by Tara Mohr which was about how so many women are 'playing small' (the book accordingly is called Playing big ;) ) and it was great to see many conclusions I had come to recently, seen written down there, but also some thoughts and advice that were new to me.

Then yesterday came the backlash. One thing was the tiredness. Then many tiny incidents - conversations I've had, things I've read, and slow porgression with my own projects - adding up in my mind to the "you're still not very good at this" feeling once again. That is of course always true when you set the bar very high. But it's not only that. It's the fear of being 'innately' incapable of certain - quite basic, and for others seemingly easy - things.

But then again, is that not possibbly true for everybody? All of us have some weak spots, where we are challenged more than other people. I suppose it depends a bit on what those are. Some weaknesses create more difficulties (but perhaps also chances?) than others. Also I wonder, how much of it can you change, even if you've spent your whole life with those 'disabilities'.

For example, one thing I find difficult: Continuity. I keep starting and - often accidentally - abandoning things. Which again, might be true for most people. But it is anyway something I struggle with. It is linked to other things. Being interested in too many things, wanting to do everything. Not being able to say 'No'. Not because I find it awkward to say No to somebody, but because I actually want to do everything. And the result of it is, to not be achieving much. There's an interesting concept of a 'motivated underachiever', meaning people are motivated not to achieve.

I will finish this post now. The title might not make much sense, but I will leave it now. It is something I've been wanting to write about, and this entry is simply going to be the start of it. The thing is, programming and everything that goes with it take up a dispropertionately big part of my life. It will always be important if you do it as a job, but it is not that. It might not even have to be a bad thing, but I sometimes wonder how much sense it makes. Anyway, have to go now. To be continued.. ;)

Tags: mind_stuff /
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Just a small note

This post was written 2 years ago.
Mon, 09 May 2016
I feel a real urge to write though there is zero time now. I am about to go to work and it is already quite late.

It is just of all the habits I could introduce, writing seems to me the most valuable one, alongside running which I hope is an established habit by now. The past week I have let it slip a bit though, and that after I went on a 30k run last Sunday.

I spent a lot of the weekend making some CSS work, it was an interesting process, looking at the Semantic UI framework and also an application called Fractal which helps you to create a collection of components. I didn't use that yet, but it looks good. My endeavours to get a certain interface right, a very small thing, while not using a framework, was quite painful but ultimately worth it I think. I took inspiration from semantic UI, dropped in some grid styles and, at 2pm last night realised that I could write some decent CSS on top of that myself, without framework - even to just prototype.

Otherwise, it was the elections that were on my mind this weekend, and that should really have come first. I cannot write more now, hopefully more tonight. I am anyway happy for Marvin Rees to be the new Mayor of Bristol and wish him much luck.
Tags: Bristol / coding /
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Helping the slacker along

This post was written 2 years ago.
Fri, 22 Apr 2016
Three random things I've been thinking about during the last two weeks, possibly loosely connected.

Help versus support

I heard about this distinction first in an Osho video about bringing up children. I watched it last year after a friend had told me about her times as a sannyasin. It immediately made an impact, and I found I agreed. When parents help their children, it often means helping them along the way that the parents think is right. While the kinder thing to do would be to let the child find it's own way, and simply be there for them when they struggle. Listening to them, not giving directions. Support them when they need you, not help them when no help is asked for. This is an ideal, of course.

For me, there's a parallel with charity. Traditionally, the way charity is dispensed, is all on the terms of the giver, and while this way good things can be achieved, charity can lead to dependence, and damaging interference. And even when our intentions are good, do we always know what we are doing? I once read an interview with German theatre director Christoph Schlingensief where he said: "Why do we always want to help Africa, if we can't even help ourselves?"

I also just found this quote by George Sand: "Charity degrades those who receive it and hardens those who dispense it."

Slackerdom

The other day I found myself reading the Wikipedia entry about the term slacker and I was struck by how much I identified. And yes, I remembered right, it was my generation, 'generation X' that was called the 'slacker generation'. Not surprising we turned out that way. Spending our childhood at the tail end of flower power and anti-authoritarian education, who would have been there to drum any discipline into us? Except of course some parents or other figures of authority still did that, but not in my case.

It seems I was a somewhat gifted child. Not highly, but gifted enough to sail through school without so much as lifting a finger (leaving much space for, in turns, daydreaming and contemplating in depth my social inadequacies). Did anybody push me to make the most of my talents? Did I push myself? Nope. And thus a perfect slacker was made.

It is quite curious to be a slacker these days. It's unusual and totally counter the spirit of the times. Of course, I am not really a slacker anymore. But equally I cannot completely get it out of my system. Also - and here I honestly don't know if this is a good thing or bad - I might have already passed on a good portion of slackerdom to my children. But I must be careful not to label them here. Let's put it that way, if they ended up spending 5 hours a day training for the Olympics, they will not have got that from me. (I used to dream of being in the Olympics but somehow didn't make the connection that you'd actually have to work for it.)

As for me, I am trying to unslack myself a bit these days. I have already 'worked hard' many times previously, but the difficulty is knowing what a constructive working hard looks like, as opposed to just working long hours. But I am getting there.

On the other hand, I believe when enthusiasm finds the slacker, they can develop an enormous creativity, joy and tenacity, to a degree that a busy bee might not.

The thing is, as I've said before, I am very happy with where I am now. And though not an achievement in numbers, I can finally see it as an achievement no less. It is partly my inner slacker who's brought me here, so I've definitely made my peace with her.

Marathon training progress report

Good: I recently ran 17 km and did not feel very exhausted, I could have gone on. (But I did feel my legs the next day!) Bad: My speed is not improving. Also, I don't run as frequently as I should and as was the plan. I was meaning to run a half-marathon distance today. Instead I made a cake.

Tags: slacker / marathon /
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Starting the diary again

This post was written 2 years ago.
Sun, 10 Apr 2016
With this post, I will finally give up any ambition to turn this into a technical blog. - I do write about technical things, but elsewhere; currently mostly in form of discussion posts on github

I will pick up from where I left it, just before the end of 2015, and simply write about what occupies my mind. Mostly in the form of observations, ideas and questions. It won't be anything refined, more a scrapbook of ideas, and well, a diary.

I feel very ambivalent about the news, or rather newspapers and their websites. There is so much manipulation going on. I'd never claim I'm immune to it because I see through it. I know they will manipulate me and that's why I hesitate to expose myself to the news. I'd still like to know what is going on though. At the moment I learn about most news through Twitter. But there's of course a lot of filtering going on. I read this book 'The information diet' which points out ways how to counteract the bias, I think I should have a look at it again. It involves effort though to have a balanced intake, of course - just as with food.

So when I mention headlines, it will often be with some kind of irony and sense of absurdness.

For today, I'll just summarise our Easter holidays. They seemed very long somehow, and pretty active compared to other holidays. The kids spent loads of time outside playing with their friends. And I, I finally picked up my running again and I registered for the Rock'n Roll Liverpool marathon on 29 May.

My mum and sister were here for 5 days. We went to the Cheddar Gorge one day which was great. I also during that visit managed to see "Anomalisa" (with my sister) at the Watershed and, in the Bristol Old Vic theatre, "A long day's journey into Night" (with mum, sister and Matin). Both were strikingly little cheerful, but also brilliant, while I felt Anomalisa had some sexist overtones.

Especially Long day's journey made a huge impression on me. So much to relate to, so well observed. It also gave you some insight into American society in the early 20th century.

It seems like I have become vegetarian. My daughter had suggested going veggie for lent, and we both did, but I want to keep it up. I was astounded that I don't miss meat at all, and I really see no reason why I should go back then (I might still eat meat on occasions though, for example when invited somewhere, but will otherwise completely avoid it).

Also, I've set myself some challenges, which I might write more about some other time. Especially becoming a bit more organised. We will see how that goes..

I just wrote this whole post on my phone with the Jota text editor, then saved it to Dropbox. It worked so well. Regular posts might really be a possibility then!

Tags: diary /
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Diary week c/ 22 November 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Fri, 27 Nov 2015
It is half past two on a Friday - that is, already Saturday - as I start writing. This will be short although I would have lots to write. But what I'd have to write is often difficult to express too. Mmh, why should I not, for a change, write about coding? Yes! So, two weeks ago we had our JavaScript workshop. I think it went quite well except for one quite annoying technical detail. The projector we were given had a lot of speckles on the lens which made the screen either look like a starry sky or splattered with dirt, depending on the background. It was really quite astounding. What had happened to it? Luckily it did not faze the speakers too much and they made sure that people were able to read by increasing the font-size etc. At least the wifi worked, apart from a brief glitch. The speakers and talks were amazing, and I enjoyed the whole thing even though I was the main organiser and always a bit on egde.

So now I am in the process of editing videos - that is, adding some screens at the beginning, which was fun to do in kdenlive. I am currently uploading the first one to Youtube, I am curious if it will work out well. Then I also want to do a writeup of the whole thing, as I have done the previous two years.

And then there is the biggie, I want to plan an exit strategy. I do not want to be the 'leader' of our CodeHub meetup any more. The funny thing is, I enjoyed being in the driving seat more than I'd have thought. It is just that I find certain aspects of this particular role really exhausting and emotionally draining. Part of the reason is that this whole thing is so personal. It really is a bit like a child to me, my baby, and I sometimes don't know where I end and CodeHub starts. There have been things that in themselves would not be more than annoying or stressful, but have triggered a total meltdown in my case (not in public, luckily). And it has taken up so much space in my mind that I don't actually get to the whole objective of why we founded this anymore: Learning new things and improving my programming. My mind was mostly so preoccupied with organisation (even when not actively organising a workshop) that I did not find the peace and quiet to just - code.

Another reason is that I honestly think I am not the best person to take it forward. I've since the beginning felt a bit out of my depth, especially when I realised that a lot of eperienced programmers, and also CompSci students signed up to the Meetup group. So I am neither particularly qualified on a technical level, nor do I command extraordinary social or marketing skills which could make up for that.

The question is just, will anybody want to do that? What do people see in CodeHub anyway? A lot of people must have been interested in the concept at some point because they signed up, but is that still the case? I myself totally believe in it anyway. Hands-on learning through your peers..

It is getting late.. to be continued..

--
tags: weekly_diary, codehub

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Diary week c/ 15 November 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Mon, 16 Nov 2015
I still have not quite learned to jot down my thoughts in a notebook when they come. I have these whole narratives in my head sometimes, I decide to hang on to them and write them down later, but by the time I get to do that they are gone, of course. This one thing I remember though. I've been thinking to devide my entries into two halves. One dealing with what is going on around me - politics (global, national, local), communities, social life. The other one: things that go on in my head. As I can never become a fully factual (let alone, technical) writer, I might just as well embrace my focus on emotions, psychology, philosophy. The desperate attempt to lead a 'good' life in the double sense: To serve others and bring out the best in them as far as one can do that from the outside. And to live well, and this explicitly means experiencing both pleasurable as well as painful emotions - sometimes very painful ones. The whole range, but with a commitment to oneself, acceptance and compassion. I want to write more about that below. But as I decided to start with external events, I will begin with what has been on the news for days, the attacks in Paris.


Darkness and light

I never read up very much about the details. By now I have heard: One attack happened outside the football stadium, the suicide bombers did not manage to get inside, the bloodshed would have been much worse, had they managed. There was a friendly going on between France and Germany. The players heard the explosions outside, but kept focusing on the game. It turned out two of the French players would be affected. One lost a cousin, another one did not know for a while what had happened to his sister, in the end it turned out she managed to escape unscathed. The German team decided to stay in the stadion overnight and the French players out of solidarity stayed with them. I first heard this from my mum, and then again on the radio. It makes you feel so European. The French, our neighbours, not much different from us at all. Standing together, shoulder to shoulder. Even the English anti-French sentiment (as a German you sometimes hear "the ones that we really hate.."; are the French told the same thing I wonder?) will be nullified for now I reckon, when the French and English team play against each other in Wembley tomorrow.

But we need not only think of ourselves as Europeans but citizens of the world. What happened in France happens in other countries on a (almost?) daily basis. Some have pointed out - and I think it's a valid point - that Beirut a few days earlier, after a relatively stable period, saw similar attacks, and no sights around the world were illuminated in the colours of Lebanon. Nobody would expect that, but I can see how the outpouring of grief over French victims can leave a Lebanese person with the question: are our dead less worthy to be mourned? Are we worth less? Which might be exactly at the core of the problem, one of the reasons, why some people become radicalised.

Also, all this does not come out of the blue. We have for years lived very well, in part due to our weapons exports (at least Germany is pretty good at that, as the super exporting nation), benefitting from other countries being at war with each other, or engaged in civil war. We do not want to see our shadow sides anymore, the target is to be productive, and if we have too many negative feelings, we frantically look for a way out, we want to get rid of them, we numb them or medicate them away. I am generalising of course, but I do think there is a tendency to do that. The shadow sides exist elsewhere, in other countries, we project it all out there. We can give those people weapons, they are not us. Or we even fight a war against them, because they are evil and we are the shining light. We are the countries where the enlightenment happened, brighter, more cultural and civilised. Really?

I wish there could be a worldwide commitment to do away with weapons, and to become more aware. To not act on first emotions, not reason by emotion ("because I feel so intensely that things are this way, it must be true"), instead become aware of emotions, go through them and eventually let them go by. This is more difficult of course then just to continue hating somebody, for example. But I feel if we don't collectively learn to do that, all our weaponry will just get deadlier and deadlier and we might in the end very well just destroy ourselves. Our shadow, the monster we've helped to create, is coming back to haunt us already. How to deal with that monster, who knows what the best strategy is. In any case, we can't pretend it has nothing to do with us.

Sugar-coated pills

Somewhat related to the above, but more to the beginning of the post, some random thoughts on psychopharmaca I recently had:

I have often thought that too many people are prescribed antidepressants as a chronic treatment. I used to be a total believer in "you have to take them for at least half a year". Until somebody I know came off them much quicker.

It is a difficult path to walk. If medication can help somebody feel better, be more in charge, more functional and productive, should one deny that medication to them? Maybe not. Perhaps it is more important what choice that person themselves make. Because with milder forms of depression, I believe that it is a perfectly good choice to not take anything against it. And people should not be punished if they make that choice. If they are less successful, less productive, more tearful for a while, would that be so bad? The thing is, a state of relative unhappiness might be telling you something. If you elevate your mood artificially and become really productive, you might be missing a message.

I have not had a major depression for 18 years now. What I do have though is an often 'dysthymic' disposition. Low moods, low confidence, many tears. I feel ocasionally de-pressed, you could perhaps even call it depressive; but this depressive means 'like in a depression' and not actually in a depression. I also find myself tense and stressed quite frequently, and sometimes my body seems to turn into a Cortisol factory. I can feel it. If you believe this book, if I took Prozac or any other SSRI, there's a good chance I'd become much more stable and confident. I could very likely achieve more, be more productive. But I'd not choose to do that.

I wanted to write more about this, but it is simply getting to late now! Good-bye and good night.

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Diary week c/ 02 November 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Sat, 07 Nov 2015
A lot going on at the moment. One good thing: After an absolute low-point in the middle of the week, my outlook is a lot more positive now. I have also decided to not be as self-indulgent to mention any potential newly-arrising crises too much anymore, unless I see in them a pattern that might apply to people in general. There's simply no point otherwise. No lamenting!


Goals

  • After having convinced myself I should 'resign' from running CodeHub before the end of the year, I think now I want to give it a go a bit longer. I'd like to take the bull by the horns and deal with what I find most difficult. Asking people for help by sponsoring us with a venue and/or food. Or we really go to a fuction room in a pub again. People used to do that all the time.
  • Run a marathon end of May next year
  • Revamp my little advent calendar

Not that much for now, will have to revisit that. I am just so tired!

The thwarted contribution

I mainly put this here, because I had this heading in the draft.. Talking of generally applicable patterns, this is something I was reminded of recently. I had seen it mentioned in Barbara Oakley's book. One of the most hurtful things in life is when you actually want to contribute something, but your contribution is not accepted, is not deemed worthy. OR you set youself some strange barriers, prohibitions, or keep self-sabotaging yourself into not achieving anything of worth to others. The latter often follows the first, I reckon.

Tags: weekly_diary /
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Diary week c/ 26 October 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Mon, 26 Oct 2015

This is going to be very short this time. Unfortunately, I am also not in the best mood at the moment. I feel failure is imminent. A failure to keep up the good faith in something and thereby make it work.

Although while I am writing this, perhaps, just perhaps, some strength is returning.

And still, there is a continuous undercurrent. Something sapping at my confidence day by day. When I met my husband, that was a time, one of just a few periods in my life, when I actually was confident. Compared to that, what is going on now? Rather, has been going on for years, on and off? Wtf? Wtf? Arggghhhhhhh.

There is something quite liberating about writing like that. Because it is a taboo right? I am writing personal things on my personal blog, and I am admitting that I struggle. In particular, I struggle with my confidence. The thing is, I'd so so much hoped I'd be over this, because I am really fed up with even thinking about this, and then talking to other people about it and so on, and so on.

But what if this is actually not even my problem? What if this is every other woman's problem, and what if it is every other man's problem, too? What if we live in a fucking bonkers time where every half-ways sane person, who happens to be a bit sensitive (I've come to adore those less sensitive, those who can be a rock to others), is struggling to cope? The thing is, I am not that important of course, and I know it. And what is my struggle compared to that of a refugee woman stranded in Lesbos in the wind and rain, with no food and no clothes and shoes for her children? What on earth is going on? And this is happening with the world looking on. There was an article in the HuffPost, all I could think is, is this really true? Can this really be? This is happening? And then beheadings are happening, too, in other parts of the world. What kind of world is this? - Then I read somebody saying the West is paralysed in its guilt. Tony Blair apologised. This must be one of the most pointless apologies ever to have been.

So with all this going on, it would be great if people managed to "pull together" and somehow turn this ship on the brink of chaos around. There are of course many good people helping with the refugees all over Europe, also many good people in Germany. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pretty awful people in Germany, too, and then there are people who become frightened, just because their certanties are being taken away, and they start looking for culprits and are all too willing to direct their hatred against people unfamiliar to them. This is so sad.

And in any case, it is just hard to find a rational, totally adequate reponse to the drama unfolding that everybody can just take part in. So much misinformation, and so many unknowns.

And really, what about the underlying causes. How could the Middle East have become this utter mess it is now. Even as a not very political person, I must come to the conclusion that yes, the West is to blame at least partly. If our political elites create such a mess, how on earth can we ever hope they will get people out of it?



Book Corner - Erica Jong!

Tonight I went to an event to see a woman who could actually act as quite an antidote to my or anybody else's despair. It is always a bit risky to meet your heroes, but I can say in this case my admiration is fully intact, if it has not even grown. What is so special about her? Foremost perhaps the honesty. But then of course, her wit and her convictions. And I really liked what she had to say about feminism as a movement that started in the 18th century and is not just about the liberation of women but is connected with the liberation of any minority group, and also the liberation of men (she said that a little differently I think). Also the very poignant observation that the most repressed group in the population is - children.

It is getting late now, so I will stop. As a closing line, perhaps I will just keep thinking of fearful but courageous Erica Jong whenever I feel down. Also because, among the many things that I always find lacking in myself, courage is something I have occasionally had, so I can relate to that as my role model.


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Diary week c/ 12 October 2015

This post was written 3 years ago.
Mon, 12 Oct 2015
Instead of concluding the past week with my entry, I am starting the following. Just like I have a habit of arriving everywhere exactly five minutes late (if I can afford it).

Newish job

So it's Monday, and I have been working at Wiredmedia. Starting a job there a month ago has been an entirely positive thing. It was on the cards, I had really wanted to work in a team again. And it makes a huge difference, even more than I would have thought. It's great because the job is something I can do and I enjoy, and at the moment I am mainly getting faster and more efficient. This does not happen much when I work on my own, as I keep doing so many different things that there is not much of a routine being established ever.

A weird conflict

Conflicts in a family where people essentially love each other, strike me as being really weird. What better way to highlight the human condition. We just cannot totally understand one another. In fact, the question is, how far can we ever progress on the path to understanding what another person thinks and feels. I just realised that the thing one can most easily empathise with is probably physical pain, even though we cannot even be sure there, if another person feels it the same way as us. Thoughts and complex emotions? Hmm. Not much of a chance I think!

So, I have this thing going on in my family of origin, a discussion about politics/current affairs that's gone totally acerbic (and I know I have some part in it; but I wonder if I am as guilty as some people make it out to me - at least judging from the attacks that are being launched at me; I am used to these attacks too by now, actually, although I will never get used to them; a person who can't face criticism has no other way of reacting to even the slightest sign of - perceived - criticsm than by lashing out against the 'opponent', it seems)

Taming my horses

I had recently started to fall back into a really bad habit. That of staying up till really late at night. I love it soo much! It's funny, it has more appeal to me than any kind of drug could have. Maybe my brain creates a sort of drug. The stillness; being undisturbed, just drifting along, reading a good book perhaps, or following some links to blog posts. Or coding. Although I don't do the latter as much anymore. I did start some online courses, which is quite a nice way of doing something relating to code, without too much danger of going down the rabbit holes of a project.

By taming my horses I mean that I always want to do too many things at one, and I keep starting new things before having finished the old ones. Sometimes that feels like I am being pulled into a lot of different directions, when I could make much more progress if I aligned my forces to all go in one direction. Still, I find now, if you just accept that you won't finish a lot of things (or won't finish them anytime soon), instead of beating yourself up about it, it can actually be quite an agreeable state to be in. I am never bored, that's for sure. It just shouldn't be too many things, and there should be a continued effort with some.

So, I want to keep a record of some things that I actually want to follow through with. Things where I find it's important not to abandon them. Currently, that's:
  • Writing this blog (ha!)
  • Updating websites relating to CodeHub and applying for sponsoring for the JS workshop
  • Learning JavaScript, on my own, and with the JS101 study group

  • There's probably a lot of other things that I have forgotten about, but will hopefully dig out by and by

Book Corner

I just started reading a very gripping book by Barbara Oakley, whom I actually first came across because she co-hosted an online course on Learning how to learn. The book Coldblooded kindness is about the true story of a woman whith quite an unusual mind, extreme artistic talent and an urge to 'fix' people or at least look as if she was doing so. She killed her third husband with a handgun while he was drugged. There is some scientific background about empathy that I find really interesting. Also 'victimisation' and the 'sancticity of the victim' really interesting concepts. - Food for thought for me who used to see myself as a victim a lot, although I have thankfully almost entirely stopped that now. The book also highlights for me how relatively common gun delicts are in the USA, as there is another gun crime mentioned in the book which happened to a group of people connected with the protagonist.

Tags: weekly_diary / books /
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