26.11.2023 | Lots & Lots of Thoughts

Intro | I had planned to write this post last night, while watching the final broadcast of “Wetten Dass”, a German TV show which had been blockbuster in the 80s and 90s. But only 10 minutes in I was so annoyed by the host already. I spent about 20 minutes checking out all the other TV stations. When I got back to the TV show I only heard the host say a few more words and was annoyed again and turned the TV off.

The novel I had been reading for the last few days featured a photographer and it made me want to grab my camera and go out and take some photos myself. I had planned to do that at the Christmas market in the neighbouring town after running some errands. But once I had parked my car it started to rain heavily so all plans of Christmas market and photography went out the window. Oh well.

Instead here is a photo from the flowers I took home from a family event a week ago.

Closeup shot of two roses, magenta on the right, rose on the right
Leftover flower decoration from celebration last Sunday

I moved the vase just for that photo to avoid showing the haphazard junk on my kitchen table. Then I hated myself a little for giving into the “faking perfect photos for my online presence” impulse. I did not reshoot the photo with the vase in it’s original place though.

Social Media | About a week ago I took the huge for me step to delete most social media apps from my phone. I set up a browser I don’t usually use on both my desktop computer and my laptop with bookmarks to BlueSky, Mastodon, Twitter and Instagram and so far managed to check them once or twice a day this way only. I also set up a browser addon to limit the time I use to do this. I still got Instagram on my phone and check it there as well, because it’s more comfortable than on the browser. So far I don’t feel like I really miss anything. I should have done that a long time ago.

Screenshot of a Chrome browser window with bookmarks to Twitter, Mastodon, BlueSky and Instagram and also a popup window of the Stayfree addon
My social media browser setup (screenshot from earlier today)

I’m not sure how much I will actually continue to use BlueSky. It looks like Twitter and in a way feels like vintage Twitter, but in so many ways it also doesn’t, because only an handful of people I followed on Twitter moved over there. Some other accounts – news, media, artists – etc. have moved there by now, but not to that extent that I’d feel compelled to keep up with their feed in ways I had been on Twitter. Mastodon might be the place of the text-based services I frequent most, because quite a few of the people I “knew” on Twitter moved there as well as news services and science accounts and such. Twitter itself still is the place where I follow my favourite artists who are still using it to broadcast news and engage with fandom and I don’t want to give up on that yet.

I think the last push I needed to step a bit further away from it all was to see the way quite a few social media accounts deal with / comment on the Israel – Hamas war. A bit more on that further down.

In a similar vain I also deactivated my TikTok account. I can’t bring myself to delete it for fear of someone else using “my” username and steal my identity. I know chances are slim for that ever happening, because I’m a nobody in the social media world, but I still rather want to be careful. Leaving TikTok was caused two incidents more or less: The “TikTok user celebrating a BinLaden letter from over 20 years ago”, which I know was exaggerated by the mainstream media. But I realized I didn’t want to be part of a network that made something like this possible in the first place. The other incident was reading once again about how the company behind TikTok (aka the Chinese government) uses the app and all the data collected for their own gain and how they use it to spy on journalists and so much more. Again… not something I want to be part of. I admit I bookmarked about a dozen accounts (artists, books, running, zen doodling) in my feedreader to check in on their content in a browser (not logged in to TikTok) occasionally.

“I Don’t Know, I Changed My Mind” | In the past few days I once again in my mind had been drafting a paragraph about my thoughts and emotions about the Israel – Hamas war. Like I had been doing so many times in the past weeks. I shied away from sharing any of my thoughts before, because I’m afraid some of them might alienate some of the people who might / will read this here. I’d also like to stress that all of the thoughts laid out below are incomplete and volatile, because I don’t and can’t know everything I need to know to come to a conclusive opinion. Maybe there can’t be conclusive opinions for this situation anyway and we have to live with that.

On social media I see so many people take a distinct “pro / free Palestine” stance. For most of my life I’ve been taking that stance as well with all the limited knowledge about this conflict that I had. I admit I never really bothered to learn more about how and why the situation turned into the horrible armed conflict / terror / war it has been for so long now. It’s so easy to stand with the oppressed (the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West-Bank) and in fact it should be every human’s impulse to do so. My heart breaks for all the lives lost and the horrors those people had / have to endure. I also doubt that Israel will reach their objective to destroy Hamas in the long run with this. They might for now and the next few years, but the trauma this war impose on the young Palestinians and the hardship these people probably will have to live in for the next decade(s) will lead to another generation of people who want to fight / destroy Israel.

But – and yes there is a but – I personally don’t see any other way Israel could have reacted to this horrid terrorist attack from Hamas. Israel authorities haven’t released to the public any of the footage the terrorists filmed of their own atrocities and which the Israelis have gathered through their own military intelligence or from the dark web or wherever. But from what I’ve read and heard from people who were able to see some of it, it must have been devastating and horrific. How can anyone expect a nation where citiziens have been so brutally attacked and kidnapped to not fight back? I have no idea if it is possible to destroy the terrorist command centres / weapon depots / rocket launchers which Hamas seem to have set up amidst civilian settlements, in a way that cost less civilian lives. It seems obvious to me that Hamas does not care about the civilian lives in Gaza, because if they did, they would not use the human lives as shields the way they do. They would not have launched an attack as they did on October 7th, well aware that Israel would retaliate and that the civilians in Gaza would suffer for it.

In October 2023 Hamas have launched 8.000 rockets towards Israel. There has been limited damage or almost no loss of lives, because the Iron Dome is working for now. I just state this as a reminder that Israel is under constant attack from Hamas. How do we expect a nation to react to that? Especially towards an enemy that isn’t really a proper government / nation, but which in a way also holds a nation (the people in Gaza) hostage as well?

To make it all the more complicated…

  • of course I still condemn the way Israel is acting in the West-Bank with all the illegal settlements.
  • I have no idea how many of the Palestinians in Israels prisons are imprisoned unlawfully (without a trial, on dubious charges). I’m afraid there might be a lot, without actually knowing any numbers. If any of them are released now, I’m happy for them and their families.
  • I hate and fear the way the Israeli government moved so far to the right in the past few years.
  • I wish Germany and European countries would take a clearer stance on Iran and stop any kind of business deals with them, because in the long run that money will end up financing Hamas or any other terrorist group fighting to obliterate any Jewish life in the Levant or anywhere else.
  • I am disappointed, but not surprised, that according to what I’ve read so far, neither of the other Islamic nations in the region are willing to commit to financial or other help to rebuild Gaza / a Palastinan state once this war will be over.

Summary of this long and fragmentary rambling: it’s complex and complicated and I DON’T KNOW! I do know though, that there are more than one side to all of this; more than two sides in fact and I wish we’d all be a bit more aware of that.

Some time ago I saw tweets from people I vaguely know in support of Susan Sarandon, who had been dropped by her agency (?) for supposedly anti-semitic things she said at a demonstration in New York. I say supposedly, because I haven’t watched the speech and only read the snippets reported in a few articles. My first impulse was to go through these people’s feed to see if since October 7th they also tweeted in solidarity of the Jewish women violently raped, mutilated and killed by Hamas. I stopped myself quickly, because what would be the point? I wouldn’t contact these people on Twitter about it. Would I have felt vindicated if they hadn’t shown that solidarity? Would I have felt like the better person? What would I have done if they had shown the same solidarity? Either way nothing would have changed anything about the situation in Israel / Gaza.

That was the moment though, when I realized that I needed to take a step back from social media for my own peace of mind. Hence the way I’m handling it at the moment.

State of Mind | It’s hard to switch to some other topic now, but I didn’t want to end this post with thoughts on this horrific conflict. I’m well aware that it’s a privilege that I don’t have to constantly think about it. These past few days I feel like I’m slowly getting out of this mental slump I found myself in for the past few weeks. There were a few more (small) wins at work, or at least what I would consider wins: holding ground against my supervisor who wants to move a project of mine in a slightly different direction than I do. Getting things more organized or at least getting there.

I sense a similar vibe in my personal life at the moment. Getting a bit more organized. Working on establishing new routines like cooking a bit more elaborated dishes than just pasta with tomatosauce.

Photo of white rice and a tofu, pepper, tomato dish on a grey plate
Spicy tomato, pepper, tofu dish

Getting enough sleep and rest. Cutting down on social media. I’m still a work in progress; but I do see progress and that’s a marvellous thing.

Books | I signed up for a German climate action challenge app and one of the actions you get “credit” for is using a library (which I don’t) or reselling books. I try to resell books I know for sure I won’t ever read again and on occasion I buy used books from the same or another service. In the explanation for this action it states that on average we read 5 books a year. I’ve read 77 books in 2023 so far. For a moment I thought: Am I abnormal? As I’m wont to do when I clearly deviate from the norm. And in a way I obviously am, because 77 to 5. I don’t spend much time watching / binging TV shows these days though, which clears up a lot of time to read. I also probably spend a bit too much time reading as a means of procrastination and I’m working on that. I still can’t imagine only reading 5 books a year.

Book shelves with 2 almost empty shelves in the right bottom corner of the picture
Making space for more books

I lack impulse control when it comes to book purchases and I might want to look into why that is. But still… the used book online store had a discount this week and my regular online bookshop of course was doing Black Friday discounts, so it seemed reasonable (to me anyway) to go on a book buying spree this morning. To make space for all of those new books I finally re-arranged my shelves and put some of the German non-fiction on a different shelf in my living room.

Asking Myself “Why?” | I don’t remember if I heard it from a podcast about mental health or on one of the Calm mediation sessions this week, but I thought it was an interesting exercise: To help with turning out of autopilot mode, ask yourself honestly why you are doing what you are doing! Which can be eye-opening in some regard. I might do a recap of my day with a few Why questions after I’ve posted this.

18.11.2023 | This & That (A Bit Sentimental In the End)

I don’t know if it’s the constant rain or whatever but I’m feeling this so hard this year. And I never really used to or at least not to this degree. But the fact that it’s getting light so late and dark so early is properly messing with me at the moment. It might be a slight post-COVID effect. Maybe something hormonal? Either way, I don’t like it.

Work | This week I had four sessions of IT / software training. 3.5 hours each, which is not that long. But long enough to let me get behind with tasks that need doing. Plus lots of time spent on new staff induction, which I don’t mind doing, because the two new people on our team seem great. Easy to talk to, interested, motivated and all you want in people who are supposed to take over some of the work. But again: explaining stuff to them instead of doing my own work set me quite behind in some aspects.

At least I feel that I made tiny progress with how I handle myself and how I handle some things with my supervisor. We get along fine and I feel supported enough by them in general. But I definitely need to be more assertive when it comes to them giving me feedback on projects, which I need to get to be able to move said projects forward. I’m working on that. Next week is going to be another busy one though. I don’t dare look at the schedule for the week after.

Music #01 | I went to see The Lottery Winners in Cologne on Tuesday.

Photo of the Lottery Winners on stage in Cologne
The Lottery Winners, Blue Shell, Cologne, November 2023

While I was driving there during heavy rain and typical rush-hour traffic, I was questioning the decision for quite a bit. After just few minutes in the car in fact, because the motorway was jammend and my sat-nav sent me along streets I never had to drive on before. Up and down the hills, in the dark and heavy rain. But I made it to Cologne safely and in good time, so all was well. It was a 200 cap venue and sadly there were only about 50 people in attendance. I felt so sorry for the band who were great and made the most of it and engaged the audience and we all had fun, I think. I chatted with some of the band at the merch table afterwards, which was lovely. I joked that I’d like to take a photo with them now, before they get too big for that kind of fan interaction. Which I honestly think they might manage to in the UK anyway.

Music #02 | Jess Guise released a new song on Friday: “Wish”. It’s about how she wishes her dad – who had passed away when she was 18 – would still be around and I think anyone who has lost a parent too early in life can relate to what she’s singing about here.

“Wish” – Jess Guise, 2023 (Youtube)

She had shared the song via her Patreon page a few times before, so I knew what to expect and how I’d react to the song. With a few tears of course. Even more so this time, because it’s a polished version with full instrumentation and you can’t turn that up in most emotionally fraught (for me) moment and not expect me to react with tears. When Jess had released “Brother in Arms” – another song about that experience – in 2020 I wrote a long post about how much I could relate and how much it moved me. How it made me remember / work through some of the stuff I hadn’t thought of for the longest time. My dad passed away when I was 14. That was 34 years ago. I wrote this back in 2020:

You would assume I’m over it. And I am. But also… I’m not. I don’t think you ever really ‘get over it’, because losing a parent at that age is such a traumatic experience, which shapes you like not much else. And to me that is what this song is all about. I’m now at a time in my life, where I only very occasionally think of my dad and this loss anymore. That’s why hearing my whole experience described in such fitting words all of sudden and quite unprepared absolutely floored me.

My own blog in November 2020

I’m not going to another long review post of “Wish” now. But I thought it’s worth noting that once again some lyrics absolute took my breath away, because they mirror my own experience and emotions to a T. Something I haven’t thought of in decades. Did I repress it? Did I ever even share it with my friends, once I had managed to talk about my dead dad in any capacity? I don’t remember.

I wish I could apologize for the teenager I was before you died

“Wish” – Jess Guise, 2023

In spring of 1989 my dad was still recovering from the flu he had caught in February. He was still experiencing breathing and cardiac issues and had been off from work (as a teacher) for a while. He died from cardiac arrest at home one morning after we children all had left for school. The evening before he and I had gotten into an argument over something silly. The TV? I don’t recall the details. I do remember lying on my bed crying the indignant tears of a teenage girl. For some strange reason I have a vivid memory of my mom sitting on the bed next to me trying to smooth things over and to calm me down. I don’t think I saw my dad or talked to him that evening again. We definitely didn’t have any kind of “clearing the air / make up” moment. I didn’t see him before I went to school the next morning either. Around noon I got home from school to the news that he had passed away.

I don’t have any clear memory of how this “not making up” affected me in the days, weeks, months, years after. I vaguely remember that a sort of guilty feeling crept up every once in a while to haunt me for a bit. Like I wrote in 2020 we definitely would have benefited from grief counselling, but we never got any of that. It was a different time back then and we all muddled through somehow. At some point with the passing years the guilty memory was replaced or at least amended with the belief that he didn’t hold that stupid little argument against me. He wasn’t resentful and I know he loved me. Of course I wish we wouldn’t have left things unspoken between us. Just like I wish for so many of the other things Jess sings about in this song. I guess that will never ever change.

Prompts on Hold | I had a few more rambling thoughts to share. About Social Media. About “Zen-doodling” (that’s what I’ll call it for now). Dragging up memories about my dad and all that put me in a sentimental mood now and I can’t be bothered to write much more.

Photo of a half-finished doodling. Wonky squares filled in shades of blue and green. circles drawn on the border lines and spirals in some of the squares
Photo from last night – finished it by now

12.11.2023 | Lazy Sunday

It was a lovely day most of the day today. At least it seemed from inside my flat. In the early afternoon I thought about going out for a walk, but I admit I couldn’t be bothered in the end. I thought I better conserve my energy and rest some more. It’s an office day tomorrow and on Tuesday I still consider to go to the “Lottery Winners” gig in Cologne. Masked again just as I had been at the last one in Copenhagen, where I might have gotten COVID? I’ll never know really where I caught it, I guess.

The one thing that might keep me at home that night, is that I’m invited to a big family event for friends of mine and I really don’t want to catch anything before; get sick or pass anything on to anyone at the event. It should be impossible to catch COVID twice within two weeks, right? Anyway… let’s see how I’ll feel on Tuesday.

I slept in, stayed in bed even longer. I kept reading “Ten Things That Never Happened” most of the (late) morning and early afternoon. Sadly enough my motivation for that was to get it over with, because even though I enjoyed the first two of the “London Universe” as the writer Alexis Hill calls that canon, I wasn’t a fan of this story. More in my review on Goodreads.

To make up for that disappointment I made the best of the 15% discount for xmas sale from Thalia bookstore and bought some more books. I’m beyond help, I know.

I spent some time going through the documents for a committee meeting the Monday after next to let my Green party members know how I plan to vote on them so they can discuss that on the Green party meeting tomorrow. I probably won’t attend that one, as I’ll be home for the office late-ish and again want to get enough rest.

Getting more rest would be helped by going to bed now and not keep watching my favourite game show (and the only show I actually watch on regular live TV): “Wer stiehlt mir die Show”. But I’ll keep watching it for a while longer and doodling a bit more.

Doodle, bubbles between lines
doodle work in progress

Doodling is a nice activity while listening to podcast. I just finished another episode of “Kurt Krömer – Feelings”, where comedian Kurt Krömer talks to surprise guests. The episode I picked was with Riccardo Simonetti (who funnily enough is a surprise cameo sort of guest in the game show I’m watching right now). Riccardo is a jack-of-all-trades in the showbiz. Show host, model, panel guest. He isn’t someone I’d choose to watch in something, but I liked him enough when I see him and the podcast was quite insightful and deep. They talked about him being queer and his experience in rural Germany and in Berlin and LA and it was kind of sad how matter-of-factly Riccardo explained that he stopped using public transport, because he doesn’t want to deal with the daily negative reaction to what he’s wearing or how he’s presenting himself.

Signing this off now, back to watching the game show finale and more doodling.