I would be the last to ever watch anything by Lex Fridman, but TikTok has been feeding me clips from his interview with Bassem Youssef and I can’t help but be impressed. Fridman does a decent job interviewing but of course the conversation is carried by Youssef, who is nothing short of a treasure.

Amos’s style of software engineering historiography accompanied with snide commentary on the state of the art is both educational and entertaining. The weird factoids about Github Actions are the main act here but don’t miss out on the introduction on software delivery or the lead out on capitalism.

(Also I’m in the credits on this one!)

I found a new German podcast crush in Hart Unfair which is my favorite format: three people (Anna Dushime, Yelda Türkmen and Ari Christmann) rambling through one another but in a way that’s funny, intelligent and diverse. It’s a shame that they publish so irregularly that I can’t tell if the podcast is dead or not.

One of the hosts dropped a casual Hasan Piker reference (in a conversation about pop culture and leftist politics) and… I didn’t even know there were Germans who know who that is.

https://www.instagram.com/hartunfair/

The comments online around the Apple Vision Pro have been pretty deranged in a stupid kind of way. Lots of people jumped to the foregone conclusion that Apple released a failure or that it “wasn’t going to be a success”. Most of that seemed to have been motivated by clout chasing.

I don’t think that really matters that much other than serving to have the person making the comment show their ass for the entire world to see.

I feel that Apple Vision Pro is a deeply interesting and conflicted technology which is also the conclusion that Cortex reaches here. You’ll notice that Grey and Myke actually used the device and they are fairly knowledgeable about apps and ways of working/playing.

I got to take one home for a weekend and I can testify similarly except for missing out on a bunch of features. Because it’s only out in the US, I could not access a paid App Store or get an Apple Arcade subscription. That means I could only get the free vision apps out there which are incredibly lacklustre.

What everybody seems to have done is to take whatever IP they had lying around, wrap it into a VisionOS starter project and throw it onto the App Store. That will probably be the modus operandi for a while going forward. If you look at the absolute dregs on the App Store and now realise that making a good VisionOS app is probably at least 10x as difficult as making a good iOS app, then things are not looking good.

The only really compelling experience was the Encounter Dinosaurs app which is genuinely disconcerting and scary. But because of its very high production values, it’s also only a couple of minutes long.

Most compelling is using the Vision Pro to consume media. Watching movies in Disney+ is a fantastic experience if the device wasn’t so uncomfortable to use. Being able to watch sporting events on a massive screen with sidecar screens and 3D views of the course/track seems like it would also be excellent. It would be even more interesting if we would see a proliferation of 360 cameras to be able to place yourself in a Formula1 car or on a sports pitch. The amount of embodiment it yields, seems like it could go a long way to make remote meetings feel more real.

I agree with this review that this device is a devkit. I’ll wait for the real deal.

SPY x Family – Das Leben der Anderen

I’m enjoying another light season of SPY x FAMILY. It’s a light anime whose premise is that of a spy (Loid) who needs live in deep cover in hostile territory and forms a family of convenience. He finds a woman (Yor) who’s secretly an assassin also in need of cover and an orphan child (Anya) who’s a telepath. It’s great fun.

Season 2 goes on with the story arc and some filler segments thrown in between. Of these, in the third episode (S02E03) they pull off a stunning take on “Das Leben der Anderen”. I was watching it and by the time it was over I couldn’t believe they’d done this.

To connect it to the main plot, the listener who works at the secret police is Yor’s overly jealous brother Yuri, an apt Stasi name if ever there was one. The episode also features some more set pieces which firmly establish Ostania—the city where they live—as Cold War East Berlin.

What adds to the delight is that most people watching the anime will never have an idea about this. It’s like an in-joke for movie people.

Just compare these two stills with each other:

2023 Year in Review

Looking back on 2023 I can say that we made lemonade out of an overall pretty shit year.

But not to worry. This is probably just one shit year in a sequence of many more shit years to come. No sign of anything getting better in our near future and lots of trends pointing downward. Does it have to be like this? Not in any way but the majority of people are stupid and we all suffer together.

ACL

I had messed up my knee in late summer of 2022 during a climbing accident and after a bit of stalling figured out that having my ACL reconstructed would be a good idea.

The surgery was scheduled for February 23rd of 2023. That made a lot of the beginning of the year waiting to go into surgery which was followed by getting the surgery (a supremely weird experience), then recuperating from it at home for a couple of weeks and going back to work while doing physical therapy.

The chronology as far as I could piece it together:

I got around mostly using ride shares during the first part which was fine. Turns out that I spent €474,55 on cab rides. A fair bit of that was thankfully reimbursed by my saved up mobility budget. I stopped taking cabs and started cycling on the electric Christiania on April 15th and then had my first outing on the road bike on June 18th. 

During one of my final check-ups I told my physician at the hospital that if I didn’t rationally knew I had knee surgery, a lot of the time I couldn’t remember it. There was no noticeable difference anymore.

Of course there are still lots of situations where I notice it. The difference in strength between the two legs is still there and catching up very slowly. But that things are more or less back to normal is exactly what was promised.

I’m cleared to boulder again from around Easter if I choose to ever practice that sport again.

Kids

School

The kids started their school year with the German event they call the Einschülung, something that I disagree but I have no shortage of things that I disagree with about the German school ‘system’. That’s for another blog post.

The concept of the school and how classes are setup is very cool and the teachers are young and engaged. If everything worked the way it should, things would be amazing. The only issue is that most of the time there are staff shortages that fully destabilize whatever plans or schedules had been drafted. Those shortages stem from the deep dysfunction of the Berlin civil service and mostly because of a lack of funding for the schools that need it the most.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do there but for now we’re going to see if things look up in the second half of the year.

Let it be clear that Germany is a country that in no way values kids and their education.

Father

Related to our kids going to school, on their first school day morning my dad passed away suddenly in Amsterdam. We knew he was sick but we had no idea that things would progress this quickly.

The funeral was of course in Turkey so I took a flight to Amsterdam to be with my family and see him off and then flew to Turkey with my mother to do the burial in our village. It was the first time I was back in Turkey since 2015.

That was a difficult thing to do and after that everything is different.

Holidays

I heard the news about my dad’s illness on our holiday in the Alps this year. Our first family holiday in a long time and otherwise a resounding success.

After all the affairs were wrapped up we went to Amsterdam for a week during the fall break to keep my mother company and to have the kids experience a bit of the Netherlands again. It was good to be back and to see people we hadn’t seen in a long time.

Studies

I’ve continued the trend of unapologetically self-studying things that I fancy. I can recommend it.

Abstract Algebra

To continue to study category theory I diagnosed a gap I had on basic abstract algebra and tried to close it. I didn’t finish either of the textbooks (Fraleigh and Galian) because it seems that text books are bad for self-studying people.

I worked through a couple of YouTube lecture series on the topic which gave me much more value.

Sheaf Theory

Then I continued on and off in Sheaf Theory Through Examples which is a very mixed book. It’s nowhere near as good as Fong and Spivak’s book and now nearing the end it is getting very obtuse and inaccessible. I’ll finish this and then move on to Bartosz Milewski.

Japanese

I kept studying Japanese for most of the year and on a whim I registered for the December JLPT. During registration I had a choice where I could either go for the safe but relatively irrelevant N5 level or stretch myself and go for N4.

I picked N4 and that turned out to be a lot tougher than expected. I had to push very hard on both vocabulary and grammar to get to a point where I even felt it was worth going to Düsseldorf to take the test. The 1-2 months before the test I was cramming flash cards throughout the day and studying most evenings.

The test itself in Düsseldorf was even harder than I expected and I think that it’s unlikely that I passed it, but who knows… Results are due end of January.

Even if I don’t get the certificate, stretching myself to N4 has made me study much much harder than I would ever have otherwise and I’ve advanced quite a bit. Also I got a quick trip to Düsseldorf out of it where I could eat Asian food at a level and authenticity that’s impossible to get in Berlin.

CulturaI

With everything else that was going on, I didn’t have anything significant happen here. No time, no energy, no relevance.

I don’t really know how other people manage to binge dozens of crappy Netflix shows. I can’t really imagine spending entire evenings watching television. Do people do this still?

There are lots of good shows still that I would like to watch (The Last of Us, The Bear, Succession, etc.) but there’s just no time. 

Books

I only read 15 books this year with Galian, Genki and the sheaf theory book—none of which are listed below—sucking up most of my reading time.

Cold Enough for Snow was a nice book and it also happened to be the only piece of fiction I read this year. The rest of the books above are all highly situational and none of them are particularly interesting or made a lasting impact.

Video

I watched six movies this year. The only notable one was Heat which I first saw as a teenager in the City cinema in Amsterdam.

When it comes to television things look slightly better:

  • The Sandman: We did not finish it but enjoyed the episodes that we watched.
  • Spy x Family S1: Exactly the light-hearted fun anime that I needed to watch. Nothing serious here but a fun conceit well executed.
  • Tour de France Unchained: An epic dramatization of the world’s biggest cycling event that is a must watch if you’re even slightly interested in the sport.
  • The Witcher S3: Nothing of note happened in this season but it was still kinda fun to watch I guess.
  • Attack of Titan S4P2: It was good to watch the ending of this epic series but after such a long wait it was kinda hard to pick up the relatively complex storyline.
  • Death Note: An anime classic that I started which is well executed but tough as nails and not at all compelling.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen S2: The long awaited Hidden Inventory and Shibuya Incident arcs turned into a treat to watch despite the continuously escalating power levels and its sprawling cast of characters and villains.

Games

During my recovery from surgery I started and finished Breath of the Wild. The irony of having had a climbing accident and making Link free-climb epic cliffs on Hyrule was not lost on me.

That was the year. Let’s see what the new one does.

Listening to the Trash Future team describe CulturePulse.ai and the digital twin profile created for entire populations seems very very reminiscent of “The Red Men” by Matthew de Abaitua which didn’t get the attention it deserved but was quite prescient.

https://trashfuturepodcast.podbean.com/e/waltz-with-the-sims/ (minute 23 and on)

Elements from the book such as the corporation known as “Monad” (!) and robotic public service utilities called “Dr. Easy” are looking back from our current hellscape period a bit too on the nose.

See Dr. Easy act in this short film: https://vimeo.com/68368877