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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve continued the trend of unapologetically self-studying things that I fancy. I can recommend it.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The next bit of insanity has to do with the German Datenschutz nutters. This is a small but virulent group of people who have blown up privacy issues to the point where most of Germany is still afraid to use the internet.
It started with this:
A bunch of schools in Karlsruhe were attacked by ransomware and their servers had to be taken offline.
Now the first question that comes to mind is of course: Why does a school have servers? Don’t all schools run in the cloud these days?
Well, in Germany they don’t. There are lots of agencies and levels of decision makers all of whom are too busy covering their own ass and none of them will say: “Schools can use cloud solutions.” People and organizations being as risk averse as they are in Germany, nobody will use cloud solutions without such a declaration.
So what do they do instead? They have to get servers and people to install and maintain barely useable non-cloud collaborative software tools. Nobody in their right mind would use these tools and kids in private schools of course don’t either, but this dysfunctional ideology is foisted upon kids who have no other choice.
These tools are not usable in any way, barely work even in the best of circumstances, are tremendously costly in maintenance and then break like in the news above. If you ever get to see from the inside how a normal organization manages their IT (i.e. poorly), from that point on you will beg, plead and scream to have everything put in the cloud.
I agree with their core point that critical infrastructure should be protected better and in just doing that they’ll generate more than enough work for all the security consultants in their network. Just stop scaring normal people because you benefit from the widespread climate of fear and hands off the kids.
One more year over and these are starting to look like a blur, so here’s what changed.
I gave notice between Christmas and New Year 2020 and spent the first three months of the year in a weird in-between state mostly done with the old job, waiting for the new one to start, in between daycare closures and being sick.
Then the new job started and I fell into a blur of work that has continued for most of the rest of the year. It’s been a nice change but also very intense. Details are on LinkedIn.
I haven’t been anywhere in 2021 except to an island in Croatia last September with work which definitely was a highlight.
I gave up on Chinese and couldn’t motivate myself or figure out how to book the HSK2. I did learn a couple hundred characters which seem to mean the same thing as in Japanese.
I started learning Japanese which is a lot more enjoyable and for basic conversation seems a lot easier. There also has been some strengthening on the claim for a relationship between Turkish and Japanese so let’s see how it goes.
I should have started this way earlier and not listened to anybody who ever said something is difficult. What they mean is that something was difficult for them. Depending on their intelligence, many things may in fact be difficult for them. It shouldn’t matter to me or anybody else.
The daycare was closed at the start of the year until March or Easter, not sure anymore. Most of the rest of the year things were up and running.
We had a nasty burn wound on one kid that cut the summer break short and gave us several weeks of grief but in the end all turned out well.
Then at the end of the year we gave notice. We are leaving one very esteemed Kindergarten for another which I didn’t think would be possible with two kids in the middle of the year, but it is. We even had several more places willing to take our kids.
The kids are doing really well. After a brief bout of gymnastics which they enjoyed a lot, COVID made us switch to outdoor ice skating for now.
I finally killed my old fixie or to be more correct it nearly killed me. With it gone, I could finally shop for a real road bike.
Thanks to a ship blocking the Suez Canal and all the other supply chain difficulties in the world, there was a tremendous bike shortage most of the summer (who knows, maybe it’s still going on?) and I got any random bike I could get my hands on in the €1000 price range.
I also got most of the tools and kit that you would need for cycling. It’s the clichéed guy midlife hobby. The local Rapha store is more convenient and also cheaper than many of the cycling apparel you can buy dropshipped over Instagram.
I seem to have ridden 1231km on it and looking forward to doing many times that in the coming year. The details are on Strava.
I picked up bouldering again which when in a rhythm (every 4-5 days) I’m finding pretty enjoyable.
I got boosted randomly on November 17th which was a lot earlier than I expected and before almost everybody I know. I am now AZ/Comirnaty/Comirnaty.
We survived another year. That’s it. That’s the year note.
Given all of the mistakes we could have made picking out Turkish names when you read this article, I think we did pretty well.
Some friends of ours have started a coworking space in Berlin hat includes childcare. The space looks great and I think that flexible solutions like this could alleviate a lot of the burden on parents right now.
Despite the popular idea that we need to “express” our anger so that it doesn’t eat away at us, research shows that expressing anger while we are angry actually makes us more angry. This in turn makes the other person hurt, afraid, or angry, and causes a rift in the relationship. Rehashing the situation in our mind always proves to us that we’re right and the other person is wrong, which again makes us more angry as we stew. What works is to calm down, and then find a constructive way to address whatever is making us angry so that the situation is resolved, and our anger stops being triggered.
The real job is keeping your cup full so you have plenty of joy and presence to share with your child.
Parenting is about nurturing your child, which means noticing what she needs and trying to make sure she gets it. You are, after all, the grown-up. But we can be peaceful parents only to the degree that we “parent” ourselves.
Children freely, even enthusiastically, cooperate when they believe that we’re on their side. When they don’t have that belief deep in their bones, our standards of behavior seem unfair, contradicting what they perceive as their own best interests, whether that’s taking the biggest piece of cake or lying to us.
The happy news is that as you come to terms with your own childhood story, you subtly change your emotional availability to your child, and your child blossoms accordingly, whether she’s an infant or a nine-year-old.
In relationships, without quantity, there’s no quality. You can’t expect a good relationship with your daughter if you spend all your time at work and she spends all her time with friends, screens, or the sitter. So as hard as it is with the pressures of jobs and daily life, if we want a better relationship with our children, we have to free up the time—daily—to make closeness happen.
Every child benefits from Special Time to reconnect with each parent often, if possible every day. Think of it as preventive maintenance to keep things on track in your family. And if you’re having issues with your
Every difficulty is an opportunity to get closer, as you extend understanding and your child feels truly seen, heard, and accepted.
Children need to know deep in their bones that their parents adore them and take delight in their company.
Remember, getting dressed is your priority, not his. Your presence is what motivates him.
To parents, bedtime is the time they finally get to separate from their children and have a little time to themselves. To children, bedtime is the time they’re forced to separate from their parents and lie in the dark by themselves. On top of that, children are exhausted and wound up, and parents are exhausted and fed up.
This isn’t about you right now, and your being upset won’t help. In fact, no matter what your child is talking about, you can process it later.
It may seem impossible, but if we feel the slightest glimmer of desire to turn things around, we can grab it. We don’t even have to know how. We can just choose love. We can always find a way to reach out to our child and reconnect. We can always find a way to heal things, even when we’re in a cycle of negativity that’s gone too far.
By contrast, when we think of ourselves as coaches, we know that all we have is influence—so we work hard to stay respected and connected, so our child wants to “follow” us.
What Empathy Isn’t
But before you can correct, you have to connect.
To know that their parents adore them, love to care for them, and care about their happiness. (Worthiness, security, self-esteem)
To feel truly seen, known, accepted, and appreciated—even the “shameful” parts like anger, jealousy, pettiness, and greed. (Unconditional love)
To stay connected with each parent through regular relaxed, playful, unstructured, affirming time together. (Intimacy, belonging)
To work through challenging daily emotions. (Emotional wholeness, self-acceptance)
To master new skills. (Mastery, independence, confidence)
To act from one’s own motivations to impact the world. (Self-determination, power)
To make a contribution. (Value, meaning)
Acknowledge your child’s perspective and empathize.
Allow expression of emotion, even while limiting actions.
Respond to the needs and feelings behind problem behavior.
When a desire can’t be granted, acknowledge it and grant it through “wish fulfillment.”
Tell the story so your child understands his emotional experience.
Teach problem solving.
Play it out.
Look him in the eye. Stay calm. He will either go blank (numbing himself), look away in shame, or look straight at you in defiance. Regardless, reach out for him.
We’ve absorbed the misguided view that children will be disobedient and manipulative unless we force them to “behave.”
Authoritarian parenting keeps children in a state of stress, worried about the next punishment (which may explain why kids who are spanked have lower IQs5).
But it does mean that babyproofing is better than trying to teach limits at this age.
Until your child has a chance to be heard, those feelings will be looking to spill out, disconnecting her, driving misbehavior and keeping her from being her usual sunny self. That’s why the single best thing you can do for your preschooler is to prioritize reconnecting with her when you’re reunited at the end of the day.
This parenting approach tends to raise kids who are self-centered, anxious, and not very resilient.
Authoritative. The final parenting style is the one that Baumrind’s research showed raises the best-adjusted kids. Her authoritative—as opposed to authoritarian—parents offer their children lots of love and support, like the permissive parents. But they also hold high expectations, like the authoritarian parents. Age-appropriate expectations, of course—they aren’t expecting a three-year-old to clean up her room by herself. But they may well be working with that three-year-old to help her clean up, over and over and over, so that by six she really can clean up her room herself. These parents are involved—even demanding. They expect family dinners, lots of discussion straight through high school, good grades, responsible behavior. But they also offer their children complete support to learn how to achieve these expectations. Importantly, these parents aren’t controlling like the authoritarian parents. They listen to the child’s side of things, they make compromises, and they cede control where possible. Their kids, not surprisingly, stay close to them—they often describe one of their parents as the person they would most trust to talk to about a problem. These kids usually do well in school, and they’re also the ones that teachers describe as responsible and well liked, simply nice kids who are a pleasure to have around.
Every child who has a sibling needs daily private time to bond with each parent.
We’re inviting him in, so that he’s part of the solution. He may have done a monstrous thing, but we’re communicating to him that he isn’t a monster. This is the foundation of his being able to face that he did something that crossed a line—and to forgive himself. It starts with our forgiving him.
Mastery isn’t a one-time feeling. It’s a way of approaching experience that through repetition becomes an acquired trait, a way of living life. It describes a person who loves to explore, learn, grow, apply himself, practice, master something, take joy in the whole creative process whether he “succeeds” or “fails” in the eyes of others, and move on to his next goal.
Every child is born with latent talent. Any child who enjoys the process of mastery has the internal motivation to polish his natural abilities to achieve—as long as the achievement he’s aiming for matters to him.
What might we say?
“You really like doing that puzzle. . . . It’s the first one you took out again today.” (Empathize with his feelings.)
“You’re trying all the different pieces to see what fits in that spot.” (Notice what he’s doing, which helps him feel seen and valued. In this case, we’re also articulating the strategy we see him using, which helps him be more conscious of what he’s doing, so he can evaluate whether this particular strategy is effective.)
“I love doing puzzles with you!” (Communicate your enjoyment of sharing a task or project with him.)
“It’s frustrating, isn’t it? But you’ve almost got it!” (Effective encouragement. By contrast, if we show him, we imply that he can’t figure it out for himself, which lessens his self-confidence.)
“You did it! You got all the pieces to fit! You must be so proud of yourself!” (We’re mirroring his joy in his accomplishment, but notice we’re not telling him we’re proud of him, which implies that pride in him is something we can also withhold. Instead, we empower him by acknowledging that pride in himself is his, something he can take action to create.)
Blame is simply anger looking for a target, and it never helps us toward a solution.
The truth is, we always have more responsibility than we’d like to admit. And the more responsibility you take, the less defensive your child feels, so the more responsibility she’s likely to take in her own mind and, eventually, aloud.