Love to see these updates from the German Digital Service. Not sure everybody knows that that organization exists now and what they’re busy with.
The work they’re doing is really good but what’s really staggering is how much of a gap they have to bridge here. These are basic buildings blocks of digital transformation that advanced societies tackled 10-20 years ago.
Something we’re also noticing here is that people with dogs gather in courtyards and on fields in groups and let their dogs roam free, illegally.
They do this in groups together so that if somebody tells them not to, they can use their numbers to intimidate and as described here they use that and many other strategies with officers of the law.
Owning a dog in a dense urban environment is a questionable choice already, but the people around us here take the cake. There are quite a number of socially at-risk individuals who have dogs where both the animal and the human are deeply and certifiably deranged. Both of them accost any human who walks by and it’s often a question of who’s louder the dog’s barking or its owner’s ranting.
I think a forced dog register and quotas/waiting lists for some areas would be a good first step to control the situation here.
Lots of hours put in over the past year to achieve this and the only thing it means is that I get to put lots more hours in. Let’s go!
Not verified but an interesting data point in how German civil servants don’t have that attractive a position and can get better deals working indirectly for the people ‘at the engines of the global economy’.
That makes you wonder why the engines of the global economy are not here or if they are why it’s not possible to pay civil servants competitive both in compensation and in job satisfaction. To be able to get the best talent and create the kind of state capacity that justifies having a state, the best people working in the civil service should be paid competitively with the top of society.
Back when I read this exposé in November it struck me as gripping but also as something that could become messy. Turns out that’s true since the piece now has the mark “Censored” and some choice parts of text have been blanked out. I did a quick search but can’t find any updates what might have happened. If I find time later, I’ll look in the Wayback Machine to see what pieces of text disappeared.
The kind of property deals that are described in the article are par for the course in any up and coming city. Recently there was a piece about resistance to the city giving away one of its largest buildings to a private art gallery: https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/portraet-wut-motiviert-mich
The academic backroom dealings should also be considered to be normal especially in small subfields such as Turkey studies. Academics are playing funding games more than they research and the web of foundations that float around are ways to creatively bookkeep and move money around. None of this is really surprising.
I was on a Dutch podcast about working in Germany: FSG podcast over de Duitse digitale achterstand with Derk Marseille and Ruurd van der Weide.
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.
The construction site next to our house is still spewing forth noise and fumes at all hours. The city is unable to do anything here it seems and calling the people at the construction site we are met with nothing but deflection and lies.
They have built a housing around the heater which has maybe reduced the noise by 5dB and we are still left with a value that is far above what is allowed here.
The construction site that surrounds our house has started a bunch of space heaters this week. The devices had been there for a while but only started being annoying now that they’re turned on. These things run day and night, they make a ridiculous amount of noise (some 60 dB at our window) and because they burns diesel oil they also pollute and stink up the entire courtyard.
We are used to some noise and annoyance during the day time with this construction site. Some of the noise we went through was truly unbelievable and for some periods we have received a reduction in our rent. We thought that with most external construction being done, we would finally be able to get some peace but now these things are running and will probably run all winter.
The effect they have is to force us to keep our windows closed on one side of the house. You can hear a faint droning even with the windows closed and having the windows open is extremely unpleasant.
I went to the construction office first. There a man told me he would look into it. After returning from work in the evening of course the heaters were still running and the man had not done anything. When pressed, he said they were allowed to do this (not true) and these would run all winter.
First point of contact in these is of course our landlord who is our point of contact for the construction site. We’ll see what they will do for us when they take a look at this issue in the coming week. Maybe things will resolve themselves.
Not wanting to leave things to chance, we also wanted to have the city check this out and resolve this issue. We are measuring 60 dB and we have a source that says only 40 dB is allowed at night (which would make sense).
Let’s go over the steps you can take in such a case and whether the local government can do anything for you in such a case.
The first step in such a case would be to call the Ordnungsamt. The Berlin service number can connect you with them but they will tell you that it’s not their deal and refer you to the Umweltamt. This is the first time I heard that this Amt exists.
Finding somebody to talk to at the Umweltamt was a bit of a challenge. Both of the contacts given to me did not pick up their phone (nobody in the city government seems to pick up their phone) but their central desk also told me to get lost and referred me to the Senate for UVK just like the Berlin service number did.
SenUVK has a special entry point for noise from construction sites with a phone number, e-mail address and web form. The webform seems to be broken because after submitting it twice both times it shows an error and does not e-mail me a confirmation of my complaint. The phone number is supposedly open between 9-11 every day to accept complaints but calling that I could reach nobody there. Both of the people given to me as a contact by the Umweltamt were of course not reachable by phone.
This being 9 in the morning as per the phone number opening times, I thought I might as well drop by there to see what’s going on. I only live a ten minute bike ride away.
I knew the SenUVK office at Am Köllnischen Park but I was told to go to Brückenstraße 6 around the corner. There I went into one building and could not find anything other than generic offices. I was going to give up but I walked up the street towards Jannowitzbrück and found another number 6 entrance to what seems to be known as the Jannowitz Center.
The ground floor of that building was a construction site. Next to the elevator it did find a plan of the SenUVK offices that listed Baulärm on the fifth floor. I took the elevator to the fifth floor only to find another construction site. Then I went down and asked the construction workers whether the entire building was a construction site. They said, nah, floors 7 and so and so are not. So I went up to the 7th floor and found the Pförtner there who referred me to room 191 on the 2nd floor.
On the second floor I found a very long office corridor where everything seemed to be more or less operational. I walked all the way to the end and after some turns found the office numbered 191 which of course was closed. Not to be dissuaded that easily, I started knocking and opening the doors in that corridor which were labelled Immissionsschutz.
Then some schmuck came to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him the reason and he said he couldn’t help me and that he found it unangenehm that I just walked in like that. I told him that I found it unangenehm that the web form was broken and nobody here was picking up the telephone. The guy clearly didn’t bargain for any of this and made away quickly before I could show him the true meaning of the word unangenehm.
Then a man arrived to work at the 191 office who was actually helpful and filed my complaint. It turns out that space heaters for construction sites only get a permit when there is a pressing technical need for them which is extremely rare. This construction has already taken very long and we would really want to finish it, is not enough reason it seems. The waterpump that we could hear pumping and hissing at regular intervals at night we could probably also complain against. We’ll see next week what comes from this complaint.
He confirmed also that they were having issues with the phone line and that they are not the people maintaining the web form.
If this person is to be believed, this construction site is doing whatever it wants because the act of following up on these breaches is so incredibly difficult and time consuming. He said they can press on this complaint and check the permits but in the end there’s only so much they can do as well.
Local Government IT
After the broken web form I also was kinda intrigued what kind of systems they would have there at the Senate’s offices. The guy filled in the complaint details into the editable fields of a MS Word template. That’s it. That’s about the level of where we are at when it comes to local government automation.
I know these problems up close and they are difficult to solve even if you have access to best in class tools. But with those kind of tools at least you have a fighting chance. If you work in government without in-house IT, where you can’t procure anything useful, you don’t have credit cards and even if you found something useful you couldn’t use it because of fears around Datenschutz, there is no way you are going to get anything done.
Most of these problems could be solved by deploying Airtable and Zendesk, but they of course won’t be allowed to do that. I don’t have to mention that local government being ineffective benefits companies doing construction without following any of the rules.