The Great Zuckerfrei Diet

Leaving the facebook ecosystem is pretty much like giving up a major addiction. Trust me, I know: I am a wholehearted coffee addict! At some point in my life, I actively gave in to coffee addiction. Literally told myself: a lifetime of pleasure is worth more than two weeks of headaches. This is my one addiction and I owned it 🙂

Facebook tentacles were the next hardest thing for me to escape: it took me a decade. I haven’t had a Google app on a phone in a while, but Whatsapp has managed to stay installed on my device forever. It took an unexpected ally for me to succeed: the iPad. Aparently, my story – our stories – with modern technology are epic tales of giants in the vein of literary classics. Like Thor or Goliath, these giants also go by a single name only: Apple, Google, Facebook. They have no surnames and they need none, for they’re in the business of getting up close and personal.

I left facebook itself years ago. Facebook is an online disease that only tech-savvy or young people seem able to recover from. The place where both the Internet and general education went to die. No-one needs this cancer; even the people still on it could easily be elsewhere if everyone decided at once where this else would be. (Hint: Matrix, Mastodon, Diaspora… even Twitter would be better despite having been temporarily overrun by beasts with horns.)

The problem was that facebook bought itself the next two direct competitors. Legislators recently started cracking down on anti-competitive acquisitions by giant tech companies, but it’s too late. The complexity of an online world gave this century’s companies a much longer runway than Microsoft ever had in the 90s.

With my fellow expat family members, and my German class, all on Whatsapp and nothing else, I just couldn’t cut the cord. Until last week, when I got an iPad mini. For me, the beautiful thing about the iPad wasn’t the poorly adapted application interfaces — I mean, the big screen is nice, but not with a tiny font size, nor for apps too lazy to do something more with the extra space… No, the beautiful thing was that facebook didn’t bother making an official Whatsapp for iPad. Go Signal!

I had my out. I’m not even keeping said iPad, but I made it out. After a decade, I am barely on any social platform and I am definitely free of Mark Zuckerberg. Only coffee retains control over me. I am fine with that.

Is it time to rent, not buy, electronics?

E-waste is a growing problem. But if manufacturers kept ownership of their products and leased them to us, recycling could make good business sense.
— Read on

Personally, I like fully owning my stuff. However I don’t love crappy battery life, progressive slowdowns, software sunsets, waste or unethical manufacturing… So perhaps that is the way of the future!

Berlin Winter Season

Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt

Winter has arrived in Berlin and, with it, the fun Christmas markets. Here are some highlights of the opening of the season…

Brandenburger Tor / Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburger Tor / Brandenburg Gate
US Embassy with Brandenburg Gate in the background
The US Embassy with Brandenburg Gate in the background
Jewish Memorial Monument
The Jewish Memorial Monument
Berliner Dom
Berliner Dom
Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt
Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt
Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt
Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmarkt

Home: found.

Berlin T-shirts

As the train leaves Berlin behind, I am struck by the fact that I’m leaving home.

It’s been less than two months since I came in to check if there was any chance left for Germany in me. London was calling at a distance. I felt at home nowhere and everywhere, glomad-style. All that changed in a few days, as I experienced Berlin from a more local perspective.

East Side Gallery - Wall painting
Photos of the East Side Gallery wall paintings from 3 years ago suddenly became more valuable, as these have been vandalized with signatures probably from tourists (surely from idiots)

I knew that I couldn’t judge Berlin until I found myself there without a return ticket. Last year, living in Taiwan, I learned that real travel isn’t about sightseeing, but about losing yourself in another culture. Enough to take it in. It takes time to know the local rhythms. Weekend escapes aren’t travel, they’re really just sightseeing. Yet places are very similar everywhere… more so than cultures. Places may look quite different at first, but they can feel the same. Not much changes from a beach in Portugal to a beach in Taiwan. Yet everything changes when you slowly walk the streets of cities from such distant countries.

The difference is culture.

You could expect, then, that truly knowing Berlin would take a few months. But I’d seen the sights before, and all I was missing was how it felt like when I became a part of it. That was made easy by having friends here. I thought that was the reason for feeling at home almost on arrival, or maybe the fact that I remember lots of spots from my past two visits. Yet, as the dust settles, I recall the times I’ve been back in Lisbon or in Dublin or in London. Even Lisbon rarely felt like home, though it was always a place to cherish.

Berlin T-shirts

It’s not hard to understand though – how quickly Berlin felt like home. I usually get bored easily, or I would… if I didn’t constantly switch things around. In Berlin you’ve never seen all of everything. I’m also probably a bit quirky (considering that a renowned personality test places mine in a group that only 1% of people share). Still I’m surely under average in Berlin standards for weirdness. Berlin attracts people who don’t fit in other places and are not afraid to be who they want to be. Whenever I see something over-the-top, I’m reminded of why quirkiness can thrive in the city: its culture is open minded.

It feels good to know you can be yourself, without necessarily being the strangest character in town. I guess that’s what it should feel like to be home.