For the bonus material on their website they did a little portrait of me. Among other things I demo one of the RFID tags by using it to logon to my computer. – Shooting this was fun, but also a little exhausting. Still figuring out how to say non-stupid thing in front of a camera …
I am able to login to my computer by pressing my hand against a USB dongle. You can get my mobile number by touching my hand with your phone. I can make LEDs light up and doors open.
Nope: RFID implants.
As I might have mentioned before, I want to be a cyborg. So as of last week, I got RFID tags implanted in both my hands. They do not make me a cyborg according to my definition: They neither augment my senses nor do they give me extra abilities. But they _are_ available, inexpensive, pretty safe and easy to implant. Also, building stuff with them is pretty simple: There are a lot of affordable readers to play around with, from Arduino modules and USB dongle type readers to NFC-enabled smartphones.
The implantation procedure is straightforward: Let your body mod artist of choice shove a big needle into your hand (typically the part between your thumb and your index finger). ‘Big’ means the needle has to be large enough that the 2mm diameter RFID tag can be pushed through. Insert tag, remove needle, put a band-aid on it. Congratulations, you’ve been chipped. And nah, it doesn’t really hurt. Not like stubbing your toe, anyway.
Now that I’m going to be 30 soon, I decided to do a very strange thing: I decided to get a bed.
Around the age of 16, I used to have back pain sometimes. (I’d say “growing hurts”, but of course it actually was because I spent my days sitting in front of the computer, playing Age of Empires and Command & Conquer.)
So I did, what my grandpa does when he has back pain: I lay down on the floor. On one particularly bad day, I decided to just sleep on the floor instead of using my bed. I slept well. It was awesome. So I kept doing it.
After a while, I figured I didn’t really need my bed anymore and got rid of it.
Last weekend my sister and I set out on a journey to the UK to visit the Brighton Tattoo Convention.
I have to admit, I never really got why anybody would travel to a country whose weather is even worse than German weather, but Brighton changed that. The houses are cute, the supermarkets are awesome, the people are friendly (it’s almost scary!) and speak adorable British English. You are able to get a decent tea almost everywhere. There’s Doctor Who on TV. True, if you like warm running water you might argue that the design of British sinks needs some optimization. But honestly … who cares about the fucking sinks?
We took home three tattoos, twenty Arcade tickets, a package of shortbread and the realization that maybe there are even more awesome places to live in than Berlin. See you next year, Brighton!
When I visited Berlin the first few times, I got to know it by U-Bahn. Kotti, Eberswalder Straße, Rosenthaler Platz, Warschauer were my stations. I knew how to get there and how to find the places I wanted to go to, but I had no idea where they actually were located in the city. The U-Bahn was like a black box system of portals that let me emerge at specific points of an uncharted map.
When I finally moved to Berlin in April, I learnt to navigate this system of portals. I memorized the colors of its stations. I found out why changing from the U2 to the U8 at Alex takes more than the usual two minutes. I learnt to never trust a display that claims “Kurzzug hält hinten”. But in a way, the trains were still magical yellow creatures that swallowed you at point A, from where they travelled the Nether to point B, where they spit you out, back into the real world.
After some months I discovered buses. Their lines served as an alternative layer of routes, and some of their portals were hard to find. But if you found the right ones, you were suddenly able to get to the main station in mere 17 minutes, instead of the 32 it would take by U-Bahn.
Only recently I found another, almost archaic way of transportation: My feet.
Recently I gave a little talk about prosthetics at Labortage. My introductory slide featured a handwritten note saying “When I grow up, I want to be a cyborg”.
In Berlin I found some fellow cyborg enthusiasts. We meet every second Monday, discussing ideas, planning workshops and talks. We had Grindhouse Wetware‘s Tim Cannon over for a talk (watch it here). Eventually we decided to do a very German thing: We founded a Verein, our own cyborg society, the Cyborgs e.V..
What inspired you to want to become a cyborg?
I’m mainly inspired by William Gibson and other cyberpunk stuff. I like Gibson’s concept of the street samurai, although, since I studied Japanese for some years, I think the name’s pretty stupid.
Molly Millions definitely is one of my role models, although she is too female for my taste. One reason for me wanting to be a cyborg simple is that I want to be badass.
I also like human-like machines like androids and replicants. According to my sister, I had a thing for TNG’s Data when I was little (“Naturally”, she added and rolled her eyes). And of course I am fascinated by the Borg, but I wouldn’t trade in my own brain for their collective consciousness. Also, their style is also a little too flashy for my taste; I’d like something more unobtrusive. (I really don’t like screaming children, and I don’t need them screaming because of me.)
Nowadays, some cyborg ideas are not sci-fi anymore; my favorite existing gadget is not Google Glass but rather Hugh Herr’s prosthetic legs. So I also want to mention him as an inspiration. He rocks.
So, this Friday I set out to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere (and pretty much in the middle of Germany), armed with golden glitter and a hat, to get drunk with Amanda Palmer and around fifty other amazing people. There were fairy lights, there was vegan food, there was music (harp and, of course, ukulele), there was lots of alcohol, crowdsurfing, and a rat joining the party. And it was awesome.
As the gentle reader might have noticed, I’m into online courses. Actually, I’ve just started participating in another one, and originally I planned to blog about how AWESOME it will be and how I will learn ALL the stuff. Yeah, right.
Online courses can be awesome. But, just like almost all other awesome things, you can use them to make you feel bad. If you’re not familiar with the process, here’s how:
1. Browse the catalogue of available topics. Promising previews, interesting information, exciting experiments, terrific trailers, awesome alliterations! All the stuff you’ve been itching to learn FOREVER. Choose one. You just have to click. And it’s FREE!
2. Day 1: You’re going to learn ALL the stuff! This is SO exciting! Let’s watch the first lectures right away. … WOW.
3. Week 3: Busy week. Went to bed early. It’s okay, you’ll catch up on the weekend.
4. Week 4: So you didn’t feel like doing anything last weekend. And this week. But you got excuses. You got A LOT of excuses.
5. Week 5: Homework preying on you. You’re feeling stressed. How did this even happen? Look at you. You’ve finished school a long time ago, and now you’re stuck with homework AGAIN?! Fuck this shit.
6. Quit. Don’t forget to feel like a failure. Try to remember every other unfinished thing in your life.
P.S.: Of course this is not limited to online courses. But since these are easy to join – and even easier to quit – it happens a lot. And it’s happened to you, right?
Last weekend I went home to the Ruhr area to join this year’s Labortage. There was plenty of food & drink and general nerdiness; I learnt about oscilloscopes and talked a little about prosthetics as the preliminary stage of cyborgism. (Watch this if you’re interested.)
See you again next year!
Since I am unable to grow a moustache due to stupid genetic reasons, I found myself a another cool project for November: an RFID implant.
I got myself an implantable Mifare tag with 1KB of memory. You can buy these over at Amal’s ‘Dangerous Things’. Basically, it’s a 2x12mm borosilicate glass shell with a Mifare Classic S50 tag inside. It’s writeable and readable by many Android devices, e.g. the Samsung S3, S4, and the Google Nexus 4 (UPDATE: I’ve been told Nexus 4 won’t read the chip).
I’m not exactly fond of Germany’s dark, cold and wet winter, but it’s gotten better over the last years. With my first Berlin winter coming on, I compiled a list of stuff (in no particular order) that’ll help me stay sane until spring.
My Kindle informs me that I’m still only at 61% of the Elixir book. I forgot that reading a book about a new language involves some work – and you can’t do all of it lying at the beach, if you know what I mean. Anyway, as an appetizer here’s a tiny bit of Elixir for you.
Disclaimer: If you haven’t seen any Elixir up to now at all, this is _not_ the place to start. If you know the basics of the syntax and want to use Elixir for some scripting, read on. Also, all the credit goes to Dave Thomas.
Scripting is especially easy with Elixir because of the Elixorians’ favorite operator:
|>, the Elixir pipe. It works just like the pipe in your shell – it takes the output of the function to its left and feeds it as the first argument to the function to its right.
That comes in handy, because that simple command-line utility you want to write will probably look something like this:
parse_options |> process |> do_magic_things |> print_results
You just need Erlang and Elixir installed. You Homebrew users can happily type
$ brew install erlang-r16 elixir
Everybody else, go here.
Creating a scaffold application with mix
mix is basically Elixir’s
bundler. You use it to bootstrap and build your projects, create tasks, install dependencies, and run your tests.
Let’s create a new project: $ mix new example
This will create a project scaffold in ./example/, complete with a README, a lib/ and a test/ directory and a configuration file named mix.exs . Didn’t hurt a bit, did it?
I’ve spent the last week sitting in the sun on an island, so this post should probably be about how to tell British tourists from German tourists in 3 easy steps. But when I wasn’t at the beach or on my way up some crazy mountain road, I read about Elixir (post to come as soon as I finish Dave Thomas’ book, promised) and tried to practice my coding skills.
Admit it: Even with pairing and code reviews, there’s only limited opportunity to discuss code in depth at your day job – and that’s not a bad thing, because you’re probably paid to get things done and make stuff. And on many days, after 8 hours of getting things done and making stuff, you’re maybe not uber motivated to dig deeper into that hip new language you’ve meant to learn for months. Because after all it is work, and you just came home from work, d’uh. – At least that’s what it’s like for me, often. And that’s one reason why I sign up for online courses with homework (although having to do homework in your free time sucks sometimes) and go to tech meetups – to get me to learn new stuff. Because as much as I love learning new stuff, I still have to kick myself in the butt to actually do it.
This weekend I attended eurucamp 2013, a Ruby conference at Berlin’s Müggelsee. I had a really good time, got to know awesome people and enjoyed the sun. Apart from a canvas bag full of ideas and inspiration, I also took home some things I learnt:
0. International Spanish is confusing. Some spanish speakers call a straw pajita, which will make others giggle, because it also means dick. Some spanish speakers might ask for a bombilla for their drink, which will make others wonder what the fuck they need a lightbulb for. – Talk about really bad API design.
1. It sounds like a joke, but this actually exists: A Ruby VM in ABAP.
2. MRI is a fundamentally flawed VM.
3. There is a Ruby wrapper for Processing.
4. Chad Fowler hasn’t seen the IT Crowd.
In June, I read about a guy who got magnets implanted in his tragi which, together with a coil worn around his neck hooked up to an amplifier, allow him to listen to sound without using earphones. – Finally, a practical use for magnetic implants! So, last week I ordered a collection of electronic components, this week I mentioned the idea on the nerds.fm podcast, and yesterday I built my first prototype.
But let’s start at the beginning …
Actally, you’re supposed to see an introductory post about Elixir here, but due to circumstances I will discuss far too detailed in the following entry, I haven’t had the opportunity to dive deeper into it.
Friday morning, around half past 9: I finish my breakfast, shut my Macbook, brush my teeth and go off to work. I arrive at the office around ten. I open my macbook and go to the kitchen to prepare my tea. When I come back with a hot Twinings English Breakfast Tea, I see that my Macbook doesn’t recognize the internal hard drive anymore. Well, this is strange and a little unsettling, but whatever, I restart.
Silent grey screen with the worringly blinking question mark folder, again. Of course restarting with CMD+R doesn’t help, so I try CMD+Option+R – yay for Apple’s Internet Recovery. It takes my Macbook only around 8 minutes to recover the whole fucking internet, but it still doesn’t recognize its hard drive – where it should be listed in Disk Utility there’s just a silent blank space.
$ man life is going to be a series of short blog articles recommending books that helped me figure out life. – Not that I got it figured out, but I’m a little less lost. Of course it’s a highly subjective selection, which is probably why
man life returns
No manual entry for life for you.
While working on my bachelor thesis, I realized that my time as a poor university student would soon be over and that I’d start earning “real money” afterwards – without having any idea about money, really. So I ordered a few books on the topic.
Some of my friends were amused. But when I go to Venice, I read a tourists’ guide first; and when I go to the Republic of Assets, Interests and Taxes, I make sure I’m prepared.
Among the books I got was one that spanned a much broader range of topics than just money – it’s about figuring out your personal relationship with money, analyzing how much you really earn (including all the expenses you have because of your job), how you spend your time and energy and aligning your finances with your values.
The premise of Your Money Or Your Life (amazon.de referral link) is that earning means basically trading life time and energy for money. Like most of the books in $ man life, it’s not a book you just read, but one you have to work with – read, highlight, re-read, take a note, and, most importantly, implement the steps it suggests (which in this case means, among other things, tracking every cent of your expenses). Also, this is a personal development/self help book, so you have to put up with anecdotes about other people’s financial problems, but these are conveniently set in italics to make skipping them easier.
When you’d have asked me what it was that I wanted to know about money, when I ordered these books, I’d probably have said “well, umm, how it works”. But that was not actually what I wanted to know. I wanted to know about the intertwining of money and happiness – and that’s what Your Money Or Your Life helped me learn about. I’ve been working with it for four months now and in this time, I’ve recommended it to every friend I happened to talk to about money.
I don’t know how I will decide between life and money yet, or how much I need to be content. But it feels pretty good to know that I’m less prone to getting stuck in a job that’s basically sucking away all my energy while I’m trying to fund a lifestyle that doesn’t make me happy.