Monthly, 04/23

April is over, and with all the (literal) headaches that the constant temperature swings are causing I really can’t wait for summer to come, despite the heat.

  • Because of work I barely touched a computer outside of it, so I didn’t really make any progress on ongoing projects. But that’s fine, because in exchange for that I got a lot of painting done. 26 Space Marines and a tank are done and already sold - I sadly don’t get to play any games and I don’t really like Space Marines, so there is no point in letting them gather dust. I also decided to finally get rid of a couple of half-painted projects that have been shaming me for what feels like ages. I have to accept that I won’t complete them, hopefully someone else gets some fun out of them.

  • What I did do was upgrading the machine making it possible for you to read this to OpenBSD 7.3. Which cost me less than 15 minutes. I like low-maintenance computers. Okay, and I also spent an hour on automating the setup of my VPN, which was the last part that was missing - I roughly use it once a week, and I have only had to set it up once in the past couple of years, but I don’t care what either of theqrelevant XKCD say.

  • I basically covered for my entire team throughout two whole weeks, and this was as much “not funny” as it sounds. In general these last couple of months have been pretty hard on me, dividing my time between shallow work, meaningless projects and bullshit administrative tasks - all the while trying to find some time and energy during my workday to put some effort into interesting and relevant ideas. I could continue that way, but I know that I am burning out. Not just with regards to my energy level, but my interest in and enthusiasm for my job is suffering as well.

    So I decided to hit the brakes and take a break. I’ll have three weeks off from the middle of May, and I’ll spend another week doing an interesting course before joining the day-to-day again. This is the longest I have taken off in a while, and I’m both excited and scared. Hopefully I make the best of it, with regards to relaxation and filling up my batteries again. I’m going to drink so much fucking expensive coffee.

Given what I just talked about above, I haven’t read all that much this month, I barely managed to finish two books, three if I count a piece of text I thoroughly regret spending money on:

  • “The Second World War” by Antony Beevor, which I randomly picked one day while laying on my couch, trying to find something to do that was reasonably entertaining while not being hindered by annoying headaches. Despite the book having around 1000 pages I ended up reading it in less than three days. The aptly titled book Antony Beevor wrote on Stalingrad (“Stalingrad”), which was released in 1998, was one of the earliest books I read on the Second World War. Six year old me read it over and over. Judging by the time it took me to finish re-reading this one, chances are I might like his style of writing.

  • “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and then Took on the West” from Catherine Belton; I’m a bit torn on that one. The book contains a vast amount of well-sourced information - I am somewhat (and I am giving me a lot of potentially undeserved credit here) knowledgeable on what happened after the fall of the Soviet Union and how the rise of “Putinism” came to be, yet there was still a ton of new things I learned, or new connections between actors and events I came to know, which I haven’t known before.

  • Yet, at the same time, this is the biggest issue I have with the book. There are so many persons, companies and places that you have to keep track of in order to fully understand what’s going on that the book is, at times, cumbersome to read. The author is trying her best, I really can’t blame her for that, and I don’t have any idea on how to do it better. But it’s definitely not a light read that I would recommend for someone dipping their toes into the topic for the first time.

  • “ZOV - Der verbotene Bericht: Ein russischer Fallschirmjäger packt aus”, by Pawel Filatjev - the book is only available in German, in English the title would be “ZOV = The forbidden report: A Russian paratrooper speaks his mind”. This book has been reasonably popular in German-speaking countries ever since it’s been released in December of 2022. When it came out it was advertised as the first honest, in-depth look at what is happening inside the Russian army currently invading Ukraine.

    From the beginning I was suspicious, it had all the hallmarks of someone trying to become rich and famous by painting a portrait of himself that’s only vaguely, if at all, realistic. Think of all the books by alleged former criminals who pretended to be top members of organised crime groups or former politicians trying to stay relevant - looking at you here, Sarrazin. So for the longest time I ignored the book, until last week when I saw it in a bookstore while I was in need of a light read.

    Man, I should not have bought that one. For the type of book that it is, it’s expensive, costing 25 bucks for around 150 pages. And it’s just, .. bad. It’s written like the diary of an angry teenager who thinks that everything bad that happens to them is the fault of literally everyone and everything else. All the while he is the only one who seems to understand what is going on.

    Plus: There’s a distinct lack of any mention of war crimes, like looting and unlawful executions of prisoners of war and civilians, which have been committed by troops in the areas that he describes serving in. I’m not saying that he himself has been involved, but his account of looting being rare and necessary, because they didn’t have food, doesn’t hold up to the reality.

    Similarly, the story of how his unit caught Ukrainian civilians who they suspected to be spying for the Ukrainian army, letting them go after just some short questioning .. yeah, no pal. Not believing this. This goes contrary to literally everything we have heard, and demonstrably seen, so far of Russian behaviour, and contrary to the sad tradition of the way civilians are treated.

    His cause isn’t helped by the fact that the author is now suing the people who had helped him, claiming that his promise to donate the proceeds of the book were “coerced” out of him. Fuck that guy, and fuck his book. 10/10 would go into the oven first whenever I need to heat my flat with actual fire.

For quite similar reasons as for my lack of reading, I didn’t listen to all that much music. Nonetheless, here are my top three albums for April:

  • Blood Star - First Sighting - I have mentioned it before, I’m bad at genres, so forgive me for calling this a “pretty dope Power Metal album”. Seeing (and especially hearing) a Metal band with a female vocalist was refreshing. I look forward to buying that one at the next Bandcamp Friday.
  • Papé Nziengui - Kadi Yombo - Generally, I’m pretty conservative when it comes to music. I’m open to stuff from most genres, but despite having been lucky enough to be exposed to different cultures from throughout the world, most stuff that’s not adhering to a “Western” sound doesn’t sit right with my soon-to-be-middle-aged-white-ass-ears. This one is different. Taking my ability to commit every blunder I could possibly commit I am probably horribly insensitive by saying that the vibrant, intensive, upbeat sound was as catchy as the lyrics, even though I was unable to understand anything because of the language barrier. You have no idea how hard I am praying that I did not just accidentally talk shit about ceremonial music.
  • LDS - Digi Spa - Toasters and other electronic devices going “Wub wub” (context) are something I almost always enjoy. What’s on this album is no different.

I did significantly extend my list of subscribed podcasts. Specifically, I want to mention “A Tradition of Violence” (which is about the fascinating / horrifying topic of gangs in law enforcement, specifically Deputy Gangs in Los Angeles), “Grey Dynamics” and “The Red Line” (which are both about intelligence- and conflict-research-related topics), “Deep Dive: Exploring Organized Crime” (which is about .. well, what the title says - yet not about the topics usually covered in popular true crime podcasts, such as how Al Capone got done for tax evasion, but instead about current cases uncovered through investigative journalism).

I’m curious as to when I will get to enjoy the newest episode, because my backlog is close to 100 hours of material. Oof.