Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Updates to old Wordpress text

Introduction

In the dark ages of Wordpress (a period of ten or so years, when I was cut off from this website), I wrote hundreds of texts that, as of January 2024, are not integrated here. (They might or might not be in due time.) On occasion, I have the wish to write an update on some topic, e.g. to include more recent developments, and there is not always enough to write to warrant a full new text. In such cases, I will write a short update below.

(An alternative would be to publish such updates on Wordpress, but I really wish to avoid that horror of user hostility.)

As a caution: The contents of this page are disproportionately likely to be integrated elsewhere, re-grouped within the page, re-written for a second update, or similar. Quote and link strictly at your own risk.

Due to the amount of texts and the “chronological stream” of publishing used in blogging, as opposed to the more ordered that I use on this website, the links to Wordpress posts will often be merely representative and I do not guarantee completeness of any such listing. (However, individual Wordpress posts will usually contain relevant links to or backlinks from related posts. In the unlikely event that the reader has a strong urge for completeness, the search function might help.)

I will make frequent use of links with a text like “[1]”, The scope of the given number is limited to the sub-topic at hand and numbers will be reduced between sub-topics.

Topics/updates

Noise and mood

I have on many occasions written about the, for long periods, inexcusable noise situation in my apartment building, including a preposterous amount of very loud and very lengthy renovations. (But, with reservations for the character of the disturbances described below, which is not entirely clear, no true renovation noise has occurred for a pleasantly long time.)

In (at least) one earlier text ([1]), I have noted problems with the build up of e.g. anger and irritation, where a metaphorical basin that receives more water from a faucet than it can get rid of through the drain, for sufficiently long, will fill up and, eventually, overflow.

An excellent example of the overlap is given by the last week (time of writing: 2024-02-27), which also illustrates that it does not have to be loud drilling that ruins life:

Days of increasing noise making led to a Friday (23rd) with hours of hammering, banging, stomping, whatnot, with a first occurrence no later than 05:24 and a last no earlier than 21:57. This included repeated interruptions of my sleep.

Saturday was better, but still out of line with what can be considered an even remotely normal behavior, with problems beginning at noon and stretching into the evening.

Sunday began with another forceful wakening at 00:32. (Which might, depending on point of view, be counted to the previous day.) Further disturbances equalled the Saturday, and the accumulated frustration and whatnot left me in a very poor state. I was now reacting negatively to any and all noise.

Monday was a horror show, with hour upon hour upon hour of noise-making, beginning at 06:47 and stretching well into the evening. I was now at a point when I repeatedly shouted at the noise-maker and banged on the walls myself—to no avail. (Here, note that my fuse is still severely shortened through the many horror shows that took place in the past years. By now, I assume a permanent psychological damage in this area, going beyond the ideas of basins, drains, and whatnots discussed in [1].)

Tuesday/today has been much better (as of the late afternoon; knock on wood), but the pent-up frustration and increased sensitivity through this abuse brings me to the point of boiling with even much more limited noise-making. A particular issue is that I protocol noise excesses and am now unable to tell whether the unusually large number of entries for today is caused by an unusual amount of noise-making or by that increased sensitivity. (Today is much, much better than yesterday, or even e.g. Saturday—but how does it compare to a randomly picked day?) Another, compatible with [1], is that I have almost flown off the handle over several non-noise issues that would normally have left me perfectly calm, e.g. finding that I was out of clean bowls. (Of course, that I was out of bowls was another side-effect of the noise-making: I usually and per schedule wash my dishes on Monday, but had postponed it due to the noise-making.)

From another angle, this, again, demonstrates how weak the nominal protections against noise are in Germany—and this is a special case of far too weak legal protections of citizens in virtual any area. For all practical purposes, whatever brain-dead neighbors lacking entirely in common sense, basic human decency, consideration for others, whatnot, want to do—they can do. Specifically construction noise is outright, if indirectly, encouraged by the government through tax breaks for renovations in “own to rent” apartments. And, no, this was far from the first time that several consecutive days of highly excessive to entirely inexcusable noise-making took place, even outside the long phases with construction noise.

Another very annoying twist, that I had not foreseen when I bought this apartment: As a renter, I had the right to shorten the rent, should something, e.g. noise disturbances, affect living conditions in an unconscionable or disproportionate manner. As an owner, I have no-one to turn to and am stuck with the entire damage. (Not that the rent can be shortened enough to cover the damage through e.g. months of construction work, but it is at least a consolation and can allow some counter-measures, e.g. a day or two in a hotel, without exceeding the normal monthly budget.)

Toilet paper and chewing gum

Several posts dealt with issues around supply, pricing, and/or “ply-ing” of toilet paper. (Including, at least, [1], [2], [3].)

Yesterday, I bought yet another 16-roll of 3-ply. To my surprise, it was listed as 220 sheets per roll, compared to the 200 that were discussed earlier (and, in my impression, 600 ply seemed to be standard per roll, with sheet numbers only varying according to the ply number, e.g. with 600 / 3 = 200).


Side-note:

Unfortunately, I failed to note the exact date of “Yesterday” before being side-tracked by other writings. It was approximately one year after the publication of [3] on 2023-01-11, however. Thus, 2024-01-11, give or take.


By an eye test, the amount of paper on my last unopened “old” roll appears to be approximately the same as that of the new rolls, and certainly deviates by less than 10 percent. (The comparison is a little hindered by deformation and I lack the depth of interest to put in more effort than an eye test.) Likely, then, the amount of paper per ply has been reduced.

This is a welcome improvement to the trend of increasing this amount at the cost of fewer sheets per roll (through increasing plies-per-sheet). Going back to 2-ply would have been better, however. (Cf. the older posts.)

Looking at the new receipt, I find a price of 5.69 Euro, for 0.36 Euro per roll or 0.16 Euro per 100 sheets. The last number given on Wordpress was 4.05 Euro for a 10-pack, which gives 0.41 resp. 0.20 Euro for the same measures. This might reflect a lowering of price or just be a “bulk buy” difference.

A related issue was supply of toilet paper and chewing gum. Since my last posts, the supply of the “good” toilet paper has been intermittent. Yesterday, very shortly after the store opened, there were both 10-packs and 16-packs, but neither were present earlier in the week. (4-ply or otherwise overpriced paper has always been present.) The same applies to the “good” chewing gum, with the incidental conclusion that my speculation about a remaining supply being portioned out was almost certainly wrong. More importantly, we are now well past the COVID-countermeasure era, the feared gas crisis has not truly hit, and supply chain issues and similar does not seem plausible at this stage. All in all, the situation is puzzling. Sheer incompetence could be an explanation; so could a very low prioritization of lower-markup products.

Long building times

As I wrote in [1], a house close to the nearest grocery store had already been in renovation for years. As of 2024-01-17, more than another 14 months later, the renovation is still on-going. Going by optics, the end might finally be nigh, but it is still not here. These 14 months appear to be longer than the time it took to build the entire Empire State Building—and never mind the years that preceded these 14 months.

It also appears that putting up a footbridge in current Britain takes longer:

Construction was already 10 years overdue when it began in January 2023 and it is not expected to open until spring 2024. In contrast, the Empire State Building, which was for decades the tallest building in the world, took just one year and 45 days to complete.

(https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/01/01/network-rail-pedestrian-bridge-empire-state-building/e)

Even allowing for the greater manpower available for the Empire State Building, it is absurd that merely renovating a much smaller house, and despite access to far newer technology, materials, whatnot, should take several times as long. (With similar remarks applying to the footbridge.) Again: I feel safe in assuming that the original time to build the same house, from scratch, was shorter or considerably shorter than the time taken for renovations.

German department-store crisis

The German department-store crisis seems unwilling to end: According to e.g. (in German) Tagesschaue, Galleria Karstadt Kaufhof is again insolvent and, as of 2024-01-09, in the approximate equivalent of “Chapter 11”.

(Older discussions include [1], [2], [3].)

This is the last major chain left after the merger of Karstadt and Kaufhof, it follows in the wake of existing plans to considerably reduce the number of stores, and could turn department stores into a niche phenomenon in Germany—much unlike even 1997, when I moved here, and very much unlike earlier days yet.

Of course, if and when this chain dies or shrinks enough, some new competitor(s) might arise and actually do something useful.

Uselessness and danger of digital evidence

As I have noted repeatedly in the past, e.g. in [1] and [2], digital evidence is highly problematic. A strong further indication that it should not be allowed in e.g. court proceedings is the horror of the British Horizon scandal, which became a major news item in January 2024.

Here, digital evidence from the faulty Horizon software was used in court to convict hundreds upon hundreds of (sub-)postmasters on charges like fraud—despite their innocence. (I do not guarantee, of course, that they all were, as even a blind hen occasionally finds a corn and such crimes occasionally do take place. The vast majority, however, appear to have been innocent.)

In a bigger picture, the scandal is also a good illustration of what can happen when the rights of the individual are neglected in favor of some organisation, collective, or whatnot. Ditto of what happens when technology is taken to be infallible. (Technology is created by highly fallible humans, which makes the idea of infallible technology ridiculous.)

Comics

A few texts dealt with comics, including [1], after considerable readings of Doctor Strange (DS).

Now in early 2024, I have spent some time reading old Spider-Man (SM) comics and I see a similar tendency as with DS. Beginning with the 1960s, I have read my way forward and am now, arrived in the late 1980s, uncertain whether to continue my readings, be it at all or “forwards”. (My readings of the covered decades is by no means complete, and I do not rule out that more readings of earlier works might take place, even should I not continue into the 1990s.) A potential watershed is the 1985 appearance of the tiresome “Secret Wars II” story lines and the beginning of the cross-over era. More symbolically, 1986 saw the 25th anniversary of Marvel Comics (by that name), and could be seen as the end of one meta-volume of comics and the beginning of another. (Marvel often divides its titles into volumes, which seem to match a single continuous publication, potentially of years or decades each.)

Notably, the cross-over and arc situation is far worse than with DS (note earlier complaints about e.g. the “Infinity” story lines). The character is spread over three titles and entire story lines jump from the one to the other in a highly chaotic manner, similar to e.g. the “Infinity” nonsense, but without the partial justification for the jump that characters “belonging” to different titles are involved. In addition, but more understandably, various long-term developments in the overall life of the main characters end up in different titles, which makes it harder to follow these developments. To make matters worse, there seems to be cases where no reading order gives all events in a consistent sequence.


Side-note:

I use “cross-over” in a sense of “involves more than one title”—not “involves more than one hero”. I have a very negative view of the former, but raise no objections to the latter.

(My feelings on overly long, poorly made, whatnot, arcs are discussed in several older texts.)


From a reader’s point of view, it would have been vastly better if the character had had one title with a higher publication rate and/or page count, or one main title supplemented by something like the earlier “Marvel Team-Up”. (The latter, based on my incomplete encounters, featured SM in a team-up with some varying other hero, in a separate story that only tangentially touched the overall life of SM. On at least one occasion, there was a team-up that did not feature SM at all.)

From a publisher’s point of view? Well, it might have made some readers buy issues of titles that they otherwise did not read, but whether this outweighed the damage in readability, reader loyalty, reader satisfaction, whatnot, that is more dubious. For younger subscription readers, we also have the issue of how to justify three different SM subscriptions to the parents. A single subscription with more issues per year, even at a higher price, would almost certainly have been easier to justify.

(A secondary issue with the multiple titles is that the quality of story became more uneven. Stories ranged from the truly excellent to the mediocre to the barely readable.)

One of my complaints in [1] was the graphical development of comics. Again, we have the same development, but with an unexpected twist. During my teenage readings, Todd McFarlane left a very favorable impression through his originality, the amount of detail, and a general “style” (for want of a better word). Thirty-ish years later and through a more discerning eye, I see McFarlane as a disaster—chaotic, erratic, untrue to the characters’ look, too far from what is a realistic drawing (even by the standards of comics), and even annoying in his style of drawing. (What causes the annoyance, I have not been able to pinpoint.) McFarlane-drawn issues might also be prime examples of putting too much emphasis on the graphics relative the story—the equivalent of a movie that drowns in special effects but has little to offer beyond those special effects and/or where the special effects draw too much attention away from the other components of the movie.

An interesting good use of graphics, however, was the Vulturions. As villains go, they were B-list, maybe even C-list, but the mixture of colored wings and sky brought a true additional value without interfering with e.g. readability and story.

A negative development was the increase of what some might refer to as “socially conscious” stories: Earlier SM had its share of stories dealing with e.g. racial issues, but usually in a restricted manner and with some intelligence. In the 1980s, there was an undue amount, many pushing a naive Leftist worldview, many distorting the reasonable views of others, etc., in a manner quite similar to what can be found in many modern TV shows. A particular disappointment was a story that first seemed to deal with the evils of terrorism, neglect of respect for civilian life, etc., based on the Irish situation—but where the ruthless terrorists turned out to be lackeys of evil capitalists and engaging in false flag operations to increase weapon sales. (Or some such—at this point I sighed, stopped reading, and tried to forget the entire story.)

I increasingly found myself skipping issues at the first sign of such agenda pushing, even at the risk that some later intelligence, value, whatnot in the stories might be missed. (This, of course, partially motivated by the extreme amount of such stories everywhere today. My metaphorical pain-threshold in this area has been lowered by the constant bombardment with Leftist hate, intolerance, and disinformation, especially of the Evil White Men type.)

A more specific negative is the various symbiote stories: I did not enjoy them as a teen; I do not enjoy them today. (That many of them were drawn by McFarlane was a partial saving grace back then and is an additional negative today.)


Side-note:

In the past, I have often used the name “Spiderman”. This arose through most of my exposure (until recently) having been in Swedish translation. Firstly, the character name is translated to “Spindelmannen”, without a hyphen. Secondly, most other English super-names that (a) were “-men”, and (b) reached my awareness, were not hyphenated. Note e.g. “Superman” and “Batman”. Likewise, but less important, regular names are typically not hyphenated in similar combinations. Note e.g. “Foreman”.

(I have a superficial impression that Marvel is/was more prone to hyphenation than DC, but this could be my imagination.)