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

Djokovic/tennis

Novak Djokovic was a recurring topic, especially, with an eye at GOAT-hood and the unfair treatment that he suffered during the COVID-countermeasure era.

With the ongoing 2024 French Open, it is time to revisit a statement from [1]:

However, due to Djokovic’s advancing age, I make no claims about how his career will continue. His 2023 is another exclamation mark, but age can hit fast once it does hit (ditto e.g. injuries and lack of motivation), Alcaraz is a very legitimate challenger, several other youngsters show potential, and I would not be surprised to see Djokovic lose his first place on the ATP ranking during 2024—and this time both legitimately and permanently. Then again, I would not be surprised to see him remain on top either.

As is, he has remained on top almost to the half-way mark of 2024, but will, at the end of the FO, drop from number one on the ranking in a legitimate manner. (Possibly, as far down as number 3, depending on yet outstanding matches.)

While I have not followed the detailed news, his post-AO 2024 has, to date, consisted of a mixture of mediocre performances and skipped tournaments, leading up to a walk-over in the French Open due to a knee injury. While this knee injury saw a near immediate and successful operation, Djokovic might also miss the Wimbledon. Factor in the many points to defend in the second half of 2024, and a return to number one before around this time next year seems unlikely—even age aside. Factor in age, noting that Djokovic will be 38 by then, the “permanently” seems likely to join the “legitimate[ly]”.

Slightly surprisingly, measured against [1], his successor as number one will be Sinner, not Alcaraz: the former has had a great year-to-date, and is a very worthy replacement, while the latter has been hampered by continued injury issues. (Something quite troubling in someone so young.)


Addendum:

(2024-06-09)

Alcaraz won the tournament, implying that Djokovic is now third and that things are looking up for Alcaraz again. However, he has a Wimbledon victory to defend and might lose his second place simply by not repeating that victory.

Zverev, who gave Nadal a first-round loss, lost the final over five sets, pointing to a great deal of bad luck for Nadal in terms of first-round opponent. An interesting oddity: Nadal has four losses at the FO, not counting a walk-over, of which three were to the eventual runner-up (!), one to the eventual champion. (The most likely explanation is pure chance, but it is plausible that beating Nadal at the FO is more indicative of Nadal being below his normal level than of oneself having exceeded that level.)


Illness

(Sensitive stomachs might want to skip this.)

Last year, I wrote about a weird illness.

Beginning shortly after midnight 2024-04-27, I experienced an equally odd illness, with a good dose of sickness, in the proper sense, thrown in. The cause, based on rapidity of onset and shortness of duration, might be some type of food poisoning, but I cannot recall eating anything out of the ordinary and I have never had food poisoning based on something prepared by myself or not in need of preparation beyond the state it was bought in. With other cases of food poisoning, I have also spent much more time in the bathroom. As to other illnesses, I had had no recent particular exposure to the germs of others: I had visited a grocery store the day before, but the likelihood of catching something in that manner is comparatively low.


Side-note:

Here, as usual, I use food poisoning in a wide sense, as I am not aware of a good “catch all” term.

For the below, it was genuinely somewhat cold indoors, at around 15 degrees centigrade, as April had taken an unexpected turn for the worse, but it was no colder than the day before, when I had no problems getting along. On the contrary, I might grow a bit too warm when in bed on such days.


I soon became queasy and began to shake very strongly with cold, despite tucking myself into bed very well. Several visits to the bathroom followed, with mild diarrhea. As a security measure, I even brought a bucket back to bed, in case I would have an urgent need to throw up. The bucket went unused, but I did throw up into the sink during a later bathroom visit. I went through the rest of the night and the morning in a mixture of poor sleep, attempts to sleep, and attempts to distract myself with various forms of entertainment, followed by some further hours of better sleep in the evening. The shaking lasted for a long time (how long, I do not know), but was eventually replaced with a slight fever or other borderline over-heating—to the point that I, for some periods, cut my blankets down to what I usually use in the summer.

By now, a bit after midnight a day later, I am mostly fine again, the main current issue being a loss of appetite. (Despite eating nothing solid, not counting a pain pill, in the intervening time. A few big cups of milk, some water, and a single cup of coffee during the day, followed by a cup of pour-hot-water-on-them-to-prepare quasi-mashed potatoes shortly before beginning this text. Even for that one cup, I had to force myself to eat.) There is some remaining queasiness and weakness, but not comparable to earlier. A particular annoyance is that I still feel sleepy, and might have accumulated a sleep deficit even with the hours that I did sleep.

A few further observations:

  1. I was for parts quite weak physically, to the point that I, on one occasion, almost lost my balance when standing up from the floor because my muscles did not act like they normally do. (I have a somewhat Japanese sleeping arrangement.) The cup that I used for drinking felt outright heavy: I just, now closer to full strength, compared lifting the one cup with lifting two of the same kind, and the two felt about as heavy as the one had back then. And this when the cups were empty—a cup filled with e.g. milk was heavier still.

  2. I was quite confused for some stretches, found it very hard to focus on my attempts at entertainment, and did not think clearly.

  3. For some time in the evening, I had an odd tingling feel in my hands, combined with some numbness. This might have been explained by my sleeping with a hand or lower arm beneath me, which happens occasionally. However, such feelings usually disappear much faster and have, for natural reasons, only affected one hand at a time. Moreover, to my recollection, this began at a time when I was not waking up from sleep or otherwise might have been resting on a hand.


    Side-note:

    This is similar too, but not as strong as, the progress from a “sleeping” limb to an “awake” limb. The issues overlap, but my own cases of sleeping on a hand or lower arm sometimes result in a full “sleep”, sometimes just in some numbness/tingling and a temporary reduction in grip strength.


  4. When waking up in the morning, and again shortly after noon, I found the text on my computer hard to read, as if the screen was too pale. I do not know, however, whether this was related to the illness or a result of more light coming in the window than during the past more-than-half-a-year. (And I do have the backlight set well below the “factory default”, as this is usually much too light, presumably geared at showing off in a well-lit electronics store, as opposed to use in e.g. an apartment.) Right now, feeling better and working in the middle of the night, I have no such problem.

  5. I took a brief shower (“rinse”, might be the better word) in the afternoon and, to my surprise, found that a feeling of being sweaty and itchy followed the shower. It might be that I had sweated sufficiently much, or that the time since the previous shower had been long enough, to block the corresponding signals of irritation, that these were reactivated by the shower, and that the shower had been too brief to remove the underlying cause of the signals. (For reasons discussed elsewhere, I do not have hot running water, which made me very reluctant to take a more thorough shower, and/or to take repeated showers, while ill. This the more so on a very-cold-for-April day.)

  6. For one reason or another, I found it much easier to appreciate music and, in particular, spot details of music. This was likely in part because I, on other days, mostly listen to music in parallel with reading, only turning my full attention to the music for some particularly good piece; however, I suspect that something in my confused state of mind made me more accessible to music. For instance, I woke up to “All you need is love” and I have never enjoyed it as much (by the standards of the Beatles, it has never felt special). This was followed by “Bohemian Rhapsody” and it has been many years since I enjoyed it as much. (It is a truly great song, but I have heard it so often over the years that it now usually leaves me with a “blah”. This time around, it was almost as if I heard it for the first time.) At some later time, I heard “Kung-fu Fighting” from some hits-of-the-1980s album—and this, too, was good, while my take until then had been mostly negative, to the point that I had often just skipped over the song. It will be interesting to see how these songs fare on the next encounter and whether I might draw some lessons for better future appreciation of music.

    (In all cases with reservations for the exact name and capitalization of the song titles.)


Addendum:

As of 2024-04-30, I am much better, but my appetite is still weak and my sleeping patterns are still disturbed, with much loss of time. I suspect a problem of reaching REM sleep too rarely during the earlier days, which might then have created an effective sleep-deficit, even at an accumulated 8-ish hours per day. The sight and hand issues, in particular, have not recurred.

(However, too much time in bed has given me some discomfort, including a stiff neck.)

Weight-wise, I was at 220 pound a few days before the onset, 217 on the 28th, and 216 yesterday and today. I am a little surprised that I have not bounced back faster, as I expect the loss to have been mostly water and food-in-processing, but I doubt that it will be very long.

The temperature has turned around entirely, with indoor temperatures, so far, topping out slightly above 20 degrees centigrade, with outdoor temperatures as high as 25. This has brought two paradoxical situations where I woke up, took a (proper) shower, was awake for a few hours, found myself sleepy, and, after a few hours of new sleep, was so sweaty that I urgently needed to shower again, because I had erred on the side of too many covers.

As of 2024-05-21, I am long back in shape, but I did have some problems well beyond 2024-04-30, notably, in the form of lack of energy and unreliable sleep. In this, this illness showed yet another parallel with the previous illness. My weight might have bounced back around a week after the 2024-04-30 remarks (I did not keep exact notes).


Bad-joke days

A number of texts deal with days that appear to be a bad joke from above, including (but not limited to) problems with e.g. USB, Android, and search engines. (A list of links will have to wait, even at the risk of some of the below being hard to understand without prior context.)

Today (2024-04-19), we have yet another such day:

  1. The USB cable issues have re-surfaced and I now have the problem that the USB connection between my smartphone and my computer is terminated at the slightest “provocation”. I then have to fiddle around until there is a connection again, which, most of the time, is lost at the moment that I put the phone back down, forcing me to start over.


    Side-note:

    I use the smartphone for Internet access through tethering. A lost USB connection loses me the Internet connection.

    The problem, as discussed in older texts, is that a slight movement of the USB connector (often, on the smartphone side; rarely, on the computer side) causes the computer to view the device as detached. In a next step, the device is sometimes immediately re-attached, but often with loss of e.g. the Internet connection until a manual intervention takes place, while it otherwise remains detached until the USB-plug has been pulled and re-inserted.

    There can be weeks without problems (likely, through luck in the exact positioning of the phone relative the cable), followed by weeks with problems. As long as I wait for the problem to go away, it seems, the problems continue; as soon as I decide to buy a replacement phone with a USB-C connector (which, supposedly, is far less likely to have such problems), the problems go away and I am lured into a false sense of security for the next few weeks.

    (And, no, neither the USB-cable nor the USB-socket has been damaged, beyond, maybe, the wear and tear through the many repeated manipulations.)


  2. During some manipulation earlier today, the background noise that I play from the smartphone to a soundbar died for no discernible reason. I had to pick up the phone again, which, of course, lost me the Internet connection. I restored the sound, only to find it going away again ten minutes later, because a file that I played on a loop was no longer on a loop. I restored the sound again, again losing my Internet connection.


    Side-note:

    A problem with smartphones is the often over-sensitive touchscreen in combination with an often random user interface, which can cause very unexpected events to take place. The previous phone that I used was quite bad in this regard; the current is, at least, better.

    Likewise, on rare occasions things just randomly happen without user interaction of any kind. (Again, my current smartphone is better than its predecessor.)


    Ten minutes later, the sound switched to some other file, because the loop was now not over the single file but (somehow) over all files. Restore sound, lose Internet connection.

    This was made harder by the idiotic symbols used by the player, VLC, that I have installed, which uses very little text, many icons, and much obscurity. Notably, there are at least two variations of the “loop symbol”, differing only in color. The one appears to repeat the file at hand; the other some greater amount of files. (Exactly what criterion is used is unclear, but my best guess is all sound and movie files are included, as the file at hand is the only one in its directory.) Now, how the hell am I supposed to know what color has what implication?!? Is is so bloody hard to just put out a text of “Looping file”, “Looping all files”, or whatever might apply?!? (Screen space is not an issue.)

    (To this must be added some other weird problems, e.g. that the Bluetooth connection is occasionally lost, for no discernible reason, and that any reactivation of the connection arbitrarily, counter-intuitively, almost absurdly, puts the player on pause. A redundant step of manually unpausing the player is then needed, which might be followed by further steps, e.g. ensuring that the volume control has not moved from its correct position. And, no, the player is not paused when the connection is lost, which might have been a legitimate behavior—only when it is re-established.)

  3. I did a few Internet searches to see whether there was a way to e.g. control VLC from my computer per ADB.

    Now, I was not optimistic about such a possibility, but the question was academic, as I found myself in search-engine hell: No matter my searches, I ended up with search results like:

    1. How to install ADB!

    2. How to install ADB!

    3. How to install ADB for Microsoft Windows!

    4. What is ADB?

    5. How to install ADB!

    6. How to use ADB from the command line!

    7. How to install ADB!

    8. How to install ADB for MacOS!

    9. How to use ADB to [do something completely irrelevant to my search]!

    (With the exact type of pollution depending on the exact query. The above gives the right idea, however.)

    I note my past complaints about the low relevance of search results, how many search hits are prioritized (by the search services) over honesty about having few relevant hits, etc. A particular annoyance is that the more specific my queries are (i.e., in an objective sense, better, because they would allow me to find results with a higher relevance), the worse the search results. Presumably, search engines see that specific queries lead to “too few” results and compensate by ignoring search terms or by throwing relevance out the window—but what matters is the number of relevant hits.

    A further complication is the time wasted to go through a part of the list to see whether it contains relevant hits. If hits are few-but-relevant, I can just open links. If no relevant hits are found, I can read the “Sorry, no hits were found for your query!” and immediately move on. When I get a screenful of irrelevant hits, however, I have to check whether at least one or two of them might be relevant.

    Fucking insanity!

Elster/the German IRS

Introduction

The German IRS and the prescribed tool for tax declarations and whatnots, Elster, are both absolute and utter disasters, through a mixture of inexcusable incompetence and inexcusable disregard for the citizens/tax-payers/users.

(This even the outrageous taxes by side. They, too, are inexcusable, but move on a different dimension, where the politicians, not the IRS, are to blame. I do note that the IRS and Elster is a point where the politicians really could do some good, but that they have chosen to leave the IRS to its own devices—instead they meddle in endless other corners where they, often, do more harm than good.)

A great number of my old Wordpress texts deal with these topics. (Links will be added at some point. Right now, I am still too frustrated with the 2023 tax declaration, cf. below, to go through the trouble.)

Going by the past, there will be at least one update per year, beginning with the declaration for 2023 (submitted in 2024).

The 2023 declaration

Here the annoyances began even before I started on the declaration. A few weeks earlier, I received notification that the certificate used for authentication was about to expire and that I needed to renew it by 2024-04-07, at the latest. This did not only imply more work, but would, in a normal year, have involved either two separate visits or that a major schedule change for the tax declaration was made. (As is, I had no inputs to make, still being on a sabbatical, making the schedule change, per se, painless.)

Now, that an occasional certificate renewal takes place might well be sensible. However, a better way must be available, e.g. in that the deadline coincides with the yearly deadline for the tax declaration (=> the user can renew whenever he happens to work on the tax declaration), or, within reasonable limits, that the renewal is connected to the next login. Likewise, some type of “pre-renewal” would be conceivable, in that someone who submits the tax declaration can still choose to renew the certificate, even should it not be about to expire. (Such a way might or might not already be present, but, if so, is not well announced and the user would be forced to keep track of the expiry himself. Imagine, instead, if every login was accompanied by a display that indicated the remaining lifetime of the certificate and gave an option to “Renew now!”.)

Come 2024-04-06, I went to work, renewed my certificate, and continued to the actual tax declaration. For this, I needed three forms (this year):

  1. VAT: I should have been able to just import last year’s data and then submit. This was not possible, as my city and postal code had not been imported. I now had to re-enter this data, which include a brief search for the actual postal code (which I use too rarely to have memorized). Apart from the annoyance factor, this likely more than doubled the time needed for this form. (And would definitely have done so, except for the awkward interface, which slows regular work down considerably.)

    The problem is the more absurd, as the address is present elsewhere too, and the additional entry in the VAT form was already a pointless redundancy.

    (Throughout, note that both 2022 and 2023 were sabbatical years, implying that I had no VAT, income, expenses, whatnot to declare. Otherwise, the values actually relevant for each subsequent year naturally have to be added.)

  2. EüR (a profit calculation): Again, I should have been able to just import and submit. In reality, there were several complaints of missing values and similar, which more than doubled the overall time spent on the tax declaration—and still ended in failure.

    This began with the “Rechtsform” (an identifier of the type of business, e.g. as a private person, a limited-liability company, or whatnot; I cannot find a good English term on short notice). A value was present from the year before, but was spuriously and arbitrarily rejected. I tried with several other values; these were also rejected. (In all cases, with an error message that amounted to “missing value”. And, no, the way Elster works, I could only have had the wrong field if Elster had indicated the wrong field.)

    I tried to fix some other errors relating to revenue and whatnot. That a separate entry of these must be made can be sensible as they usually vary from year to year. (I am a special case, but I note that the VAT form had no such problem.) However, there was no obvious way to make an entry, not even through entering a dummy entry/position of a specific type of revenue with a 0 amount. (The overall amounts are calculated from individual positions.) All conceivably relevant buttons and fields were grayed out and did not react to my clicks.

    I gave up and, instead, added a note to the third form (cf. below) about this problem and how the IRS would have to take responsibility for its own errors. (I can already foresee how this will play out: the IRS will categorically refuse to take such responsibility, and I will either be stuck with the need for a renewed redundant visit or suffer some type of spurious fine. Since chances further are that the IRS will not react before the deadline, if at all, it might well be that I receive a blanket fine without any treatment of my case.)

  3. Finally, the “overall” tax declaration. Surprisingly, this worked without a hitch, except for the need to write that note. At least one issue was obvious, even with my minimal entries: The IRS insisted that values that were already known to the IRS, including health-insurance costs be redundantly added to the form. (As the last one or two years, I left the old imported values in and simply pointed out the IRS already knew the real values.)

Around this, I had the additional issue that I had to move away from my very comfortable work in the Linux console to use X and Firefox, had to find and attach a mouse, etc. This cost me some additional unnecessary time. True, this is not strictly speaking an IRS issue, but the IRS could handle the inputs better, either by allowing entry through a text browser or through submitting XML documents that can be edited in the console. Moreover, independent of the reason, this is an additional annoyance leading in to an activity that I already know will be very annoying. There have been worse years, especially when I actually have to make considerable entries, where the tax declaration has literally ruined my mood for an entire day—on top of the effort wasted on the actual declaration.

Woke casting

Introduction

I have repeatedly written about woke casting and other problems, e.g. in [1], [2], [3].

(If I have not mentioned it elsewhere, a prediction in [1] came true—“The Winchesters” was cancelled after the first season.)

A Gentleman in Moscow

Today (2024-03-31), I watched the first episode of “A Gentleman in Moscow”. This episode shows some early experiences of a (fictional?) Count Rostov in the post-revolutionary Russia, including his being condemned never to leave a certain hotel and, in that hotel, being removed from regular guest quarters to an old servants room. A friend of his is shot for no other apparent reason than that his death was wished for by the regime: the friend is grabbed as he plays the violin in the hotel, in front of an audience, the violin is smashed, he is dragged onto the street, and shot in public.

While the episode deals with Communist Russia, there are great parallels to what goes on in the world today, including the destruction of arts (of which the violin smashing could be seen as symbolic), spurious imprisonment, per- and/or prosecution based on being the wrong thing or having the wrong opinions, whatnot—often exactly at the hand of the woke. (To date, modern events have been far less drastic, but they differ in quantity, not quality, and there is not telling where me might yet end, unless trends are turned with sufficient force.) This while the confinement to the hotel rings an obvious bell of COVID-countermeasure.

Nevertheless, this episode, which could be seen as an indirect critique of the woke and large parts of the modern Left in general, exemplifies woke miscasting.

So far, there have been no Blacks in major parts, but there have been several Blacks in a Russian setting where they would have been extremely rare, including a man in an early court-room scene, who was repeatedly singled out for a face shot. (So prominent was he, in fact, that I assumed that he would play a larger part later in the episode. This did not happen, but I would be unsurprised if this changes at a later point of the series.) There has also been several other unusual (by historical Russian standards) looking characters, including what might be an Indian barber.

This while, to my layman’s eye, the actual racial/ethnic diversity that might more realistically have been present has not been reflected.

In a next step, we have the puzzling woke demand that this-or-that part must be cast with someone with the right credentials (e.g. that an Aspie character must be played by an Aspie actor, a homosexual character by a homosexual actor), which oddly does not extend to characters naturally White. Cast a Russian with a Black actor, or a Russian with a Scottish actor (Ewan McGregor as the count), and everything is in order—but cast someone non-White with a White actor and the world ends. (Note e.g. criticisms of the movies “Gandhi” and “Gods of Egypt”, and of various depictions of Jesus on screen.)

And all this while no-one reflects on the choice of language. Why should, as here, Russians speak English? Why (“Gods of Egypt”) ancient Egyptians speak English? Why (various Jesus depictions) an ancient Jew speak English?


Side-note:

As to what Jesus, and other characters in the same works, would have spoken is a point of some debate, and could have varied in a multilingual society, e.g. in that Jesus spoke predominantly Aramaic, someone else Greek, yet someone else Latin, etc. Modern English, however, is not a candidate.

(My memories of “Gandhi” are too vague for a strong claim, but chances are that some-to-much of the use of English actually was realistic.)


This use of English is a far more legitimate point of complaint for those with a genuine, non-ideological, drive to improve TV and movies—much unlike various woke casting decisions. The reason that this complaint is not made, might simply be that most woke-sters are too poor readers to handle subtitles. (As well as unlikely to be very proficient in foreign languages; however, having mastered the right foreign language for a certain work can be a matter of luck even for the multi-lingual.)

The lack of protests against English, as well as the asymmetry in “ethnic” casting criticism, is a strong sign that the issue is not truly a matter of reaching some ideal of “fairness” or “accuracy”, but of selectively favoring and disfavoring specific societal groups.


Side-note:

While my overall impression was favorable, I have not yet made up my mind whether to watch the rest of the series. Depending on whether I do and on what is shown, I might or might not make updates to the above.

The series appears to be based on a book, with which I am not familiar. (And statements about casting must be seen with a reservation that the real problem could be that the author was more politically than historically correct; however, based on previous experiences, the TV makers are a far more likely source of problems. Moreover, if the author were to blame, it would not alter the underlying problem—just who were to blame.)


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.


Addendum:

As of 2024-05-21, the building is still not done.


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.)