Shortest Post Ever

… self-indulgent though, but just to add an update on the previous post.

My new personal website is  live:

elkement.subversiv.at

I have already redirected the root URLs of the precursor sites radices.net, subversiv.at and e-stangl.at. Now I am waiting for Google’s final verdict; then I am going to add the rewrite map for the 1:n map of old ASP files and new ‘posts’. This is also the pre-requisite for informing Google about the move officially.

The blog-like structure and standardized attributes like Open Graph meta tags and a XML sitemap should make my site more Google-likeable. With the new site – and one dedicated host name only – I finally added permanent redirects (HTTP 301). Before I used temporary (HTTP 302) redirects, to send requests from the root directory to subfolders, which (so the experts say) is not search-engine-friendly.

On the other hand the .at domain will not help: You can pick a certain country as preferred audience for a non-country domain, but I have to stick with Austria here, even if the language is set to English in all the proper places (I hope).

I have discovered that every WordPress.com Tag or Category has its own feed – just add /feed/ to the respective URLs – and I will make use this in order to automate some of my link curation, like this. This list of physics postings has been created from this feed of selected postings:
https://elkement.wordpress.com/category/science-and-technology/physics/feed/
Of course this means re-tagging and re-categorizing here! Thanks WordPress for the Tags to Categories (and vice versa) Conversion Tools!

It is fun to watch my server’s log files more closely. Otherwise I would have missed that SQL injection attack attempt, trying to put spammy links on my website (into my database):

SQL injection by spammer-hackers

Blog Cleanup – Raking the Virtual Zen Garden Again

I am proud owner of a full season of Monk on DVD, and as a child nobody ever had to tell me to tidy up my room. I indulged not only in cleaning my Lego(*) world with a fine paint brush but I rather re-organized all my belongings in Feng-Shui-meets-OCD-style quite often.
(*) Lego is a registered trademark… etc.

As a consequence I have raked my virtual Zen gardens often, too.

Zen Garden (Wikimedia)Now I have nearly replaced all the gravel in this Zen garden.

It’s not that I don’t re-tag and re-categorize often, making extensive use of WordPress’ Tags to Categories Converter that keeps the old links intact. But tags and categories did not do it for me. I have filtered my posts using those in order to group them, e.g. for sending this collection of “relevant links” to somebody else.

It is probably a shortcoming of this particular WordPress theme but other than using the search function it is not possible to create a concise list of posts, consisting just of headlines and the first few lines.

So I tried to create that views I wanted in the old way: I have now compiled so-called summary pages, listing all blog postings in a certain “main category”. I have just excluded reblogs. Any other article shows up at (at least) one of these new pages linked in the main menu.

As a consequence – as the menu bar now really, absolutely, positively says it all – I was able to shorten my extensive tagline which is now much shorter than the blog title.

I have absolutely enjoyed this task – as Zen as it can get.

All my web sites I have ever run are also experiments in exploring the interplay of structure and content. I believe it is nearly impossible to set up proper “categories” upfront so that you can just assign all posts you ever write to them later. Only bureaucrats believe the world works this way. I have some experience with so-called top-down web projects that end up in epic tombs of a structure nobody is ever bringing to life with “content” – because it is too rigid.

But some limitations may not be that bad after all: Boundaries force you to get creative at a new level to hack them and work around. In a twisted sense I love my personal websites’ schema that forces me to attach one main category to every article. It is as much fun as subverting a well-meant survey or questionnaire by using the fields in ways probably not expected by the designer.

Another interesting effect I noted again and again is that I enjoy commenting on my own posts, including self-parody. I find it most natural to reflect on old postings by adding a one-liner some months later. On my other sites I take self-reference to bizarre levels and comment on my old German posts in English or commented on comments on comments etc.

In summary, I think I (we?) write and blog in order to remember or discover who we are, were, or want to become. [This is the sort of clichéd statement I will for sure ridicule in a later meta-comment of mine.]

But to make this work – at least for me – I need to have a look at the old stuff from time to time, and I have to put old images into a new frame, or I need to attach virtual post-its that put everything in a new perspective.

Zen Garden (Wikimedia)

Intelligent Life-Forms in the Blogosphere – Again!

This post might baffle readers that come here for: science / physics / book reviews / corporate world dark satire / search term poetry / navel-gazing / self-destruction … (and the other genres I have forgotten).

However, I’d argue that this post covers all of those – in a subtle way.

My blog has a long tradition of dealing with blogging award nominations in a very very weird way. Still exhausted from our mad hatter’s tea party of a nomination (I also call it award crowd-sourcing) I had decided to found an award myself. Rules related to it should be bullet-proof, unassailable for logicians and corporate policy nitpickers. Above all, they should prevent exponential inflation.

Now is the time to bestow it upon a fellow blogger victim again!

I herewith nominate for the ILFB award – Intelligent Life-Forms in the Blogosphere:

Judy blogging at Raising the Curtain.

This is the description and the rules. Standards aficionados MAY recognize the format and SHOULD smile now.

The ILFB Award (Intelligent Life-Forms in the Blogosphere) rewards bloggers who are able to cover diverse subjects in a thoughtful and entertaining way. There are no other constraints such as a maximum number of followers.

  1. You are bestowed upon this award no matter what you do. You MAY deny passing on the award, the award will die out – as many life-forms did. You SHOULD nominate at least one blogger, you MAY nominate two bloggers. There is no deadline – you MAY wait for years if you pass on the award, but you MUST NOT nominate somebody if you haven’t been nominated. The founder of the award is exempt from the latter.
  2. You MAY nominate the blogger who has nominated you – the award MAY bounce back and forth between two bloggers forever. However, you MUST change the reason for the nomination every time.
  3. You MUST explain in more than one full sentence why you have nominated the nominee. You SHOULD reward bloggers who are able to write about at least two seemingly diverse subjects.
  4. You SHOULD reblog or pingback one of the nominee’s posts that has been published within the past year. The linked post SHOULD reflect key characteristics of the nominated blog.
  5. You MUST display the award’s logo, and you MAY change the title of the award as well as the logo. They would mutate anyway.
  6. If you find any inconsistency or loophole you SHOULD amend these rules to fix them.
  7. If the award title results in copyright infringements or any violation of any rights you MAY modify it. You MUST NOT hold the award’s founder liable.
  8. You MAY modify and amend rules 1.-7. to your liking as long as the changes
    – reflect your being an intelligent life-form in the blogosphere
    – are in line with the Prime Directive of this award – item no.0.
  9. Include this set of rules 0.-9. in your nomination speech post.

Compliance with the three MUST conditions as stated in 1., 2., and 5. will be checked by the founder of this award using his/her infamous googling skills at random. Any violation will be prosecuted and punished by a making the guilty party subject to a satirical blog post. Any blogger who had once been bestowed the award and who has proved to be compliant with the rules is entitled and encouraged to do the same (Google for non-compliant nominees and ridicule them)

This is the logo.

ILFB-Award-Intelligent-Life-Forms-in-the Blogosphere

As an homage to both Douglas Adams and Douglas Coupland I describe it as: Intelligent Life-Forms in the Blogosphere. The intelligent black life-form in his/her black ship is exploring a new blue world while the innocuous, white blogosphere is rising in the background. Nominees MAY omit that description but SHOULD add an interpretation of their own. (Image credit: The spaceship is from a black-and-white Microsoft Office Clipart – I hope this does not put anybody off. I added the blogosphere and the colors)

I think it is more than obvious why Judy is an intelligent life-form in the blogosphere. But in order to comply with my own rules I herewith state:

Judy writes about Life, the Universe and Everything so it is very easy to find posts on diverse subjects. She mulls about existential deep questions of life – see here Existential Guide to What I Am Doing Here – as wells as tracks down the illogicity of corporate animals’ behaviours – see her analysis of e-mail politics: Stop Using The “CC” As A Weapon.

Her writing shows a qualities that I admire most, especially when combined with sharp analysis – self-irony and humor.

But of course I have decided on that nomination intuitively. Off-the-records I tell you:

Judy has been the first person who has ever dared to comment on my blog. That point of time was several months after the blog went public, so commenting must have felt like entering an eerie ghost ship.

I also have a strong gut feeling that her professional self MAY appreciate the legal lingo of the rules. (On proof-reading I misread now: lethal lingo)

This post is also a subversive attempt of mine to deal with her – still ‘open’ – nomination of myself. So, thanks again, Judy!

And finally: Judy is from Australia, that means she is my blogging antipode, we are separated by 12 time zones and our countries are linguistically entangled by the Austrian-Australian confusion.

We should try to make an earth sandwich! (I did not check co-ordinates – hopefully I will be forced to travel to the Canary Islands.)

My Reading List

This blog has been inspired by books more often than not. When I crafted the first version of my personal website many years ago, a database of my favorite books was one of the first things I added and changed frequently.

For better or for worse – I organize my thoughts and my websites in relation to books I have read or pick books in order to find new ways to articulate what is on my subconscious mind.

Based on the feedback on my recent post about favorite books 2013 I am now keeping

a chronological list of what I am reading.

It is experimental und I might make changes to layout and the organization of items often.

I can’t deny that I have been inspired by The Great Curators, Farnam Street and Brain Pickings. I will never reach their professional level of productivity in digesting and reviewing books – but I can relate a lot to the idea of starting your intellectual adventures from well-articulated accounts given by others.

As a so-called knowledge worker I feel that there is already so much ‘out there’ that the task of the day is not to try to be that original, but to consolidate, re-arrange, or – as they say today – curate existing knowledge. In passing, this might solve my issues with finding my ideas and life too cliché.

It might also give proof to my theory of using social media in bursts. In 2012 and in 2013 I have written some opinionated posts – based on thoughts that were given several years to ripen. I was reliving several career transitions in time lapse.

But I cannot add anything really new or urgent for the moment. I had experienced the same when I setup my personal websites. Hence I also believe the usability or interactivity of the web platform does not matter. I ‘blog’ in pure text and without the technical option to get likes and comments if I feel the need to write.

I did not think a second when I invented my blog’s title. It is of course much too long but I consider it remarkably apt. I try to make weird connections between different things, many of them sciencey.

In summary I felt the urgent need to setup that page as I indulge in keeping blogging a related ‘research’ activities an experiment. I don’t try to put forward a theory here – this is simply how my mind works.

So 2014 might become the year I turn even more to book-inspired essays – but I don’t at all turn this into a managed project with deadlines and to-do lists.

And now I will commit a mortal sin in blogging and not add an image here. You might see an inappropriate ad as I pay for tweaking my style sheets but I don’t pay for the no-ads upgrade.

Stargate: Succumb to the Power of the Ritual

Thanks for your prayers, voodoo magic, encouraging tweets or other tweaking the fabric of our multiverse:

Yesterday I have passed my final exams and defence – I did very well, and I am a Master of Science in Sustainable Energy Systems now. As the sensationalist title indicates I tried to play it cool but finally was nervous as you simply have to be nervous. Exams like this are setup as rituals and you should take the chance and feel the illusion of passing through a wormhole.

Edit: The title of my thesis was Security Architectures of Smart Metering Solutions. I add this based on a question in a comment as I had forgotten to mention it. So the following statement has been proven correct.

I am too exhausted to write anything coherent so I will provide you with some random factoids and opinions:

  • Rumors. People had speculated on G+ if my degree is in physics or ‘some sort of rocket science’. Unfortunately not – just down-to-earth engineering peppered with law and politics. I graduated in physics a long time ago.
  • Vanity. Many Austrian technical or science programmes continue to issue the traditional title of Diplomingenieur instead of Master of Science. I assume the rationale is to distinguish technical degrees from so-called post-graduate MSc degrees which don’t require you to hold a bachelor’s degree (similar to MBA degrees). DI has ever been a shortcut for ‘this person passed something hard and quantitative’. I am biased enough – I happily agree with this practice. So in all its glory my set of titles reads now:
    Dipl.-Ing. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.
  • (Did I tell you that this is going to be a rather self-serving post?)
  • Random Reference to this Blog’s Title: Preparing for exams and defense I got as close as possible to combining anything: I really enjoyed reading old physics text books and popular science books on foundations of physics in parallel to engineering text books and legal texts.
  • (Did I mention I hate anything close to ‘teach to the test’, standard questions, minimizing learning efforts, centralized quality management of education and the like?)
  • Fluffy Ideals. I strongly believe in the vision and the necessity of combining a well-rounded education with learning down-to-earth skills while keeping your curiosity and at the same time meeting formal requirements and having to prove yourself.
  • Self-Made. Contradicting myself – blame it on residual adrenalin! – I am also an advocate of learning-on-the-job, being not at all impressed by degrees and judging others based on demonstrated skills. After all, I have worked successfully in IT without having acquired any formal qualification. I don’t count vendor-specific multiple-choice based certifications – yet I still think that people who make fun about those exams should take the tests themselves in passing if they believe it’s so easy.
  • Education. Probably ‘education’ will become a future pet topic of mine on this blog – I have been a life-long learner, very often in a formal academic setting, and I have been some sort of (part-time, moonlighting) teacher since nearly 25 years: starting as a tutor as a physics master student, teaching all kinds of physics lectures and hands-on labs as a graduate student, then working as a trainer in IT for very diverse audiences – from unemployed people with no technical background to international IT experts in a very specific field –  until I gave an IT security lecture at a university until 2011. Despite my horror of participating in anything resembling an association or a committee I even served on boards concerned with curriculum design and strategy for two times. I should have to say something about education. But for now I have decided that I am more than happy to being neither a student nor a teacher in any organized settings – no classrooms, no agendas, no exams!
  • Freedom. I am grateful for the freedom I had in picking the subject of the master thesis: I wrote about smart metering and security (thus deliberately not picking anything directly related to the heat pump stuff I was working on). I think I have now – once for all – reconciled all my ambitions in IT, physics and engineering.
  • Subversion. Officially I am not allowed to use the new title until the graduation ceremony. So probably this post contains illegal content. But after picturing myself as such as conformist collector of degrees I need to throw in something subversive.
  • More Rituals and More Subversion. The graduation ceremony and related culture might deserve a post in its own right. You (American readers) might be surprised to hear that students here had not worn academic gowns until recently. We re-imported that tradition from the US as young people enjoy graduation ceremonies in US movies – as those students are unaware of the history of the European student riots in 1968 that have eradicated academic icons and symbols. In Germany there even weren’t any ceremonies at all. Currently I think I will not wear that fancy costume as I don’t open the door on Halloween either.
Pendulum 90 degree

A pendulum swinging 90 degrees to the left and right. Sorry, this is the most unconventional image related to ‘degree’ I can come up with now. My subconsciousness might have selected it as I will return to more no-nonsense physics and science posts.

Edit: Oh wow – this was the 100th post on this blog. I haven’t noticed that before! There is something like true coincidence!

Edit 2: I did not mention what my thesis was about – thanks Dave for asking. The title was: Security architectures of smart metering solutions.

Philosophical Counseling: Call for Volunteers

Interrupting my blogging break for breaking news: Fellow blogger and philosophy PhD Dan Mullin is about to launch a philosophical counseling practice. He is looking for volunteers who want to try out philosophical counseling – Dan is offering free Skype sessions in August.
Read the comments, too, and follow the links!

What Is Normal? (My Way of Announcing Blogging Time-Out)

In my single attempt of crafting Error Message Poems I have tried to remember the best Out-of-Office note I have ever received – musing on not being able to get back to me as quick as normally, and culminating in the philosophical question:

But – what is normal?

Probably this is one of the hidden, leading questions that have driven this blog ever since I started it in March 2012. Is it normal to blog regularly? Is it normal to have ideas on a regular basis? Is it normal to follow more and more virtual conversations – not only on WordPress but on other social networks as well?

Nassim Taleb’s books have reminded me reminded of antifragility being grounded in burst-like patterns. At least this is the way I would summarize it. A mundane example is the alleged positive effect of irregular physical training – such as long walks alternating with extreme workouts – both unscheduled.

I would like to continue ridiculing those home-story-style articles about famous persons (One day in the life of…) who manage their lives in such a swift way and who are able to add utmost regularity to the universe’s imponderables. Who get up at 4:00 to mediate in their Zen-like garden, taking the first important business decision at 5:00 – such as acquiring a hot tech start-up in passing – by firing off an e-mail on your smart phone, driving their kids to school at 7:00 while having a conf call with your VPs … etc.

Thus I would embark on an experiment I have pondered about for a long time – I owe to these two posts that finally make me pull the trigger.
(Pull the trigger… what a metaphor. NSA, did you hear that? And I go into hiding. A non-blogging sleeper cell.)

I will unplug myself from social media in the next 2 – 4 months. (This is an estimate in terms of order of magnitude – 100 months)

Don’t panic.

I won’t disappear, I will follow-up on your blogs – but most likely more randomly than I did in the last months, and I will respond to comments.

I will resort to something like a monthly update – as I can’t bear a number of zero posts per months in the blog’s archive. WordPress is still my favorite network.  Probably I will appear more radical as a Facebook, Google+ or Twitter user, as a monthly tweet is like not tweeting at all. I have been on these networks now for less than a year and after intense participation (intense in terms of the accumulated impacts of the sum of those networks). In contrast to other social media users with erratic posting habits I will rather leave an OOF message and clean-up.

Facebook users: I have deactivated posts to my timeline, and tightened the who-can-see-what settings despite or because my birthday is looming. I need to retain some level of integrity when ranting about liking and sharing confessional automata.

There is no particular earth-shattering reason for that – or this is exactly a reason in its own right: I want to challenge myself by unplugging, by reducing input. In a weird sense I am reconnecting with my very first post about my social media denial.

I will even reduce my frequency of devouring books – sorry for that, Amazon.com (or probably I don’t want the NSA follow-up on my Kindle collections).

I am moderately busy, I have some other deadlines, but nothing that couldn’t be handled, and I could of course come up with some posts in the way the social media experts recommend: Recycling content, old posts – and I should have kept some articles in my stores of things to be posted when I have run out of ideas. But I even haven’t run out of ideas.

Since this might be the front post of this blog for some weeks, I would like to add self-serving links to related posts that I do not recycle now.

After a break I am rather sure I will continue to write about:

My most recent posts have told me something weird and I need to think about that:

Probably I over-emphasize aspects and arguments for the sake of those arguments. I am not at all that concerned with the Evil or Corporate or the Devastating Effect of Gamification, for example. Actually, in the moment I could not care less about these in the real live. It is rather my blogging avatar who has seized opportunities. This avatar is adding a filter that enhances contrast, for the sake of entertainment, or for the sake of making an argument a real argument. Any hyperbole and sarcasm comes in handy.

Nevertheless, it does not feel like dishonesty though.

And this is not at all meant self-critical – I like these posts more than my balanced ones.

I just need to think about that, and by thinking I mean the thing that goes on in your unplugged brain when you are not talking or writing. Probably exactly when you force yourself not to talk or write.

You get ideas from writing and interacting with others, but in the other hand there is a chance of getting trapped in a social media bubble of like-minded people. Finally it is a matter of available time – I admit I would not read blogs I strongly disagree with.

I feel the last sentence in this post should be sticky and remarkable – and exactly because of that I will not add a final statement at all.

snail-and-slug

I have stumbled upon these in the garden recently. I am convinced the universe wanted to tell me something, and I will decode it.