F*ck COVID

Thanks for opening this article because or despite of the click-bait heading. I’m sorry about the title if it offends you, but I hope over the course of the article I can clarify how I mean it. Regarding the curse word itself, I’m German, and in my language this is not a big deal – I still put the asterisk in there, hoping that’s more acceptable. 🙂

This post is a very emotional, contradictory, and honest attempt to capture my personal impressions, thoughts, and feelings during this pandemic. If you are worried about this being a conspiracy article, rest assured it isn’t. If you were looking for a conspiracy article, I’m sorry. This is really just a personal dump of thoughts – maybe some of this will sound controversial, maybe you’ll disagree on some points, but hopefully you’ll find things you agree with too.

Accepting the reality of coronavirus

As you may know, I moved across the big pond, from Switzerland to California, in early February – so I basically had a month before COVID-19 arrived here on a large scale. I have to admit, I was initially very sceptical of it. But I also have to admit I was proven wrong.

When WordCamp Asia was cancelled at the end of February, it was certainly a bummer, probably for all of us. To a certain degree it was also a relief for me, because I would have had a connection through Hong Kong which at that point was already highly affected by the virus. I honestly wasn’t that afraid to even catch the virus, but I was afraid that maybe they would not let me re-enter the US again because the travel restrictions were all a big unknown at this point – which I would not want to imagine how terrible this would have been, just two weeks after I had originally arrived here.

I was never someone who followed the news much (this really helps my personal sanity, I have to say), but of course the topic of COVID-19 was so omnipresent that I was still getting a sense of what was happening. I knew there were cases in the US, including some in San Francisco specifically, but at that point I was certainly underestimating the impact. Over the years I have become very wary of the media making people panic, and one specific reason for that has been the fact that every couple of years, the news would heavily report about some virus, causing people in the world to panic – without any such virus ever becoming a real threat. To be clear, I don’t doubt by any means that other viruses such as SARS are or were real and had a terrible impact on parts of the world. However, my problem was with how the media made people freak out about something that was never going to have an effect on their life because they lived in a completely different part of the world. For a long time, I would carry on these impressions about COVID-19 as well.

In early March, at Google we were told to work from home. When that happened, my initial reaction was really that this was getting way too far. How the heck are people overreacting so much? Or am I just completely delusional here? That was really what I thought back then – if you’re going to judge me for that, please do, I hope you don’t. Turns out it was probably more towards me being delusional back then. It was also super-bad timing because basically the first day I had to work from home was also the day I moved into my new apartment. At that point, the only furniture I had was a mattress to sleep, a TV (priorities, I guess 🙃), and two cheap balcony chairs and a low balcony table that I had spontaneously bought the day before at Target. So I sat on one of the chairs inside, laptop on my lap (after all, that’s what it’s named after right), taking video meetings standing by my kitchen counter. I was still going out at the time, and I had to hear some comments on how this may not be a good idea, which really bugged me – I hope you are not going to judge me for that I went to work in coffee shops and breweries for most of that week, with this ridiculous WFH setup. By now I know this was overall unreasonable, but given the circumstances back then, I probably would still do it the same way, because working from a chair at home, with barely anything else even in your home, is not good for productivity, sanity, and your back. Fortunately I got a dining table and chairs on the Friday that week, which have been my working desk since then. And over time more furniture has been delivered. BTW rest assured, while I still have to wait for some things, like my bed frame, my apartment is honestly in a good-to-live-in state now (I am so grateful for the workers that still delivered the furniture despite obvious complications).

A first major turning point for my superficial impression about the world overreacting on the virus was, and that may sound ridiculous, when Trump announced that no Europeans would be allowed to enter the US anymore. This really hit me in a way. While the announcement had some political side-comments that I don’t want to get into here, it was such a drastic call to me at the time that I thought there must be something more to the virus than I had been assuming. It hit me even more because it could have directly affected me. I feel beyond lucky that my relocation had happened sufficiently before then – I would not want to imagine what weird and complicated situation I would be stuck in if my relocation had been planned for just a single month later. Hearing about the situation in Italy made my concerns about my previous judging of the reactions stronger (this post is going to deal with judging a lot, please read on).

A few days later, San Francisco put the shelter-at-home order in place, with a few other counties in the Bay Area, as the very first areas in the US. While this was a major letdown and I was still loaded with occasional emotions like “WTF is happening here?”, there had definitely been a change in my perception. I was starting to understand more how the virus had become a threat impossible to ignore – and particularly that, even if I was fairly unlikely to be affected by it directly, there were severe implications for certain parts of the population and, based on that, potential overload of hospitals in ways I had only heard of in apocalyptic movies before. Later in the same week, the order for stores and most public places to be closed as well as for the population to mostly stay at home and especially away from other people expanded to all of California. At that point I was largely accepting the measures taken (despite the emotional side of me wanting to punch me in the face for that acceptance, read more below), and I was certainly at least more willing to understand the implications of the virus. I don’t want to say I was truly understanding them, and I probably still am not today – I believe that is something you are probably only capable of if you or someone close to you actually gets the virus in one of the worst ways.

Being socially isolated

My first month in San Francisco was freaking amazing! End of the quick update. TLDR, I went from an extreme emotional high of being in this new environment, getting to know new people, having fun with my new coworkers, and so much more, to a state of social isolation, everything shutting down, everybody worrying.

I’m now in my seventh week “sheltering at home”, and it is devastating. I am just going to mention some facts – some of them are terrible, some of them are just odd. I have not been to a restaurant or bar in seven weeks. I have not entered any vehicle in seven weeks. I have talked to a single person I know in-person in seven weeks (“person I know” being defined as broadly as family member, friend, colleague, acquaintance). Not knowing how long this state of the world will last is another big factor. Originally, I would have been in Germany these days, today I’m missing my mom’s 60th birthday. And it’s not unlikely that my own 30th birthday in a few months will be far from spectactular too, depending on how things will be then. But either way, the social isolation is definitely the worst thing.

I am mostly an introvert, and I enjoy spending a ton of time by myself. That’s also why I was never someone who enjoyed the idea of living with “random” roommates. But I still need social interaction like we all do, and like we all know, video calls will never be able to satisfy that in the same way like in-person contact. The fact that I live by myself has made this virus situation a massive challenge. I would have never thought I’d say that, but right now I wish I had roommates. Or I wish I had a wife (that sounds even weirder to say, but you probably get the gist). I just wish there was someone else living in my household. Depending on who it was maybe I would regret it after a few days or a few weeks. But right now, in the times of social distancing, this is probably the “I wish I had…” thing that applies to me the most.

I feel like a lot of what’s being talked about is how the stay-at-home orders may be hard for families that now have to spend basically 24/7 with each other, especially those living in smaller apartments. If there were issues before in a family, they would get worse now. I understand these are real problems, but my impression is that there are many other people with different problems that are not as much in the focus. Like those living by themselves, who now as a result of social distancing have nobody to talk to in person. I think none of these problems is worse than the other, they are just different problems. That also carries over to those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home: With family at home, your productivity is probably suffering from distractions. With nobody else at home, your productivity is probably suffering from lack of motivation due to social isolation. That’s over-simplified though. If those were the only factors affecting us, I would blatantly say “those of you who live with a partner, but no kids and other family members are probably best off” – if this applies to you, you probably want to punch me in the face for that comment, at least mentally. What I want to convey here is that probably nobody is left unaffected by the coronavirus situation. Probably all of us have our mental health, our productivity, or something else suffering from distractions, isolation, lack of motivation, and other things of any kind – we all are facing major struggles because of this situation, and none is more or less severe than the other.

Remaining positive

For the first 3-4 weeks, the frustration with the overall situation and lack of social interaction were really dragging me down. I went from being super excited for being in a new place to being stuck at home, or more precisely, stuck from meeting new people. However, there was a point, yes there was really a point, in which I told myself to not let myself get dragged down as much from all the painful parts of the situation. I have no idea how I got there, and I have no idea what emotional force came over me then, but I have been better since that moment. I have been focusing on what good things are coming out of this situation: For example, I have been very active going for long walks and exploring the (locked-down) city. This is the one most important thing that honestly has been keeping my sanity. Another thing that makes me in a way even more happy is that I have started to focus on making music again. And there are tiny things as well, such as having more time to invest in planning my apartment to be the way I want it to be (even if some furniture is going to take a while).

To be honest, I am still in an emotional rollercoaster. My overall perception, if I am honest with myself, is that I hope that this situation resolves as soon as possible, that things open up again, that people go outside and meet other people again. I know we all want this the most. It’s just something we cannot have at this point, unless all people become unreasonable. I am still doing my best to focus on the positive emotions around the situation – deep inside I’m definitely less happy then I pretend to be, but in this strange time, trying to force myself to be positive has proven to be the best thing for me personally. Some days it works better than others, but that’s just how it is.

The other thing that I want to mention is that I am grateful. Whenever I get lost in too many negative thoughts, I have to remind myself how fortunate I actually am. Coronavirus and its effects have hit so many people way harder than they have hit me. With people losing loved ones, with people losing their jobs, with people struggling in so many worse ways than I do. I don’t know the right words to send your way, and maybe there are none – I cannot imagine your feelings, I wish you strength to cope with the situation. Sometimes it even makes me feel awkward for struggling or telling others that I am struggling because compared to others, my pains are so little.

Sticking together

The effects of social distancing orders around the world likely affect everyone in some sort of negative way. For most of us the negative effects result from the social distancing orders, for some of us the negative effects result from the virus itself. Whether it means mental, financial or any other struggles, we all suffer from it. Likely we all want this situation to end. Likely we all want it to never have happened. At the same time, we all have to be reasonable about the potentially worse impact of coronavirus in case we just cancel all social distancing efforts right away. Some of us are demanding to open up the world again, right now. While I rationally think this is not the right way, emotionally I can probably understand many of the people who demand that. I’m sure for some there is some political agenda involved, and that is not what I’m hinting at. But after all, we’re human, and we always have to find a balance between rationality and emotion. Does it make sense to cancel all social distancing orders today for all the world? Definitely not. Do I want this? Heck yes!

I see a lot of people judging other people these days, based on whether they are going outside, based on whether they meet other people (whether 6ft apart or not), based on whether they wear a face mask, based on whether they are protesting for the world to reopen. Whatever makes sense here or not, in certain moments some people act more on their emotions than others. Political agenda aside, if you are on the edge of losing your home because you lost your job, to take just one example, I can certainly see why you’re on the fence wanting the world to reopen. Whether it makes sense is not the question here. None of us actually knows whether it makes sense. None of us knows this virus. Better be safe than sorry. Long story short, I would love if we started reasoning with each other rather than pointing the finger.

Empathy is the key here. We need to reason with empathy. I’d appreciate if those of us who want to cancel all shelter-at-home orders immediately were more empathic with those people that are actually affected by coronavirus directly. I’d appreciate if those who call others idiots because they want to cancel shelter-at-home orders immediately (again, political agenda aside) were more empathic with how those orders affect them potentially worse than they affect you. Let’s try to really understand each other before judging – or maybe even not judge at all.

We are all affected by coronavirus. And as often said during this pandemic, we are all in this together. There is some idealistic sentiment going around how maybe the situation can bring us as humans closer together. So let’s do our best to get closer to that. If you think someone is reacting overly emotional, try to understand them. If someone is reacting overly rational (may sound strange, but that exists), try to understand them. I want to circle back to the title of this post. The reason I chose it, and I could not think of a better one over the course of writing this, is that this virus has probably affected (almost?) everyone’s life in a negative way. We all would have been better off without it. Hence, {insert post title here}! Deep down, this sentiment probably applies to most of us (although many wouldn’t necessarily phrase it that way 🙂). So let’s get through this together. Let’s try to avoid judging, although judging is as human as emotions are, so it’s not going to be easy. Let’s try to be more empathic with each other’s situation, which is different than yours. Maybe we can really come out of this more powerful and united than before.

2017 Focuses

For this year, I wanted to take some time to write down some notes on things that I would like to prioritize in my life. Just as how WordPress is now putting the main efforts into three major focuses, I wanted to separate mine into three major focuses as well. For 2017, these are going to be health, contributing and relationships. This is the first post I have ever written like this, and for the most part it will be a list of things I want to pursue. I would like to be able to return to this post at any given time to remind myself of these things and also to write a summary by the end of the new year in relation to which of these goals I have accomplished, in which points I have improved and which I should probably put more effort into. Continue reading “2017 Focuses”

Spotify Top Tracks 2016

I cannot believe that my most-listened track is actually a German song.

Soundtrack of my Life

Music is a very important part of my life. I’m sure that is the case for many people, yet I wanted to explicitly mention it in this post. I listen to music during almost my entire work day, I have been playing piano since I was 8 years old and I also write songs occasionally and produce a few things using tools like Cubase and such. So yesterday I had the thought of looking back and thinking about the songs that I have listened to over all the years, songs that may even have shaped me in a way. I asked myself whether I could determine a song for every year that I associate the most with that time in my life. Things like that are just something I’m interested in, for example I’ve also been keeping track of my musical listening habits through Last.fm since 2007. It was also very nice to take some time to dive into old memories. So in this post I’m putting the list of songs out there. This is kind of a very personal post in some cases; maybe you’re just interested in such things the same way as I am, or you are curious about music recommendations, or you would like to know me better. For me the reason of writing this is that I simply want to keep track – after all, people used to call blogs weblogs, and that’s what I’m doing here – logging my favorite songs for each year of my life. Well, not my entire life: I will start with the year 2000 (I was 10 years old then), since I can’t quite recall anything before that and it would mostly have been entirely charts music anyway – and you will notice that especially in the first years of the list, my musical taste was still evolving. 🙂 By the way, to start things off, I’m pretty sure that I can say that German band Rammstein has been the only constant for as long as I can remember: Although none of their songs is present in the following list, I have listened to them at the same time I listened to Britney Spears, and I still listen to them now from time to time. But now, here’s the list of my favorite songs for each year as far as I can remember. Some of the years I would say there was more than 1 song I could have put there, but I think what I have there is a pretty good representation of my taste in music and also events in my life. Please note in advance that the songs represent what I’ve listened to for each year – it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was released in that year. Continue reading “Soundtrack of my Life”

Four new composings of movie score

It has been a while – but now I’ve decided to release some new music I composed over the recent months. As most of the time, these tracks are all written with specific movie scenes (which actually do not exist) in mind – so it’s music which is part of a score that would be played in that specific scenes I had in mind when I composed it. But of course that doesn’t mean it can’t be used somewhere else – this is the cool thing about music, it has different meaning, different interpretations and such. But now, enough said, here there are the four tracks:

Fading Away by Felix Arntz

Continue reading “Four new composings of movie score”

How To Stream Spotify from Mac to Playstation 3

A while ago I thought about having my Spotify playlists streamed to my Playstation 3. My sound system is connected to that device, placed in my living room, so I needed to find a way to stream the whole sound output (also called “Stereo Mix”) from my Mac to the PS3. In this article I will explain how you can stream any sound from your Mac, for example Spotify, to any local device using WLAN, in this case my Playstation 3.
Continue reading “How To Stream Spotify from Mac to Playstation 3”

How To Fix The 6320 WLAN Connection Problems

Okay, this short article kind of falls out of the ordinary topics, but I simply think it’s important. In this article you will find out how to solve the WLAN connection problems of the Fritzbox 6320 Cable provided by Unitymedia. Please skip to the last paragraph to see all the necessary steps in a list.
Continue reading “How To Fix The 6320 WLAN Connection Problems”

10 Beautiful Pieces of Movie Score

Today I’d like to share my top ten of movie score pieces. Most of them are pretty beautiful, romantic themes, to relax, to think, to dream. At the bottom of this post, you will find a Spotify playlist which contains all the ten tracks included.

1. Elevator Beat (Nancy Wilson)

The most wonderful theme for a wonderful movie (“Vanilla Sky”). Elevator Beat contains so much melancholia that it always gives me a feeling where I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. While it is rather sad music, it still emphasizes some hope – beautiful.

2. La Valse d’Amélie (Yann Tiersen)

If you haven’t seen the movie “Amélie” yet, do it as soon as you can. To me, there is no other movie as interesting like this, and the music is great aswell. La valse d’Amélie is my favourite piece from the score, and, while there are an orchestral and another third version of this track, I prefer the piano version.

3. I Love You (Tyler Bates)

Beautiful music like I Love You isn’t what you would expect from a dark anti-superhero movie like “Watchmen”. Yet, I love this theme for its spirit of optimism.
Continue reading “10 Beautiful Pieces of Movie Score”

Working on another music video

I will soon release a new music video, another one for a song by my sister Christina Sophie. It’s called Island and it appears on her new album Secret Sinner to which you can listen below. Be excited as the music video will feature scenes shot in Thailand where we travelled in March this year. You might wanna check out the song first (it’s track 7)!

Or add it to your playlist on Spotify: Christina Sophie – Island

I’ll post the video here when it’s out!

Fixing errors in Corner Pin to Null by Video Copilot

A while ago I saw another very exciting tutorial on VideoCopilot.net where they showed us how to create a great-looking train explosion. As part of this tutorial, they introduced the usage of Mocha for After Effects. In this article I will conclude this for those who are especially interested in this kind of stuff or those who don’t want to watch the whole video (although I encourage you to do so). As an addition to that VideoCopilot tutorial, they offered a new After Effects presets file there which easily allows dynamic tracking in connection with Mocha. However, if you’re using a translated version of After Effects, you might have issues using it – how to fix these will be explained in the last paragraph of this article.
Continue reading “Fixing errors in Corner Pin to Null by Video Copilot”