It’s already been quite a while since the last update
in Spring last year. The dynamics around the pandemic have changed
but it is still omnipresent and the constant weight is taking its toll
on everyone. Similarly, I’m hearing an echo that can’t be silenced,
that of a need for change and return to what captivates me.
As some readers might have noticed, I haven’t posted nor been very active the past few months.
Let’s get to what I’ve been up to.
Life and Work
Explanation: In September, my company gave the opportunity to some employees to work remotely from anywhere they wanted and allocated us a budget for it. This is partly because the situation in Lebanon is precarious but the job itself isn’t (All our contracts are outside the country and 2020-2021 were our best years revenue-wise) and they want to keep their employees from leaving the company.
So I’ve put my courage together to face covid and spent the month of September in Istanbul, Turkey, with a colleague.
We had a blast there, a much needed relief from the mental draining of constant lockdowns. Turkey is such a vibrant and colorful country, we did so many things like boat trips, the grand bazaar, the bustling Istiklal Street, Galata Tower, the walks near the Bosphorus straight, going from Europe to Asia in a few minutes, we also met with a group of foreigners and went on bus trip to the black sea.
Afterward, in October, I spent two weeks in Paris, France, to visit my gf and brother which recently moved there for studies/internships and to try to recreate their life. I hadn’t seen them in a long while with the pandemic and all the troubles.
During my time there I’ve also seen all the well-known landmarks: from
the Mona Liza at Louvre, the Versailles castle, the tomb of Napoleon, the
Rodin museum, the Arc de triomphe, Les Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, the
Elysée, the Sacre-coeur basilica, Notre-Dame, the Pantheon, and others.
The architecture and walks around Paris city center are mesmerizing.
Yet, I couldn’t help but feel like I was walking and staying in a place
where history meant the past and where the present is the slow and
unchanging. Relying on how we remember memories and talk about them
instead of making new ones. A sort of redundant routine and reserved
rhythm of life, where anything other than the everyday is pushed back,
which was in stark contrast with my stay in Istanbul.
Some have mentioned the Law of Jante, but I’m not sure it applies. It’s more like getting in a machine that has already been running for so long and people have learned the theatrical talks and manners around it.
Undeniably, I still want to be near the people I love. They want to
be in a place where yesterday will be the same as tomorrow, a stable
In consequence, when I got back I started focusing on studying tech that would open work opportunities in France, and to study algorithms to be able to pass those pesky quiz-interview-questions.
Similarly, because of the situation, there’s an exodus of people in Lebanon. Many of my friends are leaving too, some going to Germany, some to the Netherlands, some to the UAE, and others to France.
The job search has been deeply painful, when applying remotely nobody
gives a second glance at the CV and covid and the global recession
situation haven’t helped me either.
As far as covid goes, if my dear readers are wondering, I indeed caught it recently, like so many others.
The lifestyle, the expected salary, the rhythm of life, and cost of
living, too haven’t kept me as motivated, but I’m still looking to move
to Paris Ile de France region.
My mind struggles with adapting to something that would be radically different than what I’m accustomed to, such as these types of views, and a rich and flavorful lifestyle where I can fill my lungs and enjoy every single day.
However, I know I’m not that lucky yet, that I have to adapt, and
that there are more important things right now. Yet, one thing I’ve
been thinking of is to work remotely from France from time to time,
my salary would easily allow it.
An interesting option I found is the Canadian youth mobility agreement with France which would allow me to work there without justifying it for a period of 2 years.
Overall, this job hunting has been dreadful for my inspiration in general, filling my mind and thwarting it with rejection letters. All my evenings are plastered with algorithm training on HackerRank and LeetCode and it feels like I’m stuck in the same tiresome laundry cycle that I can’t get out of, destroying all my layers bit by bit.
I’m still weighting my options, I don’t want to sell myself short either,
so I’ll wait for the right opportunity and if none arise, or they’re
not good enough, I’ll work remotely from France to be near my loved ones.
If anyone who reads this blog has one, please let me know by email (you can find it in the about section along with my resume).
Psychology, Philosophy & Books
Explanation: I feel like I haven’t read that much the past months, the bulk of my reading has been in the previous two.
When it comes to technical books, in sync with my algorithms refreshment, I’ve finished reading the textbook Algorithms 4th edition.
With the nixers book club we’ve read two new books:
And as far as personal reading goes the following four:
- Grunt — Mary Runch
This is a pop-science book that goes over the details that are often overlooked in war, not the gory details, nor armaments, but oriented towards humans and their needs when in these unusual situations. The book was funny with plenty of trivia but felt overly pushed in some sections. The readers must be aware that anything written about USA military is obviously going to be sponsored content. Yet, not a bad book overall.
- The Island of Dr.Moreau — H.G. Wells
A phenomenal read that steals your breath away. H.G. Wells is a master in capturing the reader and putting them a world that is imbued with metaphors, forcing them to take distance and think deeply about the everyday notion of normality. The ending of the book is superbly executed.
- The Remarkable Life of The Skin — Monty Lyman
Another pop-science book that covers the skin. Again, very well written and has more info than I could ever ask for.
- Sentient — Jackie Higgins
Yet another pop-science book that will satisfy your curiosity. This one uses in every chapter a “sense” that is overly powerful in an animal, will describe it in detail, and then make a parallel with a similar sense found in humans. It puts humanity upside down, rethinking our senses and their importance. An enjoyable read.
Articles & Writings
Explanation: During the past period I haven’t written much (and do miss writing more) but what I’ve written has been well received.
I’ve published one article about the audio system PipeWire. It has usurped the title of the most popular article on my blog. I’ve received a lot of good comments about it. It is now linked as part of the official PipeWire documentation. I’m happy about this, my goal in writing is always to put light on topics that are often dismissed, not well explained in other places, the questions unanswered, and to link ideas together in unexpected ways.
The second article I’ve written is my own perception of what I do to tackle narrative control on the internet. Narrative control is the subject of the last book I’ve written, a subject that is a popular one these days, part of the zeitgeist, so I’ve given it my own take.
Unix, Nixers, Programming
Explanation: I’ve been quite distant recently when it comes to Unix-related topics, not because I didn’t want to but because I had my mind focused elsewhere with the studying of algorithms for interviews. This has bothered me very much as I enjoy diving into these topics.
On nixers, apart from the book club activities, we’ve also created a new workflow compilation during the June events 2021. In November, we’ve held the second edition of the nixers conf in which I gave a talk about Keeping track of your things. This talk is about knowledge management/base, yet another popular topic on which I’ve given my own take and Unix-twist.
Unrelated to the nixers community, but related to Unix-like systems,
I’ve started learning about docker and kubernetes. Docker is fascinating
and I’m enjoying learning it. Container techs have been something I had
been avoiding for a while but that are a must when applying for jobs.
However, when it comes to kubernetes it’s a different story; it’s harder to test locally and its selling points are lost when thinking about the bills it might incur when deployed for real. I can’t help but think of it as another lighter vendor-lock-in in the same fashion as AWS and Azure. These vendors even have people selling their software for them as brand evangelists, locking other people in knowledge silos. While k8s is open source, testing it still gives the above vibe and can only be done with solutions such as minikube and k3s.
Ascii Art & Art
Explanation: I’ve plunged into another cultural research for a new ASCII series I’ve created. This time my attention was on masks from different cultures. I’ve compiled seven masks in total. I enjoy these small discoveries that I make by wanting to reproduce cultural and historical artifacts with art, it’s a great way to learn.
- Benin mask
- Aztec mask
- Fang mask
- Ganesh mask
- King Tutankhamun death mask
- Kitsune mask
- Mudmen mask
Summer and winter passed and as usual I enjoyed tending my garden, planting, taking care of trees, and others. The harvest wasn’t plentiful, but I was happy doing a bulk of work in the second section of my garden, which I usually didn’t have the time to approach. I even removed the rocks from it and built a wall on the corner of the garden.
At home, because of the situation in Lebanon, we’ve taken the step to be energy independent and installed solar panels (pic above). We’ve got 16 panels of 350 watts each, 10 batteries for a total of 2100 amp, and a 5.5k watts inverter (15 amp). This is life changing. I’m thrilled that this is a flexible setup where every piece can be upgraded, increased, and swapped separately.
To summarize the situation before this: in Lebanon state electricity
used to come for 6 consecutive hours and then cut for the next 6h,
repeating this pattern. Consequently, people in every region had to
rely on a regional private generator to fill the gap. Thus everyone had
two cables going into their house, automatically or manually switching
between them whenever state electricity come and goes. During the current
crisis, the state electricity now only comes 1 or 2 hours a day, and the
private generator have both inflated their prices and simply cannot cover
the full 22-23 hours when the state doesn’t provide electricity. Thus,
people have, again, taken it upon themselves to find another source of
energy, and battery and solar energy is booming.
So, at my home we’re now free from this headache and have a reliable 24h/7 electricity system. We can even run heavy electrical appliances during the day. The efficiency is such that even during winter days we were able to rely enough on solar panels; and on a couple of heavy rainy week we used the private generator.
On the personal mental training side, I’m still using the good ol’
brainteaser app Elevate, and still on the same infinitely long streak.
Additionally, I started to have fun learning Chinese on the Duolingo application, it’s my new daily habit that I joined with the brainteaser.
Physically, I got back into the habit of daily exercises using an application as a coach. The one I’ve chosen is great, I can see gains and feel much more energetic and healthier. I’ve also taken the habit to dance to latin music, I find it very entertaining to learn.
A lot has happened in a compressed amount of time. Looking forward I’ll take the job search and job/interview-skill learning more slowly to not burnout like I did. Again if anyone has an opportunity they can email me, here’s a link to my resume.
With everything falling off, I’ll look to regain my life balance. I’ll focus on some other activities during my days such as art, gardening, dancing, ASCII drawing, etc.. I also want to take time to do research and interact with the communities I’m part of.
Undoubtedly, I’ll soon travel too, to France, Germany, and others, to either work remotely, or simply take a break and stay with friends. I’m luck to have a job flexible enough to allow that.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, so this is it!
As usual… If you want something done, no one’s gonna do it for you, use your own hands, even if it’s not much.
And let’s go for a beer together sometime, or just chill.
Johanna Helena Herolt, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Anonymous Italian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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