Thursday, April 30, 2020

Day 41: A perfect month?

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 40 or Day 42,

Nobody can accuse Apple of lacking a sense of humor.

My Apple Watch just told me I achieved my first perfect month:


Though the Corona countermeasures allowed me to train more regularly than normally (bike ergometer FTW), the month was not even close to being a perfect one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Day 40: A New Firewall

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 39 or Day 41.

The Home Office needs to be defended, so I installed my new firewall last weekend.

If you know me, you will probably guess two things: I will overdo it and I will use Check Point Firewall.

I'm working professionally with Check Point since 1995 and I really have a deep respect for the guys and girls working there. This led to me selling their products for 25 years now. This also implies that I am well versed in their products which surely help when you set it up.

In terms of sizing I did not really overdo it much. I went for the Check Point 1550 appliance. A small model, but sufficiently powered up to Gigabit traffic.

I do not really need the WIFI module as I have an Unifi WIFI solution installed. But it doesn't hurt to have some backup WIFI available. I overdid it a bit with the license. I went for the full NGTX package with Threat Extraction. That is one piece of technology I don't have sufficient hands on experience with. So I am going to fix that. Unluckily that also means that I have to spend some time to become more familiar with SSL Inspection, a topic that I do not like as much.

The point where I certainly went overboard is when I also installed a Central Management based on R80.40 at home. But I really wanted to get my hands on Layered Policies. Combined with the the new API this holds a lot of promise to automate the tedious process of firewall policies. And what is a better way to play with it at home.

Luckily the migration went pretty well. The most problem I had with my Sonos prison. But that is a story for another post.

One feature I immediately liked was the improved ISP redundancy. As I currently have three uplinks, I can put that to use:


Though the migration went smoothly, the last days were long and exhausting and I will take a few days break before continuing there.

So I guess the topic of my firewall will recur in the next weeks as I play around with other features.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Day 39: Playing with NVIDIA RTX Voice

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 38 or Day 40.

As previously said, I want to play with NVIDIA RTX Voice.

Problem: I only have a GeForce GTX 1650 GPU. That is far below the spec. When I try to install the software, it just refuses to install:


But there is an easy workaround. After receiving the error message go to the directory "C:\Temp\NVRTXVoice\NvAFX" and locate the file "RTXVoice.nvi" and open it with a text editor. Then remove the following section:

<constraints>
<property name="Feature.RTXVoice" level="silent" text="${{InstallBlockedMessage}}"/>
</constraints>

Save the file and run the Installer from the "C:\Temp\NVRTXVoice"-Directory. It will install right away. When you see the following application, you know it succeeded:


Now you also find a new microphone you can use:


And you start playing with it. The results are pretty impressive from the start:



Monday, April 27, 2020

Day 38: Obligatory Mask

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 37 or Day 39.

Starting Wednesday, the wearing of masks will obligatory here.

Thanks to the craftsmanship of my wife, a template from the Internet and the sacrifice of an old polo-shirt, I'm prepared:


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Day 37: One impressive Quest

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 36 or Day 38.

Computer games are said to be profiting from the current stay-at-home guidelines. This is a bit strange because until a few weeks ago, for many people they were widely considered to be of evil. As you may guess, I always thought this to be ridiculous. There may be a lot of bad games out there, but there are also gems like "The Witcher 3".

I started the game nearly 5 years ago but stalled about right in the middle (in Novigrad). The game control by mouse/keyboard and I never became friends. Du to my experiments with the Shadow PC I had to get used to a game controller anyway. I picked Witcher 3 as the game to start my controller career with.  So I located my old save-game and continued.

To familiarize myself with the game again, I went through the log of completed quest. At one point I stopped and my mind went back five years. There was a a quest that really impressed me. It's official name is "Family matters" but everyone (including myself) calls it the "Bloody Baron."


The description in the walk-through (linked above) does not do it justice. The quest deals with a lot of sensitive subjects: Alcoholism, domestic violence, abortion and the longing for redemption. I spent quite some time revisiting my decisions in that quest and the reasons for them. The "bloody baron" is a local warlord that has important information for me. He is only willing to share it if I locate his wife and daughter, so I had to enter the maze.

The quest manages to navigate all these emotional topics and makes them an organic part of the journey. You learn of the dark and bright side of a character. You see him as perpetrator and you see him as victim. In the end you can see the wrongs he did but cannot other than help him to repair a bit of the damage he has done (at least I could not do otherwise). In the end you really learn about life in a computer game. Though I left the game untouched for more than 50 months, I still remember a lot of details from that quest.

After taking care of my memories, I set out to the Isles of Skellige and got them a queen....


Saturday, April 25, 2020

Day 36: Something I want to experiment with...

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 35 or Day 37.

Something I want to experiment with is NVIDIA RTX Voice.

As I mentioned yesterday, an AI needs a well defined, precisely scoped problem and a lot of training data to be really useful. If you have all that, the result can really be impressive. I hope I can get this to work with my GTX 1650 GPU (officially not supported but there are some hacks).

Though this video is more hilarious (which is a good compensation for the very serious post yesterday) than technical, the real world application on video/voice conferencing can be really helpful.



I want to see the faces of people in a video conference when I'm using a hair dryer while talking: I imagine that they see it blowing and cannot hear it.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Day 35: Corona and The Return of the Miracle Healer

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 34 or Day 36.

Problems without a solution can be dangerous. The Corona virus pandemic is an example for such a problem. We have approaches for a mitigation (keeping your distance, home office, etc) but no solution (e.g. vaccine or effective medication). So problems without solution are bad. But strangely solutions without problems may also be a problem.

People are frightened at the moment. Not just for their health but for their economic and financial future as well. This is not restricted to normal people but affects politicians and managers as well. Nearly everyone is longing for the world as it was before. And under such circumstances one is willing to make sacrifices for it or contribute with money, effort and work.

To someone who is sitting on an interesting piece of novel technology but who is short of a business model, this is looking like fertile ground.

Scared people are easier convinced and more eager to pay. It is natural to grasp for straws. So the Miracle Healers appear. They have a magic potion, a secret recipe passed down over generations, the blessings of some god or a new technological marvel for you. Care to buy? They are just there to help.

So we see now everyone starts pitching their solution as helpful to solve the Corona crisis:
  • Corona apps are being launched right and left. You cannot go wrong with this one, can't you? China used one, South Korea used one. So it must be the right way. Unluckily this only seems to be true until you look at technical details. Yes, the newest and shiniest mobile phones have Bluetooth variant that comes with any kind of precision. With the phone of most people there will only be two choices:
    • to err on the more sensitive side and wear out people with false alarms or
    • to err on the more correct side and miss contacts.
  • Facial recognition companies are pitching their products to identify people suffering from COVID-19. Unluckily our biggest problem are the asymptomatic carriers who will not be spotted by this.
  • AI is pitched at several fronts to help against the pandemic. No tool is too orwellian not to be pitched in this battle. But some skepticism is warranted. If the last year have shown something it is that AI is a fickle tool. You need a precise application and tons of training data to get any sort of precision and most important: expertise. All those things are in short supply. AI is not a magic wand you wave at a problem. It probably will be a building block when approaching a solution but not more than that.
  • The struggling company Boston Dynamics are offering their robots to support the medical staff.
These are not the most obscure attempts to insert technology into the mix but the most credible ones. Some are probably genuine attempts to help with the crisis and I even may err on their potential use. But, alas, I have little hope.

I am an enthusiast for new technologies and new gadgets. As far as possible I want to get my hand on the new shiny things that people have built for us. It's fun looking for intended and unintended but creative uses. But I do not expect those gadgets to solve critical problems for me. One important lesson I learned: technology cannot solve social problems.

Technology can be and is a real help. The speed with which genetic analysis of the virus is proceeding is nothing but stunning. What science needed decades to do with the HIV virus they managed this time in a few weeks. Creating models of the virus spread and refining those will help a lot when easing the current restrictions.

It is not the first time we found ourselves in such a predicament. After the 911 terror attacks, a similar situation developed. People were scared and the economy tanked. So the Miracle Healers appeared as well and offered us:
  • Data retention and snooping has been widely deployed even though lacking any proven effectiveness.
  • Psychologists offered their help for novel interrogation techniques that turned out to be primitive torture.
  • A British company made millions of US$ on selling a divining rod that was said to detect bombs.
  • Suddenly any attempt to curb on copyright violation was an anti-terror measure.
As it turned out, all of this was just bullshit. Billions were spent on not solving the problem. This was possible because rational thinking was suppressed by fear. The longing for normalcy made us compromise even on issues as basic human rights.

But the lessons of 911 are important in another regard. It teaches us there is no way back into the old world. Even if there really was a miracle cure for the SARS-CoV2-Virus, we would not be back to normal afterwards.

The economic crisis has been long in the making. It would have manifested itself one way or another. The signs and portents have been visible for quite some time. The economic crisis will easily outlast the virus due to that.

Any beyond the hill of the current pandemic we can already see the cliff of climate change which will be an even tougher challenge than the current crisis, much tougher.

We must accept that no Miracle Healer or marvel of technology is going to solve this or the next crisis for us. Technological solutions can be building blocks in a solution but are never the solution itself. The solutions are the future worlds we have to attempt to build for ourselves, but there is no way back. And we must beware of the belief in the Miracle Healers and their toys. They are just distractions.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Day 34: Fasting Diary

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 33 or Day 35.

Monday, 10:00 am: On urgent medical advice I started fasting today. These lines shall document the infinite suffering for posterity and serve as a stark reminder to future generations.

Monday, 10:02 a.m .: I took the first challenge with flying colors. A bar of chocolate that was only half eaten yesterday thought it could lure me into its catch. Hah! I leave it there with my contempt as companion.

Monday, 10:09 a.m .: First feelings of hunger appear. But I am mentally prepared for this primitive agony. Nothing can shake my determination.

Monday, 10:15 a.m .: The first bottle of mineral water is now just history. I have read that you should drink a lot during fasting.

Monday, 10:17 a.m .: The mineral water tank is empty. To the now growling hunger adds unrestrained thirst.

Monday, 10:22 a.m .: First olfactory hallucinations appear. I think I can taste the food that is cooked in the university cafeteria half a mile away.

Monday, 10:27 a.m .: Due to an offered but not accepted biscuit, my colleagues discovered my sore point and started to discuss recipes and constantly offer me new chocolates and other delicacies. I complain to the boss about this calorie based bullying.

Monday, 10:42 am:  With great difficulty I shoved my colleagues out of the office. But loneliness increases the hunger further.

Monday, 10:55 am: I just looked in the mirror. The sight is terrifying. The cheeks are sunken in and the eyes are bloodshot. Maybe I should take some vitamins.

Monday, 11:03 am: A crackle makes me startle. The opened chocolate bar is slowly creeping towards me. It has moved at least 10 cm.

Monday, 11:08 a.m .: The reflecting sunlight on the tinfoil paper blinds my eyes. But this candy bar cannot fool me. But I register with horror it's further approach.

Monday, 11:15 a.m .: I want to escape, but it is too late. A biscuit package cleverly deposited by an insidious colleague cut off my way to the door.

Monday, 11:21 am: In the closet I hear the peanuts rumbling in their aluminium prison. How long can the weak, thin metal withstand this culinary violence?

Monday, 11:26 a.m .: Slowly and inconspicuously I worked my way to the window. My opponents seem inattentive. Perhaps I can escape their grasp at the last second.

Monday, 11:28 am: What I thought to be inattention was just a nifty trap. Right in front of the window, a cherry tree just lurks. fully loaded with its fruits.

Monday, 11:34 a.m .: I have withdrawn to the files. Covered by the archive "Bookings 2016/17" and armed with a letter opener, I intend to make my last stand here.

Monday, 11:38 a.m .: Cowardly pack! Instead of attacking me openly and honestly, the food circles around me. They are probably betting on a long siege. As already mentioned, the water is gone. If I ever get out of here, I will set up a cistern for such purposes in my office.

Monday, 11:42 a.m .: No further development in this merciless game of positioning. But I have the feeling that my opponents are planning something.

Monday, 11:48 a.m .: Treason! A cheese roll was discovered under the folder "Overdue payments 4/17". My positions are infiltrated. In a final act of strength I threw it out of my stronghold. But my reserves are exhausted.

Monday, 11:52 a.m .: The moral impact of the siege is devastating. Now I can imagine what General Custer must have felt about the Little Big Horn.

Monday, 11:58 am: I physically and mentally at the end. Stranger, tell the restaurant that we behaved as they would wish us to, and are buried here. ....

Monday, 12:00 p.m .: It's time for the counter strike. A quick sortie, strong bite and
the chocolate is done for. Only a few crumbs tell of the end that I put to the biscuits and cheese roll. The tree in front of my window crouches; he knows that his hour has come..... And I will no longer allow the dentist to give me a filling after which you are not allowed to eat for two hours.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Day 33: Qualifying WTF

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 32 or Day 34.

"WTF" was once an expression of utter disbelieve. But those days are long gone.

Nowadays the rate of WTF is an everyday expression and used as a quality measurement for code:
But I think a purely quantitative approach to WTF is wrong. We also need qualitative distinction for WTF. In order to achieve this, I tried to find out how other people solved that problem. One distinctive example is Guiseppe Mercalli who tried to differentiate between those earthquakes that you could hardly feel and those which flattened cities and regions. He introduces the Mercalli intensity scale. I like that approach, so I now give you the Martin WTF intensity scale (MWIS):

  • WTF Level I - Not Felt: This is used to utter a disbelief about an event that can only perceived under very favorable circumstances (sensitive and bored person with attention to the topic and close by).

    Example: The press secretary said "President Trump just lied in our press conference" and I so "WTF (Level I)?"
  • WTF Level II - Very weak: The event can be noticed when you are bored and paying attention to the topic or close by.

    Example: She told me that one participant at the Tour de France was caught being doped and I thought to myself  "WTF (Level II)?"
  • WTF Level III - Weak: An not-too-unusual event that can be notice by a bored person with an interest for that topic even at some distance.

    Example: They reported: "We have found out that the CA XXX has issued certificates violating the rules" and I went" WTF (Level III)?".
  • WTF Level IV - Light: The event can be noticed by a bored person that without interest for the topic.

    Example: When he mentioned that Christmas is already next week I remarked "WTF (Level IV)".
  • WTF Level V - Moderate: This is appropriate for a frequent, not unexpected event. You may notice it even when not-bored if you are close by or following the topic.

    Example: And when they caught Senator YYY with his hands in the cookie jar I was like "WTF (Level V)?"
  • WTF Level VI - Strong: This is appropriate for a rare but not unexpected event. You may notice it even when not-bored.

    Example: When they announced  that they would release Star Citizen - Squadron 42 really soon now, it was totally WTF (Level VI) for me.
  • WTF Level VII - Very Strong: An unexpected event, even disinterested people close to the topic or the location can't escape it.

    Example: The St. Louis Cardinals won the Superbowl? WTF (Level VII)?
  • WTF Level VIII - Severe: A very unexpected event, most people cannot escape it, even journalists notice something amiss.

    Example: When George R. R. Martin released the "Winds of Winter" today, every fan just "WTF (Level VIII)?"
  • WTF Level IX - Exciting: The trade press knows no other topics. The first influencers interfere.

    Example: Google, Netflix and Facebook are down! WTF (Level IX)?
  • WTF Level X - Startling: The complete press is focused on the event. Some celebs release nude shots to get some of the remaining attention.

    Example: When they announced that The Walking Dead would be discontinued I really thought "WTF (Level X)?"
  • WTF Level XI - Mind-blowing: The complete world talks about the event.

    Example: They just revived Steve Jobs to present the iPhone 99... WTF (Level XI)?
  • WTF Level XII - Mind-blasting: The events captures all attention. No other topic is talked, reported or noticed.

    Example: PepsiCo just bought The Coca Cola Company! WTF (Level XII)?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Day 32: The Daily News

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 31 or Day 33.

A crisis like the current should be a high for the news business. The people have a need to be informed and they spend a lot more time at home and therefor could reach or watch more. Strangely the opposite is true.

If I look at my daily newspaper, you cannot not notice some portents. It has shrunk significantly. Today I joked that the newspaper has become so thin that you could the newspaper through it. But more troublesome is the reason for the shrinking. Though the sports and events section have nearly disappeared, that cannot explain the lean appearance.

No, the main reason for the loss of volume is the vanishing of the advertisement. It accounts for (my estimate) 75% of the reduction. By itself this might seem rather good news as I consider the advertisement to be dead weight. It costs me time and trash volume at little value.

But advertisement accounts for more than half of the newspaper revenue. So the newspaper have only a little bit (if any) reduced effort while being significantly short on revenue. As I pointed out before, the news business has become dependent on that source of revenue (and like other addicts paying for it with health).

My guess is that we will have to be willing to pay more for our news. Otherwise the news business may become a collateral victim of the SARS-CoV-2. But this would also include the chance that we (the reader or watcher of news) may become the customer again.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Day 31: Recipes of my grandmother

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 30 or Day 32.

When my grandmother died in 1985, I managed to save her small book of handwritten recipes. Those things listed in there were not just food to me, but childhood memories.

As it turned out, it was also a stark reminder of past times. The small booklet was gifted to my grandmother (then aged 16) from her first employer upon beginning her first job as kitchen aid on May 11th 1928. She, her boss, added a small motto to the book:


In English it says "Work and don't despair". Well, you cannot say they didn't tell you what was coming. Through decades she added a lot of recipes that reflected the time of the economic crisis in 1929 and the second world war. Those dealt with questions like "How to make your own soap from bones" or "Cream replacements when there isn't even milk".

Though I managed to digitize everything, this only means that I have a digital scan. I am still working on getting all recipes in a readable form.


The "Sauce Bearnaise" is one of the more readable ones. Though I have it parsed, I fail how the result would end up being something close to what I know as Bearnaise.

During the time she was writing down the book, they were changing the style of handwriting here in Germany. Du to that, the recipe for "Potato Dumplings" looks completely different.


The booklet is a good reminder during the current time that we are still far away from the hardships she had to go through in her life.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Day 30: Updates on Pen&Paper RPGs online

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 29 or Day 31.

We have finished our fourth round so far. Every "game" has taken (as planned) between 2-3 hours. So during that time we have played as much time as we usual would have on a single evening.

Some lessons learned from my side:

  • Preparing an online session takes more preparation than an usual round. It is much harder to improvise, so you have to prepare better and keep the adventurers more "on track".
  • This in turn leads to covering more ground during the session. We have less delays and less banter (which is fun, but sidetracks from the game).
  • We generate a larger paper trail. An evening usually results in one page of scribbled notes covering the events of 12 hours real time. In our online session we produced about 16 pages of digital text and maps for 10 hours.
  • The online tools are an enormous help. My primary helpers are MOAM and Roll20. I learned a lot about the later tool by playing with a different game master during an Online CON. The tools are such a help that I will try to get them adopted by all my players in the offline games as well.
  • The main advantage of the tools is the enhanced situational awareness of the players. An image really can say more than 1.000 words (though it uses 100.000 times the disk space).
  • You can also invest enormous amounts of time into perfecting your online setup. Maps with dynamic lighting and calculated line of sight are really very labor intensive. The real secret is finding the right balance. I guess my next step will be integrating basic gameplay mechanics into Roll20. Unluckily our system (Midgard M5) is not supported by Roll20 itself.
  • I have no idea how I could do it without Google image search. Just drawing the most simple giant bat would take me 100 times than picking a result from Google. But that also prevents me from making my material public as there would be dozens of copyright issues. If I ever plan on that, I have to find an artist first who could re-do those assets for me.
Overall summary: It works better than expected. But the experience differs and I will gladly switch back to the offline games at some point in the future. Nevertheless I will try to hang onto some things I consider improvements.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Day 29: Games being played

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 28 or Day 30.

I seem to be doing the Corona thing all wrong. I'm reading about people watching more Netflix and playing computer games. On the Netflix side I'm a complete looser at the moment. I've watched perhaps two episodes in the last four weeks, but I want continue with Uthred, son of Uthred next week. Gaming-wise I'm a bit better though I have less time and desire to play than before Corona. Spending so many business hours in my man-cave in the basement seems to spoil it a bit.

But I still manage to play some games:

  • In December I watched the Netflix series about The Witcher and that inspired me to re-install "The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt". I somehow went of the path in Novigrad, got drowned in side quests and put the game aside. Now I've hauled the Witcher's ass to the Skellige Isles and decided to finish the game. It is fun to get back into the story and at the same time I try to get myself to use a controller instead of keyboard and mouse.
  • Kris has spent so much time on talking about "Elite Dangerous" that I finally bought myself some proper joysticks and started cruising through the galaxy. Finally I acquired a halfway decent spaceship (Asp Explorer) and am now able to fly between bases without wrecking my ride.
  • The most hours on Steam during the last 12 months I have accumulated with "Total War: Warhammer II" and "Total War: Three Kingdoms". Turn based games with some action always work for me. The later of both games also got me reading more about Chinese history though the names of generals and leaders still get me confused. Warhammer II is a bit easier on that regard. It is much harder for me to confuse "Count Noctilus" with "Ungrim Ironfist" than let's say "Zhang Yan" with "Sun Jian".
  • There are some more turn based strategy games I play from time to time: "Panzer Corps 2", "Fantasy General 2" and "Iratus: Lord of the Dead". The last one is still in development but the most innovative one.
  • There is no series that I play as long as Civilization. The current installment "Civilization VI" still gets some hours as there is a good (bet extremely expensive) version for the iPad available.
  • I also intend to play a bit more from "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order" though I first to improve my controller skills with The Witcher (see above). This game is actively hostile on players using mouse and keyboard. It makes a good impression staging-wise, but I am still on the first planer as the combat still eludes me.
The long list of games perhaps makes the wrong impression on the time being spent on games. I can't find that statistics page, but my estimate is that I am at the lowest activity level for years, perhaps at 5-10 hours a week.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Day 28: Home Office Energy impact

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 27 or Day 29.

Two people working 95% of the time from the home office: What is the energy impact?

On the positive side I have a home automation that gives me some data. I monitor the energy usage in 5min intervals and can compare it with the previous months. On the negative side we have the last four weeks being colder than the December, January or February and we are heating with electricity. On the positive side again, the time the heating is on (10 p.m. till 6 a.m.) does not overlap with our working hours (usually 8-12 hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.).

Without spending too much time on writing software to evaluate the data, the best number I can give you are about 5 kWh per working day. That is quite a lot. But we have three large monitors running and since my working room is in the basement, the dehumidifier has to pull about additional 1.5l of water from the air per day to prevent molding. As electricity is quite expensive in Germany, this equals costs of about 30€ per month (based on 20 work days per month). I am curious what will happen when I try to deduct the costs from my next tax declaration.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Day 27: Buns interrupted

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 26a or Day 28.

The disaster from Monday has been cleaned up, time to take care of the buns.

On Monday i was not sure, if the oven could be saved. It turned out that it was looking worse than it really was. Some of the molten plastic could be removed by hand. A glass scraper, some oven cleaner and finally the pyrolysis (I will never again by an oven without it) based self-cleaning did the trick. Though the final step again raised quite some stink in the kitchen, the result justified the means (in this case). The oven doesn't look as good as new but is much closer than I thought was possible:


So it was time today for some unfinished business. The raw dough today has not been so good as it was on Monday (a really petty for that going to waste), but it was still much better than anything I baked before. The final results (after baking) seem to agree:


I'm sending the pictures to my baking teacher for some criticism. But the primary customer (my wife) was happy with them, so main goal was achieved.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Day 26a: Review "The Last Emperox" from John Scalzi

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 26 or Day 27.

I could not sleep last night. Went to bed early, but did not sleep through. So around midnight I started the last part of John Scalzi's "The Interdependency" series (3 books) and finished it in one go.

What drew me to this series? Primarily it was the author who has provided me with interesting, light reading material in the past. I am also following him on his blog, which (in the days of social media) grants him a huge brownie point from my side.

But there was another song the sirens sang: the setup of "The Interpendency". It is an interstellar human civilization that settles across the Galaxy and uses the properties of a natural phenomenon called "the flow" for faster than light travel. In order to ensure peace and co-existence the habitats are designed to be mutually interdependent (hence the name). One literally cannot exist without the others, only one lonely planet at the far end of the flow may be self-sustaining. And now everything falls apart as "the flow" ebbs away.

I was interested because "The Interdependency" does make a good allegory for the current world. Even the biggest and mightiest nations depend on other, smaller nations for oil, minerals, workforce or other services. While in the novel, the system is designed this way, we created our own interdependency through our drive for efficiency. As in the book, our civilization is threatened by natural disasters like Corona or Donald Trump that are amplified by mutual dependencies.

The third installment (The Last Emperox) is by far the strongest book in this series. The first part (The Collapsing Empire) could intrigue the reader through the setup and the interesting characters (I think nearly everyone will love Lady Kiva Lagos) in introduced, but it felt a bit slow. The second book (The Consuming Fire) suffered from the lack of new captivating figures, setups and ideas to introduce while also being unable to bring forward any conclusion. Even though it was rather short, I had to struggled with it.

No such problems plague "The Last Emperox".


The characters and the author both have to make hard choices but all of them do not hesitate. Action scenes are necessary parts of the plots and not just sections of relief for the intrigue-weary reader. The pacing is excellent, there is always something you expect on the next page (though the delivery also carries some surprises). The antagonist has a realistic plan, a full-flavor personality and manages to win at least the grudging respect of the reader. You get an ending and closure though it is not the one you expected.

Even though I was deadly tired, I tore through the book like a starved man through chocolate. It was just about 4 a.m. when I finally arrived on the last page. I really loved it and am not sorry for the lost sleep.

The only negative thing I can say about this book is that you have to read through two OK-to-good books to start with this one.

Day 26: Corona: Lies, Damn lies and Statistics … and why the quip is also slightly off.

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 24 or Day 26a.

Mark Twain once said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” This seems currently to be truer than ever. It is very hard to find even two Corona statistics that do not seem to contradict each other.

We have several problems at the same time:
  • there is no unified model to even count the number of cases or deaths,
  • the demographics behind the statistics vary wildly,
  • we are just in the process of building a solid model,
  • people are cherrypicking among the available statistics according to personal reasons and
  • and a press trained over decades to go for click rates is unable to cope with the complexity.
There is no simple “truth” or correct statistic out there. Nobody knows exactly what we’re dealing with. All I can tell you that the baseline numbers are enough to worry me (and I am not much of a worrier).

We are still in the trial-and-error-phase concerning the measurement and the mathematical models. But with what we know about the pandemic, I think it is better to err on the side of caution.

If you want to understand why this is so hard, there is a good comic explaining it: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/a-comic-strip-tour-of-the-wild-world-of-pandemic-modeling/.

So when going back to Mark Twain, we find that the quip (in different words) goes even further back in time. That phrase can be found in different form within the science journal, Nature, in November 1885: "A well-known lawyer, now a judge, once grouped witnesses into three classes: simple liars, damned liars, and experts. He did not mean that the expert uttered things which he knew to be untrue, but that by the emphasis which he laid on certain statements, and by what has been defined as a highly cultivated faculty of evasion, the effect was actually worse than if he had" (Source). So as we go backward, the statement becomes more differentiated. It is deeply ironical that a statement from the late 19th century fits so well to our current conundrum.

P.S. As most people can count, you are probably aware of the gap between 24 and 26. I will try to make it up with a two post on a single day soon.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Day 24: Ruining the day

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 23 or Day 26.

Nothing ruins the day like baking plastic at 570° F.

I wanted to make fresh buns for the Easter morning. Unluckily I forgot that I left the plastic cover used for microwaving dishes (we have a combined microwave/classic oven) inside. I remember looking into the oven before starting it, but confronted with the results I doubt my memory.

The plastic started to melt on the baking stone:


If it had stopped there, the damage would have been minimal. But it dropped down onto the (much hotter) oven floor and started smoldering. The smoke alarm went off while I was in the bathtub. The kitchen was filled with blue smoke and it smelled like hell let loose.

The result on the oven floor looks unspectacular:


The stink in the kitchen is six hours later still horrendous. We have to see if we can save the oven. Spent the rest of the day between trying to clean up the mess and kicking myself.

Luckily a friend dropped by to pick up the remaining Lasagna. I would have hated to see it go to waste.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Day 23: The perfect Food for the current days

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 22 or Day 24.

There is food that is perfect for a time like this: Lasagna al Forno.

It leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, is totally easy to make and leftovers can be easily warmed up for the next two days. It is one of my favorite dishes.


Recipe


  • Sauce Bolognese

    You chop one onion and glaze it in olive oil. You add 2 ponds of minced meat and fry it until it is well done. Add about one pound of sieved tomatoes, 3 oz. tomato paste, 2 oz. water, 2 tablespoons of Oregano, 1 tablespoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of white sugar. Heat it until it starts boiling then turn off the stove and let it cool a but.
  • Sauce Bearnaise

    Put 2 oz. of butter and melt it. Add 2 oz. flour and mix it well. Add one and a half pint of milk and stir well until it starts cooking. Then add about 3 oz. of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until the Parmesan is dissolved and turn off the stove.
  • Take a baking dish of sufficient size. Fill it with Bolognese sauce until it covers the ground layer. Then cover it with Lasagna plates. The next layer is Sauce Bearnaise and a bit of Sauce Bolognese. Then add Lasagna plates again. Make sure that you have enough Sauce Bolognese to cover the top layer of Lasagna plates. On the top put some grated cheese (e.g. Mozzarella) and a bit of grated Parmesan.
  • Bake 30 minutes at 360° Fahrenheit.
  • Eat!


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Day 22: Greenscreen @ Home

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 21 or Day 23.

In the last three weeks, I have seen a lot of homes. This seems to be unavoidable when you do a lot of video conferencing during Corona times. But is it?

I know that Microsoft Teams already has a feature to blur the background. Furthermore they are already working at a feature for custom backgrounds. Zoom already has such a feature. But first I want to have it now and second I'm using more applications than Zoom and Teams. For my online RPG rounds, Discord and Roll20 are the primary applications.

In a RPG environment a custom background also may help with the immersion. So I went looking and stumbled over ChromaCam. This allows me to add my own custom background without installing a real green screen (though that helps with the quality). The app quite impressed me with their capabilities. There is a free version (only pre-defined backgrounds, includes a water mark) to evaluate the technology and a paid version (around 30$) with little limitations.

ChromaCam adds a virtual web cam to your system. Whenever you access the ChromaCam image, an option screen will come up, that offers you to modify the output of your real web cam.

I tried it with several web cams. It worked best with my Logitech C920 camera. My wide angle camera from Spedal did not show as good results, the image contained a lot more grain.

The resulting image is not perfect (see the artifacts around the hair), but good enough to add some flair to the RPG session:


You can even add useful information to the background like the map to the current campaign:

As I took the image on my side of the conference, the image is mirrored. For the players, the writings are readable.

In a commercial setup you can make yourself to be part of a presentation:


The artifacts around the hair are due to a map hanging behind me that offers little contrast against my graying hair. If I were to remove it, the result would be even a bit better.

If you want to try this for yourself, I have two hints for you:

  • Start with the free version to see how ChromaCam works with your camera and with your environment. There are situation were the results will not be worth 30$.
  • If you are using Discord with ChromaCam, you have to disable the Hardware acceleration within the Voice & Video section of the Discord settings as shown below. Otherwise the ChromaCam app will crash whenever you go live.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Day 21: Mapmaking and the essence of art

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 20 or Day 22.

"At Waterloo Napoleon did surrender." The famous line from Abba refers to a point in time (1815), where the political landscape changed drastically. The French revolution seemed to have lost and the ancien regime took over again. But the people had experienced a different world they could and would not forget. As they could not express their more radical thoughts outwardly, they headed for safer pastures, more inward. This led to a new art style that nowadays is referred to as "Biedermeier".  Maybe in 100 years, Corona too will be the name of an art style, epoch or philosophy (or even all of it).

At least on my side the Corona has spawned quite some philosophical thoughts (at least philosophical by my standards). And today the ongoing crisis has infused another one. Please follow me on a long and winding road that leads to that door.

As one of the three regular readers of the blog you may have noticed that thanks to Corona I turned to playing our pen&paper RPG online. Looking for inspiration, I was pointed to a convention that (again thanks to Corona) was held online. Beside a round of Online RPG (in which I will participate tomorrow), I noticed a workshop on Fantasy Map Making. This idea went well together with me digging once again into creating maps. So I attended those 90 minutes this evening.

It was time well spent. The workshop was done by the Studio Donnerhaus who are currently doing a crowdfunding for their book about fantasy maps (link currently points to German website, sorry!). They talked about how to (and how not to) create maps for your game. During the workshop I sat there fearing for my neck as I was nodding so much.

What is the purpose of a map? To give players in my RPG campaign some orientation. Here is the rural village of honest, hard working farmers and there is the castle of the ruthless baron. But what is the purpose of the game? For me, it is the cooperative telling of a story. And in order to be a good map, the map too must tell a bit of the story.

And that is what a good map does according to the workshop.

Why is this map of a local rulers castle looking so organic, so good?


Because it tells a story all by itself. You may not notice it consciously, but the castle developed there over time. It was not just planted there by an overambitious game master who needed a roof so his antagonist and his lackeys don't get wet.

The castle was original a motte that was built in a hurry with a restraint of building materials, time and available infrastructure.


It was built there because the location fitted the need. And the motte did not turn into a full blown castle like a caterpillar into a butterfly but it gradually developed. The influx of people and resources gradually changed motte and village through intermediate steps.


The ferry is replaced by a bridge, land is parceled into smaller pieces and the real estate close to the castle becomes the most favored (promising safety and access to power).

In order to create such a great story telling map, you do not have to make all three (though it helps), but you should at least think about "Why is this castle here?" and "How did it become such a place?" This will also make your RP adventure a much better one. Because it makes your whole story much better. The baron does not rob the harvest and conscripts farmers just because he is an evil character but because he is under threat by a neighbor and has little time to become ready for a conflict and bring his castle from the last to the first state in a hurry.

They did tell a lot more about how to do good map making, but those points do not add to the story of this blog post. Because at this point did I ask, if they thought that a map generator could do this job and create a map of such a quality.

They replied (quite politely for such an insensitive) question that current city map generators suck, that they do not expect map generators to be able to do this during their lifetime and that they are artists and need to earn money too (from their art).

I perfectly with the first and the last third of the statement.

Map generators really do not produce good city maps. The best of them known to me is the medieval fantasy city generator by watabou. It is the best because you can generate dozens of cities per minute until you get one that "feels right."

Their work and I was love on first sight. I am known for my quick index finger when it comes to buying but today it beat it's record on becoming a Patreon for them. I also participate in their crowdfunding campaign and I think that the money is well spent. It is clear to me that they only can produce maps if they have something to chew (also an important aspect to think about when creating city maps).

But it is the middle part of the statement I disagree with. And my key witness is one of the most graphically unappealing computer games in history: Dwarf Fortress. The graphical style can make a 1990 game designer blanch in shock. It reminds me of games like Nethack or Empire (which was created in 1972).  It doesn't help that the game was created and is maintained by just two people.

So how can this mess of colored letters give me the pretension that a computer could make a good city map? Have three weeks of Home office robbed me completely of my marbles?

The reason for my disagreement is because Dwarf Fortress has a very, very unique feature. While creating the fantasy world to play in, it also creates thousands of years of history for those lands. Empires rise and fall into ruin, heroes set off to their quest and succeed or fail, their stories become myths and legends of the land. When playing in that world you cannot the escape the past history of it. This creates an unrivaled organic feeling. If the game had better graphics and a less steep learning curve, people would fall over themselves to play it.

So when a computer can create a believable world, it also can create the story of a believable city. All that would be left to do is the visualization. That is something current city generators can already do. So I am completely convinced that a computer already today could create a good, organic feeling city map.

This leads to two questions:

  • Why doesn't a good city generator exist?
  • What is the job of artists like the Donnerhaus Studio in a world where such a generator exists?
Those two questions are intrinsically linked. And it has to do with the question what makes up the essence of art.

If you look on how Dwarf Fortress creates it's believable world, you see a top down process. It has simple basic plots like "Empire A rises". Step by step this is broken down to rising cities, trade routes being established and religions coming into existence. The trade routes being established in turn leads to routes and bridges being created. The road in turn leads to villages coming into existence that receive a temple of the new religion. This goes down to "story atoms".

Then at the top level, the next story arc begins. Kingdom B goes to war with the empire A. The army of B marches over the road created by the merchants and it's bridges to loot and burn the village. The temple is destroyed and it's inner sanctum below is buried until rediscovered by the player hundreds of years later. The cave is not there because a designer put it there but because of the war between A and B.

Dwarf fortress breaks down a larger story arc into story atoms and translates their impact into a (in this case textual) description for the game.

Though the creators of Dwarf Fortress did an amazing deed by disassembling story lines and re-assembling a world from it, they did neither discover nor invent the building blocks. Also they relied on existing translations of story events into impact on a world. That is what other artists have done for them.

And this is (from my very subjective point of view) the essence of art. The art lies in discovering patterns in human behavior and development and translating it into words, music, design and other languages. The process of analyzing the pain of a lost love into a song is of the same kind as merging human anatomy and contemporary art style into statues of marble or discovering the impact of politics, economics and nature on the development of cities and using them to create imaginary ones.

Art is a translation process.

Therefor artists will always be needed. On the left side of the equation there are always new events and on the right side we have the eternal demand on understanding. We need to people to do the transfer. They create the building blocks a software can use to create believable worlds.

It is one of the main tasks for a civilized society to enable artists to do this job. We depend on them. People like me can write software but such translation (except on a very small scale) are beyond my capabilities. Therefore I have to do my part to create an ecosystem in which art may flourish.


All images are (C) 2020 by Donnerhaus GbR.


Thursday, April 9, 2020

Day 20: Holidays

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 19 or Day 21.

Thanks to the coming public holidays, I'm looking forward to four days of no (or just little) work.

Even in usual times, I would not travel far for just four days and I'm not of the lets-meet-the-family type. My 16-year-old-self would have been totally happy with the social distancing thing and being locked in with his computer. Though I improved over the last four decades, I still can go quite some time with my wife being the only person I'm meeting at a close distance.

I stumbled over an online role playing convention I'm going to attend. My plans include attending a workshop on drawing fantasy maps (which fits perfectly to Day 16) and a round of Online Midgard (from which I hope to get some tips for my own ones, see Day 9).

Furthermore I finally managed to acquire some fresh yeast. Unluckily the smallest packaging was about one pound of it. That gives me a perfect excuse for a baking spree. Currently I'm trying to improve on my pan-baked bread. Food-wise it will be a Lasagna (that would make Garfield happy) on Saturday and I'm still making plans for Monday (Lasagna usually lasts two days as usually end up with at least 6 pounds of it).

So I wish you happy holidays too and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Day 19: Why is the Home Office so exhausting?

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 18 or Day 20.

It is usual for me to return from work quite tired. Nevertheless the Home Office is even more exhausting. I find myself surprised at the fact that I end nearly every day with completely drained batteries. When reading about all the record numbers of players, I feel a twinge of envy. The holidays around easter arrive just in time for me to catch some breath. 

What makes the Home Office so stressful? There is not more work, so it must be in the way we're working right now. IMHO there are several aspects coming together:
  • The current mode of work has completely disrupted the daily schedule. There is no longer any lunch breaks where all colleagues head towards the tables (and therefore do not call you). I find it really hard to have a proper break around noon. I rarely had to eat as fast as I did the last days.
  • My job (sales) is all about communication and that has become a lot more difficult. A lot of people are not used to video conferences and chat as tools. This has me sometimes working on both ends of the communication while trying to integrate some training. I can totally understand that a lot of people dislike Microsoft Teams, but if it is the tool at hand, it should be used efficiently.
  • The new way of communicating has more channels. Those cause more context switches which in turn cost effort.
  • Trying to migrate the Hey-Joe-Principle into the online world does not work. Such attempts work just good enough to ruin other peoples day. If there is a working online process for X than use it and don't try to reroute it through personal connections. If only the requests that are obviously wrong with me would go away, a lot of stress would too.
  • The next one goes right on my own tab: the work has no clear start or end. It is more a fade-in and fade-out. The overall time tends to be longer than the usual work plus commuting. I sit there during breakfast and remember something and *POOF* I'm writing the first email at 7 a.m. and the last at 9 p.m. This is something I have to fix myself.
Probably I overlooked some aspects, but those seem to be the largest chunks of my power-drain.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Day 18: A changing world

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 17 or Day 19.

The Corona pandemic is changing the world at a frightening pace. Even if some changes may be beneficial to us in the long term, the earthquake-like pace will create faults within our society and economy.

There are changes that seem to be entertaining at the first glance. Computer games gained some importance as replacement for real life events. When professional driver Bubba Wallace ragequit from an online race, his sponsor fired him via Twitter. The driver told, that he "doesn't take this shit seriously" and just a month ago, this would have been inconsequential. As online racing is the only racing now, he was not quick enough to adopt.

It might be that racing comes back to the old glory once the crisis is over. But it also might not be the case. Some sponsors may and will discover, that they can have cheaper events (and with much better environment rating) to reach their target group. To expect that racing will be the same after Corona may the same as expecting that all the employees will return form their Home Office.

In the last decade one could witness a lot of snubbing against the eSports from the "real sports" fraction. Even when this is all over, the pecking order will not be the same ever again.

While I would not really shed a tear for the anachronistic racing industry, it really hurts me to see the dutch to destroy 80% of the flower production. Growing flowers is not something you turn on or off with a switch. When the current situation lasts long enough to affect the infrastructure of that industry (e.g. think of bee colonies that can no longer be maintained), a rebound may take decades.

But it doesn't need to be the big things. The handshake may go out of fashion as well. Though it will not die out (some people cannot not-handshake even now), especially in younger generations other forms of greeting will take a foothold. Though there may no longer be a health risk at this time next year, the psychological shadow will still fall on us.

The same effect may spell doom to the fairs and shows. They were declining anyway, prominent shows that drew hundreds of thousands just a short time got axed. On top of that we have the lost upfront costs for 2020 season which may only partially be saved through online events. Then this industry is strongly affected by the economic climate which currently only sees the construction of storm shelters. When add the psychological impact mentioned above, I find it hard to spot any ray of hope for this industry.

Even the toilet paper industry worries. They may see record sales right now, but those go into stock not usage. If the people do not find creative uses for their stocks, those just represent a sales slump ahead.

On the positive side, the current epidemic of online learning will clearly modernize the art of teaching. The enormous influx of new ideas and people is bound to change this area forever. I think it is practically impossible not to improve the current approach.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Day 17: Intermediate Review

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive.

We are now 17 days into The 100 Days Offensive. After starting with such lofty goals, what have I achieved so far?

Primarily I managed to write a blog post for every day, if you count that stub for Day 7. No post started of a longer discussion or drew more than 50 readers. But neither readership nor interaction for the blog posts have been a priority for me.

The activity on the cooking and baking side has been satisfactory. I managed to beak bread and buns quite regularly and have eaten self-cooked food nearly every day. One day I was weak and ate pre-fabricated meal of "Königsberger Klopse".

Culinary highlights have been my Meatloaf with bacon wrapping


and the Tandoori Chicken with peaches on rice.


Both meals were appreciated by the core user group. But compared to my initial announcement, I have to concede the documentation is lagging behind.

I can claim a success concerning playing our Pen&Paper RPG online. We are through the first initial technical hiccups and are currently on a good way to play one short weekly round. Next week we will try out Roll20 to support a dungeon crawling. It would probably much easier if we were playing a mainstream system like AD&D, but making things work is part of the fun.

On the virtual Kaffeklatsch balance sheet we have one event. I need to turn this one up. I still don't manage to contact myself as much as I expect from myself. But there are 83 days left, so enough time to turn things around.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Day 16: Drawing Maps

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive.

With Pen&Paper Role Playing Games, maps always held some significance. This was especially when you were playing heroic fantasy. Now with holding the campaigns online, this has become even more important. So how to create a nice fantasy map? I need one (and quickly) for my session this afternoon.

Historically I have been working with the Profantasy Campaign Cartographer 3+. The functionality of that tool is impressive. It is some kind of Swiss army knife for drawings. Below you can find my map for the "Fortress of the Damned" campaign I have been playing with friends for some years now.


I did not manage to use more than 10% of the capabilities of the tool. Even though, the map above represents at least half a day of work in addition to even more hours reading and viewing tutorials. The learning curve is very, very steep and the usability of the software is pretty low. You feel on every start that the software was designed decades ago and just got features on top of more features. It is a great tool to design the most intricate map you can imagine. From other users you can see marvels of art that I can only admire.

The software comes at a cost. In total (with all the expansions I bought), I've spent more than 200€ on licenses. The licenses are absolutely worth their money even if you would only use 50% of the capabilities.

But to be complete honest, drawing maps for me is just about getting the job done. I have an idea about what I want to illustrate and get there as quick as possible. The knowledge necessary to operate the Campaign Cartographer is just too high. I dig myself into the tool, draw a map. Then, 6 months later, I want to expand the map or draw a new one and I realize, I have to re-learn a lot of the skills.

So that brought me over to Inkarnate. Instead of a software, this is an online service where you can draw your map in a browser and export it afterwards. My first attempt ended with this maps:


This is a very rough sketch and could be improved, but it was done in just 30min. So from my point of view, the productivity was quite high. With 25$ for the "pro" version of the service, it is quite cheap and you can start making maps in a limited quality for free.

The asset list is much smaller than with Campaign Cartographer and you will probably not reach the same level of artistic details, but for me it seems the tool that better fits my needs.

I will report on my future endeavors in the map making business.


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Day 15: Donating Blood during Corona times

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive.

I started donating blood as a student. Unluckily I didn't keep up with it after University until last year. Currently I try to be regular donor with my 10th donation coming up in six weeks.

My blood goes to the UKSH in Kiel. The reason for this is pretty simple. They are the only ones I found to be accepting blood on a Saturday. Furthermore they are strategically placed in a large, easy to reach mall. For working people that is a huge advantage. Since last year, they also have a bicycle highway leading directly to their front door. That reduces my time to get there by more than 25% while circumventing all traffic jams toward the mall.

When my time came up in February, Corona was not a huge topic yet. Unluckily I was in no shape to give my blood as I was battling with a cold at that time and was taking antibiotics. Accordingly I emailed the department of transfusion medicine on the time I should wait before the next donation. They gave me timeout of 4 weeks.

Much has happened during that time, but that has already been covered in my blog. With the end of the timeout arriving today, I called yesterday the station to see if the donations would still be ongoing. It was a good thing to call. As I learned you can only donate during pre-arranged slots. Luckily there was a slot today and my sales tongue even manage to expand it to two slots as I try to pull a friend to come with me. The only disadvantage was that my slot was at 8:53 a.m. which is pretty early for me on a Saturday. But I had to smile at the very German precision on the time specified.

One change Corona has brought us is the online questionnaire. Every donor has to complete it on every donation. I had already asked to put it online in the past, but the blood donation center disliked the idea. With the current situation, they now ask every donor to arrive with a completed questionnaire. You still have to print it, but you can complete it on your PC. I am no friend of all those questions asked, they are pretty invasive and include details about your sex live.

The next change becomes obvious when you arrive at the donation center. You no longer get a number and wait for it to be called. Instead (as you have a pre-arranged slot) they just call you up by name. The chairs in the waiting area are spaced further apart than previously and with the slot based system, they avoid crowding the waiting room.

From there on, the process is pretty unchanged. My impression is that they removed some couches to gain space for additional distancing. If not everyone had been wearing masks, it would have been business as usual. I asked the staff if the level of donations has decreased with the ongoing crisis. This was denied. Though the maximum capacity has decreased somewhat, with the slot system they achieve a more even distribution and manage to get the same number of donations.

Something I like at the donation center is the fact that you receive a good breakfast in addition to 20 Euros. I half expected the breakfast to have fallen victim to the current times but it was there as usual.

So overall I can give the good news that Corona does currently not impede the blood supply.