Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ingeniuous - a board game for singles

Board games are fun. Unfortunately you need friends to play with. It's a bit unfair, right?
I do own a few board games, but most of them I have never played. Since I moved away from home, there's just no one to play with.

But there is at least one game you can play by yourself. It's called "Einfach Genial" in German (Ingenious or Mensa Connections in English).

I own a small travelling version, you can play with one or two players. The normal version can be played with up to four people. So you can both play it alone AND with friends.

So how does it work?
You randomly draw a double-hexagon tile and put it on the board. The tile has two symbols on it. You count the number of the same symbol in straight lines on each of the sides next to the first symbol. You do the same for the other symbol. In this way you collect points for each of the six different symbols. The game ends when no more tiles can be places (this can happen sooner or later, depending on how the tiles are placed).
Now there's a little twist: not the biggest number of points wins. With several players the lowest number of points are compared. So you need to be a little strategic and try to achive a balance between all of your symbols.


Monday, 25 July 2016


I wanted to share this song by Marillion with you because I think the lyrics are very meaningful (and also it's a great song).

You strong enough to be...?
Have you the faith to be...?
Sane enough to be...?
Honest enough to stay...?
Don't have to be the same.
Don't have to be this way.
C'mon and sign your name.
You wild enough to remain...

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Like an Englishman in New York

[I published this post in the spring of last year on my other blog. But I figured it fits in here, too.]

Lately I feel weirded out again. I have these phases when I get depressed and feel utterly lonely because no one around me is like me or understands me.

At work I often feel at the wrong place. I don't share the humour of my coworkers and sometimes I despise their dull jokes and rude behaviour. Especially one external coworker is annoying me to no end - but I seem to be the only one. Am I too sophisticated? Plus I think I did some really clever work, for example I guessed the cause of a bug where programmers were searching for days; but my idea was dismissed. Even after it turned out, hours later, that I was right, no one acknowledged it.
Is there an expression for feeling superior to your peers but instead of feeling good and proud, it just makes you sad and lonely?

There were also several events in the last few weeks to maybe trigger this feeling further.

The Death of Leonard Nimoy.
When I was a certain age and struggling with what maybe was the oncoming of a clinical depression, I wished I was a Vulcan. Superior in mind and especially in control of all emotions, not letting those get in the way. So of course Spock was my favourite character of the original Star Trek series.

Surprisingly Nimoys death was big news in mainstream media, too.
But when I searched for products, you know, fan merch, I mostly got those "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock" stuff from Big Bang Theory. And it made me wonder: how many people actually saw Star Trek, the original series? Most, it seems, just know him from Big Bang Theory or the new Star Trek movies, like some kind of second-hand geekism.

The Death of Terry Pratchett.
Even though of course I was aware it would happen sooner or later, this came as a shock, too. Pratchett is one of my favourite authors, and it was always a joy to hold a new Discworld book in your hands and be able to read it. It felt like not only Sir Terry died, but with him Susan Sto Helit, and Granny Weatherwax and Tiffany Aching and Sam Vimes - they all died, too. Additionally I'm following his daughter Rhianna Pratchett on twitter and felt sorry for her. It also made me terrified of thinking about my parents dying.

Seeing how she dealt with this made me admire her more. I'm not a big gamer myself, so I'm not interested too much in her role in the gaming industry. But I read a piece on her and her relationship with her father and it made me feel like she's a kindred spirit. In a way, maybe, a better version of myself. And I thought: Wow, it would be great to have a friend like that. Someone who maybe not shares all of my exact interests, but someone who understands and listens.
Anyway, I did wear all black at work the next day. Since I always wear rather dark clothes, no one noticed. I did not mention it, I was afraid of condescending remarks and how I'd react to them.

I feel like a lot of the good ones go, musicians, too, and I'm not sure those who are still there are good enough to fill the gap. Music and books are very important to me, but what will the future hold?

The partial Solar Eclipse in Europe.
I badly screwed this one up myself. Since I'm following scientific accounts and a few astronomers on Twitter I knew about this beforehand. But I had other things on my mind, procrastinated, whatever - and I only remembered a few days before that I'd need special glasses to watch it. I also underestimated the demand and the supply of these glasses. Other than with the total eclipse in 1999 hardly anyone sold these glasses this time. And those places were sold out. So in the end I couldn't get any. I was rather angry with myself because it would have been no problem if I had just taken care of it a few days earlier.

No one around me was interested in watching the eclipse and most considered my quest a little peculiar. I actually built three different kinds of pinhole cameras the evening before and took them with me to work. Two or three coworkers got interested then. I got excited when I realized our shutters acted like pinhole cameras, too, and you could watch the eclipse right there, tenfold, in our office. I could not understand how people around me could be so indifferent. I just don't get it! This happens so rarely, who knows whether we'll have a chance this good ever again, the weather was wonderful. How can they get excited about a worldcup that happens every four years, but not about this?

I could hardly do any work during the morning and then went out around the time of the highest eclipse to try out my pinhole cameras. There were three others there. Three! Ok, it was just one door of many, but still... One of them had special glasses (old ones from 1999) and I could borrow them for a few glances. I was really happy about that. The others were curious about my equipment. Something as simple as a pinhole camera fascinated them so much, like a magic trick - and those were grown-ups, mostly working in IT. I felt like I came from another world.

After it was over I felt so happy that I could experience this. I wish I could have shared it with more people, shared my joy. I still can't get my head around most people being so indifferent and letting such a rare event pass without a single glance.

And even worse: lots of German schools locked their pupils inside. Yes, you read that right: school, responsible for educating children, locked them inside during this rare event. Media repeated again and again that you shouldn't look into the sun and the with the shortage of special glasses they just took the easy and safe way. Some schools even closed the shutters. I have no words for how appalled and disappointed I am. I understand the need to be safe, I myself refused to looks through a space blanket. But Pinhole cameras are perfectly safe, cheap and easy to make. Even a famous TV physicist posted a rant about how we live in a society of fear mongering.

So, additionally to feeling lonely and cut off, I'm also sad about what this world is coming to. There is so much fear in this world and freedom and equality and peace are eaten up by it. And many of the people pretending to protect freedom are sowing fear and feel like I can do nothing but watch helplessly.
But this issue probably is better of in another blog post.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Coping as an introvert at work

For introverts like me it's really difficult to work in an open-plan office. Maybe you're even highly sensitive - this makes it even worse.
On the other hand it also greatly depends on your coworkers. A group of programmers, working concentrated and each listening to music is vastly different to a group of people who regularly have conference calls and team work throughout the room.
Here I'll try to give you some ideas of how to cope when it gets too much.

Listen to music
This helps me a lot at the moment. I can't just not listen when I hear people talk all around me and it agitates me when they talk bs, like about a scientific issue they have no idea about or dissing others. Since I started to stream radio on the internet I often feel much more relaxed. Actually the company officially doesn't allow this, I think, but since no one complained yet...
Another possibility, of course, is bringing your own headphones and iPod.

Shift your time at work
This isn't always possible, I know. I commute a lot and am a night owl, so being there early is extra difficult. But recently I found that if I can get to bed early enough, it's worth it. It's a lot quieter and even if your coworkers are already there, probably it's the people who also enjoy some quiet time to work and usually there aren't any conference calls scheduled. Plus you get out of work earlier.
You could also get to work later and stay longer. It really depends on your individual situation.

Change your lunch break

I also found that having my lunch break at a different time leaves you with an blissfully empty office when the others are having their lunch.
Unfortunately in this extroverted society it often looks bad when you spend your lunch break alone. Career advice often tells you to use it to move up. But maybe you can find some different coworkers to eat with - you won't be eating alone, it might give you a chance to learn new things and I found it really makes it a bit easier to spend time with other people than the ones you are around for the other eight hours.
Or maybe you can leave your workplace during lunch time and take a walk outside?

If you have something to talk about with a coworker who's in another office - go there and talk directly with them. Yes, maybe it's easier to write an email, epsecially for introverts. But depending on where they work, the time you need to get there is precious time away from your office. If the others wonder about it, just tell them that it's healthier (which it is) and often more effective.

Seek out empty places
Haven for introverts: the toilet! Socially accepted time alone. And most likely no one will question you if you need a little more time than usual.
I also found staircases to be calming. In bigger office buildings there's often that staircase at the back that hardly gets used by anyone. Use that one. Take your time walking up and down the stairs, take breaks, breathe and enjoy the silence.

Get a laptop
If possible maybe you can use a laptop instead of a desktop office computer. Maybe you can argue with your boss that you need one to have all your data with you when going into meetings. When you have one you can get away from the noise and work in empty conference rooms or the cantina.
I just requested one, so I'm curious how it'll work out for me.

What do you do when you have to get away from people at work? Do you have any more ideas? Please comment and share them.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Welcome freaks!

So, what is all this about?

La Cage aux Folles was a French movie I knew as a kid (re-made as "The Birdcage" with Robin Williams). Since I'm not homosexual or a transvestite, I changed that into Freaks - et voilĂ , that's how this blog got it's name. And then lay unused for a long time...
I decided to re-vive this now.

A few words about me.
I'm quite often the odd one out. I'm the Myers-Briggs Type INTJ (leaning a little towards INFJ). According to the internet that makes me the 1%. And maybe it explains a lot.
I'm a woman. And introvert. A geek and a probably a nerd. I'm curious. Atheist. I'm a computer scientist. I'm German. I like anime and fantasy books and science fiction and rock music and cats. I'm single.

I decided to write about my life as the freak, about the way I try to deal with being the strange one.
Though I'm not yet sure where this exactly will be going (or if it will be going anywhere at all).

This blog is supposed to be a place for the odd ones out.
There's all kinds of ways to be odd ones out. The introvert among extroverts, the geek among mainstreamers, the homosexual among heterosexuals, the immigrant among natives, the one with mental problems or physical disabilities...
Feel free to comment and tell your stories. If you want to write a guest post, just tell me.