Going home

For the past year I’ve been living in Malta. I joined FRVR as a Release Engineer, and helped shape the production pipeline of a ton of fun mobile games. It’s been an amazing adventure and I’ve learned so much in the last year. 

Marsaxlokk Harbor

Honestly, if my moving to Malta was only about the job, I’d stay. In a heartbeat. 
From the coworkers, to the job itself, to what we’re building and the trails we’re, ahem, blazing it’s been an absolutely ridiculous rollercoaster ride.

But unfortunately, Malta is an incredibly tiny country. That doesn’t leave room for subcultures and niches, and I’ve haven’t had any luck creating a network or finding friends outside of work. So while the 8-10 hours a day at the office have been amazing, it’s the last hours of the day that broke the camels back, so to speak. 

Terese and Ingrid enjoying the sunset

That is not to say that the year has been bad. It hasn’t. Not by a long shot.

A lot of friends have come to visit, and many crazy adventures have been had. And oh my god, so much good food. But now it’s time to go home. 

The FRVR Adventure

When I joined FRVR a little over a year ago, the company was tiny. It was basically just Chris, Brian and Anna, plus a few freelancers. The office in Mellieha was a tiny concrete box, where we were able to somehow cram in four desks and ultimately four people. 

Today it’s a company of 26 and growing, with offices in London, Beijing and Seville … and, of course, Malta. It’s been incredible to be able to a part of kicking this thing off the ground, and I am super excited to see where this madness ends up. 

Hjem til Århus

In  about two weeks the moving company will come and load up all my meager belongings, and ship them back to Denmark. Specifically I’ll be returning to Århus. I’ve found a lovely flat in the heart of the city (in the so-called “Latin Quarter“). 

I’ve lived in Århus for most of my adult life, and while I can’t be sure, it feels like it was mistake when I took a job in Copenhagen and moved there. 

So now I return to where I feel at home. Where some of my best friends are. To movie nights, warm embraces and friday night cocktails.

Goodbye sunshine, hello snow

Oliver and Maja in sunny Valletta

It’s not like I’m not going to miss Malta. It’s an island that’s incredibly easy to fall in love with. The weather is amazing, the food is great and almost anywhere you look the ocean is there. 

The people are warm and friendly (if you’re white), and while their relaxed disposition to just about anything can at times be incredibly infuriating, it is also incredibly helpful in removing stress. Once you’ve acclimatised, that is. 

Spider-Man

Growing pains

Preface; this is just some scattered thoughts and reaction to events that unfolded in the larping community today. There’s probably a ton of stuff that I need to elaborate on at some point. 

This meme feels particularly appropriate today.

I started larping when I was 13 years old, some 20+ years ago. Back then we were the weird kids running around woods with padded sticks and bedsheets with holes cut in them.

But the worlds we built felt so real and captivating, that it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that this particular bug was one that stuck around.

Larping permeates all layers of societies and larpers come from all walks of life. It’s one of the things that make this community great. Especially in Scandinavia where I believe we do what we can to make sure that there’s room for everyone; in spite of flaws, social ineptitude or diagnosis.

Most of us have always been the odd ducks, so I’d like to tell myself we’re more tolerant of whatever damage the others carry around (this is of course total bullshit, but I like the thought and the idea that this is what we work towards).

Fast forward to today, and larping is a massive hobby. We who participate in it form international communities and share incredible experiences. We pour obscene amounts of money, time and effort into crafting our worlds, and as we’ve grown up we’ve become an increasingly demanding audience.

Commercialising our art

It’s difficult to talk about larping in Scandinavia without mentioning Dziobak Larp Studios. They’re the producers of the massive events you’ve read about on Geek & Sundry, HuffPo and elsewhere. From the Harry Potter-ish College of Wizardry to the Downton Abbey inspired Fairweather Manor they’ve managed to bring larping into the mainstream. That is in and of itself a massive accomplishment. But sadly these successes have not come without cost.

DLS is the brainchild of “Visionary Wild Card” Claus Raasted. Claus is an old acquaintance of mine, and I can definitely vouch for the “wild card” part of his chosen title. We’ve rarely seen eye to eye, and at times it has led to clashes, which were from my perspective more a matter of personality than objective. It’s hard to refute the benefit of having Claus in our community. He is, for better and worse, a trailblazer and a force to be reckoned with.

So, what’s the problem

Sadly, as DLS has grown and the company is trying to be profitable that “come hell or high water” attitude has repeatedly caused problems for DLS. It’s easy to see how this particular aspect of Claus’ personality permeates his company.

There was a time when the laissez-faire attitude of associations were easier to deal with because everyone was a volunteer and just doing the best they could with what was available. To me it feels like as if DLS is often trying to play itself down as “just another association”, while still being a for-profit company.

It feels to me that DLS hasn’t quite realized that there’s a different level of expectation when you’re a for profit company selling a product. Sure, they may say it’s co-creation, and that’s likely true, but that’s also really easy to sell with a customerbase as intensely passionate as the average larper.

No one is perfect, and growing a company naturally means you will fuck up from time to time. It is, however, how you manage those fuckups that will define your long term success. And it is managing it’s fuckups that it seems to me that DLS stumbles again and again.

  • Rather than respond to criticism by listening and integrating, they try to silence critics. By going so far as using a business relationship to silence a critic by contacting their employer. Or by saying that critics have hurt their employees feelings (welcome to the big leagues; this is how customers react).
  • Fucking up rights management. Which is an admittedly difficult arena when you have so many passionate volunteers who will spend so much of their spare time to make sure their experience at your event is the best experience it can possibly be. But that just makes it so much more important that you get it right every single time.
  • And worst of all; repeatedly working with and hiring abusers and then turning a blind eye when made aware of the situation. This feels particularly grating as Claus has repeatedly positioned himself as a proactive feminist in the larping community, so seeing this kind of behaviour from his company ends making all his good works smack of manipulation and hollow talk (which I know it isn’t, but goddammit if it doesn’t feel like it).

It seems like the guiding principle at DLS is not unlike Facebooks; “move fast and break stuff”. The problem is of course that DLS has far less social capital than Facebook, and each time they break stuff they also erode the community’s confidence in them.

Most of the time I don’t respond or react at all to these kinds of things, but DLS is swiftly becoming the face of larp in a commercial sense, and I am so tired of seeing them drop the ball. Am I being unfair or too harsh? Maybe, though I don’t think so. All of my frustration is founded in wanting these lovable morons to succeed.  

DLS would do well to figure out what their position is on social issues, because right now it certainly feels like they’re picking and choosing when it is convenient to respect and protect those who love and attend their events. Maybe then it’ll be easier to root for them again?

missed connections; emergency exit row

You: Lovely infectious laughter, brunette, travelling with your friend. Me: tall chubby red bearded supergeek.

We started laughing about the Chinese gentleman who thought we were waving at him when we were yelling at him to take a step backward, so a young mother could get into her seat next to her child.
We never stopped laughing for the two and a half hour flight. You found it especially funny that I got elbowed in the eye by the flight attendant during the safety demonstration, though you admitted to feeling bad for laughing at my misfortune.
You had been visiting Malta for Easter break with your friend, and was sad to be leaving. I jokingly invited you and your friend to come visit. You accepted (your friend roller her eyes at this).

I don’t know if it was fear or stress at missing my connecting flight, but I never got around to giving you my email address. If you’re out there, I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee sometime.

Fun with Drones

Well, fun with a drone. But the result still came out nice.

Feel free to leave comments and constructive critiques on the video.

Private webhooks

Webhooks are cool!

I was looking into setting up my own incoming webhook server, because webhooks are super cool and useful for a variety of things. 
And also because I am a giant nerd and wanted to play around with some stuff. 

Now, there are very few ready made components for this out there, so I had to do a bit of digging and I've ended up with the configuration I'm documenting here for posterity. 

My setup is running on a VM on my local network, and I've routed an obscure port to it, so I can receive webhook requests from anywhere on the internet. 
The setup is as follows:

  • a VM running Ubuntu 16.04.3
  • Adnan Hajdarević's awesome Webhook server written in Go.

Setting up Go

Go is not in Ubuntus repos yet (should be in 17.04, but that does not have LTS support). So I followed these excellent instructions

Running the program as a service

First I install the webhook server. 

go get github.com/adnanh/webhook

This has no real value if I have to log in to the server and manually start it after each reboot, so with a little help from Caius I managed to set it up as a service, so the webhook runs on each boot. 

[Unit]
Description=Webhook service
ConditionPathExists=/home/[username]/work/bin/webhook
After=network.target

[Service]
Type=simple
User=[username]
Group=[username]
LimitNOFILE=1024

Restart=on-failure
RestartSec=10
startLimitIntervalSec=60

WorkingDirectory=/var/webhook
ExecStart=/home/[username]/work/bin/webhook -hooks /var/webhook/config/hooks.json -verbose

# make sure log directory exists and owned by syslog
PermissionsStartOnly=true
ExecStartPre=/bin/mkdir -p /var/log/echoservice
ExecStartPre=/bin/chown syslog:adm /var/log/echoservice
ExecStartPre=/bin/chmod 755 /var/log/echoservice
StandardOutput=syslog
StandardError=syslog
SyslogIdentifier=webhookd

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

The program loads a config file called hooks.json, that I've placed in /var/webhook/config, and it's a basic file that lists the names of the hooks available, what script that hook should activate and what the working directory for that command is.

[
  {
    "id": "redeploy-webhook",
    "execute-command": "/var/scripts/redeploy.sh",
    "command-working-directory": "/var/webhook"
  }
]

Now I can define what hooks I want, and whatever scripts I need to have executed. Examples of this could be having my Hue lights flash if one of my servers crash, or privately scrobbling my Plex views, to name but a few things I can do with this little box. 

My Cave

Updated July 13, 2018: New peripherals

Smarter nerds than I have extolled the virtues of The Cave.

I moved to Malta in the beginning of December. It was a move that was swiftly planned and executed, and brought with it a lot of chaos. It has taken me nearly a month and a half to settle in, and I think part of that is because I did not yet have my desk set up in my cave. 

In my apartment my cave is a nook in the living room. I live here by myself, so I have no need for it to be in a room by itself. It’s enough that it is here. 

I also have very specific needs, and my desk is a space for both work and play. As such I need it to support both my Mac (for work) and my gaming rig (for, well, gaming). 

Work

My work machine is a 2017 Retina MacBook Pro (I have the 15″ Touchbar version, which I love, btw). It’s a 2.8GHz quadcore i7, with 16 gigs of RAM and the “large” Radeon Pro 560 with 4 gigs of RAM. It has 512GB of fast NVMe Flash storage. 
I absolutely love this machine, with one notable exception … the keyboard is a massive dumpster fire. It’s an embarrassment, but it’s also something I think Apple will address in future revisions in what I would otherwise consider the best laptop I have ever owned.

Play

I recently built myself a gaming rig. I haven’t owned a Windows machine in more than a decade. 
But after getting a game company as a client it was harder and harder for me to justify not trying their games, and so I dipped my toe in and bought a ready made system. That annoyed the snot out of me in no time, so I decided to build a rig for myself.
If there’s one thing I learned during this build it is that the naming of parts and pieces for gaming PC’s is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. 

I chose the Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 5 case for my rig. It has plenty of space so I can upgrade later if I want to. For a motherboard I went with a budget option of an MSI B250 Pro-VD. It supports NVMe drives, has six SATA connectors, one PCIe x16 slot for a GPU and supports up to 32GB of DDR4 memory. 

For a CPU I chose a Kaby Lake i5-7400 processor. It seems like a decent compromise between price and performance. It’s a quadcore 3.0GHz. No hyperthreading, though, but so far it has taken everything I’ve thrown at it with gusto.
 I also fitted the rig with 16GB of RAM (Kingston Fury HyperX DDR4), in the shape of two sticks of 8GB each.
For storage I have a 256GB NVMe drive from Samsung (an Evo 850 if I remember correctly), as well as one 1TB WD Green and one 1.5TB WD Green spinning platter drives.
 I chose a Geforce GTX 1070 for the GPU. It seems, again, as a decent compromise between price and performance.

Tieing it all together

For work I have found that I really work best with two monitors. For gaming I have fallen in love with the ultrawide variety of monitors. My primary monitor is an Acer Predator X34. It has an astonishing 3440×1440 pixel resolution, and it supports G-Sync and 100hz refresh rate.

My secondary monitor is a Dell U2515H. It’s a 2560×1440 pixel resolution monitor. Both monitors sport USB3.0 hubs for attaching a variety of peripherals.

The two machines share the Predator X34 via an ATEN CS782DP KVM switch. It took a bit of finagling to hook up and get working reliably, but now it’s pretty sweet. 
And the MacBook talks to both monitors via a CalDigit Thunderstation 3. That’s also a pretty cool piece of kit that works as a breakout box for the MacBook Pro, as well as power delivery. So via one Thunderbolt 3 cable I can connect my Mac to two monitors, Ethernet and more.

As for peripherals I have separate devices for both machines, primarily because I want them to be mission oriented. So the gaming rig has a Razer BlackWidow X Chroma keyboard, a Logitech G502 gaming mouse, a Logitech G430 headset and a Logitech X52 HOTAS setup.
The Mac is using a Logitech MX Master mouse (I haven’t upgraded to the second version, yet), an Apple Magic Keyboard and a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium tablet.

UPDATED, July 13, 2018:
I am now using a Logitech Craft keyboard with a Logitech MX Master 2S. The Logitech Options software makes it supereasy for me to switch between three devices (where I am only using two right now), without having to move keyboards and mice around. It’s made for a much cleaner desk.

For gaming I am using the Logitech G430 headet, a Microsoft Xbox One controller, and the Logitech X52 HOTAS.

Pumping Iron

Recently I’ve started going to the gym regularly, and I’ve started punishing my weak flesh by lifting heavy pieces of metal. I know, I know … it sounds like the Body Snatchers grabbed me, and now someone else is inside Thomas. I am by far the most comfortable person I know, and I am lazy to a fault.

But the fact of the matter is that in the last three years I’ve managed to pack on 40 kilograms more than I’m supposed to be lugging around. It’s not all due to sloth, though. That year and a half where I was completely sidelined because of stress and anxiety certainly didn’t help, and the amount of comfort eating I did in that period exacerbated an already shitty situation.

So here I am, lugging my fatty corpus to the gym on a regular basis. I plan on dropping the first 30 kilogram in about a year and a half. If I can keep it up. Cross your fingers, eh?

On being alone

I fucking hate being alone, and with the way my brain is wired, I am very good at ending up feeling alone. I can sit in a room full of people whom I know and with whom I share a common interest, and feel absolutely 100% disconnected from them. Yay. Awesome.

So, a couple of months back I ended the relationship I was in. From where I was standing I thought we were working together to try and fix the problems we were having. I thought we had made a commitment to give it an extra shot and work on our communication issues. I was wrong.

So, here I am again. Or … I’ve been here all along when I look back. I don’t feel like I’ve been in a relationship for the past two years. Maybe the first one. Maybe only the first half of the first year. There was certainly a distinct downward trend from there.

I’d like to say I miss her, specifically. But that feels disingenuous. I don’t feel I was treated fairly or even well at the end. And so it’s hard to be too sad about a relationship ending. It had run its course (Christ, I hate that phrase … it’s also a lie; one of us took a hatchet to it and didn’t try to resuscitate). Good riddance.

At the urging of some of my friends and an effort to prove to myself that I am not completely unlovable, that some person somewhere might find me attractive, I tried my hand at online dating (Tinder, OkCupid, etc). That was a total and utter slap in the face with a wet Sunday newspaper.

I see my friends enjoy intimacy (not sex necessarily, but physical closeness) and getting the attention that is not around in my life. And I can feel that need growing.

All of this is bullshit of course. I know this from an intellectual standpoint (or, I tell myself that’s the case anyway). But I don’t feel it. And that’s really the important part.

Based on my own history that means it’ll probably be another four to six years before I see anything of the sort again.
If I ever become well and truly depressed, this is the reason.

Work & Play

On and off (more on than off) I’ve been running my own business since 2006. I’ve never been much for formalized things, and so I’ve never really maintained an actual office for my business. It was never my idea that it was something that should grow into a massive corp, and so being just me suited me just fine.

It, however, also meant I worked from home when I wasn’t on-site with a client. And that, my friends, is a world-class grade A shitty idea.

The problem that follows with working from home is not really having clear lines of demarcation between work time and free time. The life as a freelancer is already guilt-ridden enough (should I read that new Scalzi novel, or should I not really rather be working on that new client project).

January last year I took over my first company lease. There were several reasons for this. I had moved in with the Doctor, and her flat is super tiny. Combine that with the fact that she would come home after night shifts and need to sleep, and suddenly working from home was no longer feasible. The lease was, fortunately, located in the same building as the Doctor’s flat. And so I took over the first official office space for my company, a full 80 square meters in the basement of the building.

That worked well for a while, and it was awesome to have an official home for Campground, it quickly became untenable. The offices were in an old building, and the landlord hadn’t been good with upkeep, which meant a lot of work needed to be put in to make it into a viable office space. Still, I signed the lease, with the promise from the landlord, that they would get on fixing the problems swiftly. They never did.

Frustration grew, and I have ended up terminating the lease. Instead, I have now moved into swanky offices in the heart of Copenhagen, in Jorcks Passage, where I’ve sublet some space from some old clients, Cape CPH. Things are finally looking up.