Switzerland’s own anti-Muslim campaign

The Swiss People’s Party (one of the most powerful parties in Switzerland) has recently launched a campaign against easier naturalization of third-generation foreigners. This is one of the billboards:

teaserbreitgross
People’s Party campaign, photo by Newsnetz. Note the nazi color scheme.

As a Swiss person, I am way more afraid of the old white men behind this campaign than I am of that hypothetical woman behind her niqab.

These men have in the past:

  • Weakened our education by cutting funding.
  • Managed to make the building of minarets illegal while building Christian churches and Jewish synagogues is still legal.
  • Supported not one but two new laws that undermine privacy, increase surveillance and allow remote wiretapping of Swiss citizens and others on pure suspicion, without a court order. These laws are BÜPF and NDG.
  • Are now supporting another new law that reduces taxes for large corporations while increasing them for individuals, the Corporate Tax Reform Act III.

And they are mostly men. Only 11 of their 65 seats in the national council are under the butts of women.

As a reaction to their billboards I would love to see an interview with a third-generation foreigner who likes to wear the niqab, but I’m pretty sure you won’t find one. The only person I am aware of in Switzerland who even wears a niqab is Swiss through and through: Nora Illi. On the right in this picture as you can surely guess:

Anne Will
Photo by Spiegel/WDR

But since she’s had Swiss citizenship since birth, I guess that won’t be a problem for our geniuses at the People’s Party, eh?

The Dhammapada exploration – part 8: Thousands

This is a series of articles I’m doing on one of the basic Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada. Read the rest of the articles in this series.

Chapter 9 powerfully drives home the size and importance of the dhamma (the teaching, wisdom, knowledge, the true nature of reality), of the practice, of mental concentration.

100. Better than a thousand useless words is one useful word, hearing which one attains peace.

101. Better than a thousand useless verses is one useful verse, hearing which one attains peace.

102. Better than reciting a hundred meaningless verses is the reciting of one verse of Dhamma, hearing which one attains peace.

What’s funny about this is that the Buddhist canon consists of thousands upon thousands of verses itself.

Then again, you have to consider that Buddhist teaching was often phrased in a way that can be understood by anyone and everyone. There are more advanced texts, there are verses regulating monastic life, there is advice about worldly things. Not every bit of Buddhist teaching will be important or useful to everyone.

Anyhow, the core message here is that you can write a billion words, if none of them is useful, it’s a waste.

103. Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself.

I totally enjoy this one. It’s indeed easier to just slap someone in the face than to must the will to overcome your own fears, insecurities, imperfections and shortcomings.

104-105. Self-conquest is far better than the conquest of others. Not even a god, an angel, Mara or Brahma can turn into defeat the victory of a person who is self-subdued and ever restrained in conduct.

We’ve seen Mara before, and Brahma was said to be the chief god of the hinduistic religions at the time of the Buddha, that’s why he appears in these texts. If you conquer yourself, nothing can undo this victory.

106. Though month after month for a hundred years one should offer sacrifices by the thousands, yet if only for a moment one should worship those of perfected minds that honor is indeed better than a century of sacrifice.

107. Though for a hundred years one should tend the sacrificial fire in the forest, yet if only for a moment one should worship those of perfected minds, that worship is indeed better than a century of sacrifice.

If you recognize the wisdom of a wisest one, an arahant, this is worth more than a thousand empty rituals.

108. Whatever gifts and oblations one seeking merit might offer in this world for a whole year, all that is not worth one fourth of the merit gained by revering the Upright Ones, which is truly excellent.

109. To one ever eager to revere and serve the elders, these four blessing accrue: long life and beauty, happiness and power.

Well, you can hope for that. But you can also see this as so much superstitious poppycock. It is also in contradiction to other Dhammapada passages where it is said that not your parents, only you yourself can make wise choices for yourself.

But choosing your own path does not have to conflict with being respectful towards elders. I’m not sure what the Pali word was that was translated as “elders” here, but some translations have it as “the worthy ones”, not the elders. I like that one much better, because just by being older one does not necessarily become wise, and I see no reason to revere a person if they are merely old but foolish.

110. Better it is to live one day virtuous and meditative than to live a hundred years immoral and uncontrolled.

111. Better it is to live one day wise and meditative than to live a hundred years foolish and uncontrolled.

112. Better it is to live one day strenuous and resolute than to live a hundred years sluggish and dissipated.

113. Better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.

The rise and fall is connected to dependend origination. Something we haven’t seen too much of in the Dhammapada so far, but that is a core concept of Buddhism.

114. Better it is to live one day seeing the Deathless than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the Deathless.

115. Better it is to live one day seeing the Supreme Truth than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the Supreme Truth.

The deathless (amata, not to be confused with anatta, the non-self or non-soul) is not immortality. Instead the deathless state is one of full awareness, of getting rid of clinging, of Nibbana.Join me next time if you’ve like this, when we explore one of my favorite topics: evil!

Did your mouse turn all weird in Debian and now you suck at Quake?

If you have a recent Debian testing release, you might have noticed that your mouse now behaves very differently. For me, I noticed it when my aiming turned wobbly in Quake. Quake has extremely tight controls and shouldn’t feel as if you’re playing a 2016 console FPS with jelly dildos in place of fingers. So I was a bit surprised when it suddenly did. Also, I couldn’t reliably hit e.g. a close button on a window or the menu entry I wanted.

Continue reading “Did your mouse turn all weird in Debian and now you suck at Quake?”

I sold my childhood. Also, net-zero challenge!

This was a very interesting experience and it sort of ties in with my challenge of a year of not buying video games, but since it’s not totally related, here’s a separate post.

I’ve been gaming for over 30 years now, and I’ve accumulated many good games. They were resting in a secret hideout in the alps, never played, collecting dust. I still felt quite attached to them, but did I play them? No. I have the wonderful SFC30 controller, coupled with the high-accuracy Higan emulator, I don’t miss the physical consoles.

My collection included some rarities with a high trade value:

  • Final Fantasy III (US) for SNES, boxed with manual, worth roughly US$ 300.
  • Chrono Trigger (US) for SNES, boxed with manual, worth around 300 as well.
  • Pocky & Rocky for SNES, also around 300, but without box more like 100.
  • Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast) Anniversary Edition with medal, boxed, also around 100.
  • Neo Geo Pocket Color with many games, including a boxed limited edition Match of the Millennium.

Along with many smaller games of sentimental value to me, like Street Fighter II for SNES. You notice I wrote “included”, because I sold and donated almost all of it.

There is a company in La Ravoire in the French Alps that distributes gaming products but also manufactures its own virtual pinball tables and arcade cabinets. They’re made right on-premise, in the middle of Europe, and we actually were allowed a glimpse into their workshop. You can order pinball tables and cabinets in whatever design you like, even with your own graphics or covered in exotic materials lake fake snakeskin or leather. Extra-impressive because I’ve built my own arcade controller in the past. For a full cabinet or virtual pinball table you need to a good carpenter and a decent electrician.

I traded my game collection for some money and an old Vectrex. I had one Vectrex before, but this one will be a great backup, and it’s actually in better shape than my first one was.

A part of the collection will go into their museum, however. We were allowed a quick tour of that as well, and I was super-happy to see many gaming machines from my own past as well as severely obscure Japanese stuff that never made it here. My collection is in good hands.

This was a great opportunity to practice detachment and I’m happy to say that my feelings of regret for not playing my collection more have shifted through fear of letting go of it into happiness that someone, somewhere might buy and play my games and have more fun with them than I did. If you want to buy my stuff, it might go into their eBay storefront sometime soon.

And if you need an arcade machine (that works with either a console or with a PC inside) but are too clumsy to build your own, I can very much recommend theirs. If you ask nicely, they will also allow you to customize many things, add and remove buttons in places you like, etc.

Net-zero challenge

Net-zero challenges are common among boardgamers: They can only buy a new boardgame once they’ve sold enough old ones to cover the price. So I’m taking that digital.

With the money I made from the sale, I’ll start a net-zero challenge. Any game I buy from now on will have to be financed from the money I made selling my entire childhood game collection. Because I buy mostly digital download games and those can’t be resold (yet), it means I am now probably stuck with a limited supply of games for the rest of my life. This will make it so much more important to choose the right ones.

 

Microsoft reinvents GNOME 2’s UI

Microsoft will remove gradients, reflections, blur and glass effects from Windows’ GUI in Windows 8. That means it’ll probably look like XFCE or GNOME. We have come full circle!

Microsoft added all those effects to Windows Vista, us FOSS nerds copied the effects (and more!) with our compositing managers like Compiz and the new GNOME 3 shell, now Microsoft removes them again — will we follow?

I’m using XFCE anyway, so I’m probably ahead of the current fashion trend 🙂

Lactose-intolerant and vegetarian in Switzerland? You’ll starve!

Recently I went shopping at Migros (one of the largest Swiss store chains, covering nearly 50% of the market) and was, once again, unable to find any chicken meat from Switzerland. What’s worse, products with processed chicken meat (such as chicken nuggets) are usually made with chicken meat from Brazil. This begs one very deep question: What the fuck? Excuse the expletive, but how come that in one of the world’s richest countries, we cannot afford locally produced chicken meat? Migros presumably buys Brazilian meat because it’s cheaper to raise chickens in god-awful conditions in Brazil, kill them, freeze them and ship them over to Switzerland than it is to abide by the (pretty restrictive) Swiss animal protection laws regarding chickens and produce the meat here.

Migros is a company that works under the pretense that they have some moral standards. They don’t sell alcohol or cigarettes, for example. Instead, in order not to lose face but to cash in on those markets, they bought their competitor Denner who makes a lot of its annual profits exclusively from alcohol and tobacco. The Denner deal shows that Migros has no right to call themselves morally superior, and the Brazilian chicken meat isn’t helping that.

Because of issues like these, I’ve often pondered becoming vegetarian, simply because it would mean I don’t have to think about all these animal problems anymore, at least for my little world. But Migros’ and Coop’s vegetarian products won’t help me at all, because most of them contain milk! So for a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, the Swiss supermarket landscape looks very bleak. Out of sixteen Migros products, only three were without milk, and they were the most basic and most boring ones. At Coop it looks worse, of 23 products I’ve seen, only four are without milk, milk serum, cream or fresh cheese. This is not counting non-specific vegetarian products — I was only looking at meat replacements.

The best solution to the problem would be to create every single dish yourself, but that means you’re missing out on (very yummy) Quorn and tofu products from these major supermarket chains. Small and expensive specialized stores with other products do exist, but Quorn-based products aren’t really available there, and many of the meat replacements they offer have the same milk problem as the major players’ ones. You’re also looking at prices between 10 and 50% higher than what you’d pay at the major chains, so for people with less money, this probably won’t work at all.

I’ve written Migros an e-mail asking whether they might be adding milk-free vegetarian products to their product lines. Let’s see what they write back.

Update: Migros answers! Here’s the key sentence:

Um unsere Produkte für Allergiker und Veganer interessanter zu machen, werden wir zukünftig auf Milchprodukte im Vegi-Sortiment weitestgehend verzichten.

Migros will stop using milk products in their vegetarian product lines as far as possible. This is in order to make their products more interesting for vegans and people with allergies. That’s great news 🙂 It means the mythical lactose-intolerant vegetarian might actually be able to.. err.. not starve. And thus exist.

Lincomp is preparing for a change in strategy

In the last months, we have received significantly more requests for custom-built PCs than for stock PCs. Our current shop system and our inventory can’t quite keep up with these requests, though.

That’s why we decided to shift our strategy this year. We will be supplying more Linux-compatible PC parts (mainboards, graphics cards, network cards…) as well as accessories. PCs need cases, cases need power supplies — this is very different to our current inventory, many things need to change.

We are planning to finish this shift by the end of the year. You will be informed about any further steps here on our website. We are excited to change direction and hope to better serve your needs!