Harry Keller

February 5, 2023

↬ January 2023

Hello everyone, 
welcome back, happy new year, this is another monthly recap, a few days late, as per usual! I was hoping to have my website rebuilt and the newsletter integrated already, but actual work happened and I couldn’t be bothered to do more coding over the weekends. I did already cancel my HEY subscription though, so I have until June to figure this out.

Some spring (winter?) cleaning: I’ve simplified the newsletter’s structure, ditching the old sections, and going with the most important thing of the month first, then everything else as bullet points and finally dumping my camera roll into your inbox. Let’s go!

Yikes, we bought a car

2023 started out-of-character for me, because half a year ago I would’ve laughed at the thought of owning a metal box on wheels. Every day, when exiting our building into a large street, I hate how much space is dedicated to cars, how the air reeks of petrol, the blaring motor sounds, how ugly all those cars are, how dangerous it often is for us and our dog Freddy when getting close to the street, how tiny the bike lane is, how car infrastructure takes away funding from public transport and trains, and oh boy, we didn’t even talk about the climate crisis yet. So it was an odd decision to get a car ourselves and in doing so, to support all of this shit. You are the traffic, after all.

Anyhow, the decision came down to two factors: My girlfriend and I work permanently from home now, so every once in a while we need to travel to a different place to stay sane. Secondly we have a dog and traveling with a dog is tricky. Planes are out of the question, night trains usually don’t allow dogs and regular trains need a lot of careful planning because you can’t easily get off to let the dog do his business. Freddy also needs special food, so for every two days elsewhere, we need to carry ~1kg of dog food. The unfortunate reality is that rental cars have been the only option to travel comfortably with him and we’ve thrown too much money at Sixt over the last years, so eventually we decided to give in and get a car ourselves.

So far we haven’t done much with it, except two trips to nearby forests in Brandenburg, but even those were super nice and wouldn’t have been feasible otherwise. This year we’ll probably go to Bavaria, the Baltic sea and also the UK again, and truth be told, I’m reluctantly excited that these trips are so much easier to plan now.

After we made the decision, this month was chock-full of car research for me, figuring out which model in which configuration made sense for us and what fit into our budget … while I hated filling my head with so much automotive branding garbage and endless car minutiae, comparing slightly different tech products and figuring out the best value, is a skill I possess, honed by years of working with tech products. It was also mildly interesting to realize the insidious brainwashing effect three decades of car advertising have had on me and how that makes it all but impossible to compare cars objectively. Anyhow, in the end we settled on a small Skoda Fabia and I’m quite happy with our choice.

Theoretically there’s so much more to talk about here, e.g. how car dealerships and the people working there seem to exist in a parallel universe and also how comically easy car-related bureaucracy is in Germany (of course), but honestly I’m sick of talking and thinking about cars, so I’m not going to bore you any longer. I’m glad we made a choice and I’m trying to overcome the odd cognitive dissonance of owning a car now.

What else? Small tidbits and unfinished thoughts:

• How absurd are all the tech layoffs at this point? All those companies using the narrative of economic uncertainty to get rid of people, simply because everyone else is doing it, then their stock price rises, then they report solid profits. None of the big tech companies are in financial trouble, none of them had to fire tens of thousands of people. Can’t shake the feeling that this is also related to the recent efforts of unionization in tech. A power play to maximize shareholder value.

• Last November we hit publish on a Village One job posting, looking for a designer to join the team and eventually to become a member of our cooperative. We were blown away by the response: 60 applications, 45 of them with very personal cover letters, we would’ve loved to hire at least 10! Currently we are still in the process of interviewing and hopefully we can seal a deal soon. If you know of projects for which we could be a match: Now’s a good time to reach out (websites, digital products, digital infrastructure), considering we’ll have more design capacity soon!

• Currently we’re working with the TypeMates on a new website and let me tell you, they are the nicest people you can possibly team up with! If you need a custom typeface (or retail fonts), don’t look any further, they are an absolute joy to work with!

• I’ve had many conversations about cooperatives these last weeks and there’s so much interest and enthusiasm about unconventional models of company ownership … feels like a lot of people, especially in smaller creative studios, are now willing to experiment with employee ownership, truly sharing responsibility, shaping the company together. Or maybe that’s just my new co-op bubble, who knows!

• I couldn’t care less about ChatGPT; there I said it. I tried it several times, it even wrote a brilliant LinkedIn post for Village One (which we didn’t publish), but all this hype feels a lot like the voice UI / ambient computing frenzy from a few years ago. Of course it turned out that voice UI wasn’t the future and most people use their smart speakers to set pasta timers and not much else. Still, what gives me pause is that I know ten years ago I would’ve been incredibly excited about ChatGPT and I would’ve found ways to integrate it into my workflows … has the vibe shifted, have I grown to evaluate new tech more critically or am I just cranky and tired of the hype now? Not sure, probably all of those.

• For the third year in a row I planted chili seeds … fingers crossed that some of them will germinate. Last year only a handful did, but the year before almost all of them sprouted. A truly nerve-racking process in its slowness!

• Twitter blocked API access for third-party clients sometime in January and that meant Tweetbot, the Twitter client I’ve been using for years, stopped working. I haven’t spent a single minute on Twitter since that happened, which is probably not the outcome the billionaire manchild intended with that stupid move. Very thankful for everybody I got to know through Twitter over the years, I can’t overstate its influence on personal as well as professional relationships, but now it’s time to move on. I feel mostly relief.

• For the first time in my life I’m keeping up with news via RSS and it’s such a wonderfully calm experience. It really makes such a difference when there’s no growth hacking team trying to make it harder to unsubscribe, harder to unfollow, pushing all kinds of crap at you, trying to maximize the time spent on the app (looking at you, Instagram)! With RSS it’s just me and the articles, in a client I choose, no dark patterns. Similar feelings regarding Mastodon: Nobody is trying to trap me there, which (somewhat ironically) means I’m happy to spend more time on it.

• We finally watched the first season of White Lotus and it was gloriously unhinged: I kept thinking a lot about those storylines and characters, their conflicts, the general descend into madness … what a complex, hilarious and also somewhat sad show. Already started season 2, which brings all new characters and a new location. Highly recommended! Some good movies we watched in January: Triangle of Sadness, Causeway, Rosaline, Tár

• I’m re-reading Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower and oh my, what a breathtaking book! I read it first in 2019, but now, post-pandemic, it speaks to me quite differently. Incredible in it’s foresight, devastating to read at times, yet hopeful. If you’ve never read anything by Octavia E. Butler, I would probably start with Kindred though, not the Parables. Or Fledgling if you like vampires. Or Bloodchild if you like short stories. Or Lilith’s Brood if you like aliens. Or anywhere really, almost everything she wrote is mind-bendingly good!

• Speaking of books: Our next book club is coming up on March 7, with Goodbye, again by Jonny Sun. Plenty of time left, join us! Unfortunately the real-life meetup I teased last newsletter is not happening just yet, we’ll try again in summer.

• Finally: I’m in my third month of taking daily photos with a GameBoy Camera; take a look here. You can follow me with a Pixelfed account or even with a Mastodon account, by searching for @harryfk@pixelfed.social. If you reply or like posts on Mastodon, those will also show up correctly in Pixelfed. The fediverse is magical and I can’t say I fully grok how this works yet.

What’s in the camera roll?

I got the wonderful (and also mildly concerning) feedback that the photos in this newsletter are what at least one reader is always looking most forward to. So I’m leaning into that, here’s more from the camera roll than usual:

Co-working day with the other villagers

Hiking in Brandenburg

On the couch with Freddy

Outside again

Working hard or hardly working

I’ve always had an appreciation for these old Berlin S-Bahn trains: such unexpected shapes, so odd and iconic. 
I also went on a short train trip to Bavaria with my parents this month, to pick up the car, which was fun!

Rare rays of sunlight

More forests, can’t wait for spring

Wow, that was long, it’s a wrap for this month! Thank for sticking around, have a fun February and see you in four weeks! Cheers,

Harry Keller | harryfk.com
Berliner, works at Village One
Writing a newsletter, running a book club
Elsewhere: Mastodon | Pixelfed | Twitter

About Harry Keller

Heya, I’m Harry, a software developer in Berlin/Germany—he/him, *351ppm, feminist, cooperativist, dogfather. I recently co-founded the somewhat utopian design+tech cooperative Village One and also diesdas.digital before that. You can learn more about me on harryfk.com and we can connect on Mastodon, Twitter, BeReal, PixelfedInstagram. Or you can simply read my newsletter below! 💁