Some random thoughts on a recent failed ski trip and the global pandemic

Skiing

First things first, I have absolutely no clue on how to ski, zero experience whatsoever, so naturally I had to sign up for my company’s Ski trip. In total there were 37 people in the group.

We got to a cabin close to a ski resort after a four and a half hour drive on Wednesday, all went well except for some icy paths on the way but that is another story (just don’t do summer tires and front 2 wheel drive on them, you’ll suffer a lot)

Keep in mind that this trip officially started on the same day COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, so we already knew that we were going back and working from home, universities and schools were already considering closing at the time.

On Thursday we had fun, people who knew their stuff geared up and went to ski (alpine) while some other noob and me went to get the gear we had pre-booked, this was the beginning of the end for me, I didn’t realize that the boot size was wrong, trusting the staff at the shop and thinking “I guess they know their stuff, I guess these are supposed to be tight and cut off your blood circulation”, it was very uncomfortable but I just went with it.

Us noobs decided it would be wise to pay for a lesson and after a few rounds at the kids area we were surprised to see we were not completely useless, I wasn’t able to turn or break completely but I wasn’t that bad either. Our instructor figured we could do harder stuff (either that or just wanted to have a laugh, we’ll never know) and took us to one of he “beginner” slopes (never trust Norwegians when they say a slope is easy, for them skiing is just like breathing). That’s when my spectacular falls started, all of a sudden I couldn’t remember what to do or coordinate movements.

By the time I could more or less manage to go down a slope using a zig-zag motion and more or less break decently, my feet were basically destroyed and my legs were cramping. I had to take off the skis and walk to the resting area because by then the pain was unbearable.

Right after taking the ski boots off I realized I had a bit of a problem: I just couldn’t move my feet or walk. I found myself thinking “well, shit”. I had to contact the group and request help because I was stuck, luckily a good hearted colleague came to the rescue and gave me a lift back to the cabin. Some rest and time in the sauna (and some very amazing home brewed beer) made me feel better, but that afternoon everyone was in for a surprise.

COVID-19

Effectively immediately the ski resort would be closing down following official government mandates to prevent the spread of COVID-19 so basically the trip was ruined for everyone that got here on Wednesday (some people had been at the cabin since Sunday). Arrangements were made to go back today or on Saturday while waiting for more news.

Feeling a bit disappointed everyone had dinner while receiving more bad news: apparently people had started hoarding toilet paper, because, you know, stupid people are everywhere. I messaged some friends because I couldn’t believe it at first but sadly I was totally wrong.

So here I am now, Friday morning, after breakfast, writing about our failed trip and preparing to be isolated from the world for quite a while, I’ll probably have to buy a decent headset/webcam and figure out how to get off of my landlord’s WiFi repeater and get my own contract. The next few weeks are going to be fun…

Fediverse

Privacy and social networks

Welcome stranger, let me start by saying this blog is just meant to be a space to share my thoughts and because I find it therapeutic, don’t expect the next best novel 🙂

Now, let’s get right to it: I had always known that big tech companies such as Facebook or Google don’t let you have free accounts out of the goodness of their CEO’s hearts, I also knew that their revenue comes mostly from ads, targeted ads. So far so good, what’s the problem? It doesn’t stop there.

I will not go through all the references and details but let’s just say that most people have an idea of what is going on by now (or at least that’s what I hope). After the Snowden and Cambridge Analytica scandals I started to dig a bit more into privacy and that is when shit really hit the fan…. trackers, cookies, ads, sensitive data breaches and mass profiling are terms that popped up very often. Let’s just say that at this point I was wary but didn’t take any measures.

It wasn’t until recently (2 weeks ago) that I decided to take some steps to protect my data, easy things like replacing Whatsapp by Signal, using OsmAnd instead of Google maps while trying to use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) as much as I could.

The discovery

When I was searching for privacy oriented FOSS alternatives for the apps and services I normally use I came across the term Federated Social Networks, and the term Fediverse, that describes all the social networks that work in this way, I got interested.

Turns out it gets even better:
1. No ads
2. Anyone can host their own instance and still interact with other instances
3. Instances can be dedicated to your topics of interest and (in my experience so far) the people that host them are not in it for money, they just want to create a community in which they can meet other like-minded people
4. There is a set of rules to follow and moderators
5. As someone used to YouTube like interactions on the internet I was surprised to see that everyone is very polite (at least on my instance)
6. Did I mention no ads?

For now

It was until I was thinking of removing the Twitter and Facebook apps that I found a problem: while I can uninstall Twitter because I don’t use it that much, or Instagram because I mostly do it to have a nice gallery of my favorite pictures, Facebook is mostly how my friends organize events so I ended up deciding to keep the app while limiting the usage to just events and messaging if there is no other alternative, a necessary evil.

I think I’m going to eventually replace all my social networks for Fediverse alternatives…

Some alternatives:
Twitter -> Mastodon
Facebook -> Diaspora, Friendica
Instagram -> Pixelfed

More on Fediverse Party