2017 – the worst year ever

I did not count the number of times I heard the phrase: "This is the worst year ever" or, for some dramatic emphasis, its variant: "This is the worst year. Ever." last year. I am, however, pretty certain that the general public must have set a new world record when it comes to badmouthing a year. While I don't want to contest that some bad things happened back in 2017 – just like roughly 85% of the world population (but unfortunately only 51% of Americans), I'm not the biggest fan of Donald Trump –, I think that this has had a very negative effect on a lot of people. They just seemed to give up on the idea that ‘their year' might have actually been a good one. Which doesn't exactly make a whole lot of sense, because how affected are you really by a lunatic that's living on the other side of the world?! (Some readers might argue that I'm making a fair point, but that their own personal opinion depends on whether or not that same lunatic gives the order to start a nuclear war… I don't want to go in to a lot more detail here, but I'll happily concede the point.)

I think I must have fallen into the very same trap, which must be why it only started to dawn on me rather late that 2017 was, without a doubt, an absolutely fantastic year. Over the course of the year, I could feel the fatigue setting in. So much so that in December, I was constantly feeling down, like I wasn't up to the task in front of me – and it didn't even matter whether it was in regards to work or family matters. It didn't exactly help that I was working on several websites for experts in the field of "burn out prevention"… all the "self checks" they offered on their websites in development painted a pretty dire picture when it came to my own mental health.

Only when I decided that I'd just call it a day a year, and not force myself to sit through another day of work with very little fruits to show at the end of it, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel again. This was a pretty dim light, mind you; on New Year's Eve, I had to sit down and collect my thoughts for a good 15 to 30 minutes. My body simply wouldn't let me get up and join the first guests that had arrived (my older son provided a welcome distraction by occupying the potty for a longer period of time, just so I could claim I was helping him when in fact it was him who was doing me a favor). Afterwards, I was feeling better, but there was still something building up on the inside. It was a knot tying up my stomach, not exactly of the worst kind (usually it takes some alcohol to produce those knots and let's just say the night was still young), but a Gordian knot regardless, one that I couldn't quite solve in that very moment. I did some entangling, though, mentally rearranging thoughts into shelves that opened and closed in my mind at will. I could have gone on, but time was of the essence, which isn't all that surprising on a day when everything's leading up to a very big countdown.

Speaking of the devil, the new year arrived a few hours later. With it, the knot had seemingly disappeared. It wasn't that all my (first world) problems had suddenly vanished, it was more that the way I was looking at my problem had changed overnight (in the most literal sense of the word; also, this is obviously the space to insert a metaphor that involves a sword that's representing the dawn of the new year as well as the above-mentioned Gordian knot, but I didn't want to go that far with my figures of speech. This is my second language after all and I might offend some folks with the best words that could have done a much better job) and I was full of energy again.

I love New Year's Day

… which has probably something to do with the fact that it is the biggest party in my hometown. In a town with around a thousand inhabitants that throws festivities on every other weekend (on average), three of which draw in more than three times its own population, this is speaking volumes. In case you're wondering, I do indeed refer to New Year's Day and not New Year's Eve, as New Year's Eve is only the quiet before the storm, at least where I'm from. Most folks go home relatively early at something like 2 or 3 am and they aren't all that intoxicated (compared to the average intoxication of a person living in one of the most rural areas in Germany on a day like New Year's Eve or May the 1st, which is a national holiday in these regions, etc.). On New Year's Day, in my hometown, we get up at 10 am and start a tour around town that involves a lot of friendly greeting and just a little bit less drinking. It is the coolest tradition that puts Halloween to shame; kids can go around town and sing "Glück-seelich's, neues Jahr!" ("blissful new year") and they'll be handed candy and / or money. The grown-ups don't need to shout / sing, a friendly greeting together with a handshake is often enough and you'll be rewarded with an alcoholic beverage. Some years, I wished my immediate neighbors all the best, only to go home again and recover from the first 6 stops of my tour (that involved cider, rum, cognac, vodka, liqueur and something I can't quite remember just now, but I think you get the idea…). I could go into more detail, but I'll save that for another blog post.

Anyway, my mind was suddenly at ease with the fact that I had 10 or so projects to attend to in the nearby future. That I'd have to once again fight the good fight against the German bureaucracy and fill out a number of forms to make sure my second-born would be allowed to attend kindergarten in the nearby future. That there was still a whole lot to do when it came to our brand new house like setting up a terrace in the back and making sure we'd have some sort of drainage solution, and so on.
Because, I've done (almost) all of this before. And at the end of the day year, I'm still here. To be a bit more precise, just last year, I've done almost all of this crap. I had to deal with a whole lot of bureaucracy courtesy of the Arbeitsamt, just because I wanted to create a job. I have set a new record regarding the turnover of my company, despite managing to not work into the night and spending a healthy amount of time with my family. Did I mention that we built a house?

Never look back

I think my engine was running at full speed for so long that I completely forgot to take a good look in my rear-view mirror and contemplate what my wife Wincy and I have managed to pull off over the course of the past year(s). I do still remember my number one fear going into 2017: Whether I'd be able to love Levi, our second child, as much as I love Jayce, our first son.
Now, if you're reading this and you don't have kids yourself, I can imagine that this must sound like the silliest of thoughts. Maybe you've been blessed enough to have received lots of love from your own parents, maybe you just assumed that all parents love all their kids and equally so, but if you just take a moment and give it some more thought (or if you've been in this situation and can't stop theorizing over everything that lies ahead, which is both a gift and a curse), I'm pretty certain you'll be able to emphasize with me.

Up until the moment the little one popped out, I was scared. Which is the weirdest thing since I knew exactly what was coming. The birth was much easier than the first one – do not read this statement like I was the one doing all the work, I'm just saying this as a humble observer that was lending a hand (and some legs and knees to rest on, as well as moral support and plenty of words of encouragement, none of which comes close to the Herculean effort my wife had to overcome). But once I saw Levi, even though he didn't see me as his eyes were still shut, I knew that I would love him unconditionally. I would, over the course of the following months, learn that it was a different kind of love, but that was only fitting since he also acts very differently when comparing him to his older brother.

My second biggest concern involved a lot of numbers and € signs following them. Considering that we had signed the contract for the house we're now living in at a time when we weren't in possession of all the funds we were contractually obliged to own (we would have had to borrow money from our parents) as well as the fact that everything – yes, literally everything – is a lot more expensive than you expect when it comes to houses, this is also not much of a surprise. But let's just say that we're doing great in this department, even though it wouldn't have been possible without the help of all of our parents as well as the support of a number of great friends.

All the small things

If someone had asked me to describe what 2017 would be like at the start of the year, I could have given them a number of pointers, e.g. "in April, we'll welcome our second child, in May or June, we'll move into the new house, etc.", many of which came true in exactly the way we expected them to. Some didn't, like our move that was originally scheduled for late May, which ultimately happened in late July. At the end of the day, most of the "problems" that arose because of these changes of plans could be solved the American way. You had to throw resources (often money, but sometimes also time) at them, until they finally disappeared. If you're fortunate enough to not care about money to the extent where renting your apartment for an additional month won't completely throw you off track, you'll benefit the most from the mindset that a lot of problems really aren't as impossible to overcome as your inner mind is claiming. (At this point, I'm reminded that I should probably update the books section of this website and add a review of "The Myths of Happiness" by Sonja Lyubomirsky…
I should also make a case for universal income, explain how it relates to a situation like this and how there is no way around it, even if you're more of the conservative nature…)

In hindsight, the things I expected to bring us a lot of joy (and sweat) did deliver exactly that. At the same time, a number of seemingly "smaller things" made a very big difference. I do enjoy the fact that I started to learn a whole lot more about investment strategies as well as cryptocurrencies (which shouldn't exactly be considered an investment strategy, but it's very hard to make that case when you doubled a significant amount of money by throwing it at Bitcoin, Ethereum, and so on…). I don't even mind that I ‘only' learned about these things in my mid-30s; "better late than never" is a good way to describe my feelings regarding this.

What I regret the most is stuff I wanted to do, but ultimately ended up not doing. It's not that I regret not succeeding in something like getting on a stage and doing some stand-up; if I had tried and failed, that would have been one thing, but I didn't even try and that's far more painful for me. I can cope with defeat, I just don't like it when what's been defeating me has been myself rather than some external influence.

Looking forward, I want to take more risks and work less. I've been saying this for years and I guess I did manage to sit in front of my computer less hours, unfortunately, I didn't really manage to put my mind at ease and not care about work for the remainder of the time, though. As I mentioned above, I'm at the point where I'm starting to / need to get a lot more concerned about my mental health, so my main goal for this year is to get healthier again. I don't even mind if I end up gaining more weight, this is not about physical appearance, this is about ‘functioning' more than anything else. I even want to go as far as picking up some new healthy habits, especially meditation. Even if it doesn't work out, I'll at least give it a serious try and not defeat myself again.

Alright, that's all for now. Some of you complained that you didn't get to read anything from me in a while, so I hope this longer update will make up for the lack of news in the last few months. Please excuse the extra long sentences and parentheses and all the other fluff that ended up occupying space on this page. I couldn't really help myself, I haven't been writing as much lately as I wanted to. Let's hope that will also be different this year.

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First Christmas with the family|Das erste Weihnachten mit der Familie

It's been somewhat of a rough week; up until Monday, Jayce was suffering from diarrhea. This was ultra stressful for Wincy as I was in Madrid last weekend, so she had to look after him all on her own and changing his clothes four times a night is not exactly fun. (Especially when you're like Wincy and you need 14 hours of sleep everyday.)

Jayce was supposed to receive some shots on Tuesday, but the doctor decided it would be best to first wait for him to fully recover. I didn't really expect Jayce to drag this out any longer and thought it might have been better to just give him the shots regardless, but in case I had any doubts whether the doctor really knew what was best, this week proved that you can rely on the proverb.

At first, we thought Jayce was simply teething again. He was often playing with his fingers in his mouth, he was rather whiny (which is really not like him) and he also had increased temperature. All of this seemed more or less like the norm for a baby teething (I'm not claiming to be an expert in the matter, but that was pretty much what happened the last four times), but suddenly, on the 24th, he started to throw up.

A lot.

At some point, we started to fear that we would run out of sleeping gowns for him. Wincy was on her fifth t-shirt (I was on my third) and we had already bathed him. Twice. Because after the first time, he threw up again…

(On the bright side, I finally learned why I kept so many of those Sneak Preview t-shirts of various TCGs…)

We didn't really do anything super special on Christmas day. I had decided to make some Christmas cookies and we stayed at home. Other options I considered were going to the gym, watching some movies and, well, just spending a lot of time on a sofa. Oh, and working. Yeah, I considered working, I do enjoy it when I don't feel like I'm forced to do it.

Anyway, at some point, when Jayce was throwing up everything we threw at him (pun intended) – including water – we decided that this was way too serious to just continue hoping for the best. So we decided to take him to the hospital.

If you ever considered going to a hospital in Germany on a holiday, be advised that this is a very bad idea. It probably is a very bad idea in pretty much any country in the world, but it's especially bad in Germany, at least if you compare it to your regular hospital experience.
I'm not trying to say that a hospital visit is one of the coolest pastimes there is, but it's certainly a lot more “bearable” on any given day that is not a holiday when comparing it to, well, a holiday…

Alright, so we waited almost 3 hours, Jayce had thrown up three more times in the meantime (two out of those three times, he had covered my shirt with a mix of spit and some other stuff I'm not going to describe in detail) and he had also started to develop a rash around the corners of his mouth.
The doctor checked the temperature (38.3 °C) and decided that they had to run a blood check to figure out whether they had to keep him in the hospital over night and try and build him up with some infusions. The test results came back and the doctor told us that his vitals were very positive; he advised us to continue trying to feed him through his mouth. Only that we should only allow him to drink little sips rather than allowing him to empty a bottle in one go (like he usually does). Regarding the rash on his face, the doctor said that this looked a lot like an allergy…

We returned home and the following night was, you guessed it, the opposite of fun. I had started to suffer from back pains after carrying him around for so long and I was really running out of patience. Somehow, we survived the night, though, and we had also increased his portions every time he got something and it even stayed in.

Jayce refilled big time on fresh air...

Jayce refilled big time on fresh air…

In the morning, Jayce seemed to be almost back to his old self – a cheerful little man that is curiously crawling around and making funny faces. I took him to the kitchen to provide some breakfast and even thought to myself “man, this still smells a lot like nuts.” Jayce's reaction was a bit more extreme – he turned around and threw up immediately.
And that's when it finally dawned on me. While he was a bit feverish in the morning the day before, the real problems only started after I started baking cookies which involved opening ground hazelnuts and almonds.

I turned around on my heel and took him out of the kitchen. He wasn't quite a 100%, but he seemed a lot better again. I then cleaned up the kitchen and put all the cookies in sealed containers. I aired out the entire apartment before taking the little one outside and feeding him plenty of fresh air.

The rest of the day was a lot more relaxed. While Jayce did sleep quite a bit more than usual, there was no more throwing up (only a little coughing up) and next to no whining.

It's certainly not the Christmas I expected it to be, but at the end of the day, we are happy that everyone's alright and we learned a new thing about Jayce. In the future, we'll be even more careful and well, I guess there won't be any more cookies. At least not with nuts.


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6 Reasons why NXT is better than RAW|6 Gründe, warum NXT besser als RAW ist

In case you didn't know, I'm a huge wrestling fan. I had been watching it as a kid back in the nineties, took something like a 10 year break – missing most of the attitude era (talk about bad timing…) in the process – and I've been watching it regularly for the past 3 or 4 years. While this has been painful at times, e.g.

  • I didn't like the whole idea of the Nexus a lot when it was first introduced, but looking back at it, I consider it a rather cool storyline.
  • Similarly, I found the Shield rather annoying when they were first introduced and they interfered in random matches for no apparent reason, but that whole storyline also eventually grew on me.
  • I think that at the beginning of 2015, the writing was so atrocious (it was the time when we had been watching Survivor Series rematches for around 5 weeks in a row, only to then see the Authority reinstated in the least creative way possible) that I seriously considered to stop watching it.

Anyway, while it's obvious that I can't really be considered an “early adopter” of some of the most important storylines of the past few years, I do at least hang around so they can win me over eventually. And at that point, I'm also willing to reconsider my original opinion and admit that it was rather entertaining.

Having said all of that, I still get a lot more out of watching NXT these days when directly comparing it to WWE's flagship product Monday Night RAW. Here are my top 5 reason.

It's easy to buy into the storylines

NXT is better than RAWThe storylines in NXT might not always be super creative, e.g.

  • Bayley has tried time and time again to win the NXT Women's Champion
  • Unfortunately, she never succeeded
  • She's finally on a roll
  • She beat the best women in the division (Charlotte, etc.)
  • She gets a chance to win the title from Sasha Banks at the Takeover PPV
  • She finally does it!

… but at least you understand them and you can easily buy into them.

I will prefer a “basic storyline” like this one anytime to something “creative” like

  • Let's build up Lana as the hottest valet in recent history by
  • Teaming her up with Rusev so someone can fill the void that is his microphone work and
  • Make him look like the most threatening heel in the entire company by having him go toe to toe with the top face in the company
  • Only to then turn Lana face, which is completely out of character for the person everybody loved (to hate) and
  • Follow this up with a completely un-believable love rectangle between Rusev, Lana, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae

If they had built up Dolph Ziggler as the biggest player in the company who's going out with a different girl every other week, this would make sense. But we weren't introduced to that idea really (people who read a little more about wrestling claim that he is somewhat notorious for doing exactly that…). We also still don't know exactly why Lana suddenly has a strong love for the US and this list goes on and on.

This is just one example. While I'm writing this, I'm watching Big Show vs. Mark Henry as part of the Monday Night RAW episode from the 28th of September. Big Show, a guy that has had so many turns over the years that my head is spinning just thinking about it. Mark Henry, a guy who was friends with Big Show at around 5 points in time, only to then have a rather entertaining feud with him in between 2 of those points in time (and a lot more bad ones in between the others…). I can't help but sit here and wonder why they are fighting / what their motivations are. You could always blame that they are just on the midcard, but this brings me to my next point…

The Undercard and Midcard matter

Pretty much every guy on the NXT roster does have a storyline. 8 weeks ago, I had no idea who Bull Dempsey was. He seemed like a generic dude that's wrestling on the undercard. He had a “funny” match against Tyler Breeze (who is great, btw.) where he lost because he couldn't finish 3 laps around the ring thanks to his horrible cardio.

Over the following weeks, Bull was coming ever closer to getting fired right before he started “Bull Fit”, his very own “fitness program” that helped him (and supposedly millions of others) to “get in shape”.

The Commentators are doing their job

Continuing with the Bull Dempsey storyline, the commentators helped getting the character over. When Corey Graves first talked about Bull's “ab” (singular, as in “1 ab” rather than “abs”), I laughed out loud. Granted, Byron Saxton is not scoring a lot of points with me, mostly because he doesn't seem to say anything (of importance) ever, but Rich Brennan is doing an OK job as the play by play guy and Corey Graves is the best heel commentator since the King turned face commentator after his heart attack back in 2012.

On RAW, more often than not, the commentators will take the focus away from the match and bore you with stories that seemingly have zero connection to the match that is taking place. It has definitely improved since they got rid of Booker T., but Byron Saxton isn't helping the case here either. JBL is doing alright in my opinion or at least he has improved dramatically and Cole is alright, even though he doesn't appear like he's really trying.

Side note: I'm currently working on the “Cole bingo”, a funny game to be played at a PPV of your choosing where every participant has to draw a number of generic phrases that we will always hear from Cole and the player who first crosses off all of his boxes will win the entire game.

The Women's Division is actually entertaining

Over the past few weeks on RAW, they have been talking about the “Diva's Revolution”. Meanwhile, on NXT, they didn't just talk about it, they actually did it.

It's rather disappointing to watch as you see gals like Charlotte who used to do a tremendous job elevating the women's division of NXT having to deal with the horrible booking of RAW. On the one hand, the obviously gifted self-proclaimed “four horsewomen” (Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Bayley) have to wrestle with girls that are roughly half as good as them, on the other, they again don't have a storyline you can buy into.

There is a chance that the current heel turn of Paige will change my opinion on this matter; it's the best thing (storyline wise) that I have seen in women's wrestling in years (or maybe ever), but there's always the chance that they will screw this up royally like they did with so many other promising storylines…

If you ask me, they should have Sasha turn on her teammates of “Team BAD” as they are hindering her rise to the top, make her team up with Paige and then have them go up against Charlotte and Becky (and basically eliminate the entire Team Bella from the picture and have them move down to the midcard or something).

It is not just that the storylines are better, it is also that the wrestling is much better. Mostly, because the women get the time they deserve to show off their skills. There are no 3 minute squash matches that are basically just a disservice to the entire division, they have matches that matter. And like I stated above, the undercard and midcard matter, so even the women you don't see that often or that are still being developed will get an opportunity to make you care about them.

They are pushing the right talent

If someone like Samoa Joe is over with the fans, he gets a push in NXT. Right from the first day he shows up in the company.

At the same time, they are not afraid to have their top stars take a loss every now and then if it makes sense from a storyline perspective and it helps to establish another wrestler. Take the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic as an example; they weren't afraid to have the reigning tag team champs getting eliminated, just like the former tag team champs, the Lucha Dragons, paved the way for Joe and Finn Balor (all of this is a great set-up for Joe and Finn ending up in the finals of the Tag Team Classic which will most likely take place at the next Takeover, where the women's match will be the main event) instead of moving on themselves.

Over at RAW, if someone like Cesaro is oozing talent AND he's already rather over with the fans, shit happens. They will have him lose 10 matches in a row, several of them against the same guy. They will not give you a reason why he is going up against the same guy over and over and over again. Under normal circumstances, there is no such thing as “too much Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro”, but if you don't know why they are fighting for the fourth time when it's 3 – 0 Owens, you eventually stop caring. Keep in mind that there was an excellent opportunity to have Owens take a loss to Cesaro at Summerslam, the day after Owens lost to Finn Balor at the NXT Takeover PPV in a grueling tables match (setting up a rematch that you can sell along the lines of “what would have happened if Owens was a 100%?!”), but instead the writers decided to just have Cesaro put Owens over for basically no reason…

Only to then have Owens go up against Ryback (with no set-up, because why bother?) and win the title. And end the Cesaro vs. Owens “feud” (if you can even call it that) without any sort of real conclusion.

The show manages to surprise you

Every episode of Monday Night RAW feels like it's the same. There's a 10 minute talking segment, more often than not with the Authority / Seth, then we see a rather meaningless match, then Cena is trying to elevate the mid card and after a lackluster Divas match, we'll watch a tag team match of guys that will go up against each other at the next PPV (or a rematch of the PPV the day before).

You'll rarely be able to predict the way an episode of NXT will go down. Which is even more surprising when you consider that they only have 3 titles (Women's, Tag Team and NXT Champion) whereas RAW has, in theory, 5 titles that could be up for grabs (WWE Heavyweight, Tag Team, US Champ, Intercontinental Champ and Diva's Champ).

Wrapping Up

Most of this truly came “from the top of my head”, without a lot of research, etc. I think if I were to put in another hour, I could easily come up with 10 or more reasons why NXT is better than RAW…

Ironically, WWE's future is depending a whole lot on Vince McMahon's involvement. Rumor has it that investors don't really trust Stephanie and Triple H to run the company. When you consider that NXT is the one show that Vince is basically not involved in at all and that it's a lot more entertaining than RAW, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, WWE will listen to the fans and RAW will also undergo a face-lift so it can take its rightful place. This should then result in higher ratings and, hopefully, a lot more trust from the investor's side.

P.S.: The Kane storyline that is currently taking place on RAW is rather entertaining. Fortunately, there is always hope.

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Flying from Berlin Schönefeld (SXF) with easyJet|Abflug von Berlin Schönefeld (SXF) mit easyJet

If you’ve never been flying from Berlin Schönefeld (or as I like to call it: Berlin’s Disgrace) with easyJet, you’ll learn quite a lot reading this article. If you have, you’ll most likely share my pain. If not, I am honestly surprised and I would like to encourage you to play the lottery every week and become a professional roulette player.

Part 1: Prelude

On my way to Madrid this past Friday, I ended up receiving the standard easyJet treatment. I’m rather convinced if only one member of the board of this company would ever fly with easyJet departing in Berlin Schönefeld, they would

  • either immediately leave the company or
  • do everything in their power to rectify the wrong that has been done to so many people

When you’re flying with easyJet out of Berlin SXF, you don’t leave the place the same person. EasyJet paired with SXF changes you.

Thinking about it, there’s possibly a third option I haven’t considered before; the easyJet executive might also charge an extra fee for the adventurous experience that is trying to fly out of Berlin Schönefeld…

Part 2: Bag Drop

Anyway, I arrived reasonably early at the airport (~ 65 minutes before departure), only to enroll in a queue that stretched through pretty much the entire Terminal B (I think that’s what it’s called; it’s the one on the left that is exclusively operating easyJet flights). The queue was moving at it’s usual pace, that is, 3 people were getting out of it per minute despite the fact that roughly 6 counters were open and there were about 120 people in front of me. Also, I should probably stress once again that there’s nothing super out of the ordinary about this situation; this happens ALL THE TIME at this airport.

Doing the maths, I should have been at the top of the line after around 40 minutes. I considered getting the speedy Boarding option that would allow me to enroll in a special queue that was a lot shorter, but the helpful easyJet staff person that was trying her best to do some “crowd control” (judge lingo) pointed out that there’s always the chance that speedy Boarding is no longer available for my particular flight.

Thinking about it, this sounds like a gigantic and steaming pile of shit; few people ever go for this option, so it should always be available. Additionally, their sales training could probably need a little make-over.

Since I was sufficiently familiar with the process, I decided to instead try and enjoy the ride rather than breaking my head about it. Meanwhile, my friend Riley, who went with the smart option of not checking in any bags, lost patience. Since I didn’t want to feel all too responsible for him having a heart attack, we agreed to meet at the gate instead of him watching my painfully slow progress and worrying non-stop.

I stood in line for roughly 25 minutes (and I was almost halfway there, so some of my estimates are definitely off; since I don’t think that there were a lot more than 120 people queueing up in front of me, they probably only managed to “process” 2 people per minute with their 6 counters), only for them to then announce that everyone still standing in line to check in bags for Madrid (and one other destination) should now leave the existing queue and instead line up in front of counters 28 and 29 (the speedy Boarding counters).

Had I still been in the room after booking the speedy Boarding option and hearing this announcement, I would have deeply regretted making that decision. A lot.

Never. Pay. For. Bullshit.

Speedy Boarding is bullshit.

Also, let me emphasize again that there are few surprises here. This is what always happens at Schönefeld…

Part 3: Security

With all of that out of the way, on to the happy ending part of my story. I ended up dropping my bags 30 minutes before departure (which happens to be the same time when boarding is supposed to start) and then it was on to security.

The person responsible for the daunting task of scanning boarding passes was rather busy waving her scanner back and forth in repetitive motions. It appeared like a very weird real life version of Space Invaders. Apparently the last level of real life Space Invaders is scanning QR codes on smartphones.

A little sidenote: If you’re busy playing real life Space Invaders on the job, you won’t find time looking at passports.

Normally, at this exact point in the process of creeping through SXF, the security staff will point out that you “should have arrived at the airport a lot earlier.” They then follow it up with some worst case scenarios like

  • “what if one of the body scanners won’t work anymore?” or
  • “what if someone is a threat to the security of the airport and we won’t process any more people here?”

(Yeah, right… security finds someone carrying a bomb and they will NOT shut down the airport completely, but instead only stop processing people in security and all flights will leave as scheduled…)

Part 4: Epilogue

I ended up making it through security, overtaking Riley in the process. Surprisingly enough, he didn’t seem to be all too annoyed about that; apparently he had reached the stage of accepting that you’re in for a hellish ride (rather than one hell of a ride) when you’re flying out of SXF with easyJet.

I was expecting the usual “last call for all passengers to Madrid with easyJet flight EZY1234,” right after we made it through security, but for the second time that day, we missed out on the regular treatment that normally makes the SXF experience so unique and unforgettable. We made it to the gate, expecting to see a lot of stranded passengers who would then sit around for at least 10 more minutes (despite the last call), but surprisingly enough, the gate was completely empty. All other passengers were on their way to the plane already.

Since I am now familiar enough with the way easyJet operates, this made total sense. They are obviously in the business of trolling people, so they only announce a last call when it is completely pointless. If a last call would actually make sense, however, they will not announce that you should rush to the gate.

P.S.: I would like to point out that I do not think that easyJet is completely hopeless. Just a few days ago, we flew with easyJet from Glasgow to Berlin and everything went fine. Also, my flight with easyJet from Madrid to Berlin was alright (up until I arrived in Berlin since … Schönefeld).

It’s just that easyJet flying out of Berlin Schönefeld doesn’t match; the airport is simply a piece of shit and in no way is the way easyJet operates efficient enough to process the many flights that are leaving Berlin for various cities in Europe.

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The very best YCS Rimini stories|Die unterhaltsamsten YCS Rimini-Geschichten

The absolute best part of every tournament like a YCS are the stories that you hear while talking to the various folks that made the trip to the respective city. In an effort to educate the rest of the world that might not believe the above statement without some further proof, may I present you with

The struggles of Marcel B.

Marcel B. is one of those guys that you’ll meet at almost every larger European event. He’s a cool dude to hang around with, a decent enough player (even though he has successfully managed to avoid having his picture taken for a Top 8 profile) and apparently a magnet for disaster.

His trip to Rimini started exactly the way it was supposed to; together with a couple of his friends, he was driving all the way from Germany to the Italian “city” (that’s actually just a random assortment of a venue that’s capable of holding a YCS in, a number of hotels, an even larger number of bars and a beach) where the tournament would be held in. They arrived a few days earlier so they could check out the beach in a little more detail, which is a decision they should be congratulated for – don’t travel thousands of kilometers if you can get a lot more out of it than “just” an enjoyable tournament.

Unfortunately, their preparation was somewhat lacking as they couldn’t come up with a better solution of securing their important belongings than “not giving a shit about them and leaving them lying around on the beach while swimming in the ocean”. That’s how he ended up losing his car keys, which basically marks the real start of this story and Marcel’s journey.

Marcel’s car served the double purpose of acting not only as a means of transportation, but also as his own personal safe for the rest of his belongings. That meant that once his car keys were gone, his supply of t-shirts, shorts and the like was also gone. In fact, when he first started telling me about this, he was standing in front of me with a “I love Rimini” t-shirt and some hideously “touristy” looking shorts. His rhetoric question: “Do you think those are my normal clothes?” was a joke in itself and it was impossible to further one-up him on the joke, so I bowed down and silently appreciated his comedic talent and timing.

Anyway, the story continued with him spending the weekend (that was originally supposed to serve as a means of entertainment by flopping a set number of cards on a table and defeating opponents in stunning fashion) trying to make sense of the situation and coming up with solutions. This involved lending iPhone chargers from the coverage team (I was happy to help) and making the necessary arrangements for his second set of car keys to arrive. Slightly less viable alternatives had been explored:

  • ADAC, a German car club, offered to toe his car back to Germany for the bargain price of 7.000,- €
  • Italian garages offered to replace the lock (you couldn’t simply break into the car and do it like those folks in the movies by connecting two cables as – despite its age – it came equipped with an anti-theft system that prevented this strategy), however, this would require them to spend another week in Rimini as they had to wait for the necessary parts to arrive

and quickly discarded for obvious reasons.

UPS did come to the rescue and for the relatively reasonable price of 50,- €, they promised to retrieve his second set of keys until Monday, the day they had to leave Rimini for Germany again.

Plot twist: UPS failed.

At this point, Marcel decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. To provide you with a little more context, which feels appropriate at this point, his car had a net worth of an estimated 500,- € as he got it (from his parents I presume) so he “could learn how to drive”.

Therefore, he made the excellent decision of breaking into his own car; he was by now running out of patience and there are only so many variations of “I love Rimini” t-shirts that he felt like wearing…

>>> I’m writing this article on a new app called “iA Writer Pro” that’s supposed to help you focus on your writing so you can have a more efficient workflow. It does so by taking up a lot of space on your desktop, not confusing you with formatting issues and so on. I came extremely close to missing my train stop just know, so I can attest that the program appears to be doing what it’s supposed to be doing. <<<

He made a deal with an Italian car dealer; they agreed that he would break the glass so he could open the door, clear out the car and afterwards, the car dealer would be free to do whatever he pleased with the car.

Marcel went searching for a stone, found something that seemed to fulfill the basic requirement of being heavy and large enough to break a car’s window, he gave it a good try and the stone crumbled into pieces.

The. Stone. Crumbled. Into. Pieces.

Please imagine for a moment that this whole thing is not a true story, but rather a movie. Could you have come up with a more ridiculous plot?!

Apparently his car wasn’t happy with the deal he had struck.

He turned to a store owner standing close by, asked him whether he had a hammer and – somewhat to his own surprise – the store owner handed him the tool. I got no idea how common it is in Rimini for random store owners to assist potential thieves with their crimes, but I wouldn’t exactly say that this is a big confidence booster to spend another weekend in Rimini.

Marcel broke the glass, returned the hammer and then received the 200,- € from the car dealer after he had finally and successfully collected his belongings. He told me that he'd use the money (together with some savings) to buy another car. Since he now knew “how to drive” (so in a way, the car had accomplished what it was supposed to do), I recommended that this time around, he should try to learn how to park a car…

The moral of the story: If you’re traveling abroad, it’s rather useful to have a Plan B (and C) in case you end up losing your car keys.

Bonus Epilogue

One of the best things about a Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG event is that no matter how many bad decisions you’ve made (which in turn will expose you to well-deserved derogatory comments from friends and foes alike), there will always be someone else present who’s having a streak of worse luck.

Marcel, for example, was “looking up” to Merlin S., a fellow who is truly deserving of his first name as what he pulled off seemed like pure magic. Merlin is somewhat notorious and famous for getting “deck pocketed” (the pickpockets he’s dealing with aren’t focusing on his wallet, they instead steal his cards). Where other duelists turn their backs on the game that is causing them so much pain, Merlin is using his frustration, turns it into motivation and energy, amasses a brand new collection…

… only to then have it stolen again.

So this very same Merlin, the “legend”, made the trip to Rimini and one evening, he decided to go “partying like a rock star”. It ended with him bathing naked in the ocean at 4 am (one version of this story involves 2 girls that were bathing together with him which does add some additional credibility to the partying like a rock star claim). He returned to the hotel without his clothes since they had been stolen just like his wallet and everything else he carried with him.

Instead of learning his lesson, Merlin continued and had his deck stolen at some point early into the weekend. Being the magician that he is, he talked a friend into lending him another deck.

Only to then lose this deck as well.

He. Lost. Two. Decks. In. One. Weekend.

Merlin returned to his friend who must either be a real lover of irony or an insane person. In any way, that very same friend decided to lend Merlin a second deck.

Fortunately, Merlin ended up winning a prize card as he was drawn for the random finals of the Public Events playoffs. So there was some sort of silver lining to this whole story. And while it might not be quite as entertaining as Marcel’s story (though that might have something to do with the way I presented it, so feel free to blame me), Marcel could at least travel home knowing that while he “only” lost around 500,- € (the worth of his car), Merlin was down a much larger amount.

Bonus Life Lesson

Before I let you off, know that people who spend their money doing interesting things are statistically much happier compared to people that use their income to acquire material things. So in a way, both Merlin and Marcel were doing everything right.

Instead of “investing” his money and making sure he would get the best possible deal for selling his car, Marcel went with some seemingly random Italian car dealer, broke into his own car and then gave it away. It’s a much more entertaining story to tell compared to: “I took great care of my car and sold it for 800,- € five years later.”

Merlin on the other hand didn’t feel like selling his collection to the highest bidder. Instead, he opted to not look after his bag and have some idiot steal every card he owned. For the second or third time. You’ll get a lot more laughs for sharing his story than telling your mates about that one guy you heard of the other day that collected a lot of valuable cards, only to then sell them for a really fair price.

Fortunately, we as humans are able to emphasize with other people, allowing us to “re-live” an experience without actually going through all of those steps ourselves. Therefore, we can all get a good chuckle or two out of reading these stories and we don’t have to drive to Rimini in a 500,- € car, swim drunken and naked in the Mediterranean Sea at 4 am and lose a bunch of cards and not learn anything because of it…
Special props to Marcel for sharing both stories with us on Monday morning.

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Travel Report YCS Rimini 2015 & more|Reisebericht YCS Rimini 2015 & mehr

I found myself wondering what to do while riding the train from Ancona to Rimini and ended up deciding that it would be cool to write a tournament report of sorts. After all, it's been ages since I last did something like that. Before I delve right into it, I would like to take a moment and thank the sponsors of this article, namely NoWiFionTrains Ltd. and LifeIsBetterWithoutInternet.com.

Preparation is Key

My preparation for the event started a lot earlier than usual; while I was in the process of rearranging my closet yesterday (on Thursday), I figured there would be no harm in preparing my bag for the journey already. The fact that this would lead to a few more precious minutes of sleep in the morning further encouraged me to throw a bunch of shirts in a bag and so I ended up feeling ready at around 8 pm on Thursday.

Journey to Rimini

I got up at 6:30 am, with my alarm clock ruthlessly dragging me out of the dream and into the real world. While the details escaped me quickly, I held on to the thought that it had been a “good dream” and left it at that.
After spending way more time shaving compared to what could be considered reasonable for the “beard” I'm sporting, I fired up Google maps, printed out a map of Rimini and took a couple notes how to get from Ancona airport to Rimini. I certainly don't encourage this behavior; there is preparing things last minute and then there's preparing things when it's too late. This felt a lot like “too late”, but after years of traveling, you eventually develop a deep trust in the belief that there's no problem that can't be solved if you only throw enough money at it.

Anyway, I left the house at around the time I wanted to leave (07:20), stopped at the newspaper shop next door to pick up a parcel, hoping it would be 2 new 8 GB RAM blocks that I ordered because “they were cheap” and there's a 5% chance that they would further speed up my system (this MacBook is quite fast since I swapped the original hard disk drive for a SSD), but I instead found a parcel from my tax accountant. I let out a silent curse, headed back home to throw it into a corner and left for the airport.

I checked in my bags and the person at the counter mumbled something that I interpreted as “we'll route your luggage to Ancona” (I would stop in Munich). I didn't feel like asking her again, just to make sure, and I would regret this decision for the next 3 hours…
The flight was on time, just what I came to expect from Lufthansa. Nothing noteworthy happened in Munich except me walking from gate 40 to gate 8, only to then find out that they changed the gate to 69 and walking all the way back and then it was off to Ancona.

There was a free WiFi at the airport and I connected to it in hopes of finding a better suggestion for the journey from Ancona to Rimini. Google maps continued to insist that I had to take a cab from the airport to the nearest train station, but since I had so much time on my hands, I decided to try and make sense of the information available at the airport. Thanksfully, Ancona's airport is so small that you can't really get confused; it seemed like there was only ONE bus that connected the airport with the rest of the world and it stopped where I was supposed to board the train. So I bought a ticket, loaded the Google map again just to make sure (even if you're no longer connected to the internet, GPS will continue to work and tell you where you are) and headed off to Falconara.

Minutes later, I found myself at the train station, continuing my adventure by making sense of the ticket machine. Once you changed the language, it would speak to you in the language you selected and the German sounded so ridiculous, I immediately regretted not having selected English or any other language for that matter. My credit card didn't get accepted the first time, so I tried again, this time changing the language to English and I learned that this didn't really improve things; the machine was still making very little sense.

I recorded another video of the weather situation so it would be easier to rub it into the faces of guys like Ben that continued to whine about the fact that they couldn't make the trip to Rimini, did some breathing exercises and then boarded the train. I spent the next 10 minutes wondering whether I accidentally sat down in the first class section and prepared my arguments for the conversation with the train staff in case they felt like arguing with me (I would kick things off with a weaker line like “this really doesn't look like a first class section” so I could bring the real punches later).

That's basically how we ended up right at this point in the article where I feel like I should now talk about the process of doing coverage so we finally got something in here that makes you feel like “it paid out reading all of this mumbling as he'll finally educate me on something”!

The psychology of setting goals

Providing the folks that decided to stay at home (there are various reasons for that, especially lack of money, lack of ambition and lack of skill) with live updates over the course of the weekend is a very rewarding task when done right. Once you got familiar with the challenges the job provides, you'll be able to have a great time working as part of a larger team and earn a few bucks at the same time. It's as close to a win-win as you can get at an event if you ask me.

The first “skill” you need to have is a strong desire to do so. Over the course of the past few days, I picked up another book that talks about “zen entrepreneurship” and that's trying to educate the reader about his “inner self” and how to live in harmony. It's an interesting and different take on psychology, a field I'm rather interested in. Since I also had a number of conversations with friends that either admired me for the life I'm living (or secretly cursing me, but as the famous poet Drake once told us, “jealousy is just love and hate at the same time”), I want to share a thought with you that occurred to me the other day:

The most common misconception / lie that people are telling themselves is “I could do that too”.

I'm not saying this to discourage you and improve my chances to continue doing this for a lot longer (since fewer people will “challenge me” for my position), I'm saying this to instead motivate you to pick the fights you're fighting. Let me elaborate.
Half the time when people are watching TV, they come across some reality TV show with some “starlet” that's making a bunch of money looking pretty and entertaining an audience (most people stop at “looking pretty” when describing the role of the person on the screen). If it's a pretty girl, other girls will say “I could do that too.”
And that's simply not true. In some cases, they don't have a friend they can count on that will then tell them that they aren't all that pretty, but in most cases, the biggest part of the problem is that they are way too comfortable living their life. While they might be feeling like “something” is missing, they are not feeling unhappy enough to letting everything go and pursue a career in modeling / “acting” (if you can call this reality TV garbage that) and focusing exclusively on this one occupation.

You can say what you want about the girls that keep popping up on the screen (in Germany in recent years, Silvie van der Vaart and Daniela Katzenberger and a couple of years ago Verona Feldbusch, just to give you some examples), but the one thing they did right is focusing on this one occupation and not giving up until they “made it”. When you say something like “I could do that too”, what's the next thing you're doing? Are you getting up, taking a sheet of paper and writing down how you're going to accomplish the goal of becoming a TV personality?

Most likely not.

In the same way, people are reading / watching the coverage and they then think that they could do this too. I've been doing this for more than 10 years now (which is why it's so much harder now to make people believe I'm 22) and I've seen a lot of writers (and a few guys doing streaming commentary) come and go. Quite a few of them have only been invited to an event 1, 2 or a maximum of 3 times. More often than not because they simply did NOT get it. They were overpromising and underdelivering (I recommend doing the exact opposite if you want to accomplish something in business).

Sure, if you have a good knowledge of the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG and you're familiar with the popular decks, how hard can it be to write a couple of articles and highlight some new takes on existing archetypes, explaining how a feature match went down and interviewing a duelist here and there?
It turns out this can be quite daunting if you're not used to focusing on one task over the course of up to 12 hours. Sure, you might have been playing in a tournament that lasted for 12 hours, but did you play 12 hours straight? Most likely, you were playing your match, then taking a break of sorts in between rounds and you repeated this process over the course of the day.

The challenges of doing Text Coverage

When you're doing text coverage, you don't get a lot of breaks. You interview players after they finished their round. When the next round is getting paired, you need to stop doing what you're doing, pick a feature match and then it might be your turn to write down what's happening between the two selected duelists

Right after that, you need to insert a number of pictures in this article / edit it, send it to the guy that will publish it and then it's back to your interview. This can be really stressful; not everyone will be able to pick up their original train of thought and switch between tasks this easily. And this is going on for hours and hours over the course of the day.

You also need to be able to type fast enough so you won't need forever to churn out an article; if you've never written a feature match before and you're still telling someone with a straight face you could do coverage too, you've instantly lost all credibility.
Also, it is really disrespectful in my opinion to not know a thing about something and tell someone how easy it is to do that something.

Video Coverage to the Rescue?

These days, you no longer need to be a fast “typer” to help out in a coverage team. Modern technology allows us to stream from the larger events like a Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series, which means you “merely” need to talk instead of type.

The first reality check you should be doing when thinking about becoming a coverage commentator is this: Ask yourself when you were last talking for almost 10 hours straight with only little breaks in between. Chances are, that's a little while back (like when you were 1 year old and you were practicing to speak while your parents were encouraging you).
I've had a number of players that did the post game interview with me and as soon as we went offline, they took down the headset, looked at me and told me something along the lines of “man, I never imagined talking could be this hard.”
Well, it can be. If you're not supposed to say something stupid and interact with another person while a camera is on your face and a big light is making you feel like you've been lying under the Italian sun on the beach of Rimini for a little too long.

Luke did his first “full time coverage” this weekend; we've had him on the stream before, but at that event (the European Championship), we had 4 commentators and we were all taking turns, making our job a lot easier as everyone was almost constantly getting a break. He was doing an excellent job in my personal opinion, but in one round, we were missing the decklists of the players. It was extremely obvious that he was a lot less comfortable in this round. Even a small change in procedures like not having a decklist to “hold on to” can feel like a big obstacle that's hard to overcome. Suddenly, when you no longer know what to talk about, you cannot provide insights into possible Side Decking strategies or Extra Deck choices and this will then throw you off. We still managed to provide entertaining commentary for the match, but you could tell the difference if you knew what to look out for.

Let's say you've come up with a plan on how to best provide quality commentary and suddenly you need to adapt as things are not going the way you were expecting them to. Can you adapt fast enough or will you instead be forced to “fold”?

I hope I was able to share a couple of thoughts with you that will help you set better goals for yourself. If you decided to become a helper for our coverage team, that's cool and I'd love to one day work with you. At least if you have actually done some reality checks and you're willing to take the necessary steps to accomplish your goal.
If I further managed to entertain you a little (instead of just looking fab like those above-mentioned starlets), then that's great, too.

There's a good chance I'll be publishing another piece that's loosely connected to Rimini since a lot has happened this weekend (these last few paragraphs have been written on the train journey from Rimini to Ancona, so the weekend took place “in between” the paragraphs of this article). Let me know what you think so I feel a little more motivated to stick with the writing.

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Some advice for freelancers|Tipps für die Selbstständigkeit

I was too lazy to translate this post. Either use Google Translate or, well, learn German. 😉

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