New year, more privacy

Over the course of the past couple of months I’ve become more aware of the privacy issues of the modern internet. I’m not paranoid, but I’m also not a fan of big corporations tracking me and trying to sell me stuff.

Back in the day, I left Hotmail and signed up for Gmail, when it had a 1 GB storage limit that far exceeded most other services as well as probably the best spam filter around. I liked the company with its “Don’t be evil” motto – and somehow, over the years, I came to rely on it for a big part of my online life, especially after switching from the original iPhone to Android (because I’d gotten tired of having to jailbreak after every update just to get functioning video recording and of having only 4GB of storage).

However, recently I started to feel that it was more than a little creepy, how much Google knew about me – plus I got sick and tired of having ads in my email. So I made some changes, and now I can say that the only Google service I still use regularly is Youtube (mostly because that’s where the ASMR videos live *g*) and the Android app store on my phone.

This might not interest anyone, but here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • switched from Chrome to Firefox, which seems to best option if one doesn’t want to go full on Tor… I’d also considered Opera, but there seem to be privacy concerns as well.
  • signed up with Protonmail, a Swiss-based encrypted mail service – they do have a free option, but I chose to pay, because I wanted several email addresses.
  • signed up with a Nextcloud provider for calendars/contacts (easily set up to sync with my phone) and the Collab online office suite. Nextcloud can also be self-hosted (for full privacy and control), but that doesn’t work on my shared hosting (plus I’m not sure my tech skills are up to scratch), and I don’t need a lot of space, so the free options suffice for now. I figured it can’t be worse (and is probably better) than saving files in Dropbox, for example.
  • installed F-Droid on my phone, an open-source app store alternative,

Additionally I’m checking out Mastodon, a federated Twitter alternative. You can find me on the instance.

Self-made patchwork lampshade

Despite a lot of looking around I couldn’t find a lampshade I really liked for my living room, so I ended up buying a simple, cheap one. And then I saw this beauty in the background of the Sarah Millican Television Show:

Patchwork lampshade from The Baobab Tree

I might buy that one at some point, but the colors don’t quite fit into my living room, and I figured I could do a simple version myself. My mom had some leftover fabrics in yellow, cream and red tones, so I bought spray-on glue, double-sided tape, one of those zig zag scissors (to cut the fabric so it won’t fray) and 2.5m of ribbon, and went to town on my existing lampshade:

The materials:
Patchwork lampshade, step 1

Trying out with double-sided tape:
Patchwork lampshade, step 2

Going to town with the spray-on glue:
Patchwork lampshade, step 3

Prettying it up with the ribbon (which I had to affix with tape, as the glue didn’t seem to take):
Patchwork lampshade, step 4

It’s obviously not perfect (I’m not good at precision work), but I like how it’s turned out – and it cost me next to nothing! (Okay, so the scissors would have cost a bit, but I was able to use points from one of those supermarket cards and got them for free.)

Still job hunting

It’s been a bit over two months since I came back from Haiti and started seriously looking for a new job. After two years as Office Manager in the finance sector (yeah, I know, not where I had expected to be either *g*) and turning 30 in January it was high time to find work where I could see myself for longer. And that meant not so much changing job description (I like admin work – working in a supporting function suits me) but radically switching sectors.

I’ve always known that it was important to be involved in something I can believe in – after all, we spend so much time at work and so much of it is usually routine, that I need to know why I’m doing it in order to stay motivated and content in the longer term. Therefore I’ve been looking pretty much exclusively in the non-profit sector, both in Switzerland and in the Southern UK (because of my SAD anything further North is unfortunately out of the question) – it’s slow going, but I have a couple of interviews lined up that look promising.

Here’s where I’m looking:
CharityJob (non-profit jobs, UK)
CharityPeople (non-profit jobs, UK)
Cinfo (development aid, Switzerland, paid subscription)
ICRC (International Red Cross, international/Geneva)
Kampagnenforum: Job-Angebote (non-profit jobs, Switzerland)
Eidgenössisches Personalamt (government positions, Switzerland)

Becoming sporty…

For a while I was doing aerobics of DVDs quite regularly, but last year was tough, health-wise, and then I moved into my shoebox where I can’t even practice my tai chi.

But as I mentioned before, a few weeks ago I started getting more active again, more so than possibly ever before, and I’ve kept at it – no small thanks to the existence of shiny apps and gadgets… So really, people that say the internet results in lazy people that never get off their butts, all I can say: HA! *g*

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Nutrition vs. exercise

Over my quick breakfast in the morning (and on the loo *g*) I tend to read magazines that I get sent home – Amnesty International, WWF (World Wildlife Fund), Sanitas (my health insurance). And in the latter I read a rather interesting article today, which surprised me by being pretty well-balanced and non-judgmental.

It was titled (in German, of course) ‘Exercise beats nutrition’ and contained a long interview with a nutritionist and a sports scientist. Basically, the said that, that being active/exercising regularly is much more important for good health and long life than dieting/weight. It was so refreshing to see scientists, in a publication from an insurance company at that, denounce the BMI (Body Mass Index) as out-moded and even dangerous and saying that someone ‘overweight’ could easily be healthier than someone skinny as long as they were active. They also said that food should be fun, not calory counting.

Obviously the article is still somewhat problematic because it addresses only the able-bodied who have a choice whether to be sedentary or active. But still, it makes me hope that maybe our society will move away from the obsession that low weight automatically equals a healthy body.

Book rec: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Graceling GracelingKristin Cashore; Harcourt 2008WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 
Since the unfortunate demise of my reading blog (thanks, hackers, for deleting all my posts!) I obviously haven’t stopped reading – I’ve simply just used other sites to keep track of it. Namely LibraryThing (for my personal library) and GoodReads (for my reading lists). I guess I could merge them, because LibraryThing now makes it possible to distinguish between books you own and books you read, but I like GoodReads to much to give it up.

Cover of "Graceling"
Cover of Graceling

Anyways, last night I stayed up too late for a work night (especially since I haven’t been sleeping well anyway), because I couldn’t stop reading Graceling, first book in the Seven Kingdoms trilogy, by Kristin Cashore. I’d picked it up because I had seen it recced on some lists for fantasy novels with strong female characters – and boy, am I glad I did!

It starts out well, with a fascinating main character, Katsa, a young woman “graced” with the ability to kill. This book is her story, the story of how she breaks free from the cruel king (her uncle) who had used her talents to his own ends since she was a little girl and goes on an adventure with the man who was the catalyst to her emancipation. Po is a prince from faraway Lienid, but he is also Graced (shown by his two-colored eyes, same as with all Gracelings) and has the gift to fight. In the beginning Katsa’s instant attraction to him got on my nerves a bit because I had been conditioned to expect the story to follow the familiar pattern of “a mysterious stranger changed my life”. However, this was not how it played out – this book is firmly feminist, and Katsa never loses her agency, even as she falls in love for the first time in her life.

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Continuing to be productive

I finally set up some goals on 43things – you can see the list in the sidebar here. A couple I had already started on, but it’s good to formalize things, making it hopefully easier to keep at it.

Today I started a couple projects to improve my fitness levels – with tai chi sadly on hold (not enough students in our class), I have only my walk to work and burlesque once a week. Specifically I decided to give Two Hundred Sit-Ups, a 6 week program that seems doable, even in my cramped flat, a try. Also, The Couch-to-5k Running Plan, although I’m not sure if my knees will take it. But I already bought the GetRunning iPhone app and did the first session, walking and running along the river Sihl, turning a very unattractive shade of lobster red. 🙂

Another moment where I eschewed fashion was last Sunday during my baptism, which you can see for yourself in this album on Flickr.

Baptism service Baptism service Baptism service Baptism service
The last picture was taken after we had dried up and changed – our baptism companions (mine is Eli, a very friendly and lovely lady) prayed for us.

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Happy New Year!

Off to celebrate in Basel with friends – looking very much forward to the fireworks over the Rhine and am hoping to be able to take some photos with my new camera.

I actually wanted to get the earlier bus, but then I discovered Friendfeed, a nifty little tool to keep track of my various online activities (this blog, my travel log, Twitter, Flickr, LibraryThing, etc.) and got side-tracked… 🙂

It’s now the main part of the main page, but the direct page is here. As always you can find RSS feeds etc. on my Get connected page.

Wishing all of you a great start into 2009! 2008, for me, was awesome (best year of my life, seriously!) and I hope 2009 will be a good one, too…