The Qatar affair

I have been reading on the Qatar Word Cup affair for a while and, currently, I am laughing my head off. So, as it appears, some FIFA guys have taken loads of money from some climatically and otherwise challenged, but financially rather successful country. (NOTE: this is a plausible, but wild guess and there are probable more reasons to hold a World Cup in Qatar. However, there does not seem to be evidence in support of the latter claim, but on the other hand, there is some strong evidence that said country is actively intervening in the regional politics.) Now some people, also from FIFA, very SUDDENLY (this is an important point—nobody thinks about the implications before the decision is made) realize that sports in summer down there is a bad idea and fight a large medial campaign against this idea, and, probably, against the general decision of holding a World Cup in a very hot, both literally and figuratively, region. Holding the World Cup in winter seems also bad since it does not fit in the schedule of the leagues, so there seems to be no really good solution. On top of that sits the great master of balls Sepp B. and does not seem to support either side while promising that a decision will be made somewhere in the future.

In a perfect world, people would decide based on reason and logic. However, this world is not perfect, and things like these happen disturbingly often. If a decision has been made, it is hard to revoke, and very easy to rationalize. Even if it will turn out that the decision has been biased by money, the stakeholders will be likely to say “so what, the decision has been made, costs has been sunk, and now we have to deal with it”.

In any case, 2022 is far away, the Middle East might be subject to some landscape design, and until then we will have a lot of fun. So, if you are a professional football player and fear that your job makes you perform somewhere very hot, chances are, this won’t happen.

On the correct usage of pronouns

There is one pronoun I dislike. It is “we”. For reasons, consider the following text snippet.

“We live in an era of technocrats. The more we know, the less we understand. Cold numbers replaced emotions, we struggle to keep what defines us as human in our hearts, for the future seems to optimize the humanity and our core values away.”

This text sounds Very Deep, and might have come from the quill of a famous philosopher, except that I have just written it down, being inspired by some more or less anonymous thinkers. So, what is wrong with this text?

The text is talking about “us”, which makes the author sound like he has Awakened from his fairy tale dream he has been sharing with everyone else, so, the “we” he is talking about seems to include just about everyone. This sounds and looks great, except for the fact that it is almost surely wrong. The usage of “us” presented here is actually an accusation, and, if the author was honest, he would replace it with a “you”. Because he is the Enlightened One. He has managed to understand the great self-deception (insert concrete instance of self-deception here) the society has lured itself into and he wants everyone else to withdraw the veil of ignorance. In the end, the text boils down to this: You are dumb. I was dumb too, but I am no more dumb. So, believe me, for I am Enlightened. But since social interaction does not work this way, the core message has to be covered under tons of fake self-humiliation.

The other problem with the text is that it is based on the false assumption that all people in a given society think sufficiently similar to buy into the stated premise. While this may be true for some very basic opinions (like, that being healthy is better than otherwise), the society allows for all kinds of thoughts running in the heads of its members, and generalizations over the contents of people’s heads are rather dangerous. They are even more dangerous if the target audience is non-homogenous by design, and someone might actually have the presence of mind to say “Well, that might apply to you, but not to me, I know more and am less confused than anytime before” and end this rhetoric insult.

Things you can do in Spain

I am back in Germany, doing things.

What can you do in Spain in summer? Swimming? Sure. Hiking? Possible, if it is not too warm. Blogging? Not really, since the internets in the hotel were rare. Traveling? Well… yes, but at a price.

Having a good knowledge about some possible (putting it mildly) irregularities you can face while being somewhere to the east of Germany or to the south of Austria is often not enough to anticipate this kind of things while being on vacation in the typical “vacation countries”.

Since the German law forbids me to rant about companies, I will anonymize them as much as possible. So yeah. The tale begins when I tried to rent a car. I tried several times: the first time, the hotline was unavailable, the second time, I ran into siesta, the third time, I was successful. And by 10AM in a few days I should be able to see my car.

This was obviously too easy. 10AM in the morning, I am waiting for a car to pick me up and to bring me to the place where the cars can be rented. At 10:15, I decide that fifteen minutes are a sufficiently long wait to declare that the guys are late even by non-German standards and call them. After ten minutes, a car arrives, takes me, drives for a while around to pick up similar-minded people with the wish to actually drive on Spanish streets.

Sooner or later, we arrive at a hotel where the car rental company resides. It turns out that my reservation did not include giving the car back at a different place, and it was in fact not possible to change the reservation accordingly, but it was actually possible to extend the reservation. Trying to extend the reservation worked, but the transaction was however still impossible, since I ran into the transfer limit on my credit card. Obviously, it was impossible to pay with other means.

So traveling by train it was, then. Trains in Spain are a very interesting story. In brief, the station did only feature a human-operated single-threaded and low-perfomance ticket buying interface that used a ticket computer as a terminal. Which was completely okay (as I had a lot of time on my hands), but as the ticket-selling system crashed, the whole ticket-selling process screeched to a halt. When the ticket-selling system was restarted, there were only first-class tickets. As I was cornered, I had to buy the only thing that was offered.

On the route back, I successfully managed to rent a car. In the end, it was marginally cheaper than traveling first-class by train, but far more nerve-consuming. The most terrible part started when I was close to my destination and found out that the city was a hell for drivers. I still somehow managed to get to my destination, but I burned a lot of my nerves on the way.

And now for some cute pictures from the south: