I love Berlin, hence I leave it

There are two related questions: why do I leave Berlin and why do I leave my job at AWS. While they are strongly related, I prefer to only concentrate on the Berlin part.

For some unclear reason, I was deeply marked by a French xenophobic slogan. "La France, tu l'aimes ou tu la quittes", "You love France or you leave it". Which was never addressed to me, a white guy, born in France of French citizenship. However, I really dislike how France is and evolves, racism, far right, etc... And in a sens, I'm convinced that it's easier for me to leave it for a cooler place than to change it. Actually, it was easier for me to find job abroad, it seems French companies are not interested in my resume, so it's even more tempting to leave if this lead to an interesting and well-paying job. More recently, I realized that if I don't like what France becomes, it may be better to try to change it - even if I don't know how - and to do it while in the country.

Let's go back to Berlin. I was hired by Amazon Web Service (AWS) in June 2021 in Berlin. In the same time, I know I had friends who protested against Amazon new campus in Berlin. One of the main argument being that it causes gentrification. I kind of like a slogan I saw:

Better dirty neighbors than your dirty money! Mother Fucker! Køpi platz lives forever

Indeed, as a junior developer I was paid by Amazon more than many senior developers in local companies. I could easily afford and obtain a three room apartment in the center of the town and live there very comfortably. Have a home office, a bedroom, and a living room, using one of those as guest room when I want to invite someone. A big kitchen with everything to cook comfortably, a bathtub and a shower... Taking it would mean that a family of three have one less opportunity to find a place where they could have a room for their children.

Obviously, I could move to a WG - a shared apartment. I have seen friends living in WG on the fourth floor without elevator in a old building. I must admit that I don't feel this is what I want either. I guess it would improve my legs fitness, and help meet people (the flatmate and their acquaintances). Sadly, I didn't meet as many people as I hoped living in Berlin, as I was waiting for the vaccine.

The solution is obvious, instead of 3 rooms or a WG, I could just take a cool flat, still with a fully furnished kitchen, a big shower, and live comfortably in a single room. But leaving less flats for the students who just want to come study in Berlin.

It's quite easy to think about those people since I constantly see on Facebook housing groups people having a hard time to find a place to live, and stating that their budget is only a fifth of mine. Furthermore, when I visited those new apartments that seemed confortable, the rental agent often told me that the building is great to network; they have plenty of Amazon, Tesla... employee who arrived in Berlin recently and moved there. With remote work, it's easy to miss the size of Amazon in Berlin. But I realized the impact this had on Berlin when, even for apartment far away from the (future) tower, my employer is mentioned by the agent. This also increases my feeling that I did not want to be a part of this Berlin change. If I love Berlin as it is, being a part of its change means that I may enjoy it a few years at most, even from an egoist perspective it makes little sens.

One anecdote without importance: I actually got a rental contract for an apartment at Wallstraße (literally Wall Street), which was a little bit too much on the nose for someone already having the thoughts I wrote above.

I'm coming back to Paris. Obviously, the same remarks could probably apply to Paris. But I guess the other difference is that I don't find Paris cool and I don't see it as much as Berlin as something to protect.

Plausible deniability

I find it funny how mentioning that something is done for plausible deniability diminishes it but not extinguish it. Here is an example of plausible deniability that should not exists for entirely logical beings, but will still exists if you will too. I suspect you may appreciate it. Hopefully for  […]

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Google Summer of Code, point of view of a new admin/org

It's been a month since it has been announced that AnkiDroid was selected for Google Summer of Code (GSoC). Here is the story of a new admin, in a first-time organization. As it’s standard to state, views are my own, not my employer nor my organization. It explains how we went from unprepared to a huge success even before the end of the application phase!

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What the "Rationalist Community" means to me

For years, I wanted to write about what the aspiring rationalist community meant to me. Seeing a lot of people criticizing it, sometime with argument I agree with, often with ones which does not represents the reality I've seen, I made a twitter thread about it. Threads are helpful because I find it more acceptable to write whatever comes through my mind randomly, which makes it easier to write than a blog post. I'll translate and post it here too.

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The scheduler problem

The Scheduler problem is the biggest open problem in the Anki/Spaced repetition learning community I believe. As any good research problems, there are two questions to consider: what are the problems we want to solve, and how to solve them. I've no idea how to solve them, but at least, I hope I can  […]

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Effective altruism and criticism toward activism: Answer to a paradox

For a little while now, I have been exploring the notion of Effective Altruism - EA for short. My readings on the topic so far have been very interesting[1], and I would like to add my own idea that I deem important and have yet to read elsewhere. If ever this has been written down somewhere, I can at least attest to it being all well too hidden. Personally, I believe that it should be discussed in introductions to the EA topic.


[1] I have attempted some meeting with the French EA group, and have seen nothing but discussions yet. As it seems I have been more effective through direct actions against LGBTPhobia in high-school - for all my uncertainties about them - it had seemed pointless for me to join.

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Collaborative decks in Anki

A lot of people want to create collaborative deck for Anki. In September 2018, I had already made quite a few add-ons, and some people contacted me thus to discuss collaborative decks. It has always been in the back of my head since. I'm going to try to write down every thoughts I had and why it seems quite complex.

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How hard can it be to code a feature to let users resize images in a software.

In this post, I expect to show you why it may be difficult to create a seemingly simple program. In particular, to do it well. I'll show case with the last program I wrote, an add-on for Anki. More precisely, the most wanted add-on for anki, according to the vote of users of anki's subreddit: being able to resize image in the editor. This seems to be a simple add-on; after all, resizing by dragging corner has been done in every editing software for decades[1]. In this post, I intend to document all of the things which made me loose time when I created the add-on "Resize image" for anki. I also created a video showing how the add-on works.


[1] Appart from LaTeX, but let's not consider it.

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How I learn lyrics with anki

After years of using anki, I finally found a nice way to learn lyrics. I think I tried three different methods before finding one which works for me. More precisely, I found it a few months ago, and after testing it, I can finally way I found something which works.

To be more precise, I want to learn lyrics of song I love. Songs I've heard a lot of time, and whose meaning I know. The method I give here would not be efficient for a new song. In this post, I'll first explain what I want anki to do, and why I want it. I'll explain how to do it in a second part.

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Learning how to play music with anki

I've been playing music for half of my life. But while I was enjoying sight reading partitions, and sometime practiced a little bit the boring part (scales, arpeggios), I have been stuck. Here is a list of what changed:

  • The most frustrating thing for me being that I relied on partitions. Which means that if you gave me a piano or guitar without a partition, I wasn't able to play anything. I found that ridiculous, and anki helped me solve that.
  • Similarly, I played classical guitar, and I didn't know how to read tab. Because, honestly, they are so many chords, I keep forgetting them. Which means that, if you give me a song with tab, as they are hundred of thousands of them, I couldn't play it, because it was not written in a way I can easily read. I don't know every single chord yet (and I'll probably never know them all), I know far more chords today than what I knew before I started anki, and it clearly helps learning songs and doing improv.

The example in this post are related to ocarina, guitar, piano, harmonica and tin whistle. I will explain what differs and what is similar for all of those instruments. Some explanation may not always be clear, if you don't know the instruments I'm talking about. But don't worry, if you don't understand, just read the next paragraph, you should be able to get the general idea.

This article will be illustrated using almost only cards that I have really seen the day I was writing this article. You can find here my [piano], [guitar] and [ocarina] decks. They are far from being perfect, some typos may still be in them. But it may help you to understand what I write here. And maybe you can find them useful in your collection.

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Anki and learning which require practice (origami, knot, instrument...)

I use anki to learn things which require practice. Origami, drawing, music, rope (nodes and shibari). Music will be considered in another text.

I consider two kinds of practical knowledge:

  • some practice requires making choices regularly (like drawing, or musical improv)
  • some practice requires learning and practicing some exact moves over and over. That may be the case when you want to learn a musical piece, or how to tie some particular note.

I don' have any idea how to deal with the first kind of knowledge, thus I'll only consider the second kind. I'll list here different methods, which depends on what I want to learn. I don't know in general how to decide which method is the best one.

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Lists in anki: desiderata and partial solution

In this text, I assume you are familiar with anki, and in particular know what is a field, a card, a card's type (aka template), a note and a note's type (aka a model), and that you have an idea of what are the rules used by anki to decide which cards should be generated or not.

There is one big limitation in anki, it concerns lists[1]. Here I list my trouble, the existing work arounds I know, their limits, and the functionnality I would really want. Sadly, this functionnality seems to require such a big modification of anki's underlying model that I fear that no add-on can answer my request. In particular if I want this request to also be satisfied in smartphone's application, which does not allows to add add-ons.

Learning a list of things is hard, but it's something I sometime want to do. A poem/song is just a list of line. Sometime, a mathematical notions have 4 distinct names. E.g. a pullback is also called a fiber product, a fibered product and a Cartesian square. In some othe case, a mathematical objects admits many distinct definitions[2]. E.g. I've got 5 definitions of left-trivial monoids. And I'd also wanted to see if I can learn the list of the prime number less than 100. Mostly to see how hard it is to learn an arbitrary list.


[1] I assume here that sets are list, with an arbitrary order

[2] This is in general considered to be a proof that the object is really interesting

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Note on an introduction on Anki given a 35C3

This post is a comment about a self-organised workshop Introduction to anki I gave at #35C3 (35th Chaos Communication Congress, a congress of 17k hackers). This workshop was announced on the anki's subredd where I asked for ideas. I received a lot of useful feedback from this subreddit and from the related discord server. The main audience of the current blog post is thus those person, already in anki's community. This post contains idea in random order.

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