Category Archives: Tech news of the weird

Painting Mitch Altman at 3am.

Mitch was here in Berlin, so of course I had to ask if I could paint his picture! He was a great model, and this watercolor thing is SO FUN!Mitch Altman in Berlin By Suzanne Forbes Aug 22 2016

How to move to Berlin in 2016, Part 1.

Are you a well-paid tech worker who is sick of barely getting by in SF, New York or DC? Do you have a spouse who has health problems and doesn’t earn much money?

Are you exhausted from working 70-hour weeks and being constantly on call? Is your spouse sick of doing battle with the health insurance company over enormous copays and treatments they refuse to pay for? Do you feel like you can’t afford to have kids, even though you’d like to?

If that sounds like you, Berlin is your best shot at a decent life, maybe the kind of life your parents had. You might still have a chance at the American dream, in Germany.

First, let’s see if you are a candidate for a good financial picture in Germany. (it’s my first flowchart- sorry it’s kinda janky!)2016

 

Next, ask yourself some important questions.

Do you care about owning a house? Most Berliners rent for their entire lives.

Do you like public transport? You can certainly have a car in Berlin, but it is very difficult and expensive to get a driver’s license if your license is from a state that doesn’t have the wonderful reciprocity deal. Plus, the superb transit is really one of the defining characteristics of life here.

Are you ok with a life of modest expectations? This isn’t really a culture about getting rich or having huge successes. It’s about security, stability, and straightforwardness.

Speaking of that, are you ok with people telling you exactly what they think? Occasionally very rudely? A total stranger told me I was “doing it wrong” today, because of the way I was pulling my little shopping trolley.

Can you follow rules without losing a lot of energy over “why” and “that’s stupid”? There are a lot of rules in Germany. Most of them boil down to, “Be responsible for your own actions and don’t make life harder for your fellow humans”, but you still have to know them all.

Are you a good recycler? The recycling here is CRAY. I only recycle because my friends have kids, but 18 years in California, and especially Berkeley, trained me to separate and sort. Good thing, cause they are SO serious about it here.

We’ll close Part 1 with the most useful thing you can do if you are planning a move here.

Step 1: Learn some fucking German.

I had never been to Germany and did not know a single word of German except zeitgeist and schadenfreude. All the blog posts I read said that it was no worries, everyone speaks English in Berlin. This may be true if you spend all your time talking to expats in expat neighborhoods like Prenzlauerberg and work for a tech company whose HR department will manage every detail of your move.

But if you are moving yourself on a shoestring or limited resources, you will be well served to learn a bunch of basic words, like the word for apartment. Because trust, MOST people you will encounter in the process of setting up a life here do not speak English.

A Patreon, I haz it!

IMG_0006That’s right, some of my wonderful friends suggested I set up a Patreon so they could help support me making art. Pretty wonderful friends, if I do say so myself.

Here it is!

https://www.patreon.com/SuzanneForbes

 

Also maybe you’d like to see an amazing high-speed video of me painting an entire portrait in just a couple minutes.

Suzanne Rachel Forbes – Portrait Painting from John Ashton-Keller on Vimeo.

*photo of me painting by Justin Quimby, Feb 2015

What to wear to the End of the World.

* this article originally appeared on Carnal Nation and io9, repubbed here for the ages.

resident-evil-afterlife-movie-image-milla-jovovich-12-600x400Things are always a little sketchy, globally. They’ve been sketchy my whole life, what with Reagan and the Cold War and acid rain and global warming and shoals of plastic bottles in the Pacific. Now that we’re all depressed, let’s talk about clothes!

Obviously, when the Apocalypse comes you want to be dressed for it. You want to look good, and have a place to keep your tools and weapons and jerky. You want clothes that are sturdy, in case you’re dragged over the desert sands behind a motorcycle, and clothes that are washable, because your drycleaner is at the bottom of the new Los Angeles Sea. You’ll want clothes that are modular, because you’re likely to be wearing the same outfit for quite a while. You may want clothes that are armored, knife-proof or bulletproof, and you’ll definitely want some fucking bad-ass boots.

Also, you should do your shopping as soon as possible, before the worldwide economic meltdown. For boots, get yourself some New Rocks. Sure, they cost a fortune, but you’ll never be buying another pair of boots anyway, on account of that EMP taking out all the electronic currency. If you must go with Demonia, the Stomp or Transformer models are good for kicking in zombie heads. The Transformer can be instantly weaponized with attachable spikes. The motorcycle gear company Icon also makes fabulous high-heeled boots for your chic cycling needs. You’ll need a tattered skirt with lots of pockets, d-rings and straps. I found this French-run company based in Hong Kong and Bali, Shaman Electro, by looking at the tag on the back of Carnal Nation Editor-in-Chief Theresa Ikard’s fabulous tattered skirt.

Cryoflesh-Aquarius-SkirtOr this amazing one by CryofleshOr some demented modular skirt plus pants thing. Then you need a jacket. Maybe you’ll want this fucking crazy stillsuit/desert nomad hoodie to protect you from the radioactive ash. Or how about Kevlar or Aramid lined hoodies that deflect knife cuts? Try out this razortape-print Kevlar-lined hoodie from BladeRunner in the UK. They even have a  sickening pink “ladies” version.shaman-electro-pandora1

If you’re protecting yourself from the elements in the frozen wastes of Brazil, you’ll want a warm coat. After much research, I’ve concluded that most women’s cold-weather gear is not hot, and therefore, by definition, sucks-not-in-the-good-way.

The only cool insulated jackets are from motorcycle gear companies—and they have the advantage of being armored at the shoulders and elbows, for when you jump out of  the speeding jacked-up BattlePrius in the middle of  the wasteland. I like the British motorcycle gear company Frank Thomas for their Armored Venus line. This jacket from FirstGear is actually electrically heated. FirstGear-HeatedJacket-2_0You can plug it in to your methane-powered hybrid motocross hoverbike!

Then you need a place to put your gear. You’ll want your hands free, so you need a utility belt or vest. Poizen Industries makes this cute bustier with zipoff pockets and ammo holders.poizen-corset2

The craziest, most amazing utility belts and holster belts anywhere are on etsy at Jungle Tribe’s shop:JungleTribe bage

 

 

 

Much, much cheaper are cloth utility belts.

Five and Diamond’s Wild Card belts are fabulous. There are Wild Card holster belts, and the Skin Graft holster belts sold both at F&D and at the Skin Graft site.

Once you’ve stashed your gear about your person in all your little pockets and pouches, you can protect yourself from the toxic rain with the Blade Runner umbrella— at thinkgeek.

Of course, the accessory you need most of all is Milla Jovovich and her machete.

Targeted content marketing for conversion, or, “You talkin’ to ME??! You talkin to ME?!”

content marketing conversionBrands are becoming publishers.

Let’s say it again: brands are becoming publishers. Is this good? No. It’s stupid.

If you’re in the sneaker selling business, and you are forced by your marketing strategists to become a content publisher, are you going to have the experience equity in publishing you have in sneaker production? Hell no.

You are no more qualified to be a publisher than a squirrel is.

However, you do have one thing that publishers are desperate for- specialized knowledge which can be converted to content. You are deeply knowledgeable about sneaker production and the needs and habits of the sneaker consumer.

You have a treasure trove of potential content.

And since publishing is as simple as setting up a WordPress blog, if your marketing team or some blogger on Scribd can convert your knowledge trove to content, you have plenty to publish. So suddenly you have a content archive which is a value-add to your consumer. But you still don’t know anything about publishing.

About how to tell a story, how to sell a story, who to tell what story or how to use a story to create consumer aspiration, which is the real point, for you.

So do you just open a content firehose on your blog or site and hope it will attract people through search, get shared and give you beneficial backlinks?

Sure, you could start there. Or you could design your content to attract the people most likely to buy your product and use it to guide them to the purchase that will make them happiest.

Let’s do a case study, of how a company called Orchard Corset (link has no nudity but still NSFW) is doing a tremendous job at this with reasonable, not-extravagant resources. Orchard Corset is a company up near Seattle that sells mass-produced steel-boned corsets and shapewear, and their content marketing ROCKS.

Continue reading

Secrets of the East Bay, Vol.1: Caldecott Tunnel Free-Fall

Oakland Sunset by Thomas Hawk

Oakland Sunset by Thomas Hawk.

If you come out of the Caldecott Tunnel towards Oakland at the right velocity, about 67mph in freely moving traffic, you can put your right foot flat on the floor and your car will simply drop down out of the hills. At sunset, with the Bay opening up in front of you, framed by the darkness of the eucalyptus-scented hills, the lights of the Bridge coming to life like fireflies and all the cities glittering, it feels like flying.

This is safest if you’ve come through the left-hand bore, as otherwise you may have to cheat and tap your brakes smartly when people exit onto the Warren Freeway towards Berkeley. Caveat: I’ve only tried this with a variety of 4-door Hondas and Corollas, and my friend Tinny’s small pickup. Larger, heavier cars may not have the right combination of wind resistance, momentum and cambering to effortlessly keep up with traffic.

the photo was taken September 25, 2013 by Thomas Hawk, about whom I know nothing except that he has a photo named “Straight to Hell” (after the Clash song) in an album called “Where’s Rothko when I need him?”, so he seems cool. It is cc-licensed.

CHIP IN HEAD!!!

Kickstartered!!! Sign me up!! I am your experimental subject!!

Very seriously, I have always wanted a BCI for many reasons, and one of them is because I have chronic, severe, recurrent depression and the meds are always failing. The OpenBCI project offers a beautiful way to honor a loved one, by contributing to the development of open-source technology for direct computer-brain interaction. Neurotherapy technology like this could “reboot” depressed brains, identify and monitor them for brain wave patterns linked to suicidal ideation, or perhaps even “lock” a depressive about to self-harm until help can arrive.

I realize to many people this sounds frighteningly ripe for abuse. But for people whose brains have been trying to kill them their entire lives, it sounds like a miracle. Google pumping Viagra ads directly into your visual cortex would be a small price to pay for relief from suicidal ideation. if you want a more cheerful example, check out how badass quadriplegic Jan Scheuermann ( awesome human-robot frontier adventurer Jan Scheuermann!) is now able to use a robot arm to feed herself chocolate. She is pretty excited about the potential of BCI.

I don’t have much money, but I pledged the “Honor a loved one” amount in memory of Conor, who lost his battle with depression not long ago.

 

Depression is a disease, and most of us aren’t doctors.

Friday evening my phone rang, and I ignored it. I never answer the phone;  anyone who knows me texts. Then it rang again, with a number not in my contacts. I hit the end button and set it down, and it started ringing again. I picked it up then, knowing someone was dead.

“I just got the news about Conor”, my boyfriend said. His voice was gnarled with static and shock, calling from Germany, where he was at some hacker conference. “Are you ok?” he asked. He sounded terrified. He said something about Twitter. “I’m fine, baby, what’s going on?” He told me he’d heard one of our friends was dead by his own hand. He told me he was with M. and Q., that they were ready to help if I needed anything. Continue reading