Sprocket sits on my computer during our trip to Frankfurt

Yesterday, I did a one-day trip to Frankfurt am Main to present our findings on antigenic drift in the novel avian influenza A (H9N2) virus.

Plans were to leave straight after work (6am), make it Frankfurt in time for vegetarian poutine at Frittenwerk, head to the hospital I was scheduled to speak at, and then spend the evening meeting friends and former coworkers to take the train home at 1am and being back in Munich at 6:30am.

Sidequest: store your valuables (laptop, etc.) in a locker, take a shower at the train station’s “hygiene station,” relax somewhere over three coffees, charge all your electronics, and then go out.

All this combined would have ran me roughly 30 bucks, with coffee, shower, and locker use. So I checked booking.com and found a hotel in Frankfurt’s Red Light District, across from the train station, offering a single room for €30/night.

Achievement unlocked: take a brief nap before heading out.

However, I am reluctant to book on Booking. The company’s rather draconian fee structure often makes it impossible for hotels to earn a decent living on rooms, its presence on the market, however, makes it even less desirable not to be listed on the platform.

So I headed to the hotel. Room: €70. 40 Euros more than on Booking. I showed the owner the listing. He insisted I pay 70 and cash. So I clicked “reserve.”

After Booking’s cut and my “Genius IV” rebate, the hotel made €19. Had the hotel agreed to 30 Euros and offered card payments, they’d have made a third more. Heck, I’d have agreed to 35 if I didn’t have to use Booking. But stubbornness, greed, and a hatred for card payments (taxation more than processing) cost the hotel a hefty chunk of its potential earnings. At 19 Euros the hotel makes a loss, considering the cost of cleaning during SARS-CoV-2.

Well, that’s awkward.

We took Sprocket to meet the kids today. Of course, due to the dynamic nature of hospital life, not all of his fans were there and some will have gone home by the time Sprocket returns. But it’s a fun thing to do, answer questions about the Camino de Santiago, and select the stone to drop at the Cruz de Ferro.

We were about half into the introductions when a kid piped up. “That’s not a raccoon, that’s a red panda” she said. Now, the tag on the plushie says “Raccoon,” so that’s what we went with. However…

… this is a raccoon:

And this is a red panda:

And this is Sprocket:

It’s undeniable. Sprocket is a Red Panda.

So, well… he’s a Red Panda. We took a vote if he’s a rare Raccoon with erythrism or a Red Panda and a good 90% of the kids wanted him to be a Red Panda, so there we are and have another story to tell.

When it comes to tech on the Camino, there are generally two kinds of people: those who hate it, and those who don’t. The only problem with those who hate it is, that there seems to be a drive to tell everyone else on the Way not to use them, either. A bit like vegans, only slightly more zealous.

My loadout is slightly less than I would take, if I had unlimited space and didn’t have to worry about weight, but it does the trick.

I am bringing an Atumtek “Selfie Stick Tripod” which, may Odin strike me down if I ever do, I won’t be using for the selfie part of the design. But having a nice tripod for my vlogs and the necessary video calls with the hospital and home is reason enough to bring it. The thing was $15 and is as flimsy as they come, so I doubt it’ll survive the trip.

Next up, not one but two cameras. Well, three if you count my smartphone, which makes me wonder if I should leave the Sony ZV-1 at home. It has been my steady companion for more than a year, now, and takes reliably good photos as well as great video, but it’s another 300g and an extra thing to break or lose. We’ll see.

Indisputable is the Insta360 Go 2, the small white thing at the base of the tripod. It’s a tiny action camera that can be clipped or magnetically attached to clothing and takes good time lapses, short videos, and mediocre to bad pictures.

I am bringing two 10’000mAh batteries to charge phone, camera(s), watch, and AirPods. The Camino has changed since I first walked, and I am no longer comfortable leaving my expensive phone and camera charging overnight. Instead, I’ll charge these boys, whose loss I can deal with, and use them to charge my things during the day. A two/three-prong charger is between the external batteries and the Insta360.

The rest is cables. And that’s it, a small loadout and we’ll see what it helps me create.

One possible addition might be a keyboard… I am sending updates from the Camino, and I am too old to be comfortable swiping/typing on a phone for more than a sentence or three. Having a small Bluetooth keyboard and the phone mounted on the tripod might emulate a “computer” well enough for me to not slack and write more.

We’ll see 🙂

[Image 1: Light does it]

One of the biggest mistakes I made on my first long distance hike was overpacking. Turns out, that the extra short walk to get things clean and the extra work of cleaning easily offsets the extra strain of having to lug more gear.

Since that day, I am packing as light as I can, no matter the circumstances. A two week lecture circuit or six weeks on foot through Spain: staying below 5kg is the goal.

With that, here’s the packing list (note, the links are not affiliate or some other dumb shit people try to poach off on you. They’re just stuff I use, linked so if you like it too, you can get it as well):

[1] Backpack: Exos 48 v2 (note: should the click take you to the front page that’s Osprey redirecting you, just search for Exos).

From Osprey, which is the brand most long distance hikers prefer. It strikes a perfect balance between comfort and function while keeping overall weight low. I am not the biggest fan of the v2 of this specific model, the Exos 48, and would have preferred the Exos v1 38 instead, but that one’s so good that the remaining models after Osprey’s change in 2017 were bought out quickly and go for horrendous prices on eBay and Amazon.

[2] Fleece Blanket: Frilufts. The version I am using is no longer available and they’re a Norwegian/German brand that might be hard to get elsewhere, but I swear by this thing. It’s light, it’s warm but not oppressively so, and it works perfectly in hot climates as well. It’s also pretty light and easy to clean.

[3] Packbags: Everything I haul is sorted into packbags. They’re waterproof, keep my dirty laundry separated from the clean stuff and my toothbrush away from my dirty socks, and are much better than plastic bags in that they last forever and don’t make as much noise if I am packing in a crowded hostel room at 4:30am.

[4] Basketball shorts. For evenings and to go swimming. Light around the crown jewels, modest enough even for some more conservative onlookers.

[Image 2: Taken in Grañon, Spain, June 22nd (four years ago, yesterday) 2018. The buff is different, and I’ll have to find the right one, it’s somewhere in my stuff.]

[5] and [6]: This one needs an explanation. In general, it’s three T-shirts and a Buff. The top shirt is my “But First… Coffee” Black Rifle Coffee Company shirt. I wore this shirt in 2018, together with a similar Buff and intend to recreate the photo this year.

[7] Pants: For me, there’s only one set of pants I’ll wear on those trips: the Fjällrräven Karl Zip Off. I have never worn them long and, in fact, lost one of the zip off legs somewhere, but they’ve done amazing work for over six years so far and show no sign of breaking.

[8] Sprocket: Sprocket needs to come with me, of course. He’ll be looking out from the backpack and tell about his experiences (in German) as well.

[9] Underwear: Unlike most hikers, I swear by wide boxers when hiking. It’s not everyone’s perfect fit and in 2017 I met a woman hiking in string tangas because that was the most comfortable to her (she also wore just a light summer dress most days), and someone else I know is a big fan of commando, but those work for me. Three are more than enough (one worn, two in the bag).

[A] Socks: Again, three pairs, one worn two in the bag. I swear by Wright Socks, which are double layer socks that reduce the friction of foot against shoe and thus blisters. They also keep most moisture in the outer layer, again reducing blisters.

[B] Flipflops: To give my feet some time to breathe in the evenings.

[C] Rain Jacket: This one’s a luxury and I shouldn’t even take it with me. A 70g super-light poncho would suffice, but this is my comfort item, keeping me dry in the rain, warm in the wind, and doubling as a comfy and dry seat if I want to take a break. It’s from Mammut and weighs more than I am willing to admit.

In Part 2, I’ll admit to being a tech weenie and taking way too much of it onto the Camino. I’ll also talk about medication storage and hygiene. But for clothing, that’s it. Not all too bad, eh?

New Glasses, UGH

This might come as a surprise, but I hate getting new glasses. More than going to the dentist. I can prevent massive changes on my teeth by performing basic and easy dental hygiene, but my eyes just fuck themselves annually a little more and need to be unfucked with glasses.

Additionally, I sometimes leave my cushy academic computer job to LARP as an actual medicine man, meaning I have to constantly context switch between a patient’s body, 30-50 centimeters away, a bunch of monitors, 2-3 meters away, and far away events like angry wives demanding to know, how exactly that remote wound up where it wound up.

This means, I need trifocals. A part of the glasses to see nearby objects, a part to see medium distance ones, and a part to see far, far, away. Unfortunately not as far away as I want to be whenever that angry wife enters the ER.

First, this isn’t one of those “just see your optician” things. It’s an “see your ophthalmologist” appointment. Which, admittedly, is made easier by the fact that I have access to internal databases and can check which colleague doesn’t have an excuse that day.

And secondly, this is pricey. After getting my measurements I headed to one of the cheaper chain glasses places. Still, despite a generous rebate, it’s €900 for the set I got today. With blue light filters, which are indispensable in hospitals. But it looks decent, so I am not all too angry. Ready?

Here we go:

Before and After shots.

Time’s counting down until, for the fourth time on this Way and for the 12th time in general, I am walking down a hill and to the beach. Along beautiful villages, through the Spanish high desert (the Meseta), over more hills, and — always — in the best possible company.

Nunca caminarás solo, you never walk alone, as they say on the Way of St. James, the modern pilgrimage route from wherever you start to the mythical grave of St. James, one of Biblical Jesus’ disciples.

It’s less than thirty days, now. Tomorrow I’ll be going in for my fourth shot, meaning I should still carry ample humoral immunity to not have to worry to get infected or infect someone else. Which would be a bummer. I am packing, weeding out all but the very necessities, and sending the rest via Paq Peregrino from Bilbao, the town I’m flying into Spain to, to Santiago de Compostela for my direct return flight to Cyprus late August.

The Meseta

Of course I’ll be taking you with me on this journey, as always. Along for the ride is Sprocket, who’ll be documenting the trek in German and send pictures and texts to a gaggle of children at the local Pediatric Oncology Center. After we’re done, he too will take a trip by Spanish Post and take residence alongside them at the Hospital.

This week I’ll be showing you my tech and gear for the trip, and next week we’ll pack together before I take a nine day trip to Switzerland and across Germany using the “9€ Ticket” (post will probably be in German, sorry).

So, yeah, just letting you know that if the Camino bores you, now’s the time to unsubscribe 🙂

Update Jun 17:
As you can see, I’ve moved the blog to WordPress. While this doesn’t address many of the other things mentioned here, it does give me a chance to implement Simon’s “let’s go back to Atom/Pingback” and a working PubSub/Comment/Like/Reshare solution.

Write.as has “some” support for ActivityPub. Meaning, it’s got the “Pub” part of PubSub partially right. Indeed, Fedizen can subscribe to write.as blogs like this one (using the not very obvious @mikka@blog.mikka.md in this case).

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