09 December, 2013

Psychopatic encounter

I just had the most curious encounter in a bar. Well, not entirely new - I've met my share of weirdo's over the years, but it has been a while. My problem seems to be that I'm too nice: I smile and nod at people that ramble and complain to me about life, the universe and everything like I enjoy their company. And what can I do? I LIKE being a nice person, it matters to me. Anyway, on to the story and its consequences.

Food in N├╝rnberg

Around 8 PM I went to the Bar & Grill California for dinner. Looking around for a place to sit, I smiled at a few folk looking back. As soon as I sat down, one of them came to me and asked if I didn't want to drink a beer with him and have a conversation. I didn't really know what to say, other than disappoint him partially by explaining I don't really drink beer. I would eat and drink something, however. He didn't mind and joined.

The conversation started curious: he shared that he had just kicked at the mirror of a police car and asked what I thought of that. I replied that, besides not liking violence in general, I saw little point in doing that. He pointed out that "cops are thieves, just like everybody else". "Well", I said, "some are, perhaps - rotten eggs can be found anywhere. But by an large, society needs a decent police force. And still, how does kicking a mirror help?". He explained that indeed, police is good, but "they have to be kept under control". Somehow, kicking mirrors helped with that, I didn't really get his argument here (if there was one). Besides, he didn't know what else to do: he had been mistreated by cops, he told me. He explained me he had pressed charges but it was "all covered up". Did he go to a lawyer? No, "they are all like puppies. Afraid of the police." I didn't really agree, but the conversation (or rather, he) became hard to follow.

What do you do for a living?

I decided to inquire into what he did for a job. After a few failed attempts he told me he was a doctor, or at least, learning to be one. Most physicians I know are rather less rambling so I inquired further. It turned out that, indeed, 'normal' physicians are actually trying to kill us. Murderers, he said. Especially psychiatrists. I tried to pursue the subject, instead the discussion turned to politics. He said it's bad in Germany. All politics is corrupted, as bad as in the US. I shared my conviction that while there are corrupt politicians for sure, at least in the Netherlands I'm convinced the vast majority of elected representatives honestly wants to do the right thing. He noted, surprisingly on-topic, that they just don't know what they're doing - something I can't disagree with entirely. After all, the world is a complicated place and honestly, most politicians seem under-educated especially in the area of science. I don't think this argument landed, however, he had turned back to the medical world.

He started talking about evil psychiatrists and mind control, and I decided to tell him I'm a psychologist. He moved a bit away from me, telling me he didn't trust psychologists. "They always blame you for everything!" he said. I answered: "Well, I do believe we are responsible for what we do in the world...". He shared that the medicine you're given is to keep you under control. Knowing the side effects of the medical treatments available to psychiatry (especially anti-psychotics) I couldn't really disagree that much. Meanwhile, he seemed to decide he could trust me, at least for now.

Berlin and the New World Order

He switched subjects again, asking where I came from and I told him I live in Berlin but I was Dutch. He was intrigued. "A while ago", he explained, "I met a very interesting guy. He lives in Berlin, but he is family of the Spanish King. Actually, he SHOULD BE the Spanish king, but..." I didn't really understand the reasons behind this, however, he suggested we (him and me?) should do something about this, put him back on his throne.

Before we could dive in details of this revolution, he moved closer to me, so nobody could hear: "Do you support the New World Order?" I told him I had heard the term but didn't know what it meant. He explained: "It will happen, like, 200 years from now. The human population will be reduced to about the size of Berlin". I asked what would happen to all the other people and he told me people would get injections with feminism (yeah, he really said that, I asked him to repeat it twice) and that would reduce the number of children we had. It had already started, that's why the population in Germany was getting smaller. I told him I thought it was scary and I would be against it. He noted he was a bit torn on the subject: on one hand, killing people is bad, but it would be good for the planet, the environment. Well, yes, it would, I suppose. When asked about how it had already started, he explained: "It is done by their leaders". Who? "Osama Bin Laden, others... Obamasama" (he made a bit of a word jumble there). I noted that Osama was dead but that didn't seem to be a problem: "He is the anti-christ!". We made a short detour to religion - he strongly believed in God, I couldn't figure out which one, although he didn't seem impressed with Allah and it wasn't Santa either. He did note that Jesus was a "servant of God, he was not crucified, they tried but you can't kill a servant of God".

At this point, I decided I really would prefer a quiet dinner, and told him that my food was coming and I'd like to eat that alone, but it was a nice conversation. He agreed, we shook hands - and he left. And I was proud of myself for having ended it in a friendly but firm manner... I am learning, too!

Psychotic? Oh yes.

I've had enough contact with people going through a psychotic episode that I can tell he is. The above 'report' is omitting at least half the rambling and hard to follow conversation (if you can call it that): conspiracy after conspiracy is thrown over the table, often clearly connected to things mentioned earlier. For example, the world population will be reduced to the size of Berlin, because - I just mentioned I live there. Once you notice it, it becomes hard to miss. There is logic - but often twisted and coming from certain (utterly insane) axioms. Overall, there's a lot of free association going on - I guess a psychosis would be awesome in a brain storming session. If you could only keep them on topic at least a little.

It is a REAL disease, harming those who have it

Unfortunately, a psychosis gets worse as these diseases are really damaging to the brain, essentially turning chronic if not treated. Compare it to a untreated wound - it isn't going to get any better if you let it fester. And I know that, while not very pleasant, there are decent medications and treatments out there that can really help. Unfortunately, I also know that as long as somebody is not a danger to him/herself or others, and sufficiently lucid to refuse any help (and the paranoia obviously doesn't help), there is little a doctor can do. Judges often simply lack the experience and knowledge to be willing to lock somebody up who doesn't do any harm and can still reasonably convincingly claim to be just fine. Despite believing Elvis is still alive, Aliens do anal probing and Jesus will walk again, soon. Worse, if they don't have friends or family pushing them to a doctor, chances are that they won't even be on the radar anywhere.

I've heard stories and cases like these recently, in Berlin but also in the Netherlands. And it often goes unnoticed. Most people just think him or her to be 'an odd duck' and there's often drugs involved which can be blamed. This good men was convinced beer helped him, taking his inhibitions away. Yes, it does, but I don't think that that is a good thing... At least, beer isn't as bad as the stuff some patients 'self-medicate' with. The thing is: this is a real disease. As real as cancer or a broken leg. It doesn't SEEM like that as you don't see it on the outside, but having your brain out of whack is seriously bad. Not only for them but, indeed, potentially for others too. After all, if you truly believe the police are the agents of the apocalypse and you get your hands on a guy, doesn't it make perfect sense to shoot a few? Exactly.

And then?

Our modern society seems to, on one hand, increase stress and pressure so more people suffer from these (and other) psychological disorders, yet the decaying social fabric means they get less and less social and medical support. And this is just the worst and most obvious side of it - what about all these people who quietly suffer from anxiety disorders, depression? Really, feeling like killing yourself is NOT healthy. There is something wrong and while indeed it can't be cured by a simple pill, there ARE things which can be done.

As society, we need to be more aware of these issues. Only thing I can do here is urge you to not leave people around you alone if they start to become paranoid and ramble like this: this is most likely caused by a real, tangible, curable medical condition, not an actual alien obduction, religious epiphany or government conspiracy. If a friend of you breaks a leg, you do visit them, help them, don't you? Do the same when they develop a psychosis, please...

07 December, 2013

Summit, Con, Release...

The last weeks before my holiday have been quite crazy for me. SUSECon, openSUSE Summit and of course the openSUSE 13.1 release. Meanwhile, the openSUSE Board Elections have started... I decided to really try and stay away from things for two weeks. I'm not particularly good at that and I did a few thingies but I managed not too shoddy. Saw a museum, did pick up running again, watched some movies...

Now, back to SUSECon, the Summit and the release!

SUSECon,oS Summit

First things first, SUSECon and the openSUSE Summit were awesome. It is always wonderful how much energy these events give - so many enthusiastic people, ideas, plans...

On the press side during SUSECon, I kept myself busy with talking to 7 of the journalists, doing and arranging interviews or finding answers to their questions about openSUSE. And with Robert Schweikert I presented a session (twice) about the collaboration between SUSE and openSUSE. ITWire reported on this talk. We ran a booth at SUSECon as well and it was, as always, great to talk to people there.

On Wednesday was a Pirate Party, Thursday a visit to the Epcot park. I'm not a huge fan of such parks but it was entertaining enough to get food there... And I had great company!

At the Summit I presented two sessions, one about handling a booth and one about building local communities. In both cases, there was a lot of awesome feedback from the room and at the Orlando airport and further during the trip back I worked the suggestions in the presentations for further sharing. Thanks! I also really appreciated the private conversations about these topics which took place later on.

But the most important thing, for me, was meeting old friends again. Andi, Drew, the openSUSE Forms guys, the Greek delegation and many more. And bumping into new people like Navid and Christopher, two guys who run a media production company and want to help out openSUSE with web things. That's where the inspiring conversations happen. There were discussions about how to proceed with the Summit, how to handle community building in the Americas but also the great town hall meeting where I presented the 'Karmafication' idea for our infrastructure. This is something I might blog about later.

After the openSUSE Summit was over, Alex, Stella, Ludwig and myself went for a beach trip, video below. It was fun - although we drove an order of magnitude longer than that we actually spend on the beach ;-)

The release

Then the release, on the day I landed back from the US of A (and yes, they lost my luggage, luckily it is back). I think it went great, and seeing the response from the press I think others agree.

Now, we're debating changes to our development process on the mailing lists. Let's see how that goes!