New Venture: Brewing Beer

Learning new things is always exciting. Learning new things about stuff you love even more so!

For years I have loved beer. Mostly craft beer and special beers, not a big fan of “regular” beer.

Some of my friends share that love, and with one of them, the idea of brewing our own beer came up. Being big fans of IPA’s that was the first batch we made. Starting to brew turns out to be as simple as ordering a Starting Kit online and following the instructions. Our IPA turned out pretty great so we moved on to brew a Belgian White (another favorite of ours).

There we hit a bump, lack of control over temperature led to the beer boiling to hard, thus losing a lot of the yield for that batch. Still tasted good, but not as we wanted it to turn out.

So we invested in a brew system that lets us control temperature more and decided to brew another (and bigger) batch of IPA. That batch of 20 litres is currently fermenting on my dinner table. My writing of this post is accompanied by the slow bubbling of the fermentation vat.

It’s a fun new hobby and I learn a lot about beer in the process. I am very curious how our next batch turns out. Stay tuned!

More info about our brewing (in Dutch) here.

Playing toward the Indieweb

Inspired by Frank Meeuwsen and what I read on his website about the indie web, I am playing around on this website. I call it playing because it doesn’t feel like work. I am having fun, learning a lot and slowly working toward my goal of my own platform as the hub for (almost) everything I do online.

Writing on your own website associates your thoughts and ideas with you as a person. Having a distinct website design helps strengthen that association. Writing for another publication you get a little circular avatar at the beginning of the post and a brief bio at the end of the post, and that’s about it. People will remember the publication, but probably not your name.

Brad frost

Juggling Multiple Roles

Here in the Netherlands, we currently are in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown started December 14th 2020 and won’t end before January 19th 2021, but probably will last longer. At least, that is what I believe, reading today’s headlines. I would be very surprised when the lockdown will not be extended.

Meanwhile I am back at teaching. Something I enjoy professionally, turns out to be a struggle at times while at home. Besides teaching I am also the tech support guy at home, which is a challenge in itself.

It is a struggle to do my own job while helping my kids with their education. Not that they are unwilling to learn, it’s just hard to focus on my own job when at the same time I am explaining some idiocy of the Dutch language to my daughter or showing my son how to write a nice 5 (the challenge in the latter is my terrible handwriting).

The Boston College has written a small list of tips. My favourite is “shaking your sillies out”, although my kids don’t appreciate me “dancing like no one is watching”.

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021

While 2020 was a doozy of a year, I decided not to look back at it here at the blog. I want to focus on what I can change, in a small way, and that is 2021.

I wish you all a different year from what 2020 has been. Less insecurity and anxiety. More positive things happening in the world and more fun!

Thoughts on Blogging

I spent quite some time thinking about blogging lately. A few years back I did the same and decided to remove old posts and reboot the blog. While the thought crossed my mind, I decided against it, this time.

In general, I really enjoy writing. Be it writing a business case at work or a blogpost. Lately I found it hard to write outside of my job. Thus neglecting this space. So now I decided to set myself a little challenge for 2021.

I want to write 104 blogposts on this site in 2021. That is 2 each week. I thought about doing 365 but it feels like setting myself up for failure from the start. Knowing my life, writing a post every day isn’t doable, as I want it to be posts that actually say something.

So 104 it is. Probably will be Wednesdays and Fridays but that isn’t sure yet. I am creating a nice counter to place on the website so I can keep score.

So Many Shiny Tools

There is a huge amount of tools out there. And part of me is always occupied with tools. Shiny new tools to make my (or my colleague’s) work a bit easier.

My inclination to be on the lookout for new tools is part personal and part professional deformation. In my day job I am constantly looking where I can improve processes or tools.

In my personal life I am always testing some tool or another. Sometimes out of curiosity, sometimes because I want or need to get rid of a tool in my toolbox and need a replacement.

The last time that happened was when I decided that Evernote just is too bloated for note-taking. My process when something like that happens is that I dive deep into what is available and compare that with my way of working.

Keeping with the note-taking example, I know that I take a lot of notes. And I know that I prefer to use an app that has little to none distractions.

Evernote had more and more options and that made me slightly uncomfortable at first. And in the end, it made me hugely uncomfortable. Because of all the options, it felt to me like I was busier finding a structure to put my notes in than with taking notes.

I moved my notes to Notion. An excellent tool for many things, including simple databases, kanban boards and collection of reference material. But not for note-taking, or at least not for me.

So on the move again. Some more research led me to Bear. A simple and clean app for macOS and iOS that is excellent. The only thing it lacks is a way to access my notes from Windows or a web interface. Not a big problem because my iPad is always near me when I am working and I don’t mind copying the few notes I took in the Windows environment to Bear

With Bear as an important part of my current setup, I still find myself looking ahead. On my list of tools to try is Roam. A notetaking app that adds something very interesting to the mix. It has the ability to interlink your notes. Not only by actively making links, it also, and that is the big thing for me, shows you unlinked references. Thoughts and notes that connect to what you are currently writing and give you insights into the links between your notes that you missed. I can’t wait to play around with those! As soon as I get the invite.

Strange Times

We are living in strange times. As so many people, I have also seen my life be influenced heavily by the outbreak of the Corona virus and subsequent measures.

My significant other works long days as an elderly care physician and I find myself thrown into the role of teacher, beside the regular dad-duties that continue despite everything that’s happening.

The weirdest part for me is starting a new job amidst all this. The entire process of interviews and contract negotiations took place before the outbreak.

And thus I found me, at my first day at work, in my own home office, behind my own PC. Videochatting with my new colleagues, most of whom I never met before.

I am not opposed to remote work. I strongly believe that remote work will grow and become the standard for many careers in the future. Normally we all get into our cars and move from where we live to where we work. We call that a traffic jam. We sit in office spaces that are less than optimal for the work we do.

I think that we do that because we are used to do that. Our ancestors did it to go to the mines or the factory. Because they had no choice. So logically (?) we applied the same pattern to our work when many of us no longer did work that depended on the location where you were working.

So many people nowadays are knowledge workers. People who need only two things to do their work. Their mind and a way to get the things the mind conjures up out of their head and onto something they can share with other people.

And yes, I know that not all people can easily work remotely. The part of my partner’s job that involves examining people can’t be done remotely. The many people that work for the same mental healthcare company I started working for and that are charged with the care for our clients can’t do all of their work remotely.

But the corona outbreak shows that many things can be done remotely. That people, when the need is high, can change and adapt to a new reality.

And I hope this will help people to see the benefits of remote work and lead to a lasting change in work culture. So both employee and employer can benefit. Something to look forward to while we sit in self-isolation.

Day 2 of #100DaysOfSwift

Day 1 of #100DaysOfSwift

Why I am Learning to Code

In my daily work, coding plays little part. As a consultant, I mainly spend my time researching solutions, planning their implementation and making sure “my” users get as many tools as I can give them to make the transition to that new solution. (Yes, this is a very brief summary of my work)

I might at times be part of the team that designs the software, but I tend to steer away from built-to-order software whenever I can. In my line of work, I can almost every time find software that helps my client do what needs to be done without resorting to developing custom software. Aside from the occational custom connection, that is.

And that is right for my current line of work. In the Netherlands there are multiple tools available for most of the tasks municipalities deal with. The ultimate choice depends mainly on the use-case and the larger view of the information architecture in that particular organisation.

So, why would I want to learn to code then? Excellent question! There are several reasons for that.

Because I want to

I don’t want to sound like a petulant child. But there is something to say for the very simple reason of learning something because you feel like it. I want to learn how to code, so I proceed to do so. I feel this is the prime motivation behind my desire. I like to learn new things.

Because it helps me in my work

In my opinion a good consultant should broaden his horizons as much as possible. In my work for municipalities I did that by going towards other departments and talk with the people there about their jobs. Not only in relation to my own, but to get a broad sense of what people were doing.

And it helps. Knowing why people need a new tool helps me find the best option for them. Just knowing that the wish exists is not enough. Seeing what issues arise from the current tool does.

And I think that learning to code is able to help me pinpoint the issues people have. Not because the actual act of programming is helpful in that, but because the way of thinking and applying logic can be used on people like it is used on code.

It helps me communicate

In my work often talk to tech people. Either because I need their help, or to act as a go-between with tech on the one side and the end-user on the other.

To do this properly, I believe I should know a bit about the tech side of things. I know that tech is much broader than just programming, but it is the biggest hiatus in my knowledge I have identified so it is the first I want to fix.

Coding improves creativity

I solve problems for a living. And while I often can fall back on established practices, at times a more creative approach is needed. And I think coding will help me to spark that creativity.

Besides that, coding can be a creative tool in itself as well. I have some ideas for little side-projects that might solidify as my coding journey continues.