The first day

Sometimes having kids is exhausting. “Stop stalling!”, “How many times do I have to say NO?”,  “That’s no reason to cry, stop the drama!”, “You just drank water a minute ago, get in bed!”

But today, I picked our eldest up from school. When I entered, I saw all the kids watching TV but he wasn’t with them. I was sitting all by himself, coloring. “He wanted to finish the drawing”, one of the women looking after them told me. I went and sat down next to him. He was nearly done. I asked him who the drawing was for and he said it was for the woman who just talked to me. He finished up and went over to her to give it. She didn’t expect it and was clearly moved by it.

If you hear a parent complain about children and ending it with “but it’s worth it”, this is the type of thing they’re referring to. Might sound simple enough, but I can’t be more proud, of both of them really.

My first day at the new job was awesome, but this takes the cake.

So long Digipolis

As the year is nearing it’s end, so is my time with Digipolis.

I had an amazing time here and made friends for life. It sounds like something everyone would say, but I actually can. Working for a city is different. It has it’s very specific set of problems and challenges, but in the end you’re trying to make a better city. Believe it or not, most of the people I worked with actually had this in mind. It should be included in the oath you take (something, I think, every employee related to the city should swear by).

It started out with joining a group of people who were looking to change everything web-related. Small projects like a website for city translators but also bigger challenges like Kotweb and the new A-Kaart platform. After a couple of years, the big one came, no doubt one of the defining projects in my career.
One would think that would’ve been my Mount Everest at this firm, but afterwards I had the honour (and pleasure) to assist Tom in building the UX competence within Digipolis and Jasper with the birth of a front-end framework, Tink.

As Homer said (and Arto on Facebook a couple of months ago when he jumped): the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles, … we had it all. I’ll miss you guys but I’ll be keeping a close eye on everything happening in “my” city.


Back in the day, and man, do we have to go back for that one, I used to do a bit of coding. I learned some java and covered all the basics. This was during the years of a web startup we had in the ’90s.

After that I switched to Business Intelligence which was all about databases. Sure, some coding still happened, but I’d rather call it hacking a bit here and there. Now, however, I wondered if I could get back in the game. Just for fun. The A-Stad project gave me a good view on what’s currently happening on the web. I decided to start out with Team Treehouse and focus on some front-end. Great fun, and I learned a lot, but I grew tired of the childish tone of voice they use. I think I’ll return there someday, but for now I wanted a more decent view on back-end and programming in general.

So why not go back to basics? I quickly stumbled upon Harvard’s CS50 which is a general introduction to the world of computer science. A lot of steps back, you might think but, boy, is it fun. It makes me wonder whether Belgian University is boring as hell or whether I just grew up and am more interested now in actually learning stuff. The course is free to everyone in the world to follow (except for people living in Crimea apparently) and they will review and grade all your submissions. If you want a certificate of completion it’ll set you back $90.


While doing that I decided to check out the technologies we’re using at the company I work at, more specifically NodeJS. Why? Well there’s a whole javascipt world growing. I dived into the nodeschool. Their excercises are entirely command line which might seem daunting at first. It throws you into the water and teaches you that way one of the most important things: learn to find answers online.

But once you start digging it takes you to a lot of places. Heroku for hosting, Github for soure control and some common extra’s of node like ExpressJS and Jade. It’s a lot to digest but it’s actually quite fun and it’s rewarding in a way that you see results quite fast.

One more thing: it’s a mac world. I switched to Mac a year ago and I think it helps quite a lot since you’ll find most things just work as documented online when you’re using OSX.

What’s next? Finish CS50 and continue my research while putting everything I learn to use while developing a sort of planningtool I can use for the team at work. Good thing is that there’s a whole floor of node devs at Digipolis where I can ask questions when I get stuck during my after-hours sessions. And I’ll eventually start exploring AngularJS. And once we get all that done (let’s meet in another year or so) I might dive into some more cutting edge stuff like Polymer.

So I went to the doctor…

Running Sucks
picture by Alain Limoges on Flickr 

I started writing this post in Dutch. I guess this English is going to take some getting used to.

Today I visited an orthopaedist (had to look that one up ;-)). He came highly recommended by several people in my family and they can know. My genes predict a very bad future when it comes to knees, and this guy is a knee specialist. 

I was scared, I guess. When people asked me about it I answered I’d be grateful if it didn’t come to surgery. But that’s a lie. Even if he tells me that I can’t run the 10 Miles in April I’ll be devastated. When I started running in September to prepare for a 5K run two months later, I had no hopes except running that race. But as I progressed a small spark of hope settled inside of me: what if I can run the 10 Miles in Antwerp? As someone who weighed almost 100kg, this sounded insane, but when I ran my first 10K at the end of 2014 that spark had become a roaring fire. I enlisted in several runs (5K in a santa suit, 7K at Francorchamps, an Urban Trail of 12k here in Antwerp) and started seeing the future. Dreams were becoming very tangible.

Three weeks ago I went for a run in a nearby park. It has a perfect 10K parcours. Halfway I had to stop because of pains on shins and knees. I decided to take two weeks off. But the first run after that made me stop after 3K. That’s when I decided to visit the doctor.

The good news is I don’t need surgery or anything, my knees don’t seem to be the problem. His take: Shin splints, which is quite common. Although he’s not ruling out a stress fracture. He told me to take 6 weeks off and try a (small) run after that. If that goes well, I should be able to start building my distance up again. If I feel any pain however, it might be a stress fracture which means I’m out for another 3 months, at least. Besides that he told me to visit a foot specialist to see whether my shoes need any further modifications since he thinks I’ve been fairly careful and had the pain nevertheless.

But bottom line is that I won’t be running any of the runs I had planned. The 6 weeks out mean I miss both the 7 and 12K runs and after that I have to start from 0 again. There is no way I can build up towards the 10 Miles in a safe way.

Half a year, 3 times a week.
All for nothing.
That sucks.
Big time.


With all the news about the death of blogging due to Andrew Sullivan saying goodbye, it seems fit for me to… start blogging again. Not that the news had anything to do with the decision, it’s just a silly coincidence.

A couple of things will be different from before though. First of all, as you probably noticed, I’m trying this in english. Reason will become clear in a moment.

The blog will have an added focus. I used to be all web and life, and that probably will remain key topics. But my experience working for a city has given me an extra subject. At the City of Antwerp we’ve been putting a lot of effort in building a digital layer over the physical one. The last two years were dedicated to what has become a foundation for a fundamental shift in how a city like Antwerp might operate, communicate and evolve. Until recently this appeared to be a dream of a small group of people, but a couple of weeks ago I was at the Connected Smart Cities conference in Brussels and something became very clear to me: this shift, this search is happening everywhere. And it’s events like these and organisations like the ones present that will help make this happen. We’ve been working hard on something we very much needed in our own city, but it’s time to move beyond that.

So expect more posts about what I’m currently doing at Digipolis and what I’m exploring beyond the scope of the city I live in. And for that, I need to expand my horizon as far as possible, hence the english from now on.


Ik geef het graag toe, vandaag was een grote dag voor mij. Alexander was al wel eens in de cinema geweest, maar ik en hem samen in een zaal, dat was de eerste keer.

Toen een 4-tal jaar geleden de gyneacoloog ons vertelde dat het een jongen was had ik een paar visioenen. Ik reed naar huis en zag hem al in mijn achteruitkijkspiegel op de achterbank zitten. Ik zag me verhaaltjes voorlezen, ons in disneyland samen rondrennen en in de tuin ravotten. En ik zag me met hem in een cinemazaal. Want film en cinema, dat heeft altijd een speciaal plekje gehad.

Dus het mag in de geschiedenisboeken die we samen aan het schrijven zijn: Big Hero 6 was de eerste film die we daar samen zagen. Het was geweldig om te zien hoe geboeid hij nu reeds naar het scherm zat te kijken en hoe hij opging in de film. Voor de eerste keer was er in de cinemazaal iets boeiender dan de film zelf: zijn reacties. Zo veel dingen die hij nog moet leren begrijpen en vatten. Het werkt inspirerend om te zien hoeveel emoties, verhalen en grappen hij nog mag ontdekken.

Project: get in shape (Part 2)

Eind januari, tijd voor een stand van zaken. 


We zaten in november met 90kg en hadden als nieuw doel 85kg. Ik was me er van bewust dat de eerste kilo’s sneller gaan, dus had me op een iets minder ‘spectaculair’ parcours verwacht. Dit is hoe het tot hiertoe ging:

Ging nog lekker door tot het rond nieuwjaar begon te flatlinen. Reden? Blessure, daar komen we zodadelijk nog op terug. Het goeie nieuws is dat ik m’n gewicht wel kan behouden. Want daar was ik wel benieuwd naar. Wat als we die 85 halen? Het is goed om weten dat ik het dus relatief stabiel kan houden, zelfs als ik niet aan het joggen ben. 


Ik zat rond nieuwjaar in de 10km. Een mijlpaal, zeker voor iemand vroeger nooit voorbij de 5km geraakte. Ik zat aan het einde van mijn loopschema en liep dus gewoon wat verder. Soms iets langer als ik me goed voelde, soms iets minder. Het doel bleef rond de 10km liggen. Omdat het lekker ging kwamen een aantal loopwedstrijden in het vizier. Ik schreef me in voor de Spa-Francorchamprun en de Urban Trail in maart en sta op het punt de 10 miles definitief vast te leggen.
Op 18 januari trok ik naar het Rivierenhof om daar de lus van 10km eens te gaan joggen. Halverwege stak een pijn in mijn knie op. Ik stopte en wandelde terug naar de wagen en voelde dat het niet goed zat. Ik besloot een dikke week rust in te lasten en ben vandaag, 10 dagen later terug gaan lopen maar moest vrij snel vaststellen dat rust niet voldoende is. Niet alleen de knie, ook het scheenbeen wou niet mee.

De wandeling terug naar huis was confronterend. Elke stap die ik zette voelde ik het, wat het ook is. Zeker geen enorme pijn tijdens het stappen, eerder een onaangename druk. Eentje die tegelijkertijd al die momenten die ik de komende maanden heb klaar staan, streefdoelen die vast stonden en die me iets gaven om naar uit te kijken, in een schaduw van onzekerheid plaatst. Heb ik gewoon slechte knieën, zoals zovelen in mijn familie? Of is het gewoon een ontsteking? Ben ik te hard van stapel gegaan en heb ik het dus mezelf aangedaan? Scenario’s bij de vleet, van ‘neem een paar pillen’ tot ‘nooit meer lopen’.
Volgende week naar de dokter, dan weten we meer.