A Moment of Zen

We’re on holiday in Tenerife. After the morning struggle of reserving seats at the pool, we go for breakfast and right after that, I have my little moment of zen.

The island has a climate unlike the one I’m used to. The morning has an amazing chill and the day turns hot quickly only to bring out everyone on the streets when it cools down again. Which it does, but it never gets really cold, just that awesome sweet spot of around 25 degrees, which is perfect for someone coming from Belgium.

Right after breakfast the streets are still empty, except for runners and other people having the same ritual as I do: go and fetch a newspaper. It’s something my father also did and truth be told, the newspaper isn’t what’s driving me out there. It’s those 15 minutes of me-time. It’s wandering those empty streets that are so alive at night. It’s looking at the mountains that form the background.

Mountains didn’t have that effect on me when I was younger. Huge piles of rock, so what. I don’t know what changed or when, but looking at them now gives me some sort of peace. It makes me feel tiny, but in a good way.

Monday we’re going up the biggest one here, the vulcano Teide. When we get there it’ll be turning dark and we’ll be in the second best spot in the world to watch the stars. I can’t wait to sit down with Evelyne and the kids for that one. I just hope it doesn’t ruin my Moment of Zen the next day.

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.