Weekly Head Voices #112: Emergency Smörgåsbord.

(This blog post documents snippets of time taken from the period starting on Monday August 15 and ending on Tuesday November 8, 2016.)

My longing simply became too great.

For an epic few days in August, I found myself in The Netherlands (my other home) mixing business and pleasure like a boss. Thank you besties, my cup has not stopped running over.

Photo by Bestie DJ Fiasco.
Photo by Bestie DJ Fiasco.

Shortly after returning from NL, my year counter ticked over one more time.

I have become indeed quite middle-aged.

On the flip side, I am content with where I find myself in space-time, both physically and meta-physically. Although I seem to think more slowly, I do seem to have become slightly better at retrospection, introspection and at seeing the bigger picture.

As an additional consolation, it seems that I am in the best physical condition I have been for years due to a recent(ish) and surprising discovery of a latent jogging addiction. I am terrible at the action itself, but I really enjoy being repeatedly terrible at it.

On the topic of consolation, I tasted (at least) three new local craft beers, the experience of which I would like to share with you.

The Striped Horse Pils won gold at the 2015 and 2016 National Beer Trophy. More importantly, it also won the WHV-two-voices-cheering-loudly award, because it’s a full-bodied hoppy beer.

Jack Black Atlantic Weiss gets a whopping 9.8 on my famous Celis White scale. This is the lighter, fresher version of the Bone Crusher that we’ve all been waiting for. Now you just have to cross your fingers that more suppliers will get this. At this moment, it’s still quite tricky to track down.

On a subsequent failed mission to acquire more Atlantic Weiss, I ran into the Newlands Spring Brewing Company’s Mountain Weiss. As I was enjoying this light white beer (THE SUMMER IS COMING) something was tugging at the edge of my memory…

As I turned the bottle around, my worst suspicions were confirmed: Newlands Spring Brewing Company belongs to South African Breweries (SAB), the behemoth beer-brewing international mega-corp. They’ve been trying to get into the craft beer market, a sector traditionally belonging to often entrepreneurial and even family-run small enterprises, and this was their sneaky attempt.

In spite of its lovely taste, I do prefer spending my craft beer budget on mom-and-pop setups. Besides the truly tasty beer, I really like that craft beer has democratised a traditionally closed (by SAB!) area of commerce, and so would prefer putting my money there.

(That is not to say that I don’t buy SAB’s non-craft beers. A man gets thirsty!)

The following marvelous animation popped up in my twitter timeline:

Someone configured their camera stabilisation to lock on to the milky way in this National Geographic timelapse video. The result of this simple experiment is that you can clearly see the rotation of the Earth.

It’s really amazing what you can achieve by simply changing your perspective.

In Other Much More Important News, one of my last academic children got doctorified on October 31. I left academia for entirely non-children-related reasons (the children were the best part of academia!) shortly after she started with her doctorate, hence the significance of this.

Henceforth, everyone has to add an extra DOCTOR to her already impressive title, namely Evil Empress of the SciVis Galaxy. Doctor Evil Empress of the SciVis Galaxy will continue her reign from her new (iron?) throne in the Visualization Group at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Don’t worry puny subjects, you are in good hands!

I read somewhere that good stories tend to make circles (could anyone help me out with a good reference?), so let me end this thing with a brilliantly coloured but slightly more lonesome sunset:

Taking a run around Mordor.

Have fun peeps, I hope to see you soon!

Weekly Head Voices #111: A swift hack.

Well hello friends! In this here,the one hundred and eleventh edition of the Weekly Head Voices, I present a personal view of selected events that took place in the time between Monday, July 25 and Sunday, August 14 of 2016.

Post summary: HackerNews FastMail to Gmail retrospective (WARNING NERD CONTENT), Craft Beer tips, Swift Playgrounds (teach your kids to code!) and a tiny bit of backyard philosophy at the end.

The HackerNews effect

When I submitted my Moving 12 years of email from GMail to Fastmail blog post to HackerNews last Monday, it was after some consideration, and with considerable trepidation. The previous time a similar post of mine was picked up by the HN frontpage (and reddit) in 2013, it resulted in a great number of fairly harsh insults flung my way (the harsh ones seem to hit much harder than the many more constructive ones can compensate for). The problem is not having your work criticised, it’s rather being ad hominem’ed into the ground.

The internet can unfortunately get quite bad that way.

However, this time the internet was in a good mood!

As a Z-list (aka hobbyist) blogger, I already get quite excited when even two people find something entertaining or educational in my blog, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw my blog stats jump into the thousands during the first hour after hitting the HN front page.

646 upvotes, 365 comments (in the HN discussion) and more than 50 thousand blog post views later (!!), my asbestos suit is still in storage, and the box of kleenex (for drying up my tears) is still unopened. I am very happy with the healthy and mostly happy discussion both on HN and here on the blog.

A taste of my secret beer notes

In my travels around the world (ok, maybe just in a few hundred kilometre radius of where I live) I taste many exotic and strange drinks (okay, maybe just the local craft beers). Here’s an excerpt from my top secret beer notes for your reading and hopefully soon tasting pleasure:

Stellies Bosch Weiss
Stellies Bosch Weiss

The Stellies Bosch Weiss is is a refreshing white beer which I can imagine enjoying much more in 35 celsius. However, I find it way too gassy for my taste and thus give it 0.4 on the Celis White scale. As everyone knows, Celis White is the best white beer in the world. I’m also not the biggest fan of CBC’s Krystal Weiss because of its gassiness. This could also be a German vs Belgian thing.

The Darling Brew Bone Crusher is probably a 0.8 on the Celis scale, and scores mega bonus points for choosing such a heavy metal name.

Citizen Beer's Patriot Lager
Citizen Beer’s Patriot Lager

Citizen Beer has a real knack for naming beers; so this weekend I was able to do my patriotic duty (ha ha) by enjoying their Patriot lager. Fortunately, they also have a great knack for making lovely beers. This lager is more than hoppy enough to remind you that it’s a craft, but at the same time it is refreshingly light.

Devil's Peak Lager
Devil’s Peak Lager

Not completely coincidentally, I also tasted the Devil’s Peak Lager this weekend. There are subtle differences between it and the Patriot which I will only be able to describe after more tasting. For now: Same lightness, but with enough hop. Highly enjoyable.

Devil's Peak Pale Ale
Devil’s Peak Pale Ale

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s no coincidence that happiness and hoppiness look so similar. The Devil’s Peak Pale Ale was a superbly hoppy (about 239% more hoppy than the lager) and full flavoured conclusion to the weekend. In spite of its full body this Cape Town beer’s alcohol content is lower than I would have expected: Only 4%.

First impressions of Swift Playgrounds

I might or might not have acquired a new iPad Air 2 with the primary motivation of being able to test the new Swift Playgrounds on Genetic Offspring Unit #1 (now 10 years old). This is a new and attractive iPad-only app that has been designed by Apple to teach kids how to program in Swift. Note that you’ll have to upgrade to iOS 10 Beta to get the app, at least until iOS 10 is officially released. One of the exercises looks like this (image taken from the website):

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 6.25.43 PM

Previous experiments with scratch and with processing have met with limited success but no permanence. However, GOU#1 is an iPad fanatic, and the potential of getting her addicted to the programming bug is just too fantastic to let this opportunity go by.

On the first day, she was already writing functions and for loops in Swift in order to navigate a cute alien solving puzzles on a 3D landscape.  I was looking over her shoulder now and then: The educational content and execution of the app is impressive. Besides the built-in puzzle worlds such as the 3D one pictures above, you can create your own Swift projects from scratch. These projects can use iPad hardware such as bluetooth and the camera, but we’re not quite there yet. Apple has also promised to keep on expanding the educational content.

I’m really crossing my fingers that GOU#1 will keep at it. If Swift Playgrounds helps to get her programming, I might just have to go full fanboy.

∞♥

This past Friday at the breakfast table, Genetic Offspring Unit #2 asked her mom how much she thought GOU#2 loved the baby GOU#3, upon which the mom asked “How much do you love GOU#3?”.

GOU#2 answered: Infinitely much!

My fragile parental unit heart almost exploded with happiness at this point. It’s what I tell GOU#1 and #2 when I put them to bed, and every morning when I drop them at school. (GOU#3 herself does not yet parse our language.)

Ok kids, it looks like there’s an infinite amount of the good stuff to go around. You know what to do!

bettys_bay_somewhere
I went jogging (or rather walking with a two-step now and then). Enjoyment of surroundings and physical activity was quite intense at this point in spacetime: 15:55 on August 7, 2016; GPS coordinates in EXIF data.

Weekly Head Voices #105: There will be tears.

Congratulations, you have successfully completed the week of Monday February 8 to Sunday February 14, 2016!

About 4 seconds after posting previous edition WHV #104 to Facebook with the “When you’re a vegan <boy with bulging veins> and haven’t told anyone in 10 minutes” meme image included, friend Ivo T. zinged me with this reply:

12651073_10153234132252035_804640390912092906_n

So much truth. I have been put back in my place. Sorry vegans. Sorry MBA students. Not sorry Ayn Randers.

This is currently my favourite lager ever (at least until next week):

Jack Black Brewers Lager

It is indeed a craft beer. If we’ve ever chatted more than 10 minutes in the past (or in the future), you’ll know everything about my braai, and you probably also know that I find craft beer to be one of the greatest inventions ever, along with fire, and the internet.

Here’s a another beer which I recently had the pleasure of enjoying, at a secret networking meeting (yes, we have secret meetings where we in fact do manage a large number of aspects of your daily life, and where we also orchestrate it so you’ll never suspect that we are behind everything, subtly manipulating reality) where, when the beer arrived at the table, everyone who looked vaguely hipster-like claimed vocally not in fact to be even remotely hipster-like:

Tears of the Hipster Beer

META-HIPSTER CRAFT BEER! At first I was confused, but then I realised it was just another case of WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE!

(By the way, I stripped the EXIF GPS data from the Jack Black photo, because privacy, but I left it hidden in the tears of the hipster. First one who tells me in the comments where the secret meeting was held gets a free craft beer!)

Nerd tip of the week: It’s somehow not prominent enough on their site, but GitLab, the open source GitHub alternative, also offer free hosting of an unlimited number of private repositories with an unlimited number of private collaborators. In other words, if you’re on a budget, you can host your commercial and proprietary project git repositories (and bug tracking and wikis) there at no cost. This is cheaper than github ($7 for the smallest subscription for 5 private repos) and better than bitbucket (private repos for free, but if you have more than 5 team members you have to pay). I pay quite gladly for the online services I use, but in this particular case, such a level of free is hard not to like.

Nerd tip #2 of the week: The Clang static C++ analyser is brilliant. If you program in C++, and you need to up your game, integrating this into your workflow is a solid step in the right direction. I’ve been using this via the scan-build method. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to know more about this!

After some professional ethernet cabling down to the sort-of basement of our new house, I have checked off another item from my non-existent bucket list: We now have a lab at our house. So far there are computers, all kinds of DIY supplies and art stuff for the genetic offspring units, and all of this to create. I spent some of the best times of my life in labs of some sort of another. It’s really great bringing some of that back home to my clan.

Have a great week kids, see you on the other side!

Weekly Head Voices #97: Beerbow.

This, the ninety seventh edition of the WHV, looks back at the week of Monday August 3 to Sunday August 9, 2015.

Brainbow_(Lichtman_2008).jpg

  • John Scalzi (famous and successful SciFi author) describes how he works in this post on lifehacker. What I found really interesting was that when he’s working on a book or other project, he switches off the internet between 8 and noon.
  • I just discovered that Four Tet’s mom is South African-born.
  • This week my work time was divided between having to analyse someone else’s quite complex application and bits of their domain in order to implement new features on the one hand, and designing a new relational data representation for workflow provenance on the other. I perceived both of these activities as challenging, and hence (I think) my work week as very satisfying.
  • After the whole day programming at work, I often relax at home in the evenings by programming some more. I’ve noticed that the after-dinner beer (or two) make architectural and design-level work more challenging.
  • On the topic of programming for relaxation, this weekend I had the feeling that my longest-running side-project was finally getting off the ground, at least technically. When it grows up, it really wants to be a non-linear graphical personal knowledge management tool – the crazy and colourful glue linking together all of your digital stuff.
  • On the topic of beer, I made you a photo of my weekend craft beer (the Skeleton Coast IPA by Jack Black) with a rainbow in the background. I call it a beerbow:

skeleton_coast_ipa_rainbow.jpg

Have a great week everyone!

P.S. I could not help adding that beerbow was partly inspired by the brainbow, a technique for making individual neurons (brain cells!) fluoresce with different colours. This technique has played a major role in the study of neural connections in the brain (this study is also called connectomics). Read more about the technique in its wikipedia article, and see the pretty examples I have now added to the top of this post!

P.P.S. I just saw that a book chapter called Visualization in Connectomics that we put on arxiv (FREE fulltext!!) whilst waiting for the rest of the book to happen, did eventually get published by Springer.

A blacksmith and a lumberjack walk into a bar

Jack Black brewery’s Lumberjack is an amber ale craft brewed in Cape Town. As bottle designs go, this one is pretty metal:

lumberjack_front

Amongst a number of impressive-sounding statements, the back of  the bottle concludes with:

Lumberjack has a sturdy malt driven backbone packed with loads of roasted malt. Huge hop additions intensify the piney-citrus aromas of this full flavoured ale. A beer for the brave.

After reading that, who does not want to drink this beer for the brave?! Based on extensive testing, I can report that this is indeed a full-bodied beer that deserves and rewards your full attention.

The Blacksmith’s Kitchen is a vineyard restaurant in Paarl. It looks like this:

blacksmiths_kitchen

The views from the outside tables are quite beautiful:

blacksmiths_kitchen_view

Weather permitting (which is very often in Paarl), this kitchen is absolutely worth a visit.