Category Archives: Personal

Using Lime Survey Locally for Self Reflection

I have installed the open source survey tool Lime Survey on my laptop’s local web server, to use it for self reflection.

Through the years I have often journaled and measured various parts of my life, and I track certain aspects of my daily routines for habit forming. Not in the sense of Quantified Self (which is more about measuring things with sensors, like number of steps taken), but along the lines of things I do (did I blog 2 times this week, did I initiate new business contacts). Journaling I’ve done on and off, mostly when I didn’t feel ok, but it takes quite a bit of time to write, and more importantly, the journaling can’t be used to e.g. detect patterns and correlations. So I was looking for a way to combine my normal tracking and measuring with the things I experienced. This can be done by combining capturing personal experiences with asking questions about those experiences and other tracking questions. Using the questions as context and metadata for the experiences, you can then look at patterns across experiences. What you end up with however is not a journal (which you can use a locally hosted blog or physical journal for), nor a list of measurements (which you can use a spreadsheet for), but more a survey with a need to do some statistical analysis on the output. So I needed a survey tool, and given the personal nature of the data, I don’t want to use a service or server where the data is outside my own control.

This is the set-up I now use:

  • MAMP (a package of Apache, MySQL and PHP for Mac), which I already was running for various others things such as a locally hosted blog, test environments and php scripts I regularly use)
  • Lime Survey installed on MAMP. Limesurvey is an open source survey tool, which allows you to define surveys with a wide variety of questions types (and you can play around with building your own as well).

The survey I created, and will be testdriving in the coming weeks, has three distinct question blocks. A block asking questions about what happened during the day and stood out, and why it stood out for me. A block with more mindfulness oriented questions on how I felt in the here and now. A block about my current outlook. All in all a mix of qualitative and quantitative elements. Self administered participatory narrative inquiry of sorts, so I’ve dubbed it self-pni. Let’s see if it provides some insights in the coming three months.

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Looking at the man in the mirror with Lime Survey

The 2014 Tadaa! List

Another year is coming to a close, so keeping up with my tradition of the last few years (since 2010, see last year’s edition) I am writing down the things in the past 12 months that gave me a sense of accomplishment or joy. It is often easy to focus on things not achieved, or left unfinished, as those are the things demanding attention. Often I find that in my daily routines I focus on what’s next, and I tend to forget a lot of what I actually did do. Obviously any year also has its hard moments, disappointments and failures. So to remind myself that this year was a full year where things happened that I loved doing or enjoyed (sticking to mostly business related, some personal), here’s the ‘Tadaa!-list’ of 2014

  • With Marc, Paul and Frank, I formally incorporated The Green Land and had our first (temporary) employee
  • Got to work with the supreme audit authority on the Dutch first national ‘Trend report Open Data’, and now working on the next edition
  • Did an open data workshop with the Dutch and British supreme audit authorities with an audience of all European audit authorities, as well as a study day with the Belgian and Dutch audit authorities. Impressed with their dedication and professional attitude. (It does of course help clarity, if your mission statement is in the constitution)
  • Worked for the Flemish Chancellary on open data scenario’s for their consolidated database of laws and regulations
  • Explored internet security and privacy in more detail, geeking out on running my own cloud in a Swiss datacenter
  • Spent a week and a half in Berlin with Elmine exploring and learning, visiting conferences like Things Con and Re:Publica, while also spending time just hanging out with fun people locally

    Out of comfortzone behind a sewing machine
  • Got to (finally!) visit Gabriela and Ray in Limerick where Elmine and I both presented at 3D Camp at the University of Limerick
    @ the beach
    With Gabriela, Ray and Elmine on an Irish beach
  • Presenting with Ernst and Elmine at Sia’s retirement farewell party, and feeling the lasting impact, emotion, and energy of our work together in Rotterdam 2007-2009, reconnecting to several team members. It is a rare treat to get to see the ripples of a (personal) change process years on like that. I was honored by your invitation, Sia.
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    Cocreated Sia’s Lifehack Calendar with party participants
  • Stepped out of a large tendering process that could have provided for 3 years because it felt all wrong, realizing I can’t stomach the opportunists who aren’t really interested in delivering value, just feeding at the trough
  • Quit working on a company I was helping establish, even though it has loads of potential (realistically more than my other activities even), because I needed to free up thinking time and shed energy sinks
  • Worked in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Kazachstan, and Kyrgyzstan, enjoying the differences in stories, experiences, perspectives and outlooks that it provides
    In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
    Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, against mountains
  • Spent a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing summer week in a gem of an apartment in Copenhagen with Elmine, just enjoying each other, the sun and the city
  • Organized the Make Stuff That Matters Unconference & BBQ, at our home, bringing friends, clients, peers, family, and strangers together for two exciting days of inspiration, with the outstanding help of the Frysklab team and their mobile FabLab
  • Got to be there with and for friends in good and bad times, which is the definition of being alive and human
  • Taking more time with Elmine to explore exhibits, festivals, such as Gogbot, Dutch Design Week, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 3D Print Canal House, Reina Sofia Museum, Smart New World in Düsseldorf, Ai WeiWei in Berlin etc.
    Ai Wei Wei
    Worked on seeing, noticing more
  • Better balanced long term goals and dreams with actions across quarters of the year, yielding improved results.
  • Worked for the World Bank as a senior consultant / external expert on open data readiness
    At GEGF2014 in Astan
    Presenting in Kazachstan at Global e-Gov Forum
  • Got to celebrate the 3 year existence of the local Enschede FabLab which I helped start, still going strong and having yielded a wide variety of amazing projects
  • Knowing we’ve touched people, and made it possible for others to inspire people, with MSTM, based on the beautiful feedback we got, and seeing the ripples propagate in Denmark, Netherlands and Canada
  • Ending the year with a final dinner at a great Swiss restaurant that is closing, in the excellent company of dear friends

My absolute highlight in 2014 was our third birthday unconference in June, Making Stuff That Matters. Not only because of the energy and joy we got from getting to host such an amazing bunch of people at our home, but also because of the things Elmine and I did in the run up to prepare (in Berlin and Limerick e.g.), the help we got doing that (thanks @trox!), the connections we’ve seen grow from it amongst those we invited, and how it is still creating impact months later where participants have taken their own additional steps around making. It was wonderful to create the place and circumstances in which that could happen. We can’t thank all who attended enough for the gift of their participation.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Notes, notes, notes. Centuries of notes.

We visited “O’Hanlons Heroes” yesterday, in the local natural history museum (Twentse Welle). In this exposition by Redmond O’Hanlon, in parallel to a previous tv series, he follows in the footsteps of all his 19th century explore heroes.

19th Century Notebook
19th century explorer’s notebook

What jumped out for me, once again, from all the displays, is that taking notes of each and every thing is a key habit. Because you never know what will have meaning afterwards, or which patterns jump out at you when you take a step back.

A good reminder that all those notebooks, the 20.000+ photos, all the stuff in Evernote, 12 years of blogging isn’t useless. Even if for most of the time I never look at it. It is raw material. Taking notes are for taking note.

Join Us For “Make Stuff That Matters” MidSummer UnConference and BBQ

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In four months, Elmine and I hope for you to join us at our MidSummer UnConference and BBQ. To make the most of our time together it will take place at MidSummer, so we have the longest days of the year. On Friday 20 June the MidSummer Unconference will take place. Followed on Saturday 21 June by the MidSummer BBQ.

The theme
The theme for the MidSummer Unconference will be ‚Make Stuff That Matters’.

We have more opportunity than ever to act and make things ourselves, while connected to and embedded in globally connected networks and globally accessible knowledge. Our world is however a closed system with restraints in terms of resources, with only our creativity in true abundance. So we better learn how to act, prototype, design and make well. Whether it is a product, a system, a structure or a new routine. So we better make stuff that really solves something for you or others, that makes something important possible. So we better Make Stuff That Matters.

The people
We hope to bring a diverse group of people from around our network together again. Last time we had some 12 nationalities joining us, 40 people at the unconference, and some 80 at the BBQ. Friends, colleagues, peers, family, neighbors and clients. In other words: you!

The program
A day long we will explore making in all its facets. We’ll have a number of 3d-printers, as well as laser cutters available. We’ll have Doodle-3D, Lego (serious play) and mindstorms for the kids (and ourselves). Bring your raspberry pi, arduino’s and other tinkering stuff, if you have it. We’ll have data-visualization and app making. We’ll have design, p2p organizing, and whatever idea you want to add! Bring your small and great skills, your curiosity and prepare to let yourself be surprised. Together we’ll make stuff that matters.

You are invited
In the coming weeks we will be sending out the first batches of invitations. If you would like to be there, you are very welcome to join us, so consider yourself to be invited. Just ping us, and we’ll add you to the list.

Mark your calendar, start planning your trip, and join us for Ton and Elmine’s MidSummer Unconference and BBQ on 20 and 21 June!
For more info see the MidSummer Unconference page(we’ll add info there as we go along).

Looking Back On 2013: The Tadaa! List

As in the past years (2010, 2011, 2012) I am posting a list of things that gave me a sense of accomplishment in 2013. It is often all too easy to loose track of all the different things I’ve done, and just bear in mind the unfinished, the yet to achieve, the not-quite-up-to-standard, that make up the lists of things-to-do that rule my normal routines. So at the end of the year I look back at my calendar and note the things that I think were pretty cool in the last year. In no particular order, and roughly chronologic 2013′s (mostly work related) ‘Tadaa!’ moments are:

  • Contributed to an Austrian/German MOOC on MOOCs, formulating some observations on the necessity and limits of openness
  • Presented to the group of EU national representatives for public sector information
  • Co-organized an international conference on open data for some 300 people in Warsaw, Poland

  • Did an international workshop on the value of open data for the public sector itself with my colleague Frank (also in Warsaw)
  • Spent time with my dad, visiting Barcelona together, taking the time to talk for the first time in years really
    Accidental shot Explore Catalunya
  • Presented at TEDxTallin in Estonia, as well as at TEDxZwolle, the town where I grew up, on Open Data
    Tallinn
  • Saw the Copenhagen Data Drinks I started in October 2013 grow to almost 200 people, as well as spin off into the Aarhus Data Drinks, which I visited in April
  • Joined the advisory board for Luxembourg’s first FabLab and presented at its opening
    FabLab Luxemburg Belval
  • Worked and working with the Dutch High Court of Audit on Open Data, an organisation that is impressive in terms of professionalism and integrity
  • Got billed as a “futurist” for the first time, giving the key-note at the ARAS Community Event Europe, on digital disruption
  • Having the chance to meet up with dear friends at home and abroad, cherishing the sparse face to face time we get
  • Finding better footing to work with colleagues on complexity management and landing several projects in this area (although still struggling to balance my time with the open data work)
  • Launched an Open Data program for 10 local governments (taking place in 2014) in which opening data in the context of specific policy questions is done, while also stimulating stakeholders to use that data
  • Spent a month working in/from Cambridge and London with Elmine (see week 1, 2, 3, 4)

    P1050353 Design Museum
  • Aimed to reduce my work pressure by restructuring my rhythm to setting 3 months goals with weekly reviews, and by using two 90 minute focus blocks per day to get good things done, next to 10 minute efforts on all that is fringe (and normally ignored until it gets too big to do so). Importantly, also learned to increasingly regard my day productive and well spent, if I do just those two focussed blocks
  • Going from an empty portfolio in early August to one that is basically full until the end of 2014, in just 10 weeks
  • Getting to the point where The Green Land will be incorporated in the next few weeks, and where we are looking to hire a first employee
  • Speaking at the Swedish Internet Days on Open Data in a fun panel together with ao Daniel Dietrich, Cathrine Lippert
  • Organized ‘Unperfekt Inspiration’ meet-ups in my home town with Wiro Kuipers, to connect inspiring people and stories across the city, to counteract the general mood of gloom and whining
  • Spent 2 days at a conference full of lawyers while having a lot of fun, providing the closing remarks, followed by meeting Paolo and Monica in sunny Ljubljana

    Ljubljana Ljubljana
  • Started a project with a big city local government to push their open data efforts further, where (once again) I get to translate my strategic open data notions into actual operational steps, and get to deal with all the practical obstacles that entails. To me this is of huge importance, connecting the strategic and operational directly without any intermediate stuff: in terms of impact for the client, but also in terms of energy and learning for myself
  • Hearing great feedback on my work from several clients
  • Hiring an illustrator to make otherwise dull open data lists more palatable and thus more likely to be used
  • Doing a FOIA request for financial data from my home town, and asking them to publish it as open data
  • Deciding with Elmine on organizing a next Unconference BBQ, and announcing it
  • Feeling better and more relaxed in the last few months, while also more productive, in comparison with previous years.

I think, in summary, 2013 was a bit of a transitional year. After finishing up a European project in the spring I was in need of some serious down-time but did not take that time until the summer. The second half of the year, after taking a proper rest in the summer months, was more about creating new activities and opportunities, which was quite successful, but which will mostly bear fruit in 2014.

At the start of 2013 I had thought to travel less. That didn’t really happen, as I was abroad for 104 days in 12 countries (compared to 112 in 16, in 2012). The upside is that a lot (some 2/3) of those 104 days were together with Elmine, so it was less disruptive than last year.

Thankfully I also succeeded in reducing the amount of hours worked, from 2400+ in 2011 to 2200+ in 2012, to 1937 in 2013. That is some 300 hours less than last year (and 500 less than 2011), and for the first time actually under the amount of working hours a year has in total. It means I did take some time off, in July, which was needed as I was pretty exhausted after the spring.

Early announcement: The 2014 Midsummer Unconference and BBQ!

Today is the shortest day in the northern hemisphere, and we post this to help you look forward to the longest day that comes next spring. We hereby announce Ton and Elmine’s 2014 MidSummer UnConference and BBQ!

Unconference, Friday 20 June 2014
BBQ, Saturday 21 June 2014

Mark your calendars! Personal invitations and more information will be send early in the new year.

We have the luck of knowing many great people in many different places. Over the years we have repeatedly invited many of you to our town and home for a birthday unconference and bbq. Every time we were amazed by the energy created by bringing together a wide variety of people (peers, family, friends, clients). See the e-book ‘How to Unconference Your Birthday’ we wrote in 2011 for some impressions.

Last August, Elmine and I spent a month in Cambridge (UK), thanks to the generous hospitality of Johnnie Moore. When we were in the university’s botanic gardens Elmine and I talked about doing an Unconference BBQ again, and what it should be about. In 2008 the theme was ‘work-life balance’, in 2010 it was ‘doing stuff that matters’. This time around it will all be about Your Story.

Join us with Your Story on 20 and 21 June 2014, for Ton and Elmine’s MidSummer Unconference and BBQ!

A Month in Cambridge – Week 4

Our final week in Cambridge came faster than expected, and we spent about half of it in London.

Thursday morning was spend on landing new projects and moving the Triangulation project forward. In the afternoon Elmine and I went to the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden, a beautiful park really, and open to the public. It was a splendid summer afternoon in a splendid summer to stroll through the gardens there. We discussed next year’s Unconference BBQ there (mark your calendars for the Midsummer Unconference BBQ on 20 and 21 June 2014).

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Cambridge Botanic Garden

We celebrated Elmine’s birthday on the 30th, enjoying a Japan themed day in London. Elmine had indicated earlier in the month to be curious about visiting Japan. I bumped into a sketch-note travel diary ‘Tokyo on Foot’ as well as a Japan guide ‘A Geek in Japan’, while browsing books on Charing Cross Road, as gifts. We also recently read an article saying that planning a trip already provides the ‘happiness benefits’ of a trip, even if you don’t go. So I planned for a ‘trip to Japan’, albeit Japanese things in London. A quick 50 minute train ride brought us to ‘Tokyo’, where we had lunch at the Tokyo Diner, browsed a manga / graphic novel store, before visiting the Serpentine Gallery 2013 Pavilion by Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto. We rounded off the day with a great 8 course tasting of Kyoto-cuisine in the Michelin starred Umu restaurant.

Serpentine Gallery Pavillion 2013 Umu Restaurant
Serpentine Pavilion and Umu restaurant.

Saturday we used to say our goodbyes to Cambridge. Enjoying Johnnies tomato and pear filled garden, and going out for a last coffee and Patisserie Valerie cakes, enjoyed in the park. In the evening a goodbye dinner with Johnnie, good both in tastes and conversation. Sunday morning, another beautiful day, we cycled with Johnnie up the Cam towards Grantchester for lunch, where I had a classic Sunday roast. Then the train to London, with all our gear and luggage, where we planned to stay the last days in the Pullman next to St. Pancras International station. We enjoyed a quiet Vietnamese dinner at Sen Viet before retiring to our room on the 10th floor with a wide view over the north of London.

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A last look at Johnnie’s garden and saying goodbye to our home for August

We explored the very good exhibition on Propaganda at the British Library Monday morning. I lost track of time, causing Elmine to worry where I went. Takeaways like how propaganda got its name, then its bad rep, and therefore was rebranded as public relations (PR), as well as the role of propaganda outside of the traditionally associated contexts of war, dictatorships and leader cults, in contexts like the 2012 London Olympics, ‘buying local’ or health care campaigns. Triggered memories of the nation branding and place branding discussed at the Medinge Group for years. After that we took to Hyde Park for some reading in the grass, before meeting Piers Young for tapas and wine. It’s been quite a few years, 2004 or 2005 I think, since we last met face to face, so it was very good to catch up again. Before we knew it, talking while enjoying food and wine, it was elevenish.

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British Library (seen from our hotel), Propaganda exhibition

Getting to Greenwich, the next day, turned into a three hour expedition, as we attempted to take the Thames river bus (bearing the ridiculous KPMG slogan “cutting through complexity”, making it quite obvious they don’t understand complexity.) and then got off at Greenland Pier, not Greenwich (thanks to the absence of any info on scheduled stops on board as well as signs on the stops themselves, and a comms system that can’t overcome the boats engines). It meant a trek to the nearest tube station, then across the river, change trains, go east, change trains, and go back across the river. Greenwich is a pleasant village it seems, and we strolled for a bit through its streets, after concluding Greenwich Market was a bit disappointing in terms of finding the hoped for ‘makers’ selling their wares there. Dinner was enjoyed near the hotel again, and as this was our last evening in London, we went for some fine ‘pub grub’ accompanied by a good pint of beer.

And that brings us to the concluding day of our final week: Wednesday, the day of our return home. Our train didn’t leave until 15:00, so we had ample time for a slow breakfast, before heading over to Covent Garden for a coffee. Relatively early in the morning, there are almost no people around, so we had the place mostly to ourselves. I ended up talking to Tristan who sells hand made and bound notebooks. He repurposes old damaged books for it, using their pages as cover, and adding a quote. In the end I chose one, with a quote about getting tired of London by Samuel Johnson in a discussion with Boswell. Because it was our final day in London, and I had used Johnson’s and Boswell’s writings on a trip to Scotland years earlier as a travel guide to Edinburgh and Aberdeen. In good London publishers tradition he signed the notebook for me. Some tea and lunch at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, enjoyed outside in the shade in Hyde Park, was our final goodbye to the UK after a month here.

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View of London from hotel, Write Stuff at Covent Garden Market

With all our gear we caught the 15:04 Eurostar train, which through connections in Brussels and Schiphol Airport, landed us back home just before 23:00. Home seemed a strange place, after having been away for basically 2 months (the month in the UK, and before that a month camping in France, with in between just a quick visit home to dump the camping gear and repack our suitcases).

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Now it’s time to reflect on our stay in the UK.

A Month in Cambridge – Week 3

Time flies, and we’re already well in our fourth week in Cambridge, so here’s a quick look what the third week brought.

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Working from Johnnie’s great garden.

The third week started with going into London, where I met Andrew Stott for lunch at the Institute of Directors on Pall Mall. The club and society culture of London always amazes me. We discussed Open Data around the globe, and talked about our contribution to the upcoming OKCon in Geneva next month.
Afterwards I hopped from coffee place to coffee place, doing some work and writing, before picking up Elmine who came into London later, at Covent Garden. Together we met up with our old university friend Wouter, over beers and good food (which included a reprise of the great Cardo goat cheese).

The next day (Friday) went by quickly attempting to jump through the administrative hoops for an EU tender, before again heading to London for lunch at Central St. Giles. This time it was Brazilian food with an Icelandic friend, Smari, while discussing FabLabs, Making, open hardware, and his now funded Indiegogo project Mailpile. Mailpile sounds very promising, including bringing network analysis to my inbox. “When the world suddenly decides to give you over a hundred thousand dollars that is amazing but also daunting.”

St Giles / Great Holburn st. London, Fleet Street towards St Paul's
Central St. Giles, and Fleet Street

Later that afternoon, after working from a French cafe in SoHo and browsing some bookstores at Charing Cross road I met up with some other university friends who happened to be in London for the weekend visting the aforementioned Wouter.

Saturday was dedicated to Johnnies birthday preparations and properly celebrating his birthday, with his family coming over for the evening. Too much cake, sugar, and wine, made for a tough Sunday morning, even though as every day it was beautifully clear.

cake! The 80's Segway!
Sugar overload at Johnnie’s birthday, and a 1985 Sinclair electric bike in the wild in Cambridge (the 80’s Segway!)

After the weekend it was three days of solid work with conference calls, working on the mentioned tender, the Triangulation project, finalizing our 2012 tax documents, and a TOP Innosense project, as well as planning work trips to Geneva, Aachen, Frankfurt, Brussels and Ljubljana, all in the coming 8 weeks. That, and planning for Elmines birthday this Friday! (hard, as I am really not good at keeping secrets: usually I arrange for multiple presents in case I can’t keep my mouth shut about one) We also decided to spend the last four days of our month here together in London. Stay tuned for one more week in the UK!

A month in Cambridge – Week 2

The 2nd week in Cambridge started with working on the OKFN Open Data Census, for which I’m the lead editor of the country census. Met-up with Mark Wainwright (CKAN team) and a Thursday morning conference call to discuss the Census in general, and the upcoming workshop I’ll facilitate in Geneva next month at the OKCon.

In the afternoon I went for a coffee with Elmine at Hot Numbers, where I brought my blog back online. It had been compromised last June, and abused to send spam. So took it off-line then, but that was shortly before our summer vacation. Now moved it to a new server environment and brought it back.
After that scoped out an internal project for The Green Land (let’s call it Triangulate) that will help us spot Open Data opportunities for our clients.

Friday we went into London, starting with a visit to the Design Museum. They had a floor dedicated to ‘making’ including a full FabLab set-up on which they were training non-techie staff to use the machines. Inspiring to see Making highlighted in a way that was fresh to me, and “holding questions“. After lunch walked down Portobello Road in Notting Hill, having a drink at the Duke of Wellington. For dinner we returned to 32 Great Queen Street, where we had dinner with Ivo last year during the Olympic Games. There I tasted the best goat cheese ever, Cardo.

Design Museum Design Museum
“The Future Is/Was Here” at Design Museum (making machines on the left)

The weekend we took it slow. Viv McWaters returned from Norway and joined us in Cambridge. Enjoyed the garden, smoking a cigar, and cleaning up my Things (GTD tool).

Monday was a working day with conference calls and taking a closer look at possible projects in the fall. Also booked an apartment and tickets for upcoming trip to Geneva. For the first time this stay in Cambridge picked up the guitar.

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On Portobello Road, and at King’s Cross Station

As almost every day the day started bright and sunny Tuesday, but this time it stayed that way right until the evening. Did some dreary error-searching in my 2012 books, in preparation for the tax-filings, due September 1st. Then lunch in town, great calamari, and returned to work on my ‘radar’ project (Let’s call it ‘Monopulse’, to keep track of the themes I am interested in, in a more automated fashion)

Towards evening Viv, Elmine and I went to nearby Ely, to attend a reading event with author Neil Gaiman, who recently published “The Ocean at the end of the lane”. To my surprise over 800 people were there for the event. And according to the local land lady of a pub had been queueing since 5pm (2.5 hours before the scheduled start). Luckily it took place in Ely Cathedral (oldest parts from 11th century), which is so massive it probably can take all inhabitants of Ely with room to spare. It did mean we could hardly see the author from the last rows (I had number 774, should have queued earlier to get a better spot!)

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Ely Cathedral, Neil Gaiman

The last day of this 2nd week was spend doing admin in the morning, after which we spent the rest of the day with Meg and her two daughters.
Meg picked us up from Letchworth “Garden City”, a designed city from 1904, by the Arts and Crafts movement. They thought it would inspire creativity, but it doesn’t seem to have succeeded as it has become a very suburban town. It does boast the UK’s first roundabout, from 1909 or so (after which it apparently went viral).

We also visited Bedford, a calm city on the river Ouse. We picked up the girls there, and strolled through the park, wandered through the local museum, had some refreshments at a pub. Pleasant, uneventful, and therefore with plenty of space just to chat and talk. Bedford is also the place of the UK ‘zeppelins’. Their first very large blimp (R101), on its first big voyage to India, crashed in France. Why on earth, like the Germans, they used the highly combustable hydrogen, I cannot imagine. Helium might have worked much better.

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UK’s first roundabout, airship hangars at Bedford

The second week zipped by. And already it seems, with under 2 weeks remaining, as if we’re almost leaving again (at least I start to feel the pressure to cram in some more meetings with people we haven’t succeeded in meeting up with.) At the same it will also be good to work from home again, as we basically have not been in our regular home rhythm for 8 weeks or so. I guess that’s a good sign, that traveling also makes you long for your own place, with your familiar routines.

A month in Cambridge – Week 1

We’re spending a month working from Cambridge. Similar to last year’s month long working visit to Copenhagen. In March we mused where to spend a month this year, and early April we accepted Johnnie Moore’s kind offer to come to Cambridge and stay at his place.

The general approach to this year’s ‘living a month in another city’ was slightly more laid back, compared to last time. Both because of learning last time that having detailed plans, or even general ones, does not make a lot of sense, as well as because of returning from four weeks easy-going camping and vacationing in sunny France right beforehand. We returned from camping, washed our clothes, packed our bags again, grabbed our guitars and enjoyed the high speed rail trip that brought us to London St. Pancras in a handful of hours. There we acquired Network Rail Cards (for cheaper off peak travel), and continued on to Cambridge, 90 km north of London, by commuter train. Johnnie picked us and our gear up at the station.

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Punting on the Cam, and Trumpington Street

Our first full day in Cambridge (CBG), Thursday 8 August, was one of settling in. Johnnie had arranged for bicycles, while we brought some sturdy Dutch bike locks for them, and he took us on a cycling exploration of CBG. The city is mostly well arranged for cyclists, but driving on the left hand side of the road takes a bit of getting used to. A good coffee spot, also to do a bit of work, Hot Numbers, was the first stop, and we have returned a few times already since. The evening was spent BBQ-ing with Tony Quinlan and Meg Odling-Smee who came over. We’ve known them for years and it was a great pleasure to see them again (and to get a taste of the same awesome brownies they also brought to our Unconference Birthday party)

I am aiming for a rhythm where I do work in the morning, and other things in the afternoon. Friday morning saw me doing some Skype calls around speaking gigs later this fall, for which Johnnie’s spacious home provides this nice chaise longue. Otherwise I spent most of the early mornings working in the garden, as it catches the first rays of sun.

The weekend we gave ourselves over to joining the many tourists in town, walking around CBG, seeing the old university colleges as well as the ancient Norman church. At the art and crafts market we visited it became clear laser cutters and other making machines are rapidly becoming mainstream. One artisan felt compelled to put up signs that his intricate wooden puzzles were hand-made and not laser cut.

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Not Laser Cut!

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11th Century Norman church.

Upon my first Foursquare check-in in Cambridge, Richard Hare, part of the Cognitive Edge network, pinged me ‘I live right across the road!’, and we met up for lunch on Monday. Richard chose the very nice sea food restaurant Loch Fyne, and over oysters, shrimp, and lemon sole we talked about technology and making sense of complexity. In the evening, together with Johnnie we soaked up some ‘kulcha’, visiting the open air Shakespeare play Richard III, in the gardens of St. John’s College. A lot of fun, even if the mulled wine was unsuccessful in keeping away the increasing cold later at night.

Shakespeare Festival
A Game of Thrones, 16th century style: Shakespeare’s Richard III, with the audience pick-nicking in front of the stage.

After a morning of work, and an afternoon of further exploring CBG (including seeing a guitar player playing inside a waste bin, although he certainly wasn’t rubbish), we visited the local maker space, MakeSpace on Tuesday. A beautiful (big and light) space, tucked away in the court yard of one of the university buildings, with a good selection of tools. They started this spring and have some 130 members now. We met two Spanish tourists there as well, who were interested in starting a similar effort in Logrono (Rioja). So I connected them to Thomas Diez of the Barcelona FabLabs, to make good use of their experience in doing so.

Untitled MakeSpace

Add another day of phone calls and work, and that made up the first week! Cambridge is a relatively small provincial city, and it’s nice to use its slower pace and rhythm as a back drop for working. We also noticed a need to balance it with the faster paced and more urban environment of nearby London. So in the coming weeks we’ll make sure of that as well.