This morning when our 5 year old woke up and called me. First thing we had two little conversations starting with questions from her.

She asked me what leeches are. I told her they live in water, but not where we are in the world. Then she asked ‘so, do whales have them?’, and I realised I hadn’t specifically mentioned sweet water, and she first thought of the sea.

Immediately following that, she asked me if kangoroos are already born with their pouches. I said I didn’t know but, grabbing my phone, that we could look it up on the internet. She: On the internet? But who writes that?

I wish all of us grown-ups would more often stop and ask who writes that on the internet.
I love the perceptiveness contained in such questions she asks.

Starting in 2010 I have posted an annual ‘Tadaa’ list, a list of things that made me feel I had accomplished something.
This is the first time in 11 years I did not feel like making this list. This second pandemic year was again a year where our lives had a small and local scope mostly, where most days just carried over into the next. Additionally as I’ve been keeping day logs since April 2020, and have been posting week notes for three years now, maybe there’s less of an internal need of looking back annually, as unlike a decade ago I’ve been doing it weekly and daily for myself as well. Mostly I think it’s the pandemic, where nothing much happens during a year of staying home almost exclusively. As E mentioned this week, you miss out on so much coincidental inspiration, ideas and associative thoughts that you’d normally get from just being out in the world.
Yet, maybe that means I really should be making the effort of writing the annual list. So here goes, in no particular order.

  • Made sure that Y got to fully enjoy playing in the snow, and skating on the ice, for the few days in February that both were possible. Important memories to make with her.
  • E and I made it work well at home, despite irregular school closures, a quarantine, and having Covid breach our household. I appreciated our house a lot, allowing us space as it does to both have our own home office, being able to sit in the garden under the apple tree or at the water’s edge watching the swans, ducks and coots. We complemented each other well, and E even completed a half year training program on data and AI on top of all of it.
  • Went away when we could, e.g. to Zeeland over the easter weekend, enjoyed some lunches in town, visited a few museums.
  • We spent two weeks in Copenhagen in the summer in a beautiful house we rented. Cycling through the city, just hanging out, meeting up with friends and having a nice place to return to or stay at and relax for a day was a great break. I am very glad that I booked the rental early in the spring, when it wasn’t at all clear that it would be even possible to travel across inner-EU borders. Just the act of having booked it was valuable as it put something on the horizon a few months out.
  • A week in Versailles and Paris at the end of summer was an unplanned but huge pleasure. We enjoyed camping out in a forest area on the edge of Versailles, while having Paris within 30 mins by train and the railway station a 10 minute walk away. We got to be outside a lot, played around with Y in the camp ground’s swimming pool, while also exploring Paris (which Y loved), taking in (a small section of) the Louvre, and having lunch and coffee any place we liked. Paris wasn’t very busy, but not empty either, the perfect setting to roam as we pleased in a city that was lively enough to feel its pulse. It was a very energising week, and the best spur of the moment decision we made this year.
  • Volunteered to speak at the FOSS4G Netherlands conference this fall, that fell in the brief period where such events could take place face to face.
  • My company had a good year, again well above the pre-pandemic 2019. Our team I think grew tighter, and we managed to have a lot of fun despite the pandemic measures taking a mental toll on all of us at times. That financially things went well helped as stabilising factor, reducing uncertainty in uncertain times. Renting cabins in a holiday park in June, so we could work together for a week while each having our own cabin, is something to do during regular years as well. Last month it was a decade ago that we started our company, and in fact I feel these past years, despite the pandemic, were the best ones as a group and for me personally had most meaning.
  • I got to work this year on a topic that I really enjoy, learning to work with and within the coming EU digital and data legal framework. The work evolved from a study I did last year, advising the European Commission on the planned open data obligations for EU countries. This important wave of 6 pieces of legislation is the biggest influence on data governance in Europe since the original PSI Directive and INSPIRE Directive 10-15 years ago. It goes much deeper and is much wider in scope than what came before though. There’s a renewed elan, and I feel the type of energy that my work 10 years ago generated around European open data efforts. This new wave will be key to any data work for at least five years, if not for the rest of the decade.
  • For next year, I’ve already signed a contract with a client to keep track of those European developments, help Dutch dataholders and users to leverage their potential, and build bridges to initiatives elsewhere in Europe. It provides me with even more time to do that, which allows me to organise it more as a program of continuous work, not like one project out of several. I hope and intend to use this opportunity to help drive the momentum from this new batch of data legislation in 2022.
  • I’ve been writing my blog here for 19 years now. Again this year it was an important instrument in having and generating conversations with a wide variety of people. In these stay at home times having a way of connecting to people all over the world is very valuable, and doing it all from my own domain is a source of agency. Thank you to all I had the opportunity to interact with this year, to all who dropped by in my inbox.
  • Last year I started making a notes system (in Obsidian) having revamped my personal KM system. Last year I made some 800 conceptual notes mostly gleaned form existing blogposts and presentations I wrote the past 20 years. That number hasn’t grown very fast this year, to a 1050 plus about 200 more factual notes. Together with an ideas collection, and book notes they make some 1650 notes, or about a third of the total number of 5000 notes in my PKM system. Other notes are work related notes, day logs and an annotated library of things that caught my eye this year. I am happy it felt effortless to keep the note making going this year, even if I feel I had too little time to actually sit down and think and write, growing the conceptual part of it all. I’ve also done little non-fiction reading, an annual complaint I have though it was more than in previous years. Such reading provides input that could let my notes grow. Having dusted off my PKM system last year has really helped me this year in keeping track of my work, and being able to keep building on little things I started earlier and then had to leave alone for a while. What pleases me no end, in terms of reducing friction and the sense of ‘magic’ that I got it to work, I now run two client websites, where I publish information for them directly from my notes collection. It allows me to work in my own notes on my own laptop, and in the background GitHub ensures that those notes get published as a website.
  • I’m what is called the ‘programming equivalent of a home cook. Making small adaptations to my laptop’s working environment, and little pieces of code to help me do some tasks is gratifying (if sometimes frustrating during the process of creation), and let’s me incrementally reduce friction in my workflows. This year I enjoyed rummaging around the back-end of my feed reader, and experimenting with what I call federated bookshelves, and a few other small things. The federated bookshelves stuff will be a topic of discussion and, I hope, making during a tentatively planned online IndieWeb meet-up in February on distributed libraries.

In terms of work hours, I mostly worked about 3 days per week in the first six months, using the rest to balance the logistics of a household in times of pandemic and find some space for myself. The rest of the year I worked more or less fulltime.
As we’ve been home mostly I had ample time to read, just over 70 books, of which a handful non-fiction. Fiction reading is something I worked into my day well in the past years (at least 30 mins before sleeping, an easy to arrange habit). The non-fiction reading is still something I want to find a working flow and rhythm for (and have been for years). It requires making time in a way that is less easy (reading, noting, thinking) than it is for fiction. On the plus side, the non-fiction I did read I also much more actively made notes on.

We will spend some days around New Year in Switzerland, visiting dear friends. A tradition we couldn’t adhere to last year, but can do this year (if we test negative before leaving).

Ever onwards! (After having the first week of January off that is)

A pink piece of cake with chocolate curl on golden paper
2021 wasn’t a piece of cake, but like the one pictured despite its imperfections and cracks still held beauty. I enjoyed this raspberry and chocolate confection towards the end of a joyful day with E and Y in Tivolo Gardens in Copenhagen last August.

Today marks the end of my work this year. A day later than planned due to the schools closing a week early. This meant that my and E’s available work time at home was halved so we could split the time caring for Y. There are always a few things that really do need to be finished, thus carrying over into what would otherwise have been the first day off.

In my company we gave the entire team next week off, meaning we don’t expect anyone of us to work, and won’t count the days against the default 5 weeks of paid leave per year everyone has.

It’s been a challenging second pandemic year. At times each of us struggled with energy, motivation and mental wellbeing. I hope we’ve done well by our team to support them at those times. We tried to spend time together regularly and have fun within what was possible. I’ve noticed a general slow down of work in the late spring towards summer. As if the entire world was tired. After the summer things kicked back into high gear however.

Despite that slowing down before summer, which was noticeable in our turnover as well, economically it ultimately was not a challenging year. This year, like last year, we’ve done some 15% better than the pre-pandemic 2019. For 2022 much has already been lined up. I will have the pleasure to focus completely on the new wave of EU digital and data related legislation. In fact, as far as my own time is concerned, I’m already overbooked for the entire year. In short, we are looking to expand our team again.

Last month it was a decade ago that me and my business partners decided to start our open data consultancy The Green Land. To me the past three years, despite the pandemic dominating two of them, were the best of those ten, with a fun and growing team, and meaningful projects.

A well deserved break for all of us is in order therefore.

Our 5 yr old is as any her age well aware that dinos roamed the world ‘a very long time ago’ even before humans existed. Two weeks ago we discussed the Dodo (because it figured in a cartoon she likes), and how it died out in the late 1600’s.

Last night as I brought her to bed she asked me what werewolves are, and I told her that ‘vroeger‘ (an unspecified long time ago) people believed there were people who turned into wolves at full moon. “Did you believe that when you were young, vroeger?” she asked. So I specified that with my vroeger I meant a long time before even I was born, some 300 to 500 years ago.

To which she replied:

“Ah, so that was after the dinos, but during the time of the Dodo.”

Indeed, that’s correct 😀
I love how this shows how she is constructing mental images of the order in time of things and clears up the mists of time for herself. The dino’s demise at one end, us at another, and a marker for when the Dodo went extinct, with belief in werewolves somewhere before that marker. Vroeger.

It’s the first of September, and we’re starting the final third of the year. There are 122 more days in 2021, of which 82 working days. The summer hiatus is over. I feel lucky we were able to spend two weeks in Denmark, and another week in France. In the spring we assumed we would stay home as we did last year. Especially when the number of Covid cases surged just before the summer due to premature easing of restrictions, the likelihood of travel diminished.

The weeks away were needed and helpful. At the start of this year I couldn’t focus much on anything, and while that later improved, most things felt sluggish and uninspiring. Being out and about with the three of us gave me new energy and ideas.

In the coming 4 months I’ll keep doing a few things as I did them in the past months, to maintain balance. Like only allowing meetings and conversations in one half of the day. Like using the evenings mostly to read fiction (55 thus far this year). Like avoiding urgent things as much as possible, because those make me feel like being prescribed what to do. I also want to add a few regular things. A weekly lunch out with E, to have time for ‘normal’ conversations together, like we did today. Spend more time reading non-fiction books, something I’ve mostly failed at for years, but now feel more capable to, having relearned myself how to read non-linearly and having a note making routine to do something with the things I read (I even mention this on my /now page, showing the strength of the need I feel to address this).

I also restarted making ‘month maps’ which I skipped mostly in the spring as one month bled into another. ‘Month maps’ are overviews I make at the start of a month, exploring the things I want to finish in the coming weeks, the things I’m dreading or likely to procrastinate on for which I then define small actions to help overcome that, the things I want to avoid becoming urgent, and a general list of things to pay attention to.

Work wise I have the luxury of being able to focus on one project mostly, which happens to be on a topic, the new European digital and data legal frameworks, that is just becoming relevant to data holders and will stay that way for the coming few years. It’s the biggest legal change in data re-use since the first open data directive en the INSPIRE a dozen or so years ago. In my experience having one such ‘steady’ thing going, makes it easier to acquire other work for my company, as I don’t feel urgency to make it so.

Hiatus ex!