Engineering lessons learnt at mbr

I’ve left the company I was previously working for at the end of 2018. In this post I want to reflect on some technical things I learnt there which I found really valuable.

  • Have a style guide and enforce it with a linter
    A linter is a program which checks that your code follows certain style rules. You can e.g. hook this up to the CI or as a pre-commit hook. It should not be possible to merge if the style is violated. It’s common to catch quite some bugs early this way.
  • Rebase heavily, group commits semantically.
    Don’t e.g. put a refactoring change in a commit with a bug fix. Split commits if they contain multiple semantically different changes, reorganize a PR until it fits semantically. Don’t squash on merge, but rather keep individual commits to retain this semantic order in the master branch.

    This is how Git works best. It makes it a lot easier to e.g. track bugs. This is because the commit message explains what the intention behind the change was and one can verify that the commit does exactly this and nothing else. Also you can use git internal tooling (like git bisect).

  • Do not squash on commit
    This enables the possibility to prefix a commit with something like Revert me: Your message. This commit can easily be git revert-ed later on to only revert this specific change. We used this often to merge temporary fixes, which were supposed to be ephemeral. By indicating the short-lived intention of this change it’s clearly stated that this needs to be removed again. Also, you can always search for the corresponding Revert: "Revert Me: Your message" commit, to verify that something was actually thrown out again.
  • Use git blame
    …to find out about why something was merged (works only when the commit message describes the intention). I used this often to look up the original PR and read through the discussion there to better understand why a decision was made (GitHub links the originating PR in the blame view).
  • Make errors visible
    In the case of an error rather than continuing to run and fallback on some default behavior it can oftentimes be much better to just let the program crash and report the error. Otherwise you quickly run into the case where errors happen, but are not recognized or acted properly upon. And oftentimes the default behavior you defined might be suitable for one class of errors, without you having thought about other error classes which can also happen.
  • Return early
    Don’t do something like

    if foo {
    } else {
      return ...;

    instead do

    if !foo return ...;

    Of all style guide things this is a really significant one that makes code a lot clearer (and keeps the indentation levels low).

  • Most of the time spent when implementing something is reading code
  • Rollbacks should be easy
    This refers to deployments. At mbr it was quite easy to build an arbitrary commit and deploy it. This makes you feel a lot better about changes where it’s not entirely clear if they might cause issues.
  • A feature commit must contain a test for that feature
  • A bug fix should contain a test which would have catched the bug

Another thing which we didn’t do at mbr, but which I find highly valuable is to put a lot of effort on test coverage. A number of open source projects have integrated e.g. codecov.io into their CI pipeline in a way that it’s only possible to merge if the test coverage stays either the same or goes up.


Looking back on 2019

I have to say that 2019 was not my best year. Actually looking back on the last years it was a significant low. This is mostly because I got caught up in a lot of stuff and in the end wasn’t in line with the way I would actually like to have my life. Kind of like during my M.Sc.. This always happens so gradually and I get caught up more and more and then at some point I have an epiphany and see how far I actually deviated from where I want to be. This is always really shitty and it’s always really sad because I’m totally aware of what I actually need to be happy in life: a healthy social environment with friends I enjoy being around, laughing a lot, working on creative projects which I am proud of, be challenged, but not over-challenged, not working way too much, being outside in nature, enjoying the summer, traveling, living a life in line with my ethical and moral compass, being honest.

For a longer stretch during summer I was working way too much and only doing some sports on the side. Nothing else. Looking back this had quite an impact on me now. I feel that I missed a large part of the summer and I remember many days sitting inside in front of the laptop, looking out at the beautiful weather with weeks and months just flying by. I don’t want this to be my life. I don’t want it to be like this for the next twenty years. Ideally I would like to spent most of my time outside during the summer. To me that’s so fulfilling, lying outside in nature in the warm sun, seeing how beautiful nature evolves during spring and summer. Sitting in front of a laptop all day makes me feel like I miss out on the most important aspects of life. I also didn’t take much holiday in 2019, only one prolonged weekend and a couple of single days.

Good decisions
Sports. I’ve never done any sports in my life, sometimes I tried something for a couple weeks, but then dropped it again. When I was still working at mbr, Ludwig one day told me that if you have a developer job there will come a tipping point sooner or later and you’ll need to start some sport. For me this was at the beginning of this year, when I felt my body complaining and not shutting up anymore. So Valerie got me to do a daily yoga routine after breakfast (which we kept doing for a great part of this year). Additionally I started going to the gym every 1-2 days. And I started bouldering, did a couple of courses as well. Actually we found out that there is a really nice boulder place not even ten minutes from our flat. That’s typical for Berlin, there is so much stuff, that even after living in a place for three years you still discover new things. Yeah so the bouldering is really nice; non-competitive, collaborative, creative, problem solving — and you can decide by yourself which difficulty you want to tackle. This kind of sport really suits me.

Sun. Going outside into the sun for at least 30 minutes a day. This was something I started after reading “Head Strong” by Dave Asprey.

Life Podcast. Valerie and me recorded a 2-3 hours podcast about our life, our view of the world, what makes up our mind at the moment, where we want to go, etc.. The plan is to do this every year and have kind of a life snapshot, which is probably interesting to listen to in 15 years or so. We don’t plan on publishing it, just mostly for ourselves.

Writing. I started getting back into creative writing. I now regularly go to a writers meetup (it turned out that two colleagues of mine go there since a year or so). And I found a writers group with a bit of luck. Just at the time when I was looking for one, Deborah had put up a singular meetup for creating this sci-fi writers group. After that meeting we kept the group closed and meet up once a month now, reviewing each others stories.

Best Photos I took


I’m on the vegetarian-vegan spectrum since 2.5 years now and convinced that I will never go back. I try to adhere to a mostly vegan diet. Looking back on myself ten years ago it seems crazy what opinions I had at that time regarding a vegan diet. My younger (steak-loving) self would be shocked by my views now. It’s crazy, I think if I would discuss the topic with my younger self now the discussion would be a waste of time.

I meet so many crazy-smart, intelligent, world class developers here in Berlin. A thing that really strikes me is how often they work on empowering people, working towards a fairer society, supposedly making the world a better place. And then they eat meat two times a day, seven days a week. It seems so contrarian and I can’t get it into my head how people can possibly be so blind.

Best Podcast
Joe Rogan — John Carmack

Quotes which stuck
“We all have our time machines. Those that take us back are memories. Those that carry us forward are dreams.”
–H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

“People want to get rid of the forest to make agricultural land, for people to eat meat.” from this The Verge article on the fires in Brazil which dominated media for a long time this year. It’s sad that there was so much debate about climate change this year, but the thing which you can control every single day doesn’t find that much of a mention. There are some surveys online where they asked demonstrators about the things every single one of us can do. A vegetarian/vegan diet is mentioned very seldomly, mostly after all the other points and only when people are pointed to it. If you look at the numbers it makes up place one or two (depending on the statistic) of the factors you can change though (together with traveling).

“Look around you, all of that was cash at some point”
Don’t remember where I heard this, but I think about it often when I look around in our flat.

“All transactions will be settled digitally in twenty years.”
In a discussion around blockchains. I wholeheartedly agree, it seems obvious to me.

Seneca in Latin: “What matters most is whether one is extending one’s life or merely delaying one’s death”.

Mike Tyson was on Joe Rogan, he said that he doesn’t even work out anymore because it reactivates his ego, brings his competitive side back, and he starts turning back into his old, nasty, egomaniac self.

Started going to the gym in April, it went really well. Still going about three times each week. Started with machines, but after a while recognized that barbells make much more sense. This is because with machines you’re always forced into the movement radius of the machine, there is no margin for your body’s own physique. Also you only ever train isolated muscle groups, whereas with a barbell you typically do compound exercises, activating many muscle groups at the same time. This saves time and is generally thought to be a good thing for your physique and coordination.

I was surprised when I first started switching my workout from machines to the barbell thing and looked more into it. Turns out you don’t need all these fancy machines, but can instead achieve better results with way less equipment (a barbell is basically sufficient if you’re not aiming for cardio). If you want more info the 5×5 workout is a recommend reading. It’s an alternating set of five simple exercises and they are quite old and proven: squats, dead lifts, barbell rowing, bench press, etc..

Best Article
How One Man Made the Indie Video Game Sensation Stardew Valley on Eric Barone.

Best Science
I like the Ctrl-labs idea of building an “API for the brain”. This talk summarizes the idea well.

Dystopian Things which happened in 2019
There were two things which stood out. First, it sees that somebody trained an AI using publicly available recordings of speeches of a CEO. The AI was supposedly able to fake the voice and scammers used this to get people in the company to conduct some “urgent transfers”. (source, more source). There is some controversy though, some people argue that it could also have been a well trained voice actor.

The second dystopian thing that stood out this year was how Boris Johnson manipulated Google search results by intentionally including strange keywords in public speeches. Another thing he did was to give weird interviews on how he picked up this new hobby of building miniature buses from old furniture, which started outranking all the media articles on the incorrect statements he had printed on buses in the UK, as part of his campaign. (source, source, the interview, hackernews discussion).

Funniest thing all year
A colleague of mine moved to Germany (from Silicon Valley) and he had many funny experiences adapting to the culture. One instance was that the first letter he received, in his first week, before anything else, before any official government documents, before any company stuff, was a letter from the GEZ, asking him to pay 17.95 euro for his (of course non-existent) radio and television :D. The GEZ is a German institution created after the 2nd world war, all public media (and much more) is funded through them. This institution is completely decoupled from the government, instead people pay directly for it, as to not again give politicians the power of controlling the financing of e.g. public news reporting. They have a reputation for being really diligent on finding people who haven’t paid their fees yet. Their letters are infamous and it’s a bit of a running gag among Germans.

Another, maybe not so funny, bit was that in his first week in Germany he went to a store to pick up all kinds of supplies, filling his baskets full. The cashier pulled all goods over the counter and asked him for the money. He paid and was then wondering why nobody had yet put the goods into bags. He didn’t bring any bags and had just assumed somebody would wrap them (in, of course, disposable plastic bags).

Best videos
The interviews done by Graham Bensinger are really good, for example this one with Niki Lauda.

This short documentary clip is on a badger named Stoffle who is a real escape artist. No matter what cage they put him in he always managed to find a tricky way of getting out (sometimes even coordinating with his wife). It’s incredible to see the clever escape strategies the animals come up with.

Best series
The YouTube series Wayne.

Best Vlog
I sometimes fall into this vlog hole when I discover something interesting. Earlier this year I discovered that there are some Americans living in Germany vlogging about how they perceive the country. It’s interesting to see the country through their eyes, how they perceive German traditions like Maibaum, Fathers Day, or things like Milchtankstellen (milk gas stations).
How Americans see Germany

There is this whole scene of Airsoft battlefields. Basically those are huge old military bases (or even islands) where groups play Deathmatch against each other. Basically real life Counter Strike with Airsoft guns. These guns are extremely elaborate, they basically resemble real guns, just that they don’t kill you. And the “maps” are crazy…there are some videos of Deathmatches of a couple hundred or even thousands of people, kinda like a festival. Silo is one YouTuber who specialized in being an airsoft sniper, I quite like his channel.

Best Buy
The Roost Laptop stand + an external Thinkpad keyboard. This was because of ergonomics while sitting in front of a computer, it’s much healthier this way. See e.g. this video on how to have an ergonomic computer desk set-up.

Also the Hobonichi planner.

Some Outlier clothing stuff. Their pants are amazing.

SDR traveller. Minimalistic bags and stuff made from black Dyneema (a highly technical material with great characteristics).

Veilance Nomin. The most expensive backpack I ever bought. Also the best one.

Gazelle Van Staed. A new bicycle.

Best Workshop
I finally did the letterpress workshop by p98a and it was really nice. Erik Spiekermann himself was there and participating. I really like analog print. It has character. No matter how thoroughly you cover the letters with color, you still see the texture of the wooden type, which in some cases is something like a hundred years old and has printed so many posters before.

Best music
The album “Runway Markings” by Okta Logue. I was on their concert in Berlin and it was my concert-highlight of the year. I’m always shocked that they are not way more famous.

Best talk
I attended the Web3 Summit this year and it was great. My favorite talk was the fireside chat with Gavin Wood (my boss).

I discovered Huel this year, it’s a a nutritionally complete powdered food. The powder is created from finely grounded oats, linseeds, etc. and contains everything which your body needs (at least to the state of what science knows currently).

I was always extremely skeptical of Soylent (a similar product), but my opinion changed this year, mostly because of the way Huel marketed it’s product. So for me it’s not about stopping cooking or properly eating altogether (in fact I love to cook). It’s about these occasions where you just don’t have time (or motivation) to eat some proper food and would usually eat something unhealthy, get a pizza or some junk food. Then it’s a way better idea to consume a nutritionally rational shake.

Things which stuck
At my current company we have a Head of security, whose job (among others) is to make sure everybody is on the same page regarding security practices. As part of this he does an afternoon-long on-boarding session with every new team member. One thing which stuck with me was that I hadn’t previously realized how big of an attack vector it is to have the mobile phone number of a person. This is because it’s easy to get a SIM card for an arbitrary phone number. Many services have a fallback feature where if you get locked out of an account they use your mobile phone number to send you a new password — which is a big attack vector. So it made me think twice about leaving my number with people/services.

Presentation Ideas
There was a talk at W3S by Rob Habermeier which he structed corresponding to acts in a theatre play: The Motive, etc..

New year resolutions I had set for 2019

  • Every evening make a plan for the next day. ✗
    Did this for the first months, it was really effective. But then I got lost because I was stuck on some work stuff and the plan just never seemed to work out.
  • Do Yoga every day. Consider “the gym”. ✓
    This worked really well. For the first time in my life I did more sports than ever before. And even regularly.
  • Get really good in Rust. ~
    I definitely made progress, just by working a lot with the language. But I have some world class colleagues who contribute stuff to the Rust compiler or are in Rust working groups, discussing changes to the language which fix shortcomings. Those people are my definition of “really good” and I’m not there yet.
  • Save more money. ✗
  • Buy max. 5 clothing items ✗
  • Habit Tracker ✗ The idea is to visualize how well you achieve the goals which you have set for yourself and encourage you to keep it up. I decided on these: Zero Inbox, Satisfied with Achievements today, Did something from To Do List, Yoga, Vegan. I kept this up for a couple of months, but it somehow got lost at some point.

New years resolutions for 2020
With the poor track record of 2019 you might ask: why still do it? I think it’s still a good idea to record where I want to go and what I want to improve. Also 2019 was particularly bad, for other years I kept the resolutions way better.
So for 2020 I got these ambitious goals:

  • Two social meetups per week
  • 3x gym per week, do Yoga regularly, meditate regularly
  • Travel more, take use of my digital nomad freedom. Our office is really nice, but I’m free to work from wherever I want. So for one week in 2019 I was working from Madrid, where I was visiting Thomas. I want to do this again and more things like it.
  • Consider installing Telegram. I feel like I’m missing out socially. On the other hand I have such bad memories from the time when I was still using messengers and was constantly interrupted by stuff and felt like I had an obligation to reply. It felt like people could just pop into my life at any point if they wanted to, giving me an obligation to somehow react.

In general it would be nice to get back to a “happy and satisfied with life” place again. If I let my mind go wild the thing that I would currently like to do most is to buy a barn with some friends in a rural place, create a vegetable garden, grow our own food, and work remotely for half of the day. At the moment that’s the best vision I can come up with. I have the feeling that this would be a fulfilling lifestyle to me. But this will have to wait for a couple years.

Books in 2019

Dave Asprey — Head Strong
I read the book since I felt that I was entering a competitive job and I felt that I could improve in some ways. For example, I felt that my ability to concentrate or my working memory could be improved. The book is on different facets bio-hacking and extremely extensive. I see some of the things he describes really critical and not sufficiently evidenced yet, other stuff I think makes a lot of sense. I would say that after I had read the book I was like “Hmm, not sure what to make of it”, but looking back it was surely the book which had the most impact on me in 2019 and a lot of the stuff I did directly or indirectly goes back to it.

Some examples:

Going outside into the sun for at least 30 minutes a day. This might seem really obvious, but when working a lot I had quite some days were the only time I spent outside where the couple minutes from the subway to the office or from the flat to the gym. After I read the book I deliberately went outside into the sun, into a park, each day for at least 30 minutes. I feel that this had a very positive impact on me.

Don’t make a lot of small decisions first thing in the morning. This will lead to “death by a thousand cuts”, they all cost a small amount of cognitive energy.

Nutrition, nootropics. I started looking into how to improve the stuff I put into my body in terms of being beneficial for my mind.

Sport. There are many empirical studies demonstrating that sport is beneficial for your ability to focus, remember stuff, etc.. Also increased levels of energy, health benefits, reduced stress, etc.. The list goes on and on.

No digital devices one hour before sleep.

Sylvia Plath — The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath is one of the authors who was influential for the feminist movement in the 60s/70s. I read this book since somebody I got to know in Berlin was a big fan of the author. The book seems to be kinda famous in the US and there are also many pop culture references to it, I was totally unaware of it though.

I really liked the book, it’s catching and an interesting insight into life of a young woman in the 60s.

Friedrich Schiller — Verbrecher aus verlorener Ehre
Wow. It’s more of a short story than a book really (something like 40 pages). And it’s a story which catched me right after the first few sentences. It’s written so darn well that it’s hard to believe he wrote this in 1786 [sic!]. I think if this story would be handed in to a modern writing competition it would still easily strike the first place.

Regine Rompa — Unser Hof in der Bretagne
The author did what I kinda dream of: buying an estate in a very secluded area, growing ones own food and just living in nature. The author lived in Berlin for a couple years after moving here from South Germany.

There are many parallels to my own life/worldviews and I see myself in a similar state of life in a few years. The book had a lasting effect on me and I think about it quite often. Something that was a bit of a rough idea at the beginning of the year has formed into something more concrete now. I think this will be a book that will have had a deep impact on my life in a few years time.

Sam Harris — Lying
This book (it’s more of an essay and you can read it easily in an afternoon) examines only one topic: Lying. Harris makes the case that it’s basically never beneficial for anyone to lie, but it’s still very common to lie. There is a statistic in the book that we lie multiple times a day — be it “white lies” (lies with the intent of doing someone a favor, e.g. “yeah sure, the haircut looks great”) or small lies (like thinking of an excuse of why we can’t make it to a meeting, though we just don’t feel like going there).

I really liked the book and thought a lot about it in the coming days. It definitely rang a bell with me and I discussed a lot with Valerie about it.

It’s one of those books where I already know that I’ll recommend it often in the future.

Do you dream of Terra 2?
Oh my. I found it via a recommendation on “The Verge” (a huge tech news site) and I ask myself if the person recommending it actually read the book. Probably not, I guess the big tech sites just have contracts with big publishers to recommend anything new which fits the profile.

So in principle it’s a good idea for a coming of age sci-fi story: a second earth “Terra 2” is discovered and everything points to it being habitable. The journey there takes multiple decades and it’s not possible to “deep-freeze” people for the way there. So a group of kids is trained to actually fly there for multiple decades, to be the first exploratory mission.

The problem just being that the author is really really religious and let’s this shine through everywhere: e.g. the authority figures regularly pray (even though they are supposed to be hardcore scientists), creationism being painted in a positive light, religious slang a la “inschallah” mentioned regularly. Overall I just finished it to have closure. Definitely the last “The Verge” recommendation I will have followed, I’m still angry at them for this.

Blake J. Harris — The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality
I follow the story of Palmer Luckey since a long time, but somehow it escaped me that there was actually a book published on his story. And not just by some random person, but rather an author who was close to him and did a lot of in-person interviews with him and colleagues. Apparently the book has gotten very little media exposure since most mainstream tech sites refrain from reviewing it. Supposedly because of their relationship with Facebook, since the company ‒ which bought Luckey’s company and then outed him — doesn’t get away too well in the book.

Yeah so the book was definitely interesting and gives a lot of detailed account on how Oculus came to be and how the whole “Facebook fired Palmer” story actually played out. A good read.

Dennis E. Taylor — Bobbiverse
Didn’t know about this sci-fi trilogy. The idea is quite intriguing, I don’t want to give away too much though. The topic is of digitalized consciousness and self-replicating machines. All in all I found it refreshing and there were a number of novel ideas I hadn’t heard before.

The thing is that it’s definitely noticeable that he isn’t an experienced writer and that the novel was self-published. For example, I dislike sentences like “the scene looked like a Star Wars space battle” or “the ship resembled the one from Prometheus”. I dislike this style of not describing something as he views it, but rather take the easy way out of saying “yeah just think of that one movie and yeah that’s how it’s here too”.

But still I devoured all three books in under three weeks :-). So it was definitely an interesting read, just don’t read anything on the books before starting reading.

Looking back on 2018

Like in the last years here comes my yearly recap. Older flashbacks can be found for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

2018 went by really fast. Faster than the last years. Probably because of having a routine, having a 5-day 40 hour workweek. Rough highlights were our trip to Sri-Lanka, another trip to Portugal where the company I worked at had rented two villas in an orange field for employees who wanted to flee the Berlin winter. Then a really nice summer vacation in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern — a rural German federal state above Berlin. The nature there is really nice and this is a part of Germany that was unbeknownst to me.

Then there were a number of nice visitors here in Berlin and a festival which we visited. I had also organized a weekend on a secluded hut with a couple of friends for my 30th birthday, that was also really nice.

Overall the summer was fantastic, a friend said it was one of those super-idealized summers as you remember them from your childhood, where everyday was super-sunny and the days would never end. I cannot possibly describe it any better. The weather was just fantastic for months.

I definitely feel much more accustomed here now, it’s also comforting to know my way around a lot of areas. Another nice thing is that there are regularly friends showing up in the city because of work, conferences, etc.. I don’t think there is any other city in Germany where this happens to such a great extent.

I had real luck with my job here in the last two years + a couple months. For about 1.5 years our office was situated in an infamous, trendy area of Neukoelln and the time there was really great and I learnt a lot of things. I have a lot of nice memories about this time, the colleagues, trying out the myriad lunch places around, etc.. We then moved to Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg in spring 2018, which was also really interesting. It’s crazy how different the perception of the city is just by taking a different way to the office each morning — totally different people, totally different vibe.

But after the really nice time at this company I have decided to take use of one other great opportunity and have started the new year working for a company which I have admired and followed closely since a long time. The office is in Kreuzberg and the area is the same as the area where the other office was before. This feels a bit strange to me, since I somehow can’t help the feeling of “going back”. We’ll see how it plays out.

Big Topics
In 2018 we basically only cooked vegan. I perceive this as really easy once you get accustomed to basically just not buying milk, cheese, butter, or eggs. I can’t imagine it any other way anymore.

Zero Waste. I have written a whole post on this.

Favorite Articles
I always enjoy reading Tynan’s recap on the gear he owns (he’s one-bagging and owns only this stuff).

The Bachelor thesis Writing Network Drivers in Rust by Simon Ellmann was an interesting read on a topic of which I had no clue (how network drivers work).

Engineering at Parity is a great blog post on the process in a decentralized, modern, open-source company. The way how developers are viewed in this article — as autonomous adults, who don’t need to be forced into a process framework and are able to decide on their own which work style suits them best — resonates a lot with me.

I donated to archive.org and the Methuselah foundation. The Methuselah foundation was incorporated by Aubrey de Grey and tries to further research into means of reversing the effects of aging. Their slogan is “Making 90 the new 50 by 2030”. I think there are many compelling arguments for this and I think research in this direction has the most potential to mitigate suffering, yet it’s heavily underfunded. If you’re interested in the topic I suggest you read the following short story.

Short Story
The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant is a fabulous story by recognized AI researcher Nick Bostrom.

Best Photos I took
I couldn’t be happier with the photos I took in Sri Lanka.


Best Photo someone took of me


Best Music
Khruangbin. Also went to a concert they gave here in Berlin.

Favorite Gadget
I’ve set my eyes on a particular analog camera a while ago and in early 2018 I found a nice exemplar! I’m talking about the “Fuji Klasse S”, which is the last analog camera Fuji made. They basically sat down in 2007 and thought about to make an analog camera with the modern technology available now and with their modern knowledge about how to build cameras. So it’s kind of an analog camera with modern build quality and modern features (though not really what you would call super-modern, they added features like a simple automatic focus for example). Oh and they only built 7000 copies and released them only in Japan.

Favorite Ingredient
Liquid Smoke. There exists a distillation process by which the smoke from burnt wood can be filtered into a liquid. Harmful substances are filtered out and what remains is the fabulous aroma of burnt wood.

In the vegan kitchen this is an often-found ingredient, since you can marinate all kinds of things to get a nice smokey aroma. Great stuff!

There was some reddit thread on “What advice would you give your younger self?”. The most upvoted answer was “save more money”. This got me thinking and a big theme of 2018 was to get my finances under control.

“Let them reject you, don’t reject yourself” as a reply in a thread where somebody asked if he should apply somewhere. Can also be applied to asking girls out :-).

Journalist and chemist Hamilton Morris on how he got to work for Vice: “The simple answer is that I went to the Vice office when I was twenty and pitched some stories that interested me, wrote them, got them in print and then never stopped writing stories.”.

“Disruption is all about providing a better service than there was before.”

“It‘s a greater danger for a company to die because of finding too few developers, than dying because of running out of money.”
I can’t find the article anymore, but it was a major article on one of the high-profile tech websites. Definitely fits with my impression of the scene here in Berlin. The typical turn-around time for software developers here is 18 months and there are many many job opportunities.

“There is always an explanation for a bug.” David Heinemeier Hansson

Annihilation. Brilliant! Watched it two times on two subsequent evenings. Alex Garland is also the head behind Ex-Machina.

Best Podcasts
There are two which I think are both 1A:
Serge Faguet on Biohacking.

The WRINT episode with the Finanzwesir on personal finances, early retirement, financial independence, etc..

A blockchain project which I’m following since a while is colony.io, I think what they do is really novel and interesting. This podcast outlines their idea.

Best Vlog
I was fascinated with this YouTube channel of Michael Jamison for a while. He lives in South Africa and has raised tigers who due to birth defects were unable to survive in the wild. Thing is, that he raised them in his own house and has integrated their enclosure into his living space. The vlog is an immersive view into his extraordinary life and his daily experiences with the tigers.

I was only at the “Rise of AI” conference in Berlin. It’s nice that so many conferences are here. There is basically no threshold if the conference is just 20 minutes from your flat.

I also went to two tech meetups at N26. It’s really nice to be able to just go there. Uncomplicated, just after work on some Tuesday. And then you can talk to their CTO there and ask them all kinds of technical questions. Things like this always give me the feeling of being here, in the center, where it all happens.

Most obscure story I heard
During Christmas time we were in a small village in south Germany, there I was told this story. The village typically has storks visiting each year and they build nests on high houses. One of the inhabitants didn’t like that a stork had built a nest on his neighbors roof. So he came up with an elaborate plan to entice the stork into leaving the village.

He employed an ornithologist (a bird scientist) to build him a stork nest as close to reality as possible. He then bought a bit of land at a beautiful seaside, maybe 1 km out of the village.

The further part of his plan involved getting a huge oak tree. The oak was felled and stripped of all branches. A structural engineer was then employed to come up with a way to properly put the oak up in the newly acquired seaside estate. A hole was then excavated on the soon-to-be stork-land. Next a steal cone was cemented into the ground. Heavy machinery was employed to lift the dead oak into the steal cone. Actually, the first crane was incapable of finishing the job. That’s why the work was delayed — a heavier machinery had to come. This then worked out and the oak was successfully mounted into the steal cone. Steal wedges were put into it to secure the whole construction against all kinds of wild wind and weather conditions. The remaining space was then filled with landslide, everything was covered, and even some small trees were planted

The ornithologists nest was then mounted on top of the oak and — to top it off — an outlook bench and a little dog hut (for the dachshund) was placed right next to the oak.

How can the stork possibly resist this offer of a new home? I guess we’ll see. I already thought about sending this in to the Atlas Obscura :).

New year resolutions for 2018 (taken from last years blog post)

  • Spend less money. ✓
    I had detailed this: “I want to gather a detailed overview over all my expenses and want to meticulously document every cent that I spend in January.”
    This was a really good exercise and I continued doing it throughout most the year. Most importantly it makes your expenses visible, which in cash-obsessed Germany can be quite helpful.
  • Consider meditation again. ✗
  • One additional, regular fitness exercise. ✗
  • Bring photography skills to a level that I am satisfied with (i.e. a more serious level). Specifically by thinking more about composition and getting better at it. ~
  • Contribute more to open source projects. ✓
    I definitely achieved this and made 10-15 PRs to different projects in 2018. I also participated two times in the Stellar Build Challenge and got awarded prizes both times.
    These contributions were a nice opportunity to get mentored. I think that when learning a new technology this is an underrated way to learn something. Basically you can search for an open source project which you respect and start working on issues that interest you. Oftentimes you will receive guidance by the maintainers and they will give you feedback on your solution.
  • Start a technically challenging new project. ✓
    I learnt a new programming language — Rust, which is a low-level programming language with a similar niche to C++. I then rewrote a (Perl) monitoring plugin which we used at work in Rust and sped it up thereby by >96%. This eliminated issues with false positives which the plugin had due to being too slow. I’ve put my rewrite on GitHub and published it as a Rust package.
  • Develop my own clothing style further. ~
    There was some development, I would have liked to see more though.
  • Decide fast, don’t overthink. ~
    I’m still taking too long to decide, but it’s getting better.

New year resolutions for 2019

  • Every evening make a plan for the next day.
    I got myself a pretty Hobonichi Techo for this purpose.
  • Do Yoga every day. Consider “the gym”.
  • Get really good in Rust.
  • Save more money.
  • Buy max. 5 clothing items
  • Habit Tracker: The idea is to visualize how well you achieve the goals which you have set for yourself and encourage you to keep it up. I decided on these: Zero Inbox, Satisfied with Achievements today, Did something from To Do List, Yoga, Vegan.

About Me

I am a 32 year old techno-creative enthusiast who lives and works in Berlin. In a previous life I studied computer science (more specifically Media Informatics) at the Ulm University in Germany.

I care about exploring ideas and developing new things. I like creating great stuff that I am passionate about.


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