Week 332

Oh, this week. This week was how to put it rather intense.

We got visits again from Peter Rukavina and this time Thomas dropped in as well to make it a proper Reboot reunion. I decided to join Peter (Bihr) to go to London in October to attend Playful and Mozilla Festival and potentially Gamecity too which is supposed to be an awesome conference in Nottingham. I’ve never been outside of London so that alone may be worth the trip.

I also had a visit of my old friend Bjorn who I worked with at a company that shall not be named but that was deep in the territory of the bizarre.

Not the thing you want to see if you're trying to catch a flight.

I spent the beginning of that week prepping for a client engagement which got me waking up on Wednesday somewhere before five o’clock to take a hellish cab ride into Tegel airport. You are never driven to Tegel in the same way twice, but I’ll definitely make sure never to take the highway again.

Berlin Projects

Tsukemen Ramen

During the flight I also managed to spill coffee both over my clothes and my laptop and that was all before I even arrived in Munich. That was a rather terrible start of a day that turned out very well. That evening we celebrated our success with a Tsukemen ramen at a local Munich ramen joint.


The next day we did another day at the client after which having been nicely friend I took an S-Bahn to the airport. Munich airport right now has the best feature ever. There is a beer garden in between the two terminals where you can cheaply load up on a local microbrew before you board your plane. Every airport should have this.

Stij Oomes dropping some proper knowledge. Going to dive into 3D programming today.

Then after having done all of this and with hardly enough sleep I dropped into our weekly Sheperditchi breakfast and then straight into a OpenGL ES course given by Stijn Oomes. Stijn has a PhD from my alma mater and we know many of the sam people even though I didn’t have too many interactions with the computer graphics group at my faculty. We had talked earlier that year about his current pursuit of 3D vision and about the potential of such a workshop for iOS programmers. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day of pure learning with a lot of hands on and a knowledgeable teacher at hand.

That evening I joined the Berlin Critical Mass which is changing for the better and after that I watched Only God Forgives. A brilliant contemplative orgy of violence, shades of which I am seeing in Hotline Miami which I’m playing right now.

Learning to sail unit 1

And the next day I got my first sailing lessons —which I had half forgotten I was supposed to have— and after that I finally had some time to catch up on e-mail. Pretty odd how something that was such a critical part of infrastructure in this part of the world is nothing more than a pass time for well off people at the moment.

Dark Matter & Trojan Horses Highlights

Odd that I hadn’t gotten around to blogging these notes from Dan Hill’s brilliant book, but here they are then finally:

This is all underscored by an optimistic belief in progressive change, that the current conditions are changeable for the better, that the present can be transformed into multiple positive futures.

the mental agility to generate ideas — to see design as cultural invention — is directly linked to the craft skills of design practice

As stated earlier, design’s core value is in synthesising disparate views and articulating alternative ways of being.

Yet such temporary interventions are often accompanied by claims as to wider significance; that an installation, say, can suggest a new way of doing, of living.

to understand the pixel and the platform.

The problem is in taking clear design intent — the stage where “smart city” concepts are rife — into development, procurement and commissioning, and emerging from the other side with the intent intact, perhaps even improved by the process, such that further strategic outcomes can be realised

zooming back and forth from matter to meta, and using each scale to refine the other, is core to strategic design.

The collapse of knowledge, of authority, of institution can leave a dizzying sensation, a kind of vertiginous drop into an abyss of uncertainty.

design must make clear that its remit is expanded from simply problem-solving to context-setting.

You simply have to solve within the brief you’ve been set; you can’t challenge its premise.

There are either well-known technical solutions, and the real problem may be a lack of commitment, funding, skill, or motivation, or they are at least clearly defined problem spaces, that process improvement, nuanced analysis, elbow grease and the odd bit of luck could easily solve

And if it was designed in one way, it follows that it can be designed in a different way.

prototyping and heuristics in a space of “unknown-unknowns”

Matter matters, in this respect

All these struggles are about the profound social injustice in our societies — whether in Egypt, Syria or the US and Spain.

Apply your philosophy

I’ve been on something of an applied philosophy binge recently and after almost finishing “Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” I am now starting to read Aramis which Latour opens with:

I have sought to offer humanists a detailed analysis of a technology sufficiently magnificent and spiritual to convince them that the machines by which they are surrounded are cultural objects worthy of their attention and respect. They’ll find that if they add interpretation of machines to interpretation of texts, their culture will not fall to pieces; instead, it will take on added density. I have sought to show technicians that they cannot even conceive of a technological ohject without taking into account the mass of human beings with all their passions and politics and pitiful calculations, and that by becoming good sociologists and good humanists they can become better engineers and better­ informed decisionmakers.

I read these texts not only because as Latour promises it will turn me into a better engineer (and designer) but because only works of sufficient conceptual depth and denseness contain the force necessary to alter and improve our thinking. Books should never be tedious but they are allowed to be straining.

The Declaration for a Better Berlin

Right now in Berlin we are being bombarded with the election campaign but I do not know anybody who looks forward to voting come September. I cannot vote but if I were allowed I would also face a tough choice. None of the options are appealing and what we will get seems so certain and terrible that potential alternatives pale. Germany being as it is the election focuses on the heartland and there isn’t that much being discussed that people living in a city can relate to.

This particular city, Berlin, is doing better than it has in ages but is still in terrible shape. What it is sorely missing is the idea that it can be better and that we can make it so. To offer a start on that path I have drafted a list of ten points that should be improved. By now I’m sick of complaining and I imagine that I’m not the only one. I will be putting my weight and any weight I can borrow behind changing —initially— some of these things.

The points are not meant to be taken literally. In some cases they are more provocations than implementation plans, but in all cases they highlight a need and a way forward. I may have missed lots of things and the points below may not be perfect, but this list, like this city, is in beta.

Some points are already being executed by people and organisations on the ground. I want to draw attention to their good work and support them where we can. People working for the benefit of the greater good can use all the help we can give them.

Politicians are not the focus of this initiative but I do think they benefit from people who hold them to a higher standard. This is a list of things that need doing. I don’t care who gets it done.

1. World class bike paths

Berlin should have some of the best bicycle paths in the world. It deserves better than it has right now. If you want to see what I mean by this, go take a look at Copenhagen or Amsterdam.

This is not a pure matter of creating infrastructure, since most infrastructure will fail if the social conventions don’t support it. The city needs to start taking cyclists seriously if any of this is supposed to work.

Some targets to strive for:
– at least 40% of all personal transport should take place on a bicycle
– at least 20% of commutes over 5km should be done by bike
– at least 50% of all motorized traffic should be done with non-personally owned vehicles
– lorries entering the city should be taxed, older lorries should be taxed more heavily

Public transportation in Berlin is on the point of falling apart. All stations should be renovated and expanded to a point beyond just keeping them running. Most U- and S-Bahn carriages should be replaced and they should all go faster.

2. Fiber to the home available everywhere

The lack of serious broadband in Berlin is ridiculous. Fiber should be laid up to each building to facilitate fiber to the home everywhere in the next 5-10 years. All non-local fiber optic lines should be public property.

3. Better Public Space

The Spree is a dead river running through Berlin on which you can see the occasional boat. Swimming in the Spree should be made possible. Public space around the riverside should be improved into a coherent whole.

Tempelhofer Park should remain as empty as it is right now.

4. Fully digital government services

Berlin’s bureaucracies are maddening, unnecessary and they waste an incredible amount of time. All government services should be receivable online with only those services that include a proof of identity or notarisation to require a visit to a physical office.

Payment and identity for government services should be fully digital.

5. Food independence

Berlin (with the addition of Brandenburg) should be a net producer of food. Berlin should allow for more urban gardening to happen within the city.

6. Energy independence

Berlin (with the addition of Brandenburg) should be able to fulfil all of its energy requirements itself. Grid infrastructure should be public property.

7. All government data and documents public

The public should have direct access to all documents and data that the city government creates and stores.

8. A functioning hub airport

Berlin needs to have a proper connection to the rest of the world and the BER airport should be completed quickly.

9. Balanced property market

Improving the quality of life in the city will make the city more unaffordable than it already is. This cannot be remedied wholly, but the increase in property values can be put to better use than to supply investment funds with a predictable return. The improvements above need to be paid and money from overvalued parts of the city can be used to prop up the underdeveloped parts.

The best option would be to institute a hereditary tenure like we have in Amsterdam (with home owners leasing the land from the city in 10-50 increments) but people might object if we suddenly nationalise all land in Berlin. In any case Berlin should not sell any land it still has but lease it out instead.

Instead I propose instituting a very progressive property tax on both land and buildings.

10. Not a single sub quality school

I don’t know why there would be a debate about this point.

Week 331

With KANT we were still figuring out mostly what it is we are doing and seeing as we are neither a collective or a coworking space it was up in the air a bit. I wrote up our offering in a more straight-forward and streamlined way where you can very easily find what it is you may be looking for. In other news we are discussing next steps for KANT in the future but anything on that order is off for at least 6-12 months.

That week I attended the Cocoaheads meetup on the Luftgarten at Tempelhofer Airport. This week the plans for the city to build at least two thirds of that field have been revealed. The 100% Tempelhofer Feld initiative is already preparing their campaign in September and it looks like it’s going to be a long winter. The reasoning of policy makers is ‘How can Berlin afford not to build on this piece of land?’ which is a staggeringly stupid way to frame something if ever I heard it.

New gadget. I had no idea they made cameras this small these days.

I got my Canon S100 camera which is proving to be a lot of fun and is getting me photographing at volume again. Judging from the pictures and the f/2.0 lens it has about the same performance as my old EOS camera with its kit lens but now in a much smaller package. What is also interesting is how accustomed people have gotten to larger cameras and phones that a small pocket cam hardly registers anymore.

I also did some experiments with video mounting the camera on my bike:
Steadycam bicycle rig

I could not bother installing Lightroom again (and definitely not with the Creative Cloud hell) and setting up any kind of workflow, so my current editing philosophy is NONE. Pictures are nominally straightened in iPhoto and slapped straight to Flickr.


Our Friday Sheperditchi breakfasts are getting more and more fun with random friends dropping in. If you’re reading this, we usually have breakfast with KANT at Simitdchi on Friday mornings at 09:00 to get an early start into the day.


And also with the summer lots of people are blowing through Berlin among which Peter Rukavina:
Peter Rukavina

And just to close off with a whole grilled fish:

Week 330

A new coffee place had reportedly opened up in the area and I went out searching for it. Concierge is tucked into a gate on Paul-Lincke-Ufer and they are really nice guys pulling quality shots. It is amazing both that this part of Berlin which was quite barren when it comes to coffee is shaping up so nicely and also that

Concierge Coffee, opening party tonight. Namy, Dutch guy, making a flat white for me.

That week we went into our Open State board meeting where everything is picking up in pace considerably. After that I just made it to the drinks of the Upfront UG which was a lot of fun.

We started ideation and building of an app for the piazza+social media platform which I’m rather excited about. More on that over on the Hubbub blog soon.

I will be speaking at the Retune conference in my hometown on the subject of games with a purpose and our creative process. It looks like a super nice conference and I would love to meet you here.

Roof terrace barbecue

Our office landlords invited us to join them in a celebration on our building’s roof terrace. It’s been a while since I was on one of those and they look like mandatory facilities for anybody living in Berlin. I’m putting it my list of required utilities for the next KANT office.

Kim Chi Fries!!!

Just to prove the awesomeness of Berlin, we just had a Korean food shack opening here (besides the already rather large offering of Korean cuisine that Berlin has). I had my first Kimchi Fries there, which I think is indeed best described as a Korean kapsalon.

Out camping with the fixie

On Friday I just handled a last bit of business for the week and then went off to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (MeckPom) for a bit of kayaking and canoeing which is about all there is to do in that part of Germany. It is a state that is trying to cope with severe shrinkage and because of its sparse population lends itself particularly well to forays into nature. I saw lots of animals and their young and definitely learned the difference between a kayak and a canoe. Also: bringing an aeropress can make situations much more bearable.

Spent some time paddling, saw an Adler and now at the campsite making an aeropress with the inverted method while terror dad behind me puts up the tent.

Week 329

Most of the time this week was spent doing heads down work (notes on which elsewhere). Meeting with Igor and Tijmen and hanging out in parks. Summer.


That week I went to the Liepnitzsee for a swim. The key to surviving the summer in Berlin is to get out of the city and usually coincide that wit a trip to one of the many many lakes. Most of these are just bedding of the Havel/Spree/Oder passing through so they are not very deep or cool, but the Liepnitzsee is an exception and may be one of the best distance/quality lakes in the area.

Fashion week on my way to work

With global warming happening here with a vengeance water temperatures are on the rise as well. Most of the not so deep lakes are approaching 28C already and there’s no telling where stuff will end up next week or in a couple of years. So even though it may be to early, I’m already worrying about the brain eating amoeba.

At the taquero

After that it was off to Betapitch to hangout with friends and to see startups present. What was painfully obvious in most of the presentations was that none of the startups had a serious unfair advantage other than their presumed grit.