A couple of weeks ago I took the train to Hamburg and back to present at the Good School. Here’s a picture of me in action courtesy of The Good School.
I used to travel between the Netherlands and Germany at least once a month and pretty quickly I grew tired of forgetting things. That’s why I made a list (in bold, comments added) with the things that I should take or at least consider taking. Whenever I pack my bag, I quickly scan the list and make sure I’ve covered the bases. Maybe it’ll be helpful to you as well.
This and clothes go into a Patagonia MLC bag.
Take knife off keychain
I’ve forgotten to do this more than a couple of times. What makes it weirder still is that TXL/SXF will allow me to fly out with a Swiss army knife but most other airports will not allow me to fly back with one.
These are things that are irreplaceable and without which a trip usually cannot happen.
Obvious. Macbook Pro 13″.
- Power cable
Without this the laptop is pretty worthless. Replacements if you can find them in a local store are upwards of €100.
Without this traveling isn’t really possible.
- Boarding cards / tickets
You could get these from the airport but I print out everything I can at home.
At some point it becomes silly to buy new sunblock at every sunny destination.
- Toothbrush, paste
Sometimes I don’t bother to bring any and buy them at the destination airport but it’s more reliable to pack. Often I also take the head of my electric tooth brush.
I put this on there after I once needed it and paid €11 for a stick at ZRH.
- Assorted other toiletries
This is a pain with only a carry-on. I try to usually depend as much as possible on what is available at my destination.
These are particularly essential for the Netherlands where you need to bring a card to be able to prove your identity to the various transit systems around.
- Foreign SIM
Often this means just my Dutch T-Mobile SIM. I often have SIMs for destinations outside of Europe but those are so short lived that they aren’t reusable.
- Foreign money / transit cards
I have ziploc bags per country with the currency leftovers as well as any transit card (Oyster, Suica) or SIM that may still be usable.
- Power converters
The US and the UK account for most of my trips where these are necessary. I put these in the ziploc bags with the currency.
I used to need one of these to do the SIM swap. Now I have an Apple SIM pin in the box with all my SIM cards.
Keys to my parents place in the Netherlands or any other home/office at the destination.
- Small backpack
The MLC isn’t very practical to haul around town. I have a tiny Bach day pack that is super basic but fits everything you could need during a day.
I usually don’t bother taking this because of weight and bulk, but it is useful for longer trips.
- VGA dongle
Trips usually involve some kind of public speaking and as a speaker you should be self-sufficient. Don’t leave this at the venue where you’re speaking.
I need to carry some quality pens with me. I usually have a four color box of Staedtler fineliners and a couple of Japanese gel pens.
- Index cards
Always useful but don’t bring too many because paper is heavy.
- Business cards
Trips are usually for business and people appreciate a nicely designed business card.
- Headphones with microphone
The standard Apple ones will do for most calls.
- Noise cancelling headphones
You need headphones with some noise cancelling effect for during flights. I used to travel with my Sony MDR-7506. They are bulky but if you fly an easyJet to Berlin with those on your head, everybody thinks you’re a DJ. Now I prefer to take my Sennheiser CX-300 II in-ears.
Bring if the destination is hot.
- Running shoes, pants
Nice to be able to do some sports while traveling.
- Swimming trunks
Always bring these.
I always take my Moscot Lemtosh with me.
- Hiking shoes
Whether to bring my decade old pair of Meindls is heavily dependent on the type of trip and the environment.
- Climbing shoes
If there are climbing halls nearby, I’ll take these instead of/in addition to running shoes.
Things to check at home
- Washing machine faucet shut
- Gas turned off
- Lock door
- Fridge empty, leave door open
Here are my notes from a couple of weeks of drinking coffee in Tokyo on a fact finding mission for Cuppings. With Cuppings we try to give you a guide of the best coffee places around the world based on our personal tastings. Some notable locales are still not as well represented as they should be. London and New York have their own excellent guides for coffee with Oliver Strand’s Coffee App and the London Coffee Map. Tokyo is one place that I thought we should fill in.
I had picked my hotel to be on the right side of the city to be off to a running start so I could visit places right from the very first day. So landed at Narita, got my Mifi and while waiting to checkin I made my way to.
Little Nap Coffee Stand
I had a quick lunch and walked to the Little Nap Coffee Stand (checkin, tip) which I had seen a video of over at My First Coffee and was totally smitten with. As promised the store was beautiful and the coffee was excellent.
Then I walked over to this place recommended to me by Companion Coffee. This Fuglen (checkin, tip) is a sister to a store by the same name in Oslo. This place turned out to be more of a cafe with an event program and cocktails in the evening and a diverse group of Japanese people and expats hanging around with laptops during the day.
The decorations are lush Nordic wood and the Kalita Wave pour over that I had was terrific.
Then after some more walking around at the end of the day I finally hit the promised place: Omotesando Koffee (checkin, tip) which had been recommended to me by countless people and where Eiichi Kunimoto practices his craft. I had an iced cappuccino here because —what I hadn’t counted on— the weather was extremely pressing and it was rainy humid and very warm all day. It stayed that way for most of my stay.
The iced cappuccino at Omotesando is more of a milkshake like concoction with the espresso shot put into a blender along with some ice and milk, the result is poured out into your cup and sprinkled with —I think— cinnamon. Drinking this at that moment in the idyllic garden of Omotesando was a near religious experience and felt like the best coffee I have ever had. I returned to Omotesando a number of times during my visit for the coffee, the amicable staff and the quiet ambiance of its garden.
Bear Pond Espresso
The next day I walked from my hotel to Shimokitazawa, a 20 minute saunter in the heat through the quiet residential area of Hatagaya. I don’t have any pictures of Bear Pond (checkin, tip) because of their policy but this was the other summit of my Tokyo coffee experience.
Katsuyuki Tanaka (and Eiichi Kunimoto of Omotesando) are very different and have a totally different style of coffee and shop but both elevate making coffee to a level which can only be called artistry.
The ambiance at Bear Pond is slightly forbidding but with the American radio playing it is rather easy to unwind on one of the stools and wait for your espresso to be served. That espresso when it comes out is one of the shortest shots you have ever drunk and probably also one of the most intense.
I ordered an espresso on an empty stomach which I normally never do because it gives me problems. But this espresso was so smooth that not only did my stomach not get upset, it was so delicious that I chased it with another one. With the reduced quantity it becomes something of an effort to get every last bit of taste out of the cup.
I brought back a bag of Bear Pond’s house blend ‘Flower Child’ and even when made in Berlin (by the heroes of Companion Coffee) after two weeks, it still had that characteristic deep chocolate like flavour.
The next stop was Cafe Obscura (checkin, tip), a somewhat out of the way place with lots of nice leather sofas and good siphons on offer. Obscura also have a laboratory which I skipped in favor of this place. The siphon coffee is expertly made and really good.
Then it was a quick visit to Nozy Coffee (checkin, tip) which is a small but very nice looking coffee place. I had a solid cappuccino and saw that they have lots of beans on offer. Unfortunately I had no time to come back and bring some of these with me, but this place is one to look out for.
Be A Good Neighbor (Sendagaya)
The following day started out at the tiny Be A Good Neighbor (checkin, tip) store in Sendagaya. The cappuccino and the cake were both excellent and the barista was very helpful in offering tips about where to get more coffee. Especially useful was his pointer to Paddlers which I started the next day with.
Streamer Coffee Company Shibuya
I then walked on to Shibuya to try the coffee at Streamer (checkin, tip). The type of coffee which they serve here and which I had is a latte. I normally don’t drink them but in the light of trying out the coffee as it is being served locally I had one. Shockingly this was the first place in Tokyo I encountered where the coffee was not fantastic.
What Streamer does do really well is to be a nice place to hangout. There were lots of people in the store with and without laptops having a great time and relaxing which is exactly what I did as well.
On the Corner No. 8 Bear Pond
The last stop this day was the Shibuya On the Corner Bear Pond No. 8 (tip) take-out bar which is a beautiful store front with attached coffee bar where you can sit on a handful of stools and recharge your phone or as it seems to be the intention: take out your coffee. You get an expertly drawn coffee with milk in it and a no photo policy is in effect here as well, so I can show you the cup I drank it from:
I did not visit the restaurant and instead had an awesome burger around the corner at Whoopie Gold Burger.
The next day I trekked to the area around Sangubashi station in the morning and had a terrific start of the day at Paddlers Coffee (checkin, tip) a brilliant setup lunch place with Stumptown coffee on offer. I had a spectacular iced coffee in the stifling heat.
Then it was off to Kyoto to see some sights and sample the coffee outside of Tokyo. This was something of a disappointment, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Specialty Coffee Unir
In Kyoto I found it rather hard to get a coffee that I would term drinkable. Most of the local brews are very dark roasted and ridiculously over extracted to a point that I can hardly drink them even with milk and sugar (or gum syrup).
アカツキコーヒー (Akatsuki Coffee)
What I didn’t know until my last day in Kyoto and after my camera broke down is that they have a branch of Omotesando (checkin, tip)in the city on the main shopping street in a fashion store of United Arrows. The same impeccable Omotesando branding and the same fantastic coffee. I’m half glad that I didn’t know of it before because given the Kyoto coffee scene I would have been at this place all the time.
Then it was off to Osaka to do the same. My experience here was a bit better than in Kyoto but not much. Hood (checkin, tip) is a very nice coffee shop which manages to hit all of the cultural paraphernalia associated with third wave coffee and also serves a bunch of different beans and methods but still it does not seem to hit the level of Tokyo. Still they serve very good coffee even without comparing it to the stuff on offer in the rest of the city.
Espresso Bar Millpour
After that detour it was time to get back to Tokyo and to finish this visit.
The Monocle Cafe
I dropped by the Monocle Cafe (checkin, tip) in the basement of a clothing store and was disappointed by the coffee though the food was rather ok. The coffee is not terrible, but it does not have the quality that you would expect from Monocle which is more or less the same for the rest of the store.
Be A Good Neighbor Skytree
Then I made my way over to the Be A Good Neighbor (checkin, tip) store in the Skytree. The Skytree itself is a pandemonium of commerce where people are screaming at you all the time to buy something. Finding your way through the mall to the exact location of Be A Good Neighbor is no mean feat, but finally having arrived there the coffee is as excellent as in their other store. I would only recommend going here if you’re already in the area or god forbid entering the Skytree but then it is a welcome place to rest.
I also did a round of Ebisu and found two very nice coffee places in that part of town. Sarutahiko (checkin) is a small shop but it seems to have everything necessary and made a very nice coffee. Definitely worth a visit.
Hitinui Espresso Bar
A bit further on is Hitinui (checkin, tip) which is a tiny place and also doubles as a Tahitian dance school. I couldn’t check out the dance, but the cappuccino was excellent and the barista very friendly.
Identity Coffee Bar+Gallery
That was the roundup from my Tokyo coffee experience. I visited a couple of the places several times and brought back some bags of coffee but I am extremely impressed with the coffee culture and I’ll definitely be back.
This was the week of getting a lot of things done and a minor John Boyd obsession. I read the biography by Coram and queued the PhD thesis by Osinga to read as soon as I finish Latour’s Aramis. Frans Osinga is a rather impressive fellow if you look at his Ministry of Defense webpage. We were joking around that having a design event with him would be brilliant mind-expand. Unfortunately events take too much time to organize so that won’t be happening anytime soon.
One thing to keep in mind from Boyd’s tragic life is to make the decision to either Be Somebody or to Do Something. Most people I hang out with all want to Do Something, but it does pay to keep in mind how it will work out for you personally.
I made a brief stop in Aachen before heading to the Netherlands to catch up with local coffee, for some quality time at Hubbub HQ and meeting Amsterdam friends.
To prepare for that visit to the Netherlands I had to kill another two hours at the local Bürgeramt because the Meldebescheinigung I had was not recent enough for some stupid Dutch institution.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Travel is making it hard to keep up writing these notes weekly (or write anything for that matter). So this blog is turning into an expensive affair.
Way back when this happened I was in the Netherlands for an appointment that was cancelled and because of that I had to fly to Munich from Amsterdam for a day of workshopping. The next night I flew back to Amsterdam to spend the rest of the week at Hubbub HQ in the Netherlands.
We did our strategic sessions about which I probably have written elsewhere already but this was as good a time as any to revisit this brilliant interview with Jack Schulze. They don’t make them like that anymore.
No one cares about what you think, unless you do what you think. No one cares what you do, unless you think about what you do. No one ever really cares what you say.
Advice to frame and put above your desk.
The last day I did a coffee tour of Amsterdam, which is in utter bloom at this moment with Third Wave coffee places opening up literally left and right. I paid a duty visit to BrunsNiks which is one of the best up and coming design firms of that city where most stuff is bullshit.
What is also brilliant are the new Hackers and Founders offices of the eponymous meetup group. My old office in the Volkskrantgebouw got evicted because they are turning that into a hotel (like pretty much everything in Amsterdam) so they got together with the neighbors of Bottlenose and some other friends and rented a nice floor smack in Amsterdam city centre. I can’t take any credit for what they did but still I’m half proud of what that turned into.
And that segued nicely into the speaker’s dinner for our Hack de Overheid event (which got a nice press release drop over at Wired thanks to Bruce). The event, the next day in City Hall, was one where all of the founders were present at one and the same location. That already was amazing. After the day was finished I spent the evening talking philosophy with Simeon.
And the next day it was back in the train to Berlin which has added a whole hour because the flooding has damaged a bridge and caused a large stretch of tracks to be dislodged. Deutsche Bahn says that reconstruction will take until December. That may be just in time for next year’s flooding.
Two weeks ago I headed towards Amsterdam where I’ll be the week after next again. I did a massive sprint on Cuppings and prepared my presentation for Sign of Times in Pakhuis de Zwijger.
I worked on a bunch of projects over at Hubbub on Tuesday and on Wednesday I was there again but then to prepare my presentation. That talk went really well despite the torrential rains of the day and I had a great time catching up with the people who had showed up.
On Friday Kars got married which was the other main reason I was in the Netherlands for.
The week before last started out with me still in Paris sampling the local coffee scene which has been improving massively over the past year or so.
Télescope already was nice:
But with the addition of Loustic, French coffee can finally be taken seriously again:
Most of these places seem to be run by English speaking expatriates and they are also mostly frequented by the same. This was something I also noticed at my coworking space in La Cantine. It seems that foreigners are a necessary mediator to introduce new things —digital or coffee— into French culture.
That Wednesday I did a quick ignite for UIKonf on Beestenbende’s design aspects and the next day I was at Heimathafen Neukölln at 06:00 to help them with setup and registration. I managed to catch a bit of the conference and based on the content on stage and reactions in the room, it looks like it was a resounding success.
The next day I spent working at the office for most of the day, but in the evening I dropped by the UIKode hackathon to show the iOS project I had picked up again that week. More on that to be announced here soon.
This week was the week where we were in full sprint for the pilot launch of KAIGARA. Besides that we had a dinner off NEXT with some people involved and some speakers. What I managed to catch from NEXT’s program while working was nothing short of splendid. Bruce Sterling’s talk has been shared widely and I’m eagerly awaiting Anab Jain’s to be published as a video (the slides are already there).
On Thursday I managed to set aside a bit of time to go to the local multiplayer picknick at Amaze. The Amaze Indie Connect is the most fun event of the Berlin game scene and it always gets lots of very cool people to come out. Just sitting at the same table as Terry Cavanagh and Michael Brough left me a bit star-struck:
— Thorsten S Wiedemann (@ST0RN0) April 28, 2013
It was also nice to see lots of old friends who I manage to see a couple of times a year. My highlight of Amaze was to be able to play Samurai Gunn. This game isn’t available yet and the video I’m going to post below does not nearly do it justice. It is one of the most gripping multiplayer combat games I’ve played to date.