Friday, July 28, 2017

Book review: The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin P. Williams

The Non-Designer's Design Book (Non Designer's Design Book)The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin P. Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A short little book that is helpful even after the first couple of pages. It explains thoroughly in a practical and useful way how to write texts, in any fashion. It's not so much about the text itself, but all about how to design your texts. What works and what not, where the author clearly defines 'works' as 'somebody is ready what you have written'.
Too often I struggle with writing reports, documents, blogs, CV's, cover letters etc. Fiddling around with fonts, colors, styles, etc. I now feel way more confident in that I can style my documents more effectively. And while typing this, I realize that pretty much everything I learned by reading this book has nog been consciously applied in this book review. Shame on me. I guess.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Book review: The Winter Over by Matthew Iden

The Winter OverThe Winter Over by Matthew Iden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very captivating story about a research facility. As the story progresses and unfolds, the secrets are uncovered at the same pace as I was reading the story and drew my own conclusions. No far fetched plot turns. Although the revelation of the evildoer wasn't really surprising, it was still very interesting.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Book review: Only the Truth by Adam Croft

Only the TruthOnly the Truth by Adam Croft
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The author is too pretentious and wanting too much to write something good, turning it into something bad. In the acknowledgement section at the back of the book he's referring to his bestseller. I feel that he tried too much to out-do himself and write something better, failing miserably at that effort.
I'm not really sure why people would give this book more than just 1 star. The story is way too far fetched, the characters behave way too artificial and the plot-twists are really bad and make no sense. There's too much happening that doesn't warrant the plot. The timeline is really not matching with the story and the money spend by the main characters and their worry about the money they have is really absolutely not accurate.
There's actually two stories in one book here. The main story and some background story of the main character and the stuff that happened in his childhood. That story was actually fairly well written and was interesting and didn't have any added value towards the main story.

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Saturday, June 03, 2017

Xbox One Tip: Buy props for your avatar with a child account


The other day my son wanted to pimp his Xbox Live avatar. So we went online with our Xbox One and checked all the props you can get for Xbox avatars... and on page 14 of the props we found one where the avatar would be doing a parcours run. My son was thrilled since he's learning how to freerun, so this was totally up his alley.

Next step was for me to go online and change his settings so he could buy stuff from the Xbox store. I've setup his account such that he can only download free apps and games and all because my credit card is attached to his account. Xbox Live Gold is paid that way.
After changing his account such that he could buy stuff, we tried to buy his avatar a parcours animation.
This is when the trouble started, because still he wasn't able to buy the props for his avatar.

Next day I went online to look for some answers, and during a chat session with a very friendly Microsoft support engineer I learned that when you have a child account, you can only buy avatar stuff on an Xbox 360 console... luckily for us, I still do have an Xbox 360, two in fact. So we went onto the the Xbox 360 and looked for the parcours prop... no luck because it's an Xbox One only prop. Bummer.

Changing his account to an adult account wouldn't help either since they look at the age of the person holding an account. I guess that's correct with the credit card attached to an account and all.

I was told Microsoft is working on this, but till then, no luck for my son. He's now enjoying his Ilo Milo prop with his avatar.

I hope this little post is off help to you,


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Book review: Secret Ally (A Halo story) by Michael Blue

NOT A BOOK: Secret Ally: (A Halo Story)Secret Ally (A Halo story): by Michael Blue
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

First of all; I was getting the feeling the author is not at all aware of the Halo universe. Although the action parts of the book were decent, they made no sense considering the parts about the Master Chief. Additionally, the timelines with the rest of the Halo universe are completely off.
Then there's the stuff about the Forerunners. Greg Bear wrote the 'truth' about the Forerunners and the relation with the humans. Secret Ally is taking a completely different tack on it.

The romance in this story and the presumably erotic parts are... well... they're so artificial, as if the author had to put something in there. Apart from the countless spelling and grammar errors in the book (no publisher doing some proof-editing?) the timeline in the book is quite often incorrect.

Nope, this is one baaaaad book about the Halo universe. 343 Industries should have it pulled from the shelves.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Book review: The New New Thing, ... by Michael Lewis

The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley StoryThe New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If not anything else, this book is mighty inspiring. Obviously Jim Clark is painted as a hero, but that's not important, what is important is that is paints a picture of how the democratization of the computer-world, and the Internet in particular, has changed the role of the engineer. Jim Clark is one of the first people to turn the nerd, the geek into a cool dude, one that leads instead of follows.
I particularly liked the passages on Hyperion, the sailboat with the highest mast, they were explaining a lot about the zeitgeist of those days and are amazingly comic as they convey the huge gap between the geeks and the computer illeterates very accurately.
Still remembering the days where you could make millions with just selling a domain you previously registered and the record IPO's that were day to day business it is hard to imagine nowadays that there was no internet, no online services that prevented you from leaving your home for something mundane as shopping.

I consider The New New Thing... as one of the must reads for anybody that is interested in being an entrepreneur and thinks about startups.

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Book Review: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

American GodsAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I started and although I wasn't really captivated by it, I did want to know the ending. I felt there had to be a lot of symbolism in the story, but that was not really for me I guess. An awful lot of times I felt that the author just turned somebody into a god in order to tie up some loose ends in the story.
Well I'm happy I read the book, so now I don't need to wait for the TV series which was announced and which was actually the reason to get the book and read it.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Teach them to fish instead of feed them fish!

Sometimes I blog about the movies I've seen, the books I've read or about the people around me. And every now and again I realise something and choose to share.

Today I had a discussion with my wife about how to motivate children and one thing let to another... inside my head... and I realised that motivation is something that is for all ages. Also, I listened to the Freakonomics podcast about 'grid' which is really insightful.

Anyhow, the discussion was about how to get kids to do what you want them to do although they don't want to do it. A lot to do about school you can imagine. But in general, a lot of my work is about getting people to do stuff that they are not really inclined to do.

Are they lacking intrinsic motivation? Well to be honest, I'm not really buying into the idea that there's something like intrinsic motivation that powers (some) people. Unless it's the motivation to stay alive. Let's be clear, 'intrinsic' means 'by its very nature'. For a more formal definition of intrinsic you should click here.

But that's not important. What is important is to figure out how to motivate your kids to do something they would rather not do but you feel that they should do... I think that's every parents challenge at some point.
The obvious thing to do is one that has the most immediate result: Reward them for doing the work. But I feel that there's two good reasons not to do this.
1. It ingrains a sense of only doing something when there's a reward.
2. It makes something you feel should be 'normal' as something that is 'special'.

So my thoughts on this have changed since recently. Not to say that I was and am always a proponent of the positive view on things. Meaning that instead of punishing undesired behaviour, you should compliment on desired behaviour.

But nowadays I try to figure out what it is that my kids want, especially what they try to achieve and try to figure out what's holding them back. That could be anything, could be a lack of time, knowledge, abilities or funds. Point in case, my oldest son wants to buy a Game PC, one that allows him to play Ark: Survival on the highest detail level without any lag. Awesome were it not that these PC's are fairly expensive. Too expensive for him to buy at this point in time and since he's to young still to have a job after school, there's not really a way for him to earn some money and save up for the PC.
One way to address this as a parent is to use his desire for a Game PC to make him get good grades in school. Not to say that he's doing poorly in school, quite the opposite, he's doing really well at school. He might do better if he studied harder. My view is that his grades are excellent but I would like him to learn how to put in some effort to achieve something. The caveat here is that if we reward him with higher grades, I'm sure that he still isn't putting in the effort but does get rewarded. So, we could reward him for putting in the time for school. Spend more hours on his homework would earn him a reward, but that's still not really helping. Why would he spend more time on his homework if he's already doing well? Valid question with no real good answer in my point of view.
But there's a different approach to it, one that I think is favourable over rewarding. That's empowering.

So, he wants a Game PC and needs some money to buy the PC. He's too young to get a job so, there's a practical problem for him there. We want him to learn to put in some effort into achieving something, but the lesson we want to teach is that in order to achieve his goals he needs to put in some effort. So instead of helping him to achieve his goal of getting the funds for his PC, I help him to be able to get the funds. Sort of teaching him to fish, instead of getting him his fish.

How does this work?

He wants to earn money and his idea is to write an App and make millions with it. Although 250 Euro would be enough for now. So I teach him how to develop an App, with the promise that I will give him a loan that he can pay back with the revenu of the App, so he doesn't need to wait for the App to make a ton of money before he can buy the PC. I know from experience that having an App and make money out of it, is not a trivial task. And him developing the App is already the effort we want him to put in, it's the lesson to be thought.
So he'll get an interest free loan that will be paid for by the proceeds of the App. And the deal is, that he needs to think carefully about the App because the better the business model behind the App, the bigger the loan he can get. Things like "why would somebody want the App?" and "How to make money with the App?" are important.

So he'll get the money for his PC, if he puts the work into it. And what do we get? A son that understands that he's got his own success in his own hands, provided he's willing to work for it.

I call this "motivation by empowerment", it's the classic "teaching to fish instead feeding fish".

So does it work? I think so, because in the past week we've spend quite a bit of work together on programming, he's doing the work, I help him when needed. He's doing it, because he understands that it will allow him to develop the App. Of course he's not complaining that much, after all he gets to spend more time on his laptop than the one hour a day he's allowed to. There's the immediate reward for you: Embrace the empowerment and you'll get rewarded. It's the short term reward with the long term reward. But he's not free to do what he wants on the laptop, nope, he has to work for his App.

Back to the real world, work. A big chunk of my day to day work is making sure that my clients change their way of working, their culture, their methods and processes. There's no point in doing it for them, build their systems, thinker about their new processes and so on. Doesn't work that way, because once you leave, your achievements leave with you. Instead I focus on the fishing and do not care about the fish. No point for me to draw conclusions, instead I help my clients to conclude. It's a matter of empowering instead of anything else.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Movie review: The Great Wall IMAX 3D

Last Saturday I went to the Pathe Arena in Amsterdam. For those of you who don't know, it's a cineplex and they have an IMAX theater.
I went to see three movies, Split, The Great Wall IMAX 3D and Sleepless. In this post I will write a short review of The Great Wall IMAX 3D.

So The Great Wall, featuring among others Matt Damon is about an adventurer traveling with a band of fellow adventurers through medieval China, looking for gun powder, the black powder, which was in those days only a myth.
Our hero is good with bow and arrow and he's willing to show the Chinese that his mastery of this weapon is unrivaled.
Pretty soon in the movie we find out that there's a reason why the Great Wall was build by the Chinese. Okay, so in the movie's opening credits, they already tell us that the wall was build to keep out 'creatures' and we find out soon enough that this is true. Of course our protagonist elects to fight among the Chinese to fend off the critters and along the way gets to find out all about the mythical black powder.

So far for the story without spoilers. On with the review.

I can be short: The Great Wall is a good two hours of entertainment. See it in IMAX 3D and it'll be entertainment on a large scale. As far as the story goes, it's far from original. I would characterize it as a mediaval Independence Day. Up to the point that I think they swapped the laser guns with bow-and-arrows and that's about it. So no, the story is not original and far from impressive.
The special effects are pretty good, but I wasn't awe struck. Even the IMAX screen didn't blow me away.

All in all I would consider this a movie you should consider as your main attraction of entertainment on a night out. There's no dull moment during the 105 minutes as they were pretty action packed. No real annoying story quircks.

Overall verdict: Happy to have seen it, no reason to see it again. 3/5 stars

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Yin and Yang, that's exactly who we are...

... it's just not clear who's who. By 'we' I mean my wife and I.

This morning I realised that my wife and I, as parents, are pretty much all the time in a perfect equilibrium. Perfectly balanced. For some reason, there's always the balance between mission command parenthood and mission control when it comes to our two kids.

As I've written before, I'm blessed with two amazingly awesome sons, at the time of this writing age 11 and 9 and a one-in-a-trillion wife, who is at the time of this writing still as young at heart as ever.

So this morning as pretty much all of the time we deal with one of the kids, one of us took the role of the strict and firm parent and automagically the other became the parent showing the patience and understanding. The result, a son that clearly knew what was expected of him, and was perfectly aware of the fact that he could rely on the support troops, the cavalry if you wish, when push came to shove.

Yup, my wife and I, Yin and Yang. Sometimes she's one and I'm the other, most of the times it's the other way around. And every now and again, we're confused and are both Yin. Or Yang for that matter.

The really nice thing about all of this, is that whenever I'm in doubt whether I handled some situation with either of the boys the right way, I know that there's a mom that will balance things out.

It's nice to be Yin, or Yang, when you know that there's a Yang, or Yin.


Monday, January 16, 2017

One-on-one with your kids is awesome

My wife and I share two awesome kids. Both boys, two awesome boys.

With that out of the way, it's time to explain some things about our household. By now it shouldn't be a surprise when I disclose that we have to sons, my wife and I. And although the youngest is rather competitive, competition for our attention is not really an issue... anymore. It used to be, but that's history since quite some time.

Nowadays the boys have turned into even more different personalities then before. Which is a blessing since there's hardly a point to compare the two of them. Makes life a lot easier as a parent.
But since their 'personality divergence' is only increasing, it becomes more and more important to have those one-on-one moments with the boys. So there's time for the talks that you can have as a parent with your kid. You talk about them, about you, school, sports, etc. There's just no way to have the in depth talks when both boys are around. There's no unwillingness, it's just not doable.

So my wife and I agreed that in addition to our annual weekend together to celebrate our anniversary, just the two of us. We also are going to spend a weekend with the boys, one-on-one. So over the course of a year both of us have spend a weekend away with either of the boys. Consequently, the other spends time at home with the other boy. That way we get to spend time doing things either boy enjoys, talk about stuff either boy loves to talk about and we get the chance to discuss what we want to discuss with them, in a totally carefree environment.

Last weekend we had such a weekend. I've been spending the weekend with the youngest of the two, at home. My wife was away with the oldest. And it was awesome, for all four of us. It was unanimous.


Monday, January 02, 2017

It's a new year... 2017, let's make it a happy new year

Hi everybody,

My first post in 2017 in this blog will be about what 2017 might have in store for my world.

But first, check out this link: Article for Backfield Group. It's an article, in Dutch, I wrote last year about the changing role of the project manager. There's also a blog post about this topic, which you can read here.

Now on to the good stuff, being 2017.

There's some awesome stuff coming up for me. The coolest thing happening this year, if all goes well, is that my boys will get their PADI OpenWater certificate this summer. Last year they finished their PADI Master Seal course.

Also planned for 2017 is finishing my Coursera Scala Course, which doesn't mean that I'll be a Scala developer, but it will mean that I actually understand what all that fuzz about functional programming and BigData and Map-Reduce and stuff is about.

Also pretty awesome is that at least in the first 6 months of this year, I will continue with assisting during the Science classes at the Columbusschool in Almere, the Netherlands. Teaching gifted children on how to think about science, how to apply it and how to become the next generations of big brains.

Writing the above mentioned article really inspired me and so maybe I'll be actually starting writing my first book and (self-)publish it. Time will be the bottleneck here, also because I'm really pumped about a startup a friend of mine asked me to work on together with her in the second half of this year.

So besides writing that book, a startup seems to be in my stars. What it's all about is still sort of a secret, and there's plenty of work to be done still, but we're really serious about it and our current commitments prevent us from already starting with it. Hmmmm, a delayed startup? Nope, the thinking is already there, it's just that doing that is postponed.

Of course, 2016 had enough in store for me to blog about, which I'll do in the coming period. So keep an eye out for this blog and you'll be able to catch up on my life in 2016.

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