The Hang of Thursdays #6

Hey folks. I’m still down in Camber, on the south coast of England, but the weather this week has cheered up significantly; blue skies, sunshine, a nice gentle breeze… which means it’s been a perfect week to sit at a laptop doing workshop prep, booking travel for the autumn conference season, designing new stickers and swag, and generally being a bit of a nerd.

Dr. Timezone and the Airport Mayhem: Autumn 2023 Edition

Europe kinda shuts down over the summer. When I first set up my own company back in January 2020 (yeah, I know, timing, LOL), I talked to a lot of folks I knew who’d done something similar, and one thing that really stuck with me was a great bit of advice from Kevlin Henney:

“Don’t worry too much about getting bookings in July and August, because even if the person who wants to hire you isn’t on holiday, the accountant who’s supposed to pay your invoice probably is.”

That’s turned out to be great advice so far: budget for two quiet months in summer (and two quiet months over Christmas), and just accept you’re not going to be doing much. In fact, one of the things I enjoy most about being self-employed is the absence of busywork. When I’m busy, I’m busy — but when I’m not? No big deal. Chill out, design some stickers, write a few songs, do a little carpentry, and only occasionally wake up in a cold sweat at 4 am wondering what I’ll do if things never pick up again. But so far, they always have.

Here’s what picking up again looks like. On Thursday 24 August I’m flying to Denmark. The Linebreakers have booked a long weekend in Rågeleje, on the north coast of Zealand, where we’ll get to actually do some proper rehearsal for a change. Then on Sunday we head to Copenhagen for the CPH Developers Festival. Two days of in-person workshops about full stack web development with C# and .NET, followed by three days of conference/festival. Home for six days, then off to Nottingham, where I’m running a speaker workshop for the folks who have been selected to speak at DDD East Midlands this year. I love DDDEM; it’s a fantastic conference run by awesome people, and offering this kind of opportunity to their speakers is just one of the many, many ways they’re helping to support the developer community.

I’ll get home from Nottingham late on Saturday night, and have a day at home. Monday 11 September I’m on a Eurostar to Rotterdam and then the Intercity to Utrecht, where I’m a keynote speaker at the Tweakers Developer Summit. Then I’m heading back first thing on Wednesday morning to host the London .NET User Group meetup.

The following week I’m at Digit 2023 in Tartu, Estonia, where I’m presenting a keynote, running a seminar, and doing the music at the after-party. I spoke at Digit last year and had a great time, and Estonia is a wonderful country to visit. The only slight complication is that, although Tartu does have an airport1, as of September 2022 it doesn’t have any scheduled commercial flights — so getting there involves flying to Tallinn via Helsinki and taking a local train.

Two days at home. Back on Eurostar to Brussels, onwards to Antwerp to run a day of speaker training with the crew from Axxes, then on to Amsterdam for DrivUn on 27 September, where I’m doing a keynote and the Linebreakers are performing at the conference party.

After that, we have a Schrõdingerian bit of scheduling where I might be coming home or I might be going to Malmõ2. Then from the start of October through to December I’m doing a talk at the University of Sussex, DDD East Midlands in Nottingham, a talk at the .NET group in Birmingham, then I’m off to NDC Porto in Portugal, CodeCamp Iasi (pronounced “yash”) in Romania, XPand 2023 in Jordan, probably another trip to Copenhagen, BuildStuff in Lithuania, and then at the start of December I’m doing the YOW! Tour of Australia: back-to-back conferences in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney, and a few days in Perth because it turns out I know a surprising number of excellent people who live there.

There’s about 50 hours of Zoom training and online stuff sprinkled in there, too, and that’ll probably be a wrap for 2023… but hey, if you see a gap somewhere that lines up with your event (or, even better, you want to book me to run a workshop or give a talk in a country I’ll already be visiting!), get in touch.

On a completely unrelated note, my latest hot startup idea is a service where you drop off your suitcase full of dirty laundry when you land at your home airport, tell them what your next flight is, and they unpack, wash, dry, repack, and check your suitcase in for your next flight for you. If anybody wants to invest £50 million in my startup, I promise to think about really hard for a few months and then explain why it didn’t work.

New Stickers

I love parodies, I love stickers, I love rock bands… and I love banging things together to see what happens. Here’s the latest from the bit of my brain that likes to play with Adobe Illustrator:

A parody of the Guns n' Roses band logo. The words GUNS N  ROSES have been replaced with ONES N ZEROS, the pistols on the original logo are stylised metal digit 1s, and the roses have been replaced with stylised red roses in the shape of a digit 0.

Welcome to the jungle, baby, we’ve got video games.

I’ll be ordering a bunch of these designs from the lovely people at StickerApp very soon, along with a few other new designs and fresh batches of perennial favourites like the “certified Rockstar developer” stickers. For now, the only way to get them is in person, so come along to one of the events I’m at and ask nicely — but I’m hoping to have some kind of online ordering available later this year, for all you folks out there who think a set of parody rockstar developer stickers would make an ideal Christmas gift.

Incidentally, the “rose shaped like a zero” that appears in this design marks the first time I’ve ever used AI in any of my sticker artwork; it was generated by Midjourney. Asking for a “digit one number 1, steel, gun metal, polished metal, photograph”, and countless other variations on the same theme, didn’t even come close to producing anything usable, so the rest is 100% good old organic human creativity.

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This week I’ve been…

Watching: Honestly? Not a lot, unless walking on the beach watching juvenile herring gulls counts as watching. They’re very cute, and extremely squeaky.

A young herring gull, with brown and white plumage, is hassling its parent, a slightly larger bird with white and grey feathers. The parent does not look amused.

“Mum! Mum! I want chips. Can we get chips? I’m bored. I want a snack! MUM! That man has chips. I’m gonna steal his chips. MUM WATCH THIS… Mum?”

Listening to: One from the vaults this week: “Dead Air for Radios” by Chroma Key. I was a huge Dream Theater fan in the 1990s — or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’m still a huge fan of the music Dream Theater released in the 1990s; “Awake” is one of my favourite albums of all time, and a big part of that is down to the musical influence of their original keyboard player, Kevin Moore.

Kevin left the band after releasing “Awake”, and “Dead Air for Radios” was his first solo project, released under the band name Chroma Key. It’s an album of textures: haunting, lyrical soundscapes, stark piano over rich waves of ambient synth; the sound of a man who walked out of one of the most promising prog metal bands in history, sold his belongings, packed what was left into a station wagon and hit the open road.

Reading:The Spare Man” by Mary Robinette Kowal. Another one from this year’s Hugo Awards shortlist, it’s a rollicking good murder mystery disguised as science fiction. There’s enough hard science here for the premise, a murder on board a passenger spacecraft in transit between Earth and Mars, to ring true. The fun, though, is in the characters, the plot twists, and the occasional sense that you’re enjoying a literary cocktail that’s one part “Spaceship Medic”, one part “Murder on the Orient Express”, and a generous dash of something you can’t quite place but it’s really rather good.

And that’s a wrap, folks. Take it easy, have fun, and be excellent to each other.


1 The international airport code for Tartu is TAY, and before Finnair shut down the only commercial route late last year, you could fly from TAY to HEL and back.

2 A certain tolerance for uncertainty is very much a prerequisite for this kind of job… it turns out that the most mysterious part of being an International Man of Mystery is never knowing whether a provisional booking is actually going to happen or not.