I like to drink up to two cups of coffee per day. One in the early mornings, and a second one in the afternoon. I do enjoy coffee very much, but even more so I enjoy the process of making a cup of coffee. I find there is something relaxing about the process and as such I take my time doing it. I have a very manual process of making coffee that involves a digital scale, a hand grinder, and a coffee press. For my afternoon cup I switch out the coffee press with a moka pot.
I have been using a grinder from a german company called Zassenhaus. This company has been established in 1867 and has been known to produce some excellent grinders. I decided to buy the Zassenhaus Quito as it had everything I wanted: stainless steel body, stainless steel burr, and a glass container.
At a price point of 100 Euros it wasn’t a cheap grinder. But I figured I would use it for a long time to come. My only real concern was the glass container that could break in some clumsy circumstances. But after reading some online reviews I found out that a lot of users seemed to have issues with the plastic threads that keep the glass container attached to the grinder to catch the ground coffee. It seemed to break off when grinding the coffee as it couldn’t withstand the stress when holding it while grinding. But I put this down to user error. You are not supposed to hold the glass container while grinding but rather hold the stainless steel body. This way there is no stress put on the glass container at all.
I purchased the grinder with full confidence that if I use it right it would last for a lifetime. But this morning, after unscrewing the glass container, I had plastic chunks falling off from the grinder. Under closer inspection I could see that the plastic threads had broken off and separated from the stainless steel body.
Great… Even though I used it with care and made sure to never put any stress on the glass container the plastic threads broke off just like in the reviews I read. I took the grinder apart to see if there was any way of fixing it but as far as I can tell there is no way to fix this on my own as I would need a whole new plastic insert for the threads. Warranty doesn’t apply for this kind of breakage and only covers burr issues. But as you can see that one is in good condition.
Unless anyone reading this knows of a way to fix this for under 100 Euros this whole grinder will go to waste after about 2.5 years of usage (roughly 5 euro-cents per use). I thought about using it without the glass container and instead let the ground coffee fall into a bigger container on the table. But at this point there still are tiny plastic pieces breaking away from the grinder and I do not want to contaminate my coffee with plastic chunks. Suffice to say I am disappointed. I expected a lot more from Zassenhaus. As for my new grinder, I am not too sure what I want yet. All I know is it should be easy to repair and not contain any plastic parts. The only exception being the cover lid that keeps the beans from jumping out while grinding. But maybe that shouldn’t be plastic either.
I have decided to do some DIY projects in my spare time to counter the monotony of working a 9 to 5 job. And one of the things I wanted to try was to make clothing from scratch. And thanks to the wonderful people in my life, I have been given a sewing machine for this purpose. The Singer 9960. This machine is overkill for an absolute novice in this field, but I am hoping it will last for a long time.
Making clothing from scratch with no significant prior experience in sewing or any idea of fabrics is intimidating, to say the least. I wanted to try and do something on a smaller scale but not shy away from the difficulty of making clothes. My girlfriend had this wonderful idea of trying to make some clothes for our little Maltese dog.
Instead of measuring our dog and trying to come up with a design from scratch, I used a KWIK Sew Pattern (K4033) by the McCall Pattern Company, Inc. This pattern features three different designs to choose from. Two of the designs featured a zipper or velcro, both of which I did not have at home at the time. So I opted for the basic shirt design with two colours and no hoodie (Design A in the picture below).
However, I did not anticipate that the shirt required two sets of stretchable fabric, as can be seen on the back of the pattern envelope. The stretch should be around 20%, and at the time, I had only one type of fabric that fulfilled that requirement. Suffice to say, I went into this project a bit unprepared. But no worries, the shirt could just as easily be done in one type of fabric. It would lose its distinct design qualities, but all I wanted was to gain some experience.
The patterns were printed on very thin paper. So thin that I got worried it would rip by accident. But to my surprise, it stayed intact throughout the whole project. The first thing I did was to cut out the pieces that I needed as described in the pattern instructions.
Because the pattern paper was folded in the envelope, they had to be ironed flat before cutting out the exact size needed. The pattern pieces are printed in different sizes on the same paper, and the idea is to cut them down to the desired size needed for the item of clothing. I do not quite know if that means multiple patterns of the same design need to be bought if I want to make them in different sizes or if there is a way to preserve the cut ones to use them later. Since our dog is tiny, I didn’t bother with preserving the larger sizes.
The pattern pieces then needed to be laid out on the fabric and cut along the paper edges with a rotary blade. I used needles to fix the pattern paper to the fabric so it wouldn’t be moved by accident while cutting the fabric. At first I was really worried about cutting as precisely as possible, but I later realised that about 1.5 cm is used as a seam allowance and will be hidden away afterwards. That means I had at least a 1 cm margin of error. I think it is still better to cut as precisely as possible as the seam allowance is used for the actual stitches. The pattern pieces also had to be laid out on the “wrong” side of the fabric. The wrong side of the fabric is the one that has no pattern print on it. Think of the “inside” of a t-shirt. The side with the pattern print on it is called the “right” side of the fabric.
It was now time to sew the pieces together, and also my first time operating this intimidating new machine. And let me tell you something: the user manual is your best friend. Coming from the world of electronic gadgets and computers, I am not used to user manuals being useful. At most, there is a quick-start guide and, with some luck, a link to an app that explains even less. But this sewing machine manual explains and shows everything. And I mean everything. Want to know how to change the needle? Check the manual! Want to know how to do a particular type of stitch? Check the manual! Want to know about thread tension? Check the manual! To someone in the fashion industry or with experience with sewing machines, my praise of the user manual probably sounds strange. But it was a delight to see something so detailed.
And to no one’s surprise, I made a lot of mistakes while trying to sew with a stretchy fabric on a brand new machine with no significant prior experience. One issue I ran into multiple times was that the fabric would get caught in the feed dogs of the sewing machine when trying to attempt a backstitch. The feed dogs are tiny little teeth at the bottom of the machine that move the fabric through the machine while sewing. That way, the fabric does not need to be pushed or pulled through. I am not exactly sure how to avoid clogging with such a thin and stretchy fabric. If anyone knows, please write me an email. Maybe it would help to retract the feed dogs and instead pull/push the fabric manually but I did not try this out yet.
At one point, I tried to remove the fabric after it got caught, and it ripped some small holes in it by accident. I sewed a little patch of fabric onto them to cover up the accident. It was not the most elegant solution, but it was better than having to cut a whole new piece of fabric and start over. It was just my first attempt, after all.
I encountered another issue when trying to overlock the edges of the seam allowance. Overlocking is a way to give the seam allowance a clean and professional look, as shown in the picture below.
My issue was that the fabric would drift away from the presser foot after overlocking for a few seconds. I failed to understand why this was happening as I didn’t pull on the fabric nor was there any weight that would pull it in a specific direction away from the presser foot. I would then try to guide the fabric towards the guideline of the overlocking foot, but then the fabric would get caught in the feed dogs again. At one point, the whole machine locked up so badly due to the caught fabric that my needle broke. This happened so fast that I am still not quite sure which exact chain of events led to the needle breaking.
Despite all the mistakes and hurdles, I managed to finish the shirt for our little dog and there was nothing left to do but to try it on. And as you can see, it is a little bit too big. I should have gone with the smallest size of the pattern as opposed to the second smallest. Oh well… next time.
All these mistakes and issues come down to my lack of experience and understanding in this area. But I have already learned a lot from just going in unprepared and trying to finish my first item of clothing. I am now confident enough to just sit down with the sewing machine and do some very basic stitches. And I am looking forward to learning a lot more about sewing and fabrics in general.
Throughout my years in the software industry, I have noticed a practice that to this day I do not quite understand. And that is the optimisation for a software engineer’s time. In my view, a software engineer should create software that is considerate of the end-users’ time. To achieve this, they should aim to write programs that are not wasteful of a machine’s resources and make the most efficient use of the hardware. Every design decision should have these two things as its top priority.
However, most of the discussions I have observed or participated in focused on code readability, structure, and usage of bloated frameworks to save development time and effort. Some discussions even got quite heated and passionate. And the most perplexing aspect to me is that none of this is relevant to the end-user. The end-user does not care about code structure, readability, or which shiny new framework is used. What matters to them is that software works. They want the software to complete a task as fast as possible so they can get on with more important things. Equally, the machine itself does not care about code structure, readability, or any kind of framework used. All it cares about is executing the next instruction from memory, trillions of times per second. Why is so much focus being put on things that, for the most part, do not matter to end-user or the machine?
I have heard a lot of answers to this question, but none of them convinced me so far. I have also read a lot of books about code readability and structure, but none of them convinced me to adopt their practices. They did, however, have one thing in common. And that is the hubris that optimising for a software engineer’s time is more important than that of the end-user and machine. And to me it is missing the point of what a software engineer is supposed to do.
I took the steps to delete my personal GitHub account today. I will no longer publish or contribute to any GitHub projects unless my current or future employer require me to do so. I have also taken the steps to remove old blog posts that linked or talked about code I published on GitHub. From now on I am not going to contribute to any open source project, whether it is hosted on GitHub or elsewhere, unless I am getting compensated for my labour.
I am not against open source software. But the open source method that GitHub and similar other services promote no longer aligns with my values. I do not condone the exploitative nature of it. It is my believe that any labour that goes into a software project should be compensated in a fair manner. And unless GitHub and other services are doing that, I will not take part in this exploitative form of software development.
I have a media consumption problem. Binge watching a whole season of a series in the span of one or two days is not an uncommon thing for me. Or spending anything from 3 to 12 hours a day watching YouTube.
But all this time is not spent watching. Most of the time the content is playing in the background while I am doing other things. Which has the effect that I don’t remember what I have been watching or I am not focused on what I am doing. A net negative either way. Why am I doing this?
Since the end of December 2018 I have started to realise that something has gone horrible wrong in my life. One morning I was reading through my RSS feed backlog which was full of articles I thought to be interesting, but not important enough to be read right at the time I discovered them. And after going through a few of these I realised that I was not interested in reading any of them at all. And yet my backlog at this point had over 1000 entries. I asked myself the same question. Why am I doing this?
After that moment I started to ask myself this question more and more about every aspect of my life. This eventually led me to the minimalists and I became obsessed with the idea of letting go of things that don’t bring value to my life. Not just material things but also in the digital realm. I deleted my RSS feed and backlog; I closed various social media accounts; I stopped doom scrolling. I let go of so many things that I started to have a lot more time on my hands. And while I initially filled this time with some creative endeavours such as video editing or working on some programming projects, they faded away once I started a new Job in April 2020. The stress of starting out at a new Company in the midst of a National Lockdown while also fearing for vulnerable members of my Family got to me. Video content became a welcome distraction from everything. A sort of escape from reality.
And after almost two years it brings me back to the question: Why am I doing this? It is obvious to me that I can not continue in this state as it does not add any value to my life. My creativity and mental wellbeing are suffering which manifests in a form of anger that I feel towards myself. Anger that results in defeat towards any action because finding new distractions is too easy. YouTube is a bottomless Well of content.
I have tried to fight against my YouTube obsession by enforcing a total blackout in October 2021. I deleted the app and did not visit the website for a whole month. I also refused to click on embedded videos in articles or video links shared in the work chat. But the YouTube shaped hole got filled by Netflix and other video streaming platforms. I could be more radical and block any form of video streaming service but I am questioning what a complete deprivation of any form of entertainment would achieve in the end. The truth is that I enjoy watching a good movie or series. I like interesting stories told through the visual medium. I get enjoyment out of good video editing and single take scenes. And I also enjoy some form of educational or entertaining YouTube content from independent creators. What I need is a set of rules to follow, instead of a total blackout.
I got inspired by Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism and it gave me the idea of writing down some ground rules around my media consumption. This is by no means an exhaustive list and I will have to edit it as I figure out what is working and what isn’t. I have broken the rules down into three categories: Series, Movies, and YouTube. The YouTube rules include other similar video content websites like it but YouTube is by far my biggest time sink.
When watching alone one episode of any series is permitted per day.
When watching with company two episodes of any series are permitted per day.
The maximum amount of episodes per day is limited to two. If one episode has been watched alone only one more episode can be watched with company. If two episodes have been watched with company no more episodes can be watched alone.
Watching a movie or episode of any series on the same day is not permitted. With or without company.
Only one movie is permitted per day. With or without company.
Watching a movie or episode of any series on the same day is not permitted. With or without company.
YouTube Shorts are to be avoided as they lack depth and value.
Any number of videos can be watched if they are for a very specific purpose (eg. I need to fix my sink so I look up “how to fix a sink”. Or I want to know about a product that I intend to buy soon).
Any videos that do not serve a specific purpose other than entertainment will be limited to one per day (eg. Vlogs, Podcasts, Gaming, Stream recordings, Comedy).
If a video is recommended by someone, and watched with them, the limits do not apply as it becomes a social activity.
The intent for these rules is to limit my overall consumption of video content on a daily basis and transform YouTube into a tool used with purpose rather than mindless consumption. I acknowledge there is a lot of room for interpretation of these rules. For example if my intent is to learn about the events of the last couple of weeks I could spend the whole day watching videos without running out of things to watch. If this ever becomes a problem I will adjust the rules.
My next blog post has to add value. It needs to be educational in some way and it needs to be full of insight and wit. It needs to wow the reader and it will be adored and cherished for the whole lifespan of the internet as we know it. These thoughts, albeit exaggerated here, have been keeping me from writing anything at all. I was immobilised by my fear of failing to live up to my own expectations. Expectations that were unfounded and arrogant. In Reality: no one gives a shit!
The idea that anyone is waiting in anticipation for my next blog post is preposterous. I am not a public person of any significance or following. This self-imposed pressure of having to write something of significance comes from the fact that this blog is out in the open for the whole world to see. But just because it is out in the open doesn’t mean anyone is looking at it.
It is arrogant of me to assume that I know what adds value to you, to my mum, or to anyone else in this world. All I am able to know for sure is what adds value to me. And maybe, with some luck, the thing that adds value to my life will also add value to someone else’s. So from now on I will write whatever comes to my mind, makes me happy, and adds value to my life.
All major products, minor tools, weekend hacks, and code snippets are being catalogued. Sometimes curated to the ones most proud of; other times a collection of everything that has ever been worked on. Although a list like this bears many names (projects, works, portfolio, products, etc.), it serves the same dual-purpose: to give credibility and authority.
But no matter how big, wide, or deep the shrine of personal memorabilia is, it doesn’t add value to anyone but the creator. It resembles a fully stacked bookshelf to appear smart, or a trophy cabinet to appear accomplished. While there is nothing wrong with feeling proud of past accomplishments, it is foolish to assume that they serve as credentials for today or authority of tomorrow.
The value added today should be served without the weight of yesterday.