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Contrast and Compare

Time flies! July came and went. I spent the last two weeks full time with my son. I sometimes still use the term baby, but he’s no longer one. One of the things that changes are sleeping habits. His mom needs a lot of sleep. He does not. Guess who he inherited this from?

So I spend more time with him. Yesterday I let him get dirty-black from crawling across the playground. He’s an explorer, secure and unafraid to move far away from me. This time I did not bring the camcorder. Will replay. Videos coming… at some point. Big backlog to clear.

The first half of July we spent at my in-laws where I was mainly in my father-in-law’s shed building some furniture for my son. A few of the nights I spent at open air concerts, for the best of which we had to wait under pouring rain. It was worth it, for it is my preferred Quebecker songwriter for more than a decade. And I thought a bit about my involvement in Hugin and Open Source in general.

What do those activities have in common? And where are they different? Contrast and compare…



  1. It was not for the money. The cheap China stuff at IKEA cost less.
  2. It’s a lasting legacy. I hope he will find it useful, and maybe pass it down to his kids one day?
  3. It was fun and I was inspired to learn new skills. So much so that I did not mind the dirty job, even after I inadvertently manicured two fingers on the table saw.
  4. I set the bar to high standards. My father-in-law, with more than 60 years woodwork experience, was surprised I did not take some obvious shortcuts that would have made the structures still functional but aesthetically less pleasing.
  5. I enjoyed solving the problems of the individual productions steps as they arose.
  6. Until now I had many furniture design ideas but none has left the drawer. I have two left hands. Commissioning custom furniture is out of price. Here was an opportunity to do it without too much risk (well, the fingers).
  7. I enjoy being creative and productive. The wood was just there (two years ago a tornado left a scar across my father-in-law’s land).
  8. I had an end result in mind, but did not put it on paper. I was sloppy on the documentation. The design and the solutions to the challenges that it posed are in memory but most likely I’ll have to reverse-engineer the current design if I want to build more of the same. Which makes it unique and in this case isn’t much of a problem.

The Open Air Concert

  1. Money?  a CD is cheaper – and does not suffer the inconvenience of the weather.
  2. A concert is a unique event in time, ephemeral, not lasting.
  3. It was fun and inspiring. So much so that for a moment I missed my cameras – but then I remembered that I was there to enjoy the moment.
  4. Definitely high standards. The sound was well engineered.
  5. Problems? Parking. No public transport deserves our location propoerly.
  6. Opportunity for a night out with my wife – something we had not done in months. Parenting takes its toll.
  7. This time I was a consumer, not a creator. Relaxing.
  8. Documentation? Memories in my mind.

Me and Hugin / Open Source

  1. Money? Even at a ridiculous hourly rate I’d be better off with a shrink wrapped proprietary solution. Competition and the market do the dirty job for the discerning consumer.
  2. A lasting legacy? Sort of. Being part of the continuum of an Open Source project that started long before you and will continue long after you. And actually does not really need you.
  3. It’s fun and inspiring to learn. Most roles I have taken within the project, most of my contributions, were new territory for me. It was a unique opportunity to learn. Mistakes? I made plenty. The beauty of it is that none of them is critical and over time I learned from them and from the solution patiently provided by expert mentors whom I am very thankful to.
  4. Even if it is a hobby project for most contributors, make no mistake: We all try to live up to high standards!
  5. I enjoy solving problems as they arise.
  6. I have many ideas and not enough time. So I share them with the community hoping that somebody will take the opportunity to do it. Or maybe I’ll do, sometimes in the future.
  7. The availability of source code jump-started my learning in many ways. Not easy – the Hugin codebase is very complex to say the least – but with a little bit of creativity I investigated my way through to become productive..
  8. I have an end-result in mind. Everywhere I go I want to make myself redundant through proper documentation so that every person with basic typographic skills can step into the role and learn what I learned while moving the project forward long after I have left that role. Documentation is critical to make such projects live forever.

My and my Son

  1. Money? when I was a student I did not want kids. I calculated that growing one from 0 to 18 is as expensive as buying four of those red sport cars with a horse logo that go from 0 to 100 Km/h in 5.8 seconds. In the meantime I changed my mind and spending time and money on his education, especially during these formative years, is the best investment I’ve ever made.
  2. Legacy? passing on my genes to the next generation and giving them the best chances to succeed.
  3. It’s big fun, and new discoveries every day. He is learning so fast, I wonder where have I left this skill? Must be hidden somewhere.
  4. I try to live up to the highest standard in his education. And I find so many questions that have not been answered in the literature.
  5. There are always problems to solve. Like: I did not plan for him to get dirty black when crawling on the ground. Does it show my inexperience?
  6. Time flies, and there is no second chance (well, there may be a second child, but you know what I mean). The opportunity is now or never.
  7. For now he’s the consumer and I’m creating his entertainment, day by day. May change very soon.
  8. I have no end-result in mind, and probably neither has he. Life is what you make it, one day at a time. When the choices will come, he will make them, and I hope to be a good counselor, then. I try to document key developments on video, hoping to watch them, with him, on a future opportunity.


There is a plan somewhere but I don’t know where. And there are priorities, and I know what mine are. Next? It’s weekend!

3 Responses

  1. that picture is so amazing it nearly blows my mind. wonderful!
    oh, and btw: the writing below is also not too bad :).

  2. Hey,
    I like the furniture. Great design. What kind of wood did you use?
    Is IKEA really “made in china” in the New World. Over here it’s made in Denmark, Sweden or sometimes the Czech Republic.

    Carsten, father of seven (7), North-Germany

  3. @habi: thanks.

    @Carsten: Thanks. It’s white birch. In the meantime the chairs are painted and the design for the bed and shelves are more or less finalized. Confirm: most things in the New World are “made in China”. Try finding garlic that is not made in China in Québec’s grocery stores. Seven kids? congratulations to you, that’s more than a full time job!

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