Amsterdam, Netherlands - April 2018

This is a short post about a trip I recently took to Amsterdam, Netherlands for the Easter weekend this year. My girlfriend and I decided we would do a little road trip there (because its about 4 hrs drive away) and below is a snippet of what we got up to and what I recommend you see the next time you’re there.

First of we stayed slightly out of the Centre at the NH Amsterdam Zuid Hotel which is reasonable in cost and only about a 30 minute tram ride into the city center.

We didn’t want to do all of the traditional sightseeing in Amsterdam stops as it was Easter weekend and packed. We opted for a Moreno laid back and relaxing trip.


Day 01

Lunch - Foodware

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This is a really cool and relaxed space. It’s setup like a deli and you design your own meal based on what high quality ingredients are currently on offer. Not only is the food really high quality the price is so reasonable.

pictured: Chicken, green beans and roast potatoes in a creamy truffle sauce.


Afternoon Snack - De Koffie Salon at Hay

As we were at the Hay House we decided to sit down and have a relaxing coffee and a cheeky little snack. The quality of the coffee was really great and having the atmosphere of being apart of a design store made it a unique experience on our trip.


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Dinner - De Hallen

I was informed by a colleague who was in Amsterdam last year that a visit to De Hallen was a must. The atmosphere here was amazing, sooo many people enjoying their evening and really an amazing assortment of culinary delights. We ended up going for tacos and they were really tasty (and a little spicy). Afterwards we went to the cinema also located in this space to watch “Ready Player One”.


Design Stores We Visited:

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- X Bank

- Hay House

- Sukha

- Nordic New

- Hutspot

- The Frozen Fountain


 

 

 

 

 

 Day 02

Breakfast - Locals

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As usual we didn’t opt to have breakfast at the hotel, but we ventured into the city looking for a nice spot for a coffee and some light good to start the day. A quick search on fourquare x Google and TripAdvisor alerted us to a small spot that had exactly what we wanted. We weren’t disappointed, the coffee, service and food were really great and our sitting location enabled us to watch the world go by through the large windows.



 


Lunch - Pluk

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While Crisscrossing the channels the previous day we went by a cool looking spot which we added to our places for a stop. This was called “Pluk” and it was a nice break from the showers outside. The food was pretty good but I have to admit my smooth bowl still had some solid lumps of frozen herbs which weren’t so great but it was tasty overall. I could recommend this spot for a short coffee stop / to-go

 

Afternoon Snack - Vinnes

After a bit of walking we decided we needed a little break and a coffee to wake up a little. We stumbled across this corner retreat by accident but it was a happy accidentally!

Dinner - Cafe Amoi

One thing that we heard a lot was that the Asian food in the Dam was some of the best around! Because of this we booked a table at Cafe Amoi and we truly were happy! The food quality was exquisite


Other Stores & Activites We Did:

- Moco Museum - Banksy

- Hema

- Canel Tour (Lovers) // Cannot recommend

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Realtime Board Experiment

I've been testing out various platforms for collaborating with remote teams for various projects I'm working on in my spare time. I really found it hard to get something simple that also provides depth at the same time as giving some ability to have a high-level overview of whats going on. 

Roll onto last week and I was browsing Product Hunt, I found a platform called Realtime Board which on paper seemed to address all of the points I was talking about above:

I've started to get deeper into this tool and will provide some rough overview in the coming months . . .

Games Quality Forum Europe 2018

This year I am happy to be on the board for the yearly Game Quality Forum Europe (http://bit.ly/2FHtvAr). I’ve been attending this event since its inception many moons ago and every year not only does it change location but its quality gets better and better and this year is shaping up to be the best yet with not only the speakers but the community around the event.

You can get the agenda for the event here: http://bit.ly/2FRJdw5

With Video Games becoming ever more complex, the stakeholders involved with ensuring quality grows with it. We started with the event primarily being from a QA perspective to it growing over the years to include Localisation and this year we’re happy to include Customer Service into the fold. This will help all parties involved gain vital insights and to see what kind of synergies can be created with working closer with the different departments.

Last year, I also had the pleasure to present the Quality Assistance approach which we at InnoGames are currently focusing on, as well as our general approach to Test Automation. This was also my first public speaking event and I have to admit I really enjoyed it. The event also enabled me to start a series of Knowledge Sharing events with Rovio and Nordeus that really helped all companies learn and expand their knowledge and see what areas we can grow together in this ever complicated world. 

I’m really looking forward to this year’s event and I cannot wait to exchange knowledge during the events breaks and evening events as well as to see what the wonderful speakers bring to the table.  

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Malta

I lived on the sunny rock called Malta for around 1.5 years and I regularly get asked for tips and recommendations when it comes to people visiting the island. So below is my short guide to the island and what I recommend.

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Food

If you go to the Island you must try the below, there are really great places and they are all completely different. This helps you get a sense of the culture of the island (sorry no Maltese restaurants)

 

Best Cannoli - Busy Bee Cafe

https://goo.gl/maps/cTjzacYDi6H2 

 

Amazing Mezza - Ali Baba

https://goo.gl/maps/G18uD3c1EnD2

 

Really Great Homemade Mozzarella - HiMù
https://goo.gl/maps/aFz1pTPDTxt

 

Tasty Meat and an Experience - Sciacca Grill

https://goo.gl/maps/jgMQNcyJ8F92 

 

Really Great Quality Food - Wigi's Kitchen

https://goo.gl/maps/woso89eJi4u

 

Great Plastizzi - Crystal Palace

https://goo.gl/maps/kL7Qyf5LXoL2

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Places to Visit

I can highly recommend the following places to visit to get a sense of the island 

 

Walk around the Capital City - Valletta

https://goo.gl/maps/2XbDwXs9rFU2 

 

Watch the Mid-day Gun (everyday at 12:00) - The Saluting Battery

https://goo.gl/maps/vhqc39VYryx 

 

Visit the Island’s first capitol and a firmiliar TV set - Mdina

https://goo.gl/maps/GZNqoExiEzm

 

Walk Around the Citadel in the Capital of Gozo - Victoria

https://goo.gl/maps/cDodMQj7Azx 

 

Wander the Beautiful Streets of the Three Cities -

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Cities

 

Other Recommendations

- Avoid using the White Taxi’s where possible, use ecabs as they charge fair prices and usually have good service -  http://ecabs.com.mt/

- Get a bus card for the duraction of your visit. When I lived in Malta all buses go to and from Valletta and this usually serves as a good base - https://www.publictransport.com.mt/en/bus-card-and-ticketing

Desktop

I often find it interesting what people have on their computers and how they lay out their desktop. As I use my iPad Pro as my main computing devie I live by the apps I have installed. Below is the latest screen grab of my current iPad screen. I only have 1 screen as I like to organise apps into folders. 

 

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My main apps are:

Evernote for document scanning, note taking and article reading

OmniFocus which is my second brain

Calendar which helps me focus my time effectively  

YouTube is my main consumption tool

Great Music to Work To

Book Recommendations - How I Developed

I get asked quite a lot about what books I recommend for productivity and what books helped me get the current mindfulness I have currently. Below are the books in the order I read them, that led me on a journey to where I am now:

1 - The Beginning

To start with I read the following 3 Books from 99u, they are relatively small reads and are quite easy to consume. These books helped me get into the mindset of a freelancer, treating everyone as a customer and how I should act with that.

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Links:

- Make Your Mark - https://www.amazon.de/Make-Your-Mark-Creatives-Building/dp/1477801235/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1517246947&sr=8-3&keywords=99u

- Maximize Your Potential - https://www.amazon.de/Maximize-Your-Potential-Expertise-Incredible/dp/1477800891/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1517247029&sr=8-2&keywords=99u

- Manage Your Day-To-Day - https://www.amazon.de/Manage-Your-Day-Day-Creative/dp/1477800670/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517247044&sr=8-1&keywords=99u

2. The Method

The following books helped me then start work on my second Brian (my system) for being able to tackle the tasks that my clients / customers through at me.

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Links:

- GTD - https://www.amazon.de/Getting-Things-Done-Stress-Free-Productivity/dp/0143126563/ref=sr_1_1?s=books-intl-de&ie=UTF8&qid=1517250082&sr=1-1&keywords=GTD

- Making Ideas Happen - https://www.amazon.de/Making-Ideas-Happen-Overcoming-Obstacles/dp/1591844118/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517250048&sr=8-1&keywords=Making+ideas+happen

 

3. The Mindset

Next came a long these 3 books. Each one targets a specific growth area and enabled me to grow as an individual. They really open your eyes to a new way of thinking and allow you to gain a different perspective.  

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Conference Calendar Website

Over the weekend I came across this really cool website that lists different conferences throughout the year, which then can be filtered by such things as discipline as well as location. Since its the start of the year and most of us will be planning our training requirements it seems like a good place to start. 

http://www.confercal.com/ 

Better Effective Time for Book Reading

I ofhen get asked “how do you manage to read so much?” And people seem to be expecting some kind of magic formula for this. But actually it’s even simpler than that. What I did for a few months is track how long I was doing pretty much everything, and what this showed is that my walk to and from work wasn’t being utilised effectively. I was just listening to some music on the walk, and I also noticed that this ended up just amplifying whatever mood I was in (good if I was feeling awesome! Head if I wasn’t) I firstly decided to listen to some podcasts instead, this solved the mood amplification topic but still wasn’t a truly effective use of my time.

Many people I follow and respect always talk about how they manage to read more by utilising audio books, so this was something I was actually wanting to play around with. But one of the main sticking points was “when?” Could I listen during the day and this is something that always put me off, and then a light bulb clicked! I can utilise the 40 minute commute block a day for listening to audio books and what did you know, in a 3 week period I complete an audio book quite easily, this means with reading one book the old fashioned way and utilising audio books I was averaging reading 2 books a month. This entail made 2017 the year I read so much and I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot.  

So, to summarize! Look at your day, and see what activities you do which aren’t requiring your full attention (like walking to work) and utilise that time much better!

Chocolate Microwave Cake

If you ever have the urge for chocolate or something a little sweet, use the recipe below to make a quick and simple chocolate cake in less than 5 minutes. 

 

1. Get a small bowl

2. Put 1/4 Cup of Flour into the bowl

3. Put 1/4 Cup of sugar into the bowl

4. Put 2tbsp of cocoa into the bowl

5. Put a pinch of salt into the bowl

6. Stir the dry ingredients together

7. Add 2tbsp of vegetable oil to the bowl

8. Add 3tbsp of water to the bowl

9. Mix all together until its a chocolate goo (add extra water if its looking dry) 

10. EXTRA - Place a handful of frozen raspberries ontop of the chocolate goo

11. Place in the microwave on full power for 2 - 3 minutes

12. EXTRA - Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top 

 

There you go a very simple recipe for a delicious quick chocolate cake for 1  

Digital Only Life - Last Hurdle

For a while now I’ve switched from using pen and paper for notes, ideas and thoughts to using purely digital tools. For me my main tool is my iPad Pro 10.9 which I find the perfect size for carrying around to meetings as well as being able to throw it in my bag whenever I go anywhere.  

But one of the last bastians of the physical world was by daily gratitude journal. For me I use the 5 Minute Journal (https://www.intelligentchange.com/products/the-five-minute-journal) and its something I have in my apartment and what I utilise every morning and evening to help me reflect and be grateful for where I am in life. The company behind it launched an iOS (iPhone) and Android app but for me it just wasn’t gelling to me for some reason, and so I needed to work on an alternate. 

I’ve been using the “Day One” (http://dayoneapp.com/) journal for some time as a reflection journal, which I used whenever I’ve encountered a tough day to be able to reflect on it and try to learn from it. I thought this could be the best platform for moving my gratitude journal over to it, but the problem was I would have to manually add the structure each day (the questions I need to ask myself) which would not only add to the amount of time it would take to create an entry, but would also enable my mind to see that its too much effort and try to convince me not to write in it. 

The solution was to utilise the “Workflow” (https://workflow.is/) app to build a structure that would work and then everyday I just run that workflow and hey presto! We have a simple and somewhat “elegant” solution. I’ve now been running this approach for 1 month now and haven’t missed a day. 

If you’re interested in the workflows I created you can grab them below: 

Morning Journal - https://workflow.is/workflows/5c1920ec78974063bcd8491fb784c569 

Evening Journal - https://workflow.is/workflows/9faeb42bb552456a91e45b413367c0dd

Inspiration - Why Leaders Eat Last

Today, I thought I would share with you a video that I watch regularly to remind myself on how to lead others and what not to do. Simon Sinek is a really inspiration person. He has written several really insightful and thought provoking books as well as presented some really good talks. 

The video below outlines how leaders shape how the employees act and feel in an Organisation and also mentions the biological aspects that is in our nature.  

Morning Commute Observation

Every morning at around 6:20am I arrive at a local train station for my 15ish minute stroll to work. What baffles me is the sheer number of people who are running and pushing to get the next train (this happens everyday) I think this is a terrible way to start the day and they most likely only have to leave around 10 minutes earlier to have a more stress-free start to the day . . . .

Begin the day how you want it to proceed! </rant over>

Drive

Inspiration is all around us but sometimes that's not what we need. We need something that drives us, that not only keeps us focus but provides a great foundation to work off professionally and personally. 

My own drive was defined by something I always believed in and that was "Anything is Possible" this philosophy was something that helped to frame my career and enabled me to inspire others. Recently I was reading an article (lost the link sorry) and a quote was mentioned by someone I don't know but it's not about who said it, but the words themselves:

If you want to be successful, it's just this simple:
Know what you are doing,
Love what you are doing,
and believe in what you are doing

The above words are now words I visit on a daily basis that help drive me in what I'm doing. 

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