Life: Post-Pandemic

COVID-19 is not over. I must repeat that to myself every day. As a motorcyclist who rides thousands of miles a year on and off road, at track days and long 1000+ mile days in the saddle, I’m aware of risk assessments. The first motorcycle safety course I took in 2016 began with risk and how each risk you take elevates your chance of injury or death. The choice to drink and ride, forgo a helmet or other safety gear, ride in the rain, ride at night or ride with a passenger. Every choice may increase the risk and the federal and state governments have very little control over how you ride your motorcycle other than you being licensed and maybe wearing a helmet.

This pandemic was a similar exercise in risk. I traveled during the pandemic and I’m sitting on a plane writing this blog post. I went to friend’s homes and went shopping and even sat in a crowded bar before vaccines were available in Moab Utah for a night of live music and drinking with friends. To date, I have not contracted coronavirus, exhibited symptoms, or needed to be hospitalized. Over the last 2 years, I was tested 10 times via a cotton swab shoved in my h nose and 5 or so at home tests when I felt a cold coming on that just ended up being seasonal allergies.

We are leaving pandemic status in the United States and down to an endemic status and masks are not required anywhere except federal buildings and some transit authorities like busses and trains. It all happened exactly 2 years to the date that I went home. Viruses don’t have desk-calendars yet after 750 days of this pandemic, offices around the nation wrote into law return to office plans, mask mandates around the country and on planes were dropped and concert halls, theaters and highways filled up again.

I’m not a scientist so this is not a post where I pretend to be one but, to my surprise, my daily check of the NYTimes COVID-19 Tracker has shown me that we are ticking up again on everything but deaths but not as much as I had thought. A national increase from 30K cases a day to 50K cases a day is nearly a 100% increase over 14 days but when I look around this flight where less than 5% of people are wearing a mask and vaccination rates are stagnant, I expected a much larger surge…again, not a scientist, just my observation seeing numbers that aren’t exploding.

…and in the great state of Vermont who I believe still has the highest vaccination rate in the country, we’re having a mini explosion where Vermont is the fastest growing state in the nation outside of Puerto Rico for COVID-19 cases. Why? My non-scientific hunch is having lived in Vermont (or 1 mile from the border), this state has taken the most precautions of any other state even more than California. I still can’t go grocery shopping without wearing a mask and social distancing and so you have a population that while vaccinated, has not been exposed to this virus in any meaningful way. Population density in Vermont is so low that we can visit the store once a month, go home and not talk to or see anyone. You must drive 30 minutes into town to get within 6 feet of a human. We all know that any vaccine does not guarantee you won’t contract COVID-19, only that you’re less likely to and the symptoms, far less severe. It’s not a cure or inhibitor. So, when you have an old and sparsely populated Vermont population, no matter how many of us have been vaccinated (over 80%), all of us can still catch it and this means that when people began socializing again, it has been spreading like wildfire but with no increase in deaths and very few hospitalizations. People are catching it like a cold, getting tested because that’s just how Vermonters are and then staying in their homes and getting over it. Where everyone I talk to in cities has had it once or twice, there aren’t many Vermonters who have had it and so our surge is happening post-pandemic which is as good as we could have it since 4 out of 5 Vermonters are vaccinated. On the NYTimes COVID Tracker, it looks dire and ripe for riffing. “What, Vermont has 80% vaccinations and is surging?!?! LOL. Libtards!” Yeah, that’s one way to look at it. Florida on the other hand isn’t surging because they had 5 previous surges with every new variant. Everyone caught every one of these, some died, most didn’t, and they went back to doing their thing.

Speaking of that great night in Moab singing and dancing at a bar with my friends in September of 2020, a nurse told me everyone in her team were just waiting for herd immunity. Some states took this approach, and some didn’t. It’s going to take some time for researchers to conclude which was the better choice. Is Florida right or is Vermont? Florida told people that if you want to be protected, stay home, and do what you want but the rest of us are going to live our lives and Vermont and California kept everyone home and shut down which inevitably saved many lives more than Florida’s approach. We’ll let the data scientists crunch the numbers on which way was better.

Like I said, I never had the virus and neither did my wife and that’s for the best. That’s not to say we’ll never catch it and I hope we don’t. We remain cautious and careful but live long enough and your risk of dying gets high enough that it’s just going to happen. Catching a virus is similar. On an infinite timeline, we’ll eventually catch it, and it should be just like a cold…I hope.

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1000 words in but I’m going to dish out a double-whammy today and that’s remote work. I worked remotely from 2001-2004 as a Tech Blogger and Photographer. I was in high school, but it was a job and I made money. I once again worked remotely when I co-wrote a book with my friend, and we did it virtually. I was hybrid from 2008-2010 working at 3 different startups where the long commute had me working about 2 days a week from home or a cafe to save myself hours on Caltrain every day to little benefit. From 2010 to 2014, I worked hybrid as well going into our office 2 days a week because my entire team was in Belgium. In 2014, I started going to the office every single day until a day in March 2020 when they sent us home to ‘stop the spread in 10 days’. Colleagues struggled and so did I to a degree not because I struggled with working from anywhere. I can make a PowerPoint file on a plane, in an airport lounge, on a bus or on my back porch but I was worried about what I call “technical serendipity” which is more likely to happen when you’re face to face with another bag of germs in a confined space with little air flow (sorry for that one).

I had 6 interns starting in May, just one month after we all went home, and I did that internship remotely and reduced the team to 4 allowing the other 2 to join us the following Summer or a first right of refusal basically. 2 Interns of the 6 volunteered to defer for a year and we went to working remotely as a team. I had to use new tools such as Miro and we relied more heavily on Slack, and I became more of a stickler about following Agile and Scrum methods and interns had to update their Jira tasks before our weekly meetings where I was more passé about it in the before-times.

This first remote Summer, I noticed everyone was getting their job done and communicating effectively via video chats, but we were indeed missing the technical serendipity. After 4 intern groups in a row, all groups of 4-6 undergraduate CS students, I deduced that there are 2 software teams that need hybrid work to be most effective. They can get the jobs done remotely and I’d argue coders don’t need to work a 40 hour week if they have time-management down as a soft skill because wiring code is already such an efficient operation that saves many trillions of human hours in aggregate that I don’t need to have the most effective teams working for me BUT (sorry for the run on sentence)….the 2 teams would be a group working on a brand new product from scratch where collaboration makes up 50% of your day because you’re fleshing out ideas, drawing on the walls, reading body language, vocal inflection and really getting into the weeds and need to stare them in the eyes and determine just how much your partner really cares about this one feature versus them just assigning it high priority in Jira. The second group is early careers. Again, both groups can function remotely. Writing software is not an office task but young people who are just starting out in a corporate environment with one foot in academia and one foot as a professional and they’re learning not just how to write clean code and do it collaboratively with testing, documentation, and planning sessions but also how to manage a calendar, show up to meetings on time, maintain a personal task list or work on time management skills. These folks, my interns, are effective remotely but they’re more effective when we are all in person.

I feel so strongly about this that I will be in the office full time with a team to guarantee their success. Summer of 2021, our entire team was in person for the full Summer, and it was great. We accomplished a lot. Everyone was super effective and the clarity of what we wanted to build then going and doing it with a clear path of planning to execute woke up my technical serendipity meter daily. Showing up to the office and seeing a heated discussion about how we store catalogued images after processing, discussing pros and cons of different database technologies and seeing an intern speak out loud into the universe “okay, who didn’t secure the S3 bucket? Show yourself!” That sort of collaboration in person was huge and more rewarding. Every remote intern I’ve had, in their exit interview, says they wish we had all been in person.

We then went back to fully remote, and I think our team will remain remote forever until the leaders in my company 2-3 levels above me mandate interns are back to in person which will adversely affect things for me despite all the pros.

First, it requires I only recruit talent who can come to our office in New Hampshire. Mostly that requires they must rent a place as a group, and it costs much more to be in our program because they can’t do it from their parent’s home. So, I’ll need interns who come to us and have reliable transportation.

Second, it will put us at a disadvantage because the industry is moving to remote first and I’m not competing with tech companies in our city but with tech companies all around the country. So, an internship that’s fully remote out of California that pays more will be my competition. That’s the case now but we’re also remote.

What about hybrid? I will follow what my work mandates we do and there’s nothing changing now, but hybrid requires the entire office or at least team agree to the model together. I feel like an idiot when 6 of us are sitting around a laptop because we were getting into a technical discussion that wasn’t scheduled and we have to call up the person in Florida who is with us remotely OR the person who stayed home that day to get a package or wait for a plumber and now we’re all trying to share a laptop and talk to that person and pause to let them speak and they’re only hearing half of what’s being said in the room of people. Conference setups solve this problem but anyone who has built an app in a small team from scratch knows that meetings just happen and aren’t always scheduled. Big decisions get made on the fly. You don’t wait for next week’s risk & issues meeting to review something that’s an issue right now.

The big problem with hybrid is when there’s a complete breakdown of the team and someone misses a big discussion because someone forgot to call them when the ad-hoc team meeting starts and concludes without input from the person we just “voluntold” to do the task.

Therefore, for my Summer 2022 program which includes 6 interns in North America and another 10 overseas will be fully remote. I let the team decide. I tell them our office is open and they can come into the office full time. They can even choose to come in the office by themselves if they flourish in an environment where you physically leave your house and go to a space with a desk and white board. Some people just like going to an office to feel productive. However, if even 1 of the interns wants to be remote, we’re going to be remote as well. Or remote-first. The interns are happier, they’re saving more money working at their parent’s house and they’re able to join early meetings with Europeans because their commute is bed-to-keyboard and they’re happier because they’re home with their family and friends and not stressing about finding a place to rent, finding roommates, a car and getting to the office on time.

I will still stand by the importance of technical serendipity and how early-careers and startup teams do benefit from face time but in my team dynamics, those cons do outweigh the pros.

We’re seeing this nationally with every tech company who puts employees first moving to a remote-first model. There are still office spaces in the big hubs and 2-10% of employees go in a few days a week, but you can do your job from anywhere (with a couple of legal restrictions). My employer allows me to work from home, we have an office I can go to any time, and I can work from anywhere with pre-approval. There are massive tech companies like Apple forcing employees to return to office or RTO. In person work is just in Apple’s DNA as a culture and those against it have already resigned. There are plenty of people in line to replace them. Working professionals that don’t fit into the two groups I outlined above can work remotely full time. I’ve done it for years and have seen the entire world wake up to it.

Matt Mullenwag who should be given credit as the pioneer of distributed work not because he did it first but because he has been the champion of it as a matter of principal but his company, Automattic has evolved and designed their day to day to build a remote-first company that works from the beginning. One area that I want more companies to implement is in-person gatherings. Remote first is fine. I can work remotely with 12 people full time, and we’ll get our jobs done but I’d like a quarterly in-person event where we fly to a central location, grab a co-working office and work together and I want a company all hands once a year for 3 days. Everyone, all 5000 of you fly to one place and get together as a company. Automattic does this and it’s a huge benefit because despite being remote, it gives employees a sense of community. We are tribal and our brains haven’t learned how to form bonds virtually yet. You can get very close, but a handshake and a hug are still seal-the-deal actions that bring us closer together and companies are just professional tribes.

In 10 years, it’s not clear where knowledge work will take place and how. Meta verse is interesting, and we’ll see how it plays out. Every time I hear about our future of work in VR, I think of the film Surrogates with Bruce Willis and think…nah I’m good.

COVID-19 isn’t over but the way we live and work in the tech space has changed forever. I’m signing off from somewhere over New Jersey on an airplane with my N95 mask. It’s not a fun experience but it beats catching Coronavirus. Take care.

Sent from my iPad Pro

Twitter Goes Private

If I had comments enabled on this blog, surely someone would have commented on my now 32 day old post, “Twitter, Nine Years Removed” with “#AgedLikeMilk” and they’d be right except my post wasn’t about Twitter, it was about my usage of Twitter and how I feel the product is looking. I think Twitter is on the right path from a product perspective and a lot of reasons I stopped using Twitter are becoming less of an issue. Twitter has become the moral high ground version of Facebook…maybe not in the user base but in the product and that’s a good thing.

Today, April 25th, 2022, a man who has amassed a small fortune saving companies and making them hugely profitable has purchased Twitter with the deal expected to close in the coming months. He’s taking about 1/3 of his own cash paired with money from banks that are loans against his paper wealth to acquire the entire thing in full. This isn’t the private equity exit we all thought would happen to Twitter. It’s much different. To my knowledge, there have been no billion dollar social media companies purchased by one person. There are news media organizations that have been acquired but a company made up by the thoughts and activities of a few hundred million people to be purchased by the man running Space-X, Tesla and more…it’s quite insane.

Twitter has always felt like a town hall to me and so I spent this afternoon feeling melancholy trying to fight the emotion of Twitter’s journey and its future still ahead. I don’t feel this acquisition is on-the-whole a bad thing. I do think that Elon Musk wants a return on his investment and therefore won’t do anything such as open heart surgery with a hatchet that would negatively impact the daily active users, advertisers or the valuable employees who have been working their butts off the past few years to turn the ship around. Will there be drastic changes? Probably but, to his best ability, Mr. Musk will do what he thinks is right hopefully with the advisement of trusted professionals all looking for their payday when Twitter inevitably is taken public again in a decade or less.

What does concern me is what Twitter will become. Facebook is by all measures, a successful product used by billions of people every day and Twitter never saw that success for many reasons that can all fit on a single powerpoint slide but, aside from what the investors wanted, I never saw Twitter as the Facebook killer. The quaint “What are you doing?” question with a 140 characters answer was never going to be the premiere social network for the entire world. Twitter adopted photos, videos, spaces, audio and communities much too late (most in the last 6 months) to overtake Facebook but being the underdog appealed to many people’s emotions. When Twitter failed to monetize users as much as Facebook, “that’s okay” we all said “It’s Twitter, they can be smaller and we’re all better for it” but the success and removal of President Donald Trump from the service changed the course of Twitter forever. Twitter was the most talked about online property for 4 years and their engagement numbers were through the roof and removal of the President on January 6th from the social media service of choice for him was correct if you review Twitter’s own policies that have been in place for years around harassment, hate speech and bullying which the President and many other people violated leading up to actions taken to remove them in early 2021 but in a polarized and highly politicized world, this upholding of their own policies told the world, “We’re anti-conservative”. That was the narrative Twitter was labeled with from that point forward and since then, the organization has been letting new products showcase where they were going all while fighting the internet-branding that Twitter is the silencer of right-wing voices.

For better or worse, that was their bed. 

I don’t think that would forever be Twitter’s perception to the general public but if you read conservative press, it’s the go-to ideal that Twitter is for the woke.

Like nearly every Tech company on the stock market, Twitter’s market cap was slashed in half starting in January of 2022 and a man, the richest in the world as of this writing took advantage of this and made the shareholders an offer they could not refuse. 

What happens next? I don’t think anyone knows, even Mr. Musk. He’s not an activist investor like Icahn, nor is he a consultant who comes in, shakes things up, causes a blood bath and leaves. I believe that he will do his best and put Twitter on the right path and will it succeed? I don’t know. What I will say as a Twitter user is I hope he knows what he’s doing or that the people he puts in charge don’t screw things up too badly. Putting Twitter on a path to profitability and success is great but don’t make it the next Facebook. 

Alex Wilhelm of TechCrunch (I need to email him. I haven’t hung out with him since that Mashable Party in SF in 2008) wrote a very eloquent post today that I couldn’t have written better myself. My favorite part:

Twitter is not perfect and never has been. I haven’t always agreed with the company’s product choices or policy decisions. But what Twitter has mostly done during its life is keep its time-series feed accessible while working to conserve as much room for speech as possible while working on the spam issue. It’s worked.

I spent my evening on Tweetbot reading tweets from @Ev, @Biz, @Jack, @Netik, @Rabble, @Noah and more are up to and more importantly, what people are saying to them via replies. It was therapeutic to even see a few familiar faces talking @ them on the mentions and asking what they think. It’s a reminder that despite having hundreds of millions of users, Twitter is still this small community mostly of nerds who just wanted a way to make a status update permanent and have a little fun at the same time.

I wish Elon Musk success because, if he fails, a big part of my Internet history and memories goes along with it and if anyone current or formerly at Twitter wants to chat, I’m all ears. I’m rooting for every single one of you because I know, no matter who is in charge, you care deeply about the network and want it to succeed. Me too.

Twitter, Nine Years Removed

How best to distill 6 years of prolific oversharing?

  • March 21st, 2007: “I’m using Twitter. Let’s see how this goes.”
  • 77,950 Tweets later….
  • July 2nd, 2013: “I’m on the verge of ceasing use of Twitter & Facebook.”

The time I spent on Twitter over the years wasn’t a lot because a thought would come to mind, I would Tweet then dip my toes back in later to see what people thought. Twitter started for me as an SMS service then to a jailbreaked iOS app called Hahlo and then Twitter, Tweetie and Tweetbot as the App Store came out. 

To be clear though, I did not quit the service for any reason other than personal. I wanted to own more of my data and publish to this blog more. I wrote as much in this blog post in July of 2013.

For almost all purposes, this blog is for me. It’s a time capsule where my space isn’t rented but is paid for at $9.99 each month to give me the space to store files, blog and share my stories with the world. That’s the purpose of this blog. It’s my space. There are no advertisers and very little risk of my blog getting bought out or going under due to a lack of VC funding or failed monetization strategy. It’s nice that others read what I have to say but it really is my space on the web.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen a ton of great ideas fail. Most of the startups that I see ask users to give over data or as I like to call it, stories. “Come and give us your email, your information and download our app and give us your life story. We won’t charge you to use the service but, once there are 10 million users, we’ll begin selling ads targeted at life moments that you share with us.” Inevitably, the startups fails or is bought out by someone bigger who did figure out how to monetize stories.

Since I made the decision to stop the use of almost all social media, I’ve missed a LOT. The expected happened which is family and friends who I was close moved over to iMessage and phone calls. I’ve kept in touch with them. I also met the woman I’m now married to again…without using social media and I’ve successfully navigated career changes, progress and started and created a new hobby in the form of motorcycling all without social media but I have missed a lot of social discourse, celebrity and world news and these days if someone in my family dies, I hear when someone remembers to call me, not from an online post. I’ve been talking to my mom (we chat every 4-5 months) and she’ll say, “did you hear your xxxx died?” Nope, I don’t use social media and no one called me. The default is to post things online assuming everyone who needs to know will see it. Not using social media has impacted my life in small ways. 

I have my outlets like Flickr and this blog and I keep publishing to YouTube but this life choice is not just owning my data but also really giving myself back hours a day of free time. Example, friends in the motorcycle community ask me what YouTubers I follow. I don’t. I don’t watch motorcycle videos online or use Instagram and follow people. I have gone old-school by subscribing to motorcycle magazines. Every month I receive the latest news and reviews and over the course of 1-hour, I catch up.I am missing out on social dialogue and breaking-news but it really comes down to taking back my free time and you’d be amazed at how little I have to the point that today I have no idea how I can reintegrate back into social media without limiting my productivity or sacrificing my free time. To expand on that a bit, I’m working until 6:30PM, cleaning house, making dinner and sitting down at 8:30 for 2 hours of reading/writing/video editing/projects then I’m in bed at 11PM and even in COVID-times when I’m not commuting, I’m in front of a computer 10 hours a day and there’s no time I spend reading the news or social media. Heck, I even stopped reading some popular motorcycle forums in December as a way to get back about 30 minutes a day.

This post is far off from where I intended but in closing, Twitter did nothing wrong. I made a choice to pull back from almost all social media in 2013 after closing my Facebook account in 2011. 

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2013 – 2018 Twitter, as someone who keeps up with Internet Industry News via RSS feeds felt like more of the same. Twitter continued to struggle, they went public with year after year of losses and struggled to monetize the user base. The biggest product release in that era was Vine which is now long-gone. In the age of Tik Tok, I’m sure someone at Twitter wishes that Vine wasn’t killed off when it was. 2016-2020 Twitter’s news cycle was completely dominated by the things our President was writing on a daily basis. My family made up of die-hard conservatives were telling me that they wished he tweeted a bit less and I agree. It was a boom for Twitter’s engagement, page views or however you measure success these days but it was most likely a huge distraction to those on the inside. 

In 2018 or so, despite the news focusing on Twitter the places where the President of the United States tweets, Twitter began innovating at an amazing pace. I have no idea what happened but the product team has been firing at full kilowatts (was trying to find a replacement for all cylinders in the age of electric vehicles). Just look at the 2019-Present section on Wikipedia but I’m going to call out a few things that, as a lover of Twitter, really have tempted me to come back.

Communities could evolve to Twitter taking on Reddit. Taking a step back and looking at the whole of Twitter’s evolution. They’re not taking on Facebook directly but they’re building a platform in their own way which is to invest millions of dollars in hiring people who put diversity, inclusion and acceptance first above all else, give their people the tools they need to extend that culture through to the end-users so they too can feel welcome in this community and free from trolling and hate-speech and give them tools to filter that out if they choose while maintaining a very easy to use core product and adding on features that make Twitter a stickier place to hang out and not just a side-dish to the social media buffet where a user starts with Facebook then Instagram, then TikTok / Snap and if they have time…a quick scroll of Twitter. If Twitter succeeds in evolving their service to be both safe and full of great content in various mediums, they can at least place 3rd or 2nd to Facebook. 

The Post-Trump era of Twitter, had they sat on their hands and continued doing what they were doing pre-2018, I’m not sure where they would be now in monthly active users but they’re clearly doing something about it.

Twitter remains the only social network I would consider reconnecting with if I had a bit more free time because it’s an exciting era in the company’s history. If they can execute on all of these fantastic new product offerings and maintain the safe space for all users, it is the only service that’s positioned to take on Facebook in the next decade because Twitter’s values are the antithesis to Facebook’s but Facebook’s critical mass of users and sister-apps remains the juggernaut. 

If you’re an investor, and this isn’t investment advice, 1 out of 5 Americans have used Twitter. There is a large untapped user base they have if they can offer more than just tweeting and they are. People will come for shopping/media/communities/spaces/Fleets and they’ll find how less-toxic it is versus Reddit and Facebook and maybe consider sticking around. The killer app for Facebook continues to be their mobile app so I don’t envy the mobile team’s work at Twitter to integrate these features into the mobile app without alienating the users who for the last 15 years, just want to Tweet. 

Twitter is profitable with over 6,000 employees. They’re not a small company and they’re acting like it. 

I’m now checking Twitter once a month. Maybe in 2022, it’ll be once a day.

Linked: Apple’s Mac Studio & 27″ iMac

Via Michael Tsai:

I’ve been happy with my 27-inch iMac, after many years of laptops-as-desktops before that, so I had kind of been assuming I would either get anew iMac or a desktop Mac with an external display (to go along with the non-Retina Dell that’s attached to my iMac). There’s no more big-screen iMac, so the Mac Studio seemed like the obvious choice.

But the more I thought about the potential switch, the less sense it seemed to make. Although I don’t travel a lot, there are still significant benefits to having my main Mac be potentially portable at any moment. Ican grab it and go without having to do a lengthy sync first. If the power or Internet goes down, I can easily relocate (and not have to worry about powering the desktop with a UPS while syncing).

One of the nice things about the Mac Studio is all the ports it has, but it doesn’t have enough that I could avoid using a hub. M1 Ultra aside, it may have some performance benefits over a MacBook Pro due to better thermals, but I don’t expect a large difference.

Please read the full post though – https://mjtsai.com/blog/2022/03/10/new-mac-studio-and-studio-display-change-mac-buying-calculus/ 

I have been a 27” iMac owner since 2008. The story is well documented here but I went from iBook to 15” PowerBook to iMac 27” + a MacBook Air and that was my setup until 2016 when I did iMac + MacBook Pro. In 2020, I sold the MacBook Pro because I was working from home full time and my setup was iMac + iPad Pro until December when the MacBook Pro finally became fast enough that I didn’t need an iMac anymore. 

Like Tsai, I didn’t need a desktop but instead, I needed the fastest Mac I could afford and in our Intel world, that meant an iMac with lots of cooling space to house the higher watt chips that would not work in a MacBook Pro. I’ve written here a few times about how all of the Core i9 MacBook Pro’s from 2016 on were simply too thin to maintain base clock frequency so it was basically a waste of money to spec up one of these with the fastest chip.

Apple’s M1 Max has allowed me, a die hard Desktop + Laptop person to use just one computer and while my MacBook Pro has now been plugged in for 2 months which makes the portable nature of it completely moot, it is much faster than the iMac it replaces and therefore the mobile possibilities are a selling point, not a caveat. My point is, M1 Max in a 16” MacBook Pro is fantastic and it being mobile is just the icing on the cake. This was not possible until Apple Silicon. 

Mac Studio in its M1 Max configuration is to me, a machine that doesn’t interest me because it’s not portable. I’d get nearly the exact performance but it’s stuck to a desk. Doesn’t seem worth it and the M1 Ultra and presumably, the massive M2 Ultra that will go into the Mac Pro this year far exceed the performance I ned for the next few years. Unlike the iMac, where I was squeezing every megahertz I could out of that machine and a bi-annual upgrade was necessary, the M1 Max on a 16” MacBook Pro is as fast as I can see myself needing for a very long time…oh and hey, I can take it anywhere. 

Tsai goes on to mention a Mac Studio wouldn’t eliminate the need for a Thunderbolt dock and I agree. I have about 14 devices hooked into my CalDigit TS3. That workhorse will be with me for a while. 

—–

Early this week, I was going to order an Apple Studio Display to replace my 4K, 32” Dell (U3219Q) which I paid about $1200 for 4 years ago. The display from Apple would be VESA mounted, be 25% brighter, have a built in camera with Center stage and great audio and inputs along with powering the MacBook Pro but I was hoping for a display in the $2500 range…a baby XDR that would give me 5K/6K resolution in a 32” form factor with OLED or MiniLED and 120Hz ProMotion. I don’t need, nor can I afford an XDR and the 27” available today for $1599 is an iMac display. If I had my way, 27” Studio would be $1299, 32” Studio OLED would be $2500 and XDR would be $3900. We’ll have to see what WWDC brings us. Dell just replaced my display under warranty so I don’t need to upgrade any time soon. 

Beer: In Memory of Armand Debelder

Via 3 Fonteinen’s Instagram:

It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that we announce the passing of Armand.
The inspirer of 3 Fonteinen and an inspiration for many, a gentle teacher to his team, Opa Geuze to the brewery kids, and as a second father to some of us.

Armand, you will leave an immense gap in our lives. We will never forget how your warm and charismatic personality and passionate enthusiasm has ignited us to continue your life’s work. We are forever grateful for the chances that you have given us. We will carry our task of leading 3 Fonteinen into the next generations with pride, humbleness, and dignity, as you have always done.

It was an honour and a privilege to have had you so close to us. Godspeed to you, you mighty Armand!

When you are reading this, open a good bottle, raise your glass to Armand rejoice Life. Armand wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Michaël & Werner & Team 3 Fonteinen

Armand turned 70 just this past October. Heather and I this morning spent time reminiscing on our time at the 3 Fountains brewery, blendery and bottle shop over the years. I’ve visited 13 times starting in 2011 not to mention a few chance encounters over the years at beer events. Of every individual in the Lambic family, Armand and his wife, Lydia were always the two I looked forward to most on my visits. The warmth and non-pretentiousness of a 3 Fonteinen visit where the lambic flowed like water and the people, always gracious and friendly…the loss of Armand feels like losing a friend despite never spending more than 5 to 10 minutes with him at any time. 

I wanted to share a few stories and some photos. 

In 2013, I was with a group touring their barrel room which was cramped and far too tiny. I think even Karel at De Cam and Day at Fantome have more space than Armand did in their small ally off the main road. I asked Armand how business is going and he paused and said it’s better. People are visiting and buying his Lambic and he’s exporting more but he has no one to take this business when he retires. Funny enough, this was the same narrative just a year prior when I visited. No one to pass down this business that his father, Gaston Debelder passed down to him in 1982. Running this brewery, now blendery through the death of Lambic fans, a 2009 incident that destroyed almost all of his beer with a thermostat failure and the fact that he was then, 61 years old and still had not found a partner to take over was heavy on his shoulders. 

I visited again in 2014 and a new younger man was pouring beers with Lydia and Armand was laughing and telling jokes and talking about having Wort again from the new brewery that was just installed a year prior and he was very optimistic. Here’s a photo in 2014 of that first Brewery 3 Fonteinen Wort almost ready for blending:

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

The spirit of the small team and Armand’s smiles were proof enough that in his mid 60s fast approaching, he felt like things were really looking up. They had also started planning to move locations so they could increase production to meet the demand of a global Lambic customer base. 

Here are some photos from that day in 2014. The first one has Armand in the background with his wife just ahead and Michaël who just poured us some delicious beers:Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Armand’s wife below operating the hand pump for us of Faro Lambiek:

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Fast forward to 2017-2019, I visited their new location Lambik-O-Droom and by then, they had expanded the catalogue of beers from just Gueuze & Kriek and a few one-offs and rebranded to a new bottle logo and brand. It was now a more modern brewery ready for the 21st century primarily driven by Armand’s new partners, Michaël Blanquaert and Werner Van Obberghen.

Yet, Armand was still in the tasting room every time I visited exploring his new found love, Coffee. 

Every time I visited, he’d say hello and offer me a coffee and I always stood at the bar as the Armand, the man responsible for a lifetime devoted to Lambic beers would ‘fuss’ over a cafe americano just like a 21 year old Brooklyn Hipster. He’d find the perfect cup atop the espresso machine that was hot and he’d check it for dust and dirt and he’d perfectly measure out the expresso portafilter and tamp it with intention and thoughtfulness and I’d watch as he carefully served up a coffee and placed the sugar pack just perfectly on the serving cup and hand it to me. I’d always take a sip at the counter as he watched and asked, “okay?” And I’d always nod approvingly and he’d put on a small smirk. At that time, he had handed so much of the work to his new team and partners but still found time to offer people coffee to go along with their beers, bread and cheese plates. From 2014 on, I always saw him smiling. 

One last story and one that just makes me laugh in retrospect. On my final visit to the brewery before COVID-19 kept me away from Belgium, I was at the blendery and I had made friends with a dozen or so Americans so we could order bottles and share them which is a common thing. One of the Americans went up to Armand and refused the coffee service and said he had brought a beer to share. You have to understand brewers get free beers thrown at them all of the time and the novelty of it wears off pretty quickly. I thought it would be a well kept and thoughtful gift like a Saison or something from one of the American breweries he loves but no, it was a Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. One of my favorites but to give a man a beer who admittedly primarily just drinks his Zwet.be, a flemish porter and his own beers is being offered a 15% American bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. He tries so hard to refuse the gift and the man insists. Finally, with a smile he walks away and says “I don’t know what I’m going to do with this?” And it just makes me laugh. 

His life had so many pitfalls and issues and mountains to climb yet he persevered. I think of all of the things he went through and how he managed to persevere. Yes I love the beers he brewed and blended but man, it’s going to suck visiting and not getting to appreciate his beer or his coffee. The brewery is in good hands, no doubt about that but there will always be an emptiness for many of us who visit forever more.

I checked, I’ve enjoyed beer from Armand and family 250 times in the last 10 years. I’ll enjoy a couple of more today in honor of a great man and a great life he lived. 

This morning, I caught up on a few blog posts I missed over the last couple of years. They’re worth reading and listening to:

I’ll leave a few more photos I took over the years, some at 3F others just enjoying 3F beer:

3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze Vintage 2008

3 Fonteinen Restaurant  2015

3 Fonteinen 1999 Oude Kriek

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

Brewery 3 Fonteinen

3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze Cocktail  Jigger s Ghent

Armand Spirit  Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen

Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek

3 Fonteinen Millennium Geuze

3 Fonteinen 2008 Oude Gueuze Vinage

Drie Fonteinen Lambic O Droom  Beersel

Eurotrip 2019 1  3 Fonteinen

Eurotrip 2019 1  3 Fonteinen

Eurotrip 2019 1  3 Fonteinen

Drie Fonteinen Lambic O Droom  Beersel

Drie Fonteinen Lambic O Droom  Beersel