A Very Crappy 2019

2019 has been a very difficult year for me on a personal level, in fact the most difficult I can remember. I just got back last week from spending 5 weeks in Holland, and I finally feel like I can put some of my thoughts into words and share what I’ve been through this past year. I’ve been almost invisible on this blog because I’ve had other, more important, things on my mind. Whether I can find back my enjoyment of writing about things or not will determine if I will start writing again. Right now I feel very empty, and I have no desire to write at all.

I am at heart a very private person and don’t really want to show my inner most thoughts (ha! funny if you look at how long this post is). On the other hand, I feel like I want to write about it, because it might help to deal with it that way. I’m sorry if I ramble on, I just wanted to get this off my chest.

A Good Start is Half the Work

The year 2019 started with three big ones. First, I’m going through some medical stuff related to my lungs, and January 3 was the first of MANY tests and visits to a long list of doctors throughout the year. Initially it looked like it could be very serious, but fortunately I have no life threatening condition, and I’m expected to recover completely (well for the most part).

Second, we were trying to deal with a personal family matter that involves one of the most important people in my life. I am so SO happy to say that this situation has been resolved for the most part, but during the first half of the year it was not certain that this would be possible. Extremely personal, extremely troubling.

Lastly, my work situation was going through a big change. Back in 2017 I had made a significant investment to buy myself into a partnership with a lot of promise, and by the end of 2018 the situation had completely imploded. I still do not understand how badly I could have misjudged this situation (well one person really).

These three things alone were completely dominating my every thought. I was walking around with a big knot in the pit of my stomach. If that wasn’t enough, I was about to get some really disturbing news…

Meanwhile, in Holland

About 10 years prior my mom had beaten kidney cancer, and in Holland that means you get screened every year for 10 years. This year was her last screening, and in January they discovered a mass in her lungs: it was lung cancer, it was malignant. Over the next few months she’d go through chemo and radiation, and she was expected to completely recover from this without a problem, they got it early so the tumor was only the size of a peanut. In April I went to Holland for a couple of weeks to be there for moral support. When I was there, I noticed that my dad was having some trouble breathing.

After I got back to the US, another mass was found in her lung, which they were going to surgically remove at the end of May. Meanwhile, my dad was having more and more trouble breathing, and experiencing intense pain in his chest and back. As my mom was recovering from her surgery (she was literally in the recovery room at the hospital), my dad went into the same hospital, to the same lung doctor as my mom, for his breathing problems and to get tested, scanned, and prodded. On June 11 we received his diagnosis: stage 4 lung cancer, it has spread to other organs and his spine, no recovery possible, outlook not very good although no doctor was willing to give an actual time frame. As my mom was declared ‘clean’ (scheduled for a follow up mid September), my dad was basically given a death sentence.

The only thing they could really do was try to slow down the progress and keep him ‘comfortable’. Now if you have any experience with cancer, you know what a fucking crock of shit that is. There is nothing ‘comfortable’ about this. Nobody gave us a concrete prognosis, so there was no way to tell how much time we really had with him. It was clear though that this was it, my dad would not grow old…

Unexpected Trip

My wife is a nurse, and she immediately got very business-like. She did not want to alarm me, but she basically insisted that we book a couple of tickets to Holland right away to spend some quality time with my dad, in person, while he was still capable. The general prognosis for stage 4 lung cancer is just a couple of months, despite the hopeful message that the doctors like to give people. The statistics of 6 months to a year are really the exception, most lung cancer patients at that stage don’t make it past 3-4 months.

We traveled to Holland in early August and stayed with my parents. The two of us did some touristy stuff, but neither one of my parents were up to do anything with us. My dad’s pain was so severe that he could really only sit up for meals, and the rest of the time he had to lay down to relieve his pain. My mom was doing pretty well, considering, but she was not strong enough to go out and do much more than just some grocery shopping. It was heartbreaking, and I can’t describe how difficult it was to live through it, but we said our goodbyes to my dad and traveled back home knowing that we would never see him alive again.

More Bad News from Holland

As August was drawing to a close, my dad called on a Wednesday night. He’d been taken to the hospital because his pain was just unbearable. They took more images and discovered that his body was just riddled with cancer, most urgently his liver. At this point it was a matter of days until the cancer would take him, and he was done fighting.

My dad had decided to move to a hospice and opt for something called ‘palliative sedation’, where they give you a sedative that is strong enough to go to sleep, and they discontinue food and liquids. The result is that you die in your sleep, usually within 2-3 days. This sounds really bad, and especially for people from countries where this is taboo quite concerning. If you want to say something, please send me a private message. I’d be happy to tell you all about it. Euthanasia is legal in Holland, but the process is very strictly regulated and actually quite difficult to get through it. Palliative sedation is something that is not quite euthanasia, but still a way to have control over your own end of life planning. To put it bluntly, euthanasia takes about 2 weeks from when you start the process to the moment of death, and my dad didn’t have that much time.

Anyway, he had made arrangements to go to sleep the following Monday. All of a sudden, there was a date, it was no longer theoretical….. Just a couple of weeks after I had seen him in person, he had gone from being able to walk around the house to being in so much pain that staying alive was too painful for him.

Another Unexpected Trip

I was planning to stay in the US at the end. I had talked about this with my wife, my parents and my siblings. After all, we had said our goodbyes, and I was at peace with that. Now that there was a date though, I could not stay away. It cost a fortune (PURE greed by the airlines, taking advantage of people’s need to travel at a short notice), but I booked the next flight to Amsterdam.

By the time I arrived in Holland, my dad was at the hospice, and they had switched him to ‘the good drugs’. His pain was bearable (which they had not been able to do at the hospital), so much so that he changed his mind about starting the sedation on Monday. He was able to stay with us for another few days, and spend some time with his family and friends. He declined fast though…. the cancer was eating him alive very rapidly.

Losing My Dad

On Sunday September 8, 2019, about half an hour before my 50th birthday, my dad passed away. My sister was with him when it happened, my mom and I went to the hospice to prepare my dad for the funeral. We scheduled the cremation in private for Thursday, since my flight back home was Saturday, with a public wake on Wednesday.

At this point, my mom was not eating well, and she was complaining about pain in the same area of her body as my dad. My sister and I were concerned, but we did not think it was anything super serious. We thought she just didn’t have much of an appetite because of the circumstances. She was declared clean just a couple of months ago, so we did not suspect anything serious.

It was almost as if she had kept up appearances though, because as soon as my dad died, my mom basically went to bed and didn’t come out. We thought she was just grieving, but after a couple of days it was clear that something was very wrong. An echo showed an enlarged liver, and she was scheduled to go back for a follow up on Friday, the day after my dad’s cremation. She was not healthy enough to come to the wake on Wednesday, and as we were getting ready to go to my dad’s cremation on Thursday, we had to call an ambulance to take my mom to the hospital. I cannot tell you how disturbing it is to be at your dad’s cremation while not knowing what is going on with your mom…

Losing My Mom

We did visit my mom in the ICU that night. She was dehydrated, undernourished, and all sorts of vital signs were not good. We were very anxious for the results of her tests, which we got the morning after.

Remember, this is the lung/oncology team that had initially treated my mom’s lung cancer, and then my dad’s lung cancer. My dad had passed away just a few days ago, and now my mom was in the ICU. When they walked into my mom’s room they all looked totally defeated, one of them even in tears. Her lung cancer had come back, and it had pretty much destroyed her liver. No more treatment was indicated. We talked about options for ‘making her as comfortable as possible’ (there’s that fucking word again), and my mom decided that she did not want to go to the hospice, she wanted to stay in the hospital. This was Friday morning September 13.

Unfortunately, there was no time for my mom to visit with any friends or family. She was so far gone that we couldn’t even have a proper conversation with her anymore. Just two days later, on Sunday September 15, she passed away, less than a week after my dad.

Within less than one week, I lost both my parents, to fucking lung cancer.

Three More Weeks

There was no way that I was going to leave my sister to deal with this by herself, so I extended my stay in Holland, and I spent another 3 weeks there.

My parents’ house was just an empty shell, just a building with furniture and all the stuff that they had collected over the span of their lives. We had to arrange for my mom’s cremation, and then the estate. It is SO strange to go around and ask friends and family if there are any things that they would like to have, things that have meaning to them. There were instruments for people that used to play with my dad. Paintings that my mom had made with sentimental meaning to certain people. One of my friends has a son in college, and we gave pretty much all of the kitchenware to him, in case he decides to move out. We were very lucky that we did not have any big conflicts, there were no fights over any tangible items.

We did not have a wake for my mom, we were just not up for it. We did end up arranging a spot in the ‘urn garden’ at a cemetery close to where they lived, and my sister arranged fora very nice plaque to commemorate them.

Update Feb 3, 2020: Added images

The rest of those three weeks my sister and I spent a LOT of time together, did some of the estate planning, and I ate away my misery.

Life Goes On

So… what now? I don’t know, to be honest. I have about 20 pounds to lose so I should probably start exercising and eating better. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, so there are lots of hiking options available. Maybe I’ll start listening to audio books instead of reading the utterly depressing news.

One thing that I realized is that people can be real human beings. These past 5 weeks I was surrounded by SO MUCH love. So many people reached out to send us support, and I cannot tell you how much that meant to me and my family. The meal service from my sister’s coworkers was such a heart warming gesture, they really put a ton of love in all of those dishes. Spending a ton of time with my sister was very good for me. It was great to get to know her family much better, and my niece and I are very close as well as a result.

As for the community… Hopefully you’ll understand that I didn’t have it in me to do much of anything, I’ve had other (more important) things on my mind. The demise of CRS (it really does not exist anymore beyond the personal company of one of the ‘partners’) means that I don’t have direct access to a lot of the latest new stuff anymore from that side. The MVP program is not really organizing anything for the MVPs anymore, so there’s not a lot of new stuff coming from that direction. I do still have to figure out a ton of stuff for my clients, so I do have plenty to share. I’ll try to catch back up for the rest of this year, maybe the start of 2020 I’ll find some inspiration. I am thinking I might start creating short videos to supplement the blog, but if I do I want to make that into something nice. I don’t really know, I do want to pick this back up so stay tuned.

Anyway, this post turned out to be WAY longer than I planned, but once I started writing it just kind of fell out of my mind.

Docs on GitHub

Maybe you remember, last year I wrote about signing an App Package file, but that post was really about how I got to collaborate with someone at Microsoft, and one of the things we did was improve the online documentation for this topic.

At the time, I had noticed that there was a feedback button on each page in Docs, and underneath the feedback button it said something like ‘feedback is linked to GitHub Issues’, which led me to wonder if we’d ever see Docs in a repo that we could actually contribute to.

Now today, through a tweet by one of the managers at Microsoft, there was a link to a blog post about that very topic: here it is.

Just think how great this is! Not only do we get access to the source files of the actual documentation, we have a mechanism to contribute to the content. If you ever find yourself confused by any of the documentation, you can either leave your feedback on Docs, or you can make a change and submit a pull request to the repo itself! Either way, the actual system that is used to maintain the docs source files is also used to track issues, and you can create issues yourself in that very system!

This is what we call a BFD 🙂

 

NAV Techdays 2018 Recap

I started to write this post while flying across the Atlantic Ocean on the second of a three leg journey home, a BA flight from London to Phoenix. It has been a very long trip that started when I traveled to Holland for Directions EMEA in Den Haag at the end of October. Since Directions and NAV Techdays were relatively close together, I decided to just stay with my family in Holland for those 4 weeks rather than fly back and forth twice in less than a month. This has been the longest that I’ve ever been away from home, and I was SO ready to be back in my own house.

NAV Techdays ended last Friday, and it’s been another fantastic week, as we’ve come to expect. As far as I can tell, the attendees in my pre-conference workshop were happy with the content, I can’t wait to get the feedback and see what I can improve for next time.

As per usual, Luc has posted the videos in record time, less than a week after the event. The whole playlist can be found here, and I wanted to highlight some of my favorite sessions. One of the most important developments in current technology is machine learning and AI. Dmitry Katson and Steven Renders put together an awesome session to introduce machine learning to us. The award for most entertaining session goes to Waldo and Vjeko, who put on a concert and wowed the audience with some really cool content. I also want to point out the session about CI/CD, which is going to be one of the most important things for everyone that is serious about implementing a professional development practice. Of course, I have to also mention the Docker session, which is the technology that makes it all possible.

Furtunately, next year’s event is not scheduled on Thanksgiving, which is a national holiday here in the US, one that typically involves lots of friends and family, and lots of food. I’ve had to miss it the past couple of years, and each time I’ve been bummed to hear the stories of all the great meals and gatherings that my family got to have without me. Next year I’ll be home for Turkey Day!

Thanks for another super event, it’s one of my favorite weeks of the year.

Directions 2018 Recap

Today’s the last day of Directions EMEA 2018, which was in Den Haag in The Netherlands. This is the town where I was born, and since I haven’t lived in Holland for almost 20 years, it was kind of strange to be here on a business trip. The event was hosted in the World Forum, which used to be called ‘Het Congres Gebouw’ which translates to ‘The Conference Building’. I had never been there for any conference, but it used to also be the home of the famous North Sea Jazz Festival.

My contribution to both events (I did the same workshop and sessions for Directions in San Diego as well as Den Haag) were:

  • An all day workshop to introduce C/SIDE developers to extensions and VSCode. There was a great buzz around the room at both events. Last year there was a bit of anger about the direction of NAV, but now that is settled, I saw a lot of excitement about the new environment, and everyone was eager to learn new things.
  • App Source Test Drive. In San Diego I was a co-presenter with Mike Glue, one of my fellow MVPs, who has developed the only Test Drive experience that is currently in AppSource. He could not make it to Holland, so I did this session by myself in Den Haag.
  • Source Code Management. I was surprised at how busy this session was, there was pretty much a full at both events, and the audience in Den Haag even posed for the picture in this post, which was a lot of fun to do with them.

Other than being very busy with my own workshops and sessions, I was able to attend some sessions myself. The ones that I will remember most, and that I will want to learn much more about was the session about Machine Learning, and the session about CI/CD for Business Central development. Especially the latter one will be important, because if we want to do repeatable software on a bigger scale, we will need, we MUST, learn how to be more professional. The days of flying by the seat of your pants as a partner are over, we must all adapt and become the professionals that we’ve pretended to be for so many years.

During my sessions and workshops I asked almost every staff member who looks old enough to remember if they knew anything about the history of the rooms. I would have loved to be able to say that I shared a stage with some of the greats of jazz, leaving out the fact that there are decades between those performances of course. Unfortunately, nobody remembered, and there does not seem to be any history for the building that I can find. I did find old programs for NSJ, but nobody seems to know what the rooms used to be called.

Whether I can say I share the stage with anybody or not, it was cool to be in The Hague for this conference.

Business Central on YouTube

Today is a Very Big Day! Allow me to tell you why 🙂

Maybe you remember a few months ago, when I posted some ‘how do I’ videos, I also mentioned that I was working on hours and hours of training material for Business Central. To make a long story short: my company was commissioned to create a long list of technical training videos. Originally, those videos would be published in the Dynamics Learning Portal (DLP). For those of you that don’t know, the DLP is a website where you can find a ton of training resources for a variety of Microsoft Dynamics products, including NAV and Business Central. There are a few caveats about DLP: not only is it inside PartnerPortal, you have to pay extra to get access to it. Partners who don’t pay this extra fee do not get access to DLP.

As soon as I started working on these training videos, I started mentioning how cool it would be to have these videos available for a wider audience, and every chance I got I would repeat that to anybody who would listen. At some point the decision was made to lift these videos from behind the paywall. They would still be inside DLP, but anyone with PartnerSource access would be able to see them. I was still not happy with that, after all PartnerSource is not free.

Now, exactly how much influence I have over these types of decisions is up for debate, but I do know that I recorded these videos, I had daily status calls with people from Microsoft, and I mentioned it to everyone that it would be great to make ALL of these videos available to the public.

So, the reason why I am so excited, is that I am very proud to be able to share that as of today, there is a separate channel for Business Central on YouTube, and the first thing that was published is a playlist with ALL of the technical training videos that are currently available. That’s right, the entire list of videos that are currently in the Business Central YouTube channel are recorded by ME!!

We still have more videos to create, and they should be added to the playlist as I finish them. At some point I’m expecting Microsoft to add more content to this channel, so it won’t be just me on there, but for now I am almost giddy with excitement.

Now like I said I don’t know just how much my insistence has played a part in this, but when I first started with this project the only plan was to publish these videos to DLP. In my mind I single-handedly convinced Microsoft to release all this great content to the public.

Inspire 2018 Recap

One of the cool things about the Microsoft Inspire event is that IT. IS. HUUUUGE! One of the most annoying things about Inspire is that it is HUUUGE! It is so easy to get lost among the 10,000 or so attendees that are milling about, going to sessions across a bunch of floors, walking around the immense expo floor with what seems to be thousands upon thousands of vendors peddling their wares.

The best part about this event was that it was in Vegas. Not that I particularly enjoy Vegas, but it is a drive away from my house. This means that I got to leave at a convenient time, drive my own car, and bring a guitar with me so that I can play in my hotel room.

Two of my partners made the trip from Europe, and we had a bunch of meetings scheduled with some potential and existing customers. It is always nice to spend some time with them, we had great food, saw some cool things. I was looking forward to going to the Bruno Mars concert at the big event, but the night in question was hotter than hell, and there was no way I was going to go out in that temperature. Bruno will have to wait to have me in his audience at a later date 🙂

So…. what was the buzz around Inspire this year? For me it was a further crystallization of Microsoft’s digital transformation strategy. The marketing heads have come up with something called ‘Intelligent Edge’ which is a way to categorize everything into a big connected amalgamation of connected technologies. There were many slides about machine learning, AI, a BIG emphasis on Azure. All of this with unlimited scalability in the Microsoft Cloud, which comes with an incremental subscription fee of course.

Microsoft seems to realize that they need the partner channel to do most of the selling for them, so the way they organize that has gone through some further evolving. It’s still very shortly after the event so I haven’t had much time to let this stew and find some good resources. I’m actually not sure if I will have much time for that anyway. I am knee deep in working on hours of new training material that needs to be finished before the next event, so we’ll see if I get to do some research on all of this.

For me, I like to dive a little deeper into specific topics. Inspire is a bit overwhelming for me, and it is an extremely expensive event to boot. We’ve been to Inspire two years in a row, and if we’ll come back next year (which I doubt) we will probably just get a room near the conference and use the event as a means to be in one place with our customers and Microsoft people.

Image: a slide showing the Intelligent Edge

Ready To Go

I’m on my way home from a bucket list kind of trip this past week. This post is more than just a travel log, I’ll get to a good link that you will be able to use to get Ready to Go for Business Central. Bear with me and let me tell the story of my trip 🙂

Through my work I’ve had the opportunity to travel pretty much to the opposite side of the globe to teach the CRS workshop for developing extensions for Business Central with VSCode. The first 2 day workshop was in Hong Kong on Monday and Tuesday, and then Thurday and Friday I hosted the same workshop in Manila. To have some time for sightseeing I arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday early morning. My hotel was on Hong Kong Island, and I spent the day mostly walking around the area near the hotel. It was a very long trip, and I had a looooong night sleep to recover from the journey.

On my flight over, I was a little too vigorous trying to clean the keyboard on my laptop, and it stopped working. As I kind of need a keyboard for the workshop, part of my Sunday sightseeing was to roam the city in search of an external keyboard, which fortunately I found. It’s an unusual souvenir, but I am actually typing this on a keyboard with Chinese characters.

Instead of my original plan to take a ferry across the harbor and find some of the famous food places, I stayed around town on the island. There was an awesome dragon boat race, and I took the trolley up to Victoria Peak, which is where I took the picture at the top of this post. It was fantastic to be in Hong Kong, the people were very hospitable, I really hope I get the chance to go back there some day and spend some serious time exploring the area there.

These workshops are part of a program called ‘Ready to Go’, which was created to help the Microsoft partner channel build the skills that are necessary to succeed in the new ecosystem for Business Central. I’ll post something with more details probably in a few days, and go into a little more detail then, but the link that you want to jot down is http://aka.ms/ReadyToGo. On this page, you will find a ton of good content, and even more links to other places with even more content. This link can be your starting point for any information that you might need to succeed.

The workshops were a success, and I’ve received lots of positive feedback. It was a pleasure visiting these two places, and I hope to go back there one day. These are people that are Ready to Go!

NAV Techdays 2018 – I’m Speaking!

Registration for NAV Techdays 2018 is open, and this year is going to be SUPER exciting for me, because I am going to teach an all-day pre-conference workshop! Go to the sessions overview page of the NAV Techdays website to see the details of all of the sessions and the pre-conference workshops. Of course I would LOVE it if you sign up for my workshop, but really you can’t go wrong with any of them.

My workshop is called “A Day in the Life of a Business Central Developer”. I still need to put the material together, but the plan is to cover all aspects of what it means to be a developer for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Think about the development environment, how to create an app, how to create multiple apps with dependencies (an extension of another extension), how to connect to web services, how to use source control, and even design patterns and Docker.

I realize that it is a very ambitious agenda, but I am sure that we can fill a whole day with great content. I’m not sure if there will be much time to do any extensive lab work, so I might end up just teaching all day and giving you some things to take home and work on after the workshop is done.

Most importantly – go register for NAV Techdays, it is really THE premium event for our industry. Spend an extra couple of days in Antwerpen for the pre-conference workshops, they are all fantastic and worth every penny.

See you in Antwerpen in November!

Announcing NAV 2018

Real quick one today – James Phillips announced General Availability of Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2018.

Marko announced it on TwItter:

Which was retweeted by just about everyone I know. Promise made at the closing keynote at Directions in Orlando is hereby delivered!

Can’t wait to see when they announce “Tenerife”.

NAV Techdays 2017 Recap

My favorite week of the year has just ended. I’m in the high speed train from Antwerpen back to Amsterdam, which is over just like that so I don’t have much time to make this anything elaborate.

As per usual, the organization was superb. The venue is fantastic, with a great expo area, lots of good food and drink choices, and the seats in the great rooms are just about the most comfortable seats you can imagine. The Kinepolis is a movie theater that you can also rent for events. I think I speak for everyone when I say this is one of the most important features, and I hope we will never have to move to a different location.

My week started with a full day pre-conference workshop about automated testing in NAV. This workshop was hosted by none other than Luc van Vugt, who, as per usual, delivered a solid day of learning. I had misread the workshop description and the correspondence that we had prior to the workshop, so I did not get everything out of it that I could have, but Luc was so kind to offer assistance to me so that I could do the exercises at home. Any time you have an opportunity to train under Luc, you should take it.

My company, Cloud Ready Software, was a sponsor, so we had a booth to staff. It was a pleasure to be there and talk to anyone who had any questions about what we can offer.

As per usual, the two conference days were stuffed with 90 minute deep-dive sessions on any topic you can think of. My favorite ones were Waldo’s “Rock ‘n Roll with VS Code”Anders and Nikola’s “Creating great APIs”, and the Docker session by Freddy, Tobias and Jakub. Fortunately for you, you can watch all of the sessions on YouTube, Luc had all of them uploaded within a week of the conference.

I can’t say enough about this conference. For any technical resource in the NAV channel (and I include Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations in that category), NAV Techdays is a must to attend, every single year. This is the second time that I’ve gone, and I am still kicking myself for not going the first few years. If I can help it, I will not make that mistake again.

See you next year in Antwerpen!