Talk on Advanced Postgres for MENADEVS

I recently gave a talk about “Advanced Postgres”, for MENADEVS, an organisation for developers from the Middle East, thus far mainly focused on Lebanon and Syria, and founded by Constantine G. Nikolaou, among others. As this talk – my third technical talk ever – turned out fairly well, or at least significantly better than the previous two, I would like to share it with you here below!


In hindsight, I think the talk was rather “migrating a table name and some Postgres obscure features”, to be self-critical, but I did not have a whole lot of time to prepare and ponder about the topic either – less than two weeks. For a version 2.0 of this talk – which I am fairly keen to give, as I really, really like Postgres and would also like to get the experience of giving a similar talk twice – I would shorten the part on somewhat lesser-known features and include a discussion of query planner (SELECT ANALYZE) analysis and interpretation, indizes (B-tree, GiST and GIN) on single and multiple columns and what impact this can have. That would be more practical and generally applicable, for more developers. Another idea would be to talk about database configuration, or running Postgres in different environments, but I would need to learn some more about that myself first.

If you are developer from the Middle East, or just have a strong interest in the region and speak a bit of Arabic, like me, I very much would like to invite you to join MENADEVS – there’s a very active Slack community and some open-source collaboration on Github!

If you are looking for a more generally “useful” and applicable talk, or are a beginner- or intermediate level developer, I more highly recommend watching the second talk of the same meetup on Domain Driven Design, by Patrick Lewis: 

Patrick also has a good and active blog on Unix, which you can find here.

If you like to invite me to speak about Postgres (or another topic?) at your conference or meetup, or have feedback for me, ping me on Twitter!

Berlin Tiramisu Ranking (BTR)

About every week, I am trying one tiramisu in Berlin, so you do not have to. Somehow, apparently, this desert is surprisingly hard to get right. Here is what I tried so far, ranked from best to worst:

De Noantri (2020-05-24)

This one was actually pretty good, or maybe it was just my mood after meeting Louis to talk Boreal Bikes! Cookie was well soaked, cream was fine. – Görlitzer Str. 63, Kreuzberg. Score: 7/10. Price: €5

La Premiata (2020-05-17)

The ratio of cream to cookie is about right, however there’s just one layer of each – hence I would not recommend it! Cookie layer maybe a bit too soaky with amaretto, but that’s a minor issue. – Weinbergsweg, Mitte. Score: 5/10. Price: €5,5.

Pizza Pane (2020-05-10)

Cheap supermarket tiramisu often is almost all cream, hardly any or no cookie. This was probably the most cookie and least cream I ever had for a tiramisu. So, this is the other extreme and I would also not recommend it. Kastanienallee, Prenzlauer Berg. Score: 4/10. Price: €4,5.

to be continued... to do list: Pane e Vino, Kastanienallee, Italian Food Berlin, Kastanienallee, Pasta & Passione, Kastanienallee.

Software Craftmanship Local Chapter How-to

On May 4th, I participated for the first time in a meetup of the Software Craftmanship Berlin group, a meetup I have been part of for quite a while already, but never managed to participate in be. This time, the meetup took place remotely and was in a Lean Coffee discussion format, so the barriers were rather low. Among a number of other topics we discussed, we also spoke about how to set up your own local chapter of this meetup in your city, as one of the participants, Frank, is looking to do just that for Dresden, where he is based. In this post, which I am looking to improve further in the future, I aim to summarise some of the ideas we had around this topic.

Core Organizing Team

Solo-organizing is always very hard, so one of the most crucial things to get things going is finding 2, 3 like-minded, reliable co-organizers as quickly as possible. If you cannot manage to find these among your friends before the first meetup, this should be a priority for the first couple meetups.

Finding a Location

While it is very easy these days to find different companies to host your meetup, we quickly agreed that this is probably not a good idea initially. The companies will have expectations about the size of the crowd, which, in the first months you just cannot guarantee. Therefore, starting out with your own employer or a suitable community space as the default host, with more modest expectations, is probably the better idea.

Setting a Rhythm, Weekday & Time

Another key factor which we agreed upon as important in making your local Software Craftmanship meetup chapter a success is that you meet in regular intervals, on a fixed weekday and time. This is a major factor in getting some of the participants to come back.

Dealing with Newcomers & Regulars

One topic that is more specific to Software Craftmanship than the previous points which are very general is how best to deal with the mix of newcomers and regulars, or people deeply into the topic, at the meetup. I do not think that we came to much of a concrete conclusion here, Martin Klose just shared his experience with the Berlin meetup that people only showing up once is quite normal and to be expected.

Have you made some experiences with setting up your own local chapter and do you have something to add? Let me know on Twitter, so I can improve this post.

The State of German Basketball Business – May 2020

It’s a series of “first afters” here in Berlin these days. Yesterday, on the 15th, restaurants and cafés were allowed to offer dine-in again. Today, the other Bundesliga, the football (soccer) one, had their first game day after the Corona lockdown. Unlike most top-level leagues in other sports, most notably ice hockey (DHL) and handball (HBL), top-level basketball (BBL) also has decided to play out a continuation of this 2019/20 season. In the following post, I want to summarise, what this means for pro basketball in Germany and how the following season could look like.

The Final 10 Format

  • 10 out of 17 BBL teams play out a very condensed championship, starting from beginning of June, with games every second day, all in Munich, in the home arena of FC Bayern München Basketball.
  • All games are played without any spectators in the arena, for obvious reasons and teams are supposed to stay isolated from the rest of the world for the duration of the tournament.
  • The modus is going to be two groups of five playing a single round robin, after which the top four teams of each group play out the quarter finals.
  • The K.O. rounds, including the final will be played with two games, i.e. two legs, or “home” and “away”.

The ten participating teams are not the top 10 teams according to the standings when the season was interrupted after game day 22 (out of 32) on March 8. Würzburg, Dirk Nowitzki’s home club, decided to not participate despite finishing 8th. Braunschweig, Bayreuth and Giessen passed, allowing the FRAPORT Skyliners from Frankfurt to get into these “playoffs”, despite finishing 14th, with 6-15 record. Especially in the case of Bayreuth, I must say that I am surprised that they passed, as I thought their sponsors are very keen on seeing success rather sooner than later. Bonn (15th) was keen on hosting the tournament and I think not giving that honor to one of the cities not participating might have been a mistake by the BBL teams, which decided otherwise.

Player Transfers

The BBL agreed on letting each team acquire up to two new players for the tournament. Vechta (6th) will look the most different, with five players from the “regular” season missing, and two – still to be selected – players coming in. Göttingen (9th) is missing three players and got two players from abroad instead, Crailsheim (3rd) has acquired two of key players from MBC (16th) and Hamburg (17th) at the bottom of the table, Bamberg (7th) is missing two players, Olinde and Bryce Taylor due to injuries. Bayern as the top team will be unchanged and Berlin also did not add anyone. For the clubs that changed their lineups considerably, I think it will be interesting to see how the fans will accept the new faces and identity of “their” team.

Winners & Losers of the Break

ALBA Berlin went into a social media frenzy during the Corona crisis, focused on instructional YouTube videos for basketball-related exercises for three different age groups, starting from Kindergarten age. These videos generally “only” gathered 20k viewers, so far, but I believe this content will be timeless to some extent and the focused strategy, with a steady rhythm of publications, will pay off handsomely in the future.

Brose Bamberg arguably had the worst break. After persistent rumours already before the crisis, yesterday it was officially announced that Brose, the majority owner and main sponsor of the club, will gave up their stake in the club in July, while staying on board as a sponsor – for now, at least for another three seasons. This, however might be the begin of an Abschied auf Raten, as you say in German, ultimately leading up to Brose to longer supporting basketball in Bamberg. The days of playing in the Euroleague – 2016/17 for the last time – and as the best club in the country seem long gone now and the trend looks downward, although it is hard to imagine the BBL without Bamberg, given how big the sport is in the city.

Down in the lower tiers of German basketball, the season was ended prematurely by a decision in the middle of March, to make the intermediary results final. Schalke 04 (16th in Pro A, second league) and Elchingen (1st in Pro B, third league) already pulled out for the next season, ending their professional ambitions. I have a feeling that these two clubs will not remain the only ones that are dropping out, or moving down a league or two voluntarily.

Women’s pro basketball maybe found the worst possible solution of all, by deciding to annul the entire 2019/20 season results for the DBBL, due to the veto of two clubs. Fortunately, over on the other side of the pond, Satou Sabally was picked second in the WNBA draft, just behind her Oregon Ducks teammate Sabrina Ionescu. Two more Germans, Luisa Geiselsöder and Leonie Fiebich, were selected in the second round. As only 4 Non-Americans made it in this draft, out of 36 picks in total, this certainly gives some hope for the future of German women’s basketball.

Outlook for the 2020/21 season

At the end of last season, there were rumours that some of the top clubs wanted to shrink the league from 18 down to 16 teams. In the end, only Nuremberg, home of the very successful Fame-or-Shame summer ProAm, could not convince the BBL that they would have a suitable arena in time, leading to the literally odd 17 we had now. Along with the agreement on the Final 10 format, the league also agreed that there would be no demotion this season based on the results. I do not want to speculate which club(s) will no longer be in the BBL next season, however, I think it is rather likely that we are going to see only 16, as several clubs just barely got the budget to play first league in the last few seasons and it is likely that several bigger sponsors will reduce their investment in the upcoming crisis, not just Brose.

Below the first league, Pro A had 17 teams, Pro B 12 teams each in two groups, resulting in a total of 24 teams. For me it’s hard to imagine that this number will not shrink further as well, beyond the two clubs that already dropped out, so we might see German pro basketball going from 58 clubs in 2019/20 to something around 54 the season after. Like with the introduction of local player rules in lower-tier Regionalliga (4th league) before the current season, this means that getting a job in German basketball is getting tougher, once again. Overall, the picture is somewhat bleak, but then again, compared to most other sports and basketball in other countries, German basketball might actually fare better and ultimately get out stronger from this crisis.

One trend that will be interesting to watch is whether the first league will move towards having more clubs in Germany’s biggest cities, after Hamburg was promoted before this season. Out of the 15 biggest German cities, only four have a top-level basketball club based directly in the city, compared to eight in the football Bundesliga. With Bayern establishing itself in the first league over the last couple of years, there were some fears among fans that clubs primarily known for their football teams would take over basketball too. After what happened to Schalke and with economic pressures on most other top-tier football clubs as well, this now seems less likely than ever.

If you are an American interested in playing professionally in Europe, I highly recommend the No Plan B podcast by Rene Weimann and my friend Joe Asberry, a video scout for MAC Sports Management & Consulting and former pro, who played most of his career in Germany, but also played professional ball in Japan and Finland. Here is an interview with him in SLAM, from back in 2015.

If you are a coach looking to learn, I highly recommend the European Basketball Webinar by Thomas Roijakers. I participated in several of the sessions in the beginning of this month.

Lebanon Expert How-to

The last 12 years, I have spend a lot of time on Lebanon – reading, listening to things, watching news, and, last but not least, I also made five trips to the country and stayed in touch with some friends there every day. If you are looking to become more of an expert on this small country, you have come to the right place. I will give you some resources, to give you a very good starting point. Lebanon, for such a small country, gets far disproportional attention, especially in the West. Unfortunately, especially Western journalists nevertheless seem to be prone to inform in a superficial, orientalist way about Lebanon. With this blog post, I want to help raise the bar for covering this place a bit.

1. A House of Many Mansions

If you only read one book on the history Lebanon, Kamal Salibi’s AHoMMs should be the one. While it arguably also has some sectarian biases, like most books on Lebanon by Lebanese authors, it is less biased than most, and it is far more thorough than what you typically read from Western authors.

2. The Lebanese Politics Podcast

If you want to listen to only one podcast on Lebanese politics, this would be the one. All the 80 episodes so far are worth listening to and some do not just cover events current at the time. The hosts have a background in journalism and used to work for The Daily Star, the most important English-language daily newspaper in Lebanon.

3. The Daily Star

TDS is a newspaper which is owned by and heavily influenced by Saad Hariri, Sunni sectarian viewpoints and his Future Movement party. Articles are usually easy to read, so it is useful to stay up-to-date at least on a superficial level. A lot of American journalists that got into reporting from Middle East started out here.

4. The Art of Boo

There are several great cartoonists out of Lebanon. The Art of Boo by Bernard Hage is one of the best political ones. Some of them get published L’Orient Le Jour.

5. L’Orient Le Jour

L’Orient Le Jour is Lebanon’s most import French-language daily. Compared to The Daily Star, it is more of a high-brow outlet. Usually it takes a somewhat Christian sectarian perspective on the country.

6. @KarlreMarks / Karl Sharro

Life is too serious anyways. For something humoristic, follow this London-based Lebanese architect on Twitter, who frequently makes jokes about Lebanese and UK politics. With And Then God Created the Middle East and Said ‘Let There Be Breaking News’, he also published a best-of book of sorts.

7. Al Jadeed

Al Jadeed is one of the most interesting TV stations from Lebanon, as their news coverage is a lot more consistently critical of establishment politics than most other stations in the country. The other stations usually have clear affiliations with one of the political leaders or parties and this is not so clear cut for this one.

8. Moulahazat

Moulahazat by Ramez Dagher (M.D.) is a blog on Lebanese politics which explains things in detail, for example also the electoral system(s), gives background and context. Reading it is invaluable, if you want to understand what is actually going on and what motivates certain political alliances.

This is list is by no means complete in any way, of course. What is clearly underrepresented in the resources I picked now are, for example, Shia, Armenian, Druze and Palestinian sectarian perspectives, among others. I deliberately mostly included English-language resources, even though the most serious discussions about Lebanese domestic matters still happen in Arabic, as the Thawra that started on October 17th 2019 clearly has shown.