I finally got to see the pics from Jared and Julia’s wedding back in September! I was one of the groomsmen, so I ended up in a few of the photos. Check out the full set from photographer Justin Salem Meyer.
I’m pleased to share with you my latest video creation:
Thanks to Holt, Inc.—Mike (my dad) and Gary (my uncle)—for letting me ride along that weekend in October. Additional thanks to Nick (my cousin) for washing the equipment and helping with mounting the GoPro, and to Kathleen (my mom) for driving me around in the field, allowing me to focus on UAV flight.
I’m very excited to share with you that I am joining the @Dwolla engineering team in January!— Brian Holt (@bpholt) December 19, 2014
Tomorrow is my first day at Dwolla! After a couple weeks off for Christmas and New Years, I’m excited to get started and learn more about what I’ve gotten myself into. I know Dwolla
is a United States-only e-commerce company that provides an online payment system and mobile payments network (thanks, Wikipedia), and I’ve been a customer for a couple years now. I know many of the people I’ll be working with. I don’t yet know specifically what I’ll be working on, and of course there are the typical new workplace concerns regarding the culture and whether the chairs are comfy.
I visited Mexico, Germany, and India on behalf of the company, extended those trips to visit Austria, Switzerland, Scotland, and the UAE, and lived in India for six months. (All my intercontinental travel was in business class, too.) Domestically, I visited New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin, Amarillo, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Fort Collins, Omaha, Las Vegas, Jacksonville, Atlanta, the Quad Cities (so many nights in Moline…), Waterloo/Cedar Falls, and several other small towns in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Texas. I regularly visited my alma mater, the University of Illinois, to recruit and present to students on behalf of the company. In India, I saw the Taj Mahal, the Amber Fort of Jaipur, the Ellora Caves, and the Qutb Minar. I spent time in the quaint German resort town of Bad Sooden-Allendorf, the metropolis of Frankfurt, and the university town of Kaiserslautern.
I directly supervised a handful of employees (Sadly, including having to fire one.), managed the work of several offshore teams, and provided architectural direction for projects with hundreds of developers. I represented the company publicly to the press and industry standards groups, and I even met with senior leadership and a member of the Board of Directors. I worked with great people, including some who are now among my best friends, and had some amazing opportunities.
Lots of people have asked me why I left Deere. There wasn’t any one reason, nor was it really driven by the idea of leaving. My friend Jared Dellitt has been encouraging me to make the leap for probably 18 months, and from what I’d heard from him and others that work there, this feels like a great opportunity to try something different, and above all, learn in a new environment. So I’m leaving something familiar for something unknown, in the hopes that I learn and grow (and thrive) in a new environment. Dwolla is a much smaller company—from 60,000 employees to 60—with a much greater focus on software and growth. It’s a startup that has been around for about four years, as opposed to an established manufacturing concern founded in 1837. I’ll be working with staff in Des Moines and San Francisco, potentially relocating to the Bay Area in a few months as well. I will meet a new circle of colleagues, and hopefully, through them, meet others in the broader community. I’ll be learning an entirely new technology stack, primarily Scala and C#. I can’t wait to get started!
Given that my body half thinks I’m still in a European timezone, I decided to get up early and watch the total lunar eclipse, taking some photos while I watched.
Interest in unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, has soared over the last few months. After seeing the AirDog Kickstarter campaign, I decided to buy in, and after some research, I bought a DJI Phantom 2 and a GoPro Hero 3+ Black edition. I got them both about three weeks ago and they’ve been a lot of fun. Using iMovie to combine the footage from the drone, the waterproof GoPro, and a little bit of Dad’s Nikon with a 70–300mm lens attached, I put together this video from our weekend at Apple Canyon Lake.
Thanks so much to Kevin and Susan for letting us stay at their cabin for the weekend!
Several people have asked about exactly what I’m using. Here are the details:
I also bought several mounts and accessories for the GoPro (including the floaty backdoor (≈$10 at Amazon) and the wrist mount (≈$50 at Amazon), used for the footage in the trailer) and an extra battery for the Phantom 2 (≈$130 at Amazon).
Dad has a Nikon D3200 we used with my ProMaster 70–300mm f4–5.6 lens to shoot people jumping off the rock. This was a little challenging because the D3200 didn’t want to auto-focus this lens, so not only did I need to deal with the rocking of the boat, but had to manually focus as well. (That’s why there is no footage of me jumping off the rock—Dad didn’t realize it needed to be manually focused.)
Click “read more” to learn more about the drone, camera, and other technology used in the video!
Opportunities for travel are definitely among the perks of my job, and this latest trip to our offices in Kaiserslautern was no different. Our meetings started Monday, but several of us took the red eye flight arriving Sunday morning (in order to be a little more well-rested for work) and thus had several hours to kill.
Jill, Mike, and I drove down from Frankfurt, which meant several stretches of unlimited-speed Autobahn. I rented the car because I wanted to open it up, but unlike last time, I don't think we achieved the top speed of our Volvo. This hatchback was much smoother at 180 kph than the Opal van I drove while last in Germany for work was at 170, and it was certainly fun to drive.
Once we settled in to the hotel, we met with Steve and drove through the Palatinate Forest towards Neustadt. We wanted to check out the Hambacher Schloß, a small castle said to be the “birthplace of Germany democracy” because of a protest march held there in the early 1800s. It was a lovely drive through the winding roads of the forest, with only a couple close calls where the road narrowed through some villages. Luckily we had a navigation system or we might have gotten lost several times, but we made it to the castle and found that lots of others had the same idea!
After passing several prospective parking spots up because we weren't sure they were legal places, we finally got settled into one about a kilometer down the hill. While we were parking an older couple gave us their parking ticket, saving us several Euros and probably a second trip up and down the hill to get change for the parking meter. As it was, we climbed the hill to the castle and spent several minutes admiring the views and enjoying the beautiful 60° weather.
We explored the castle and had dinner in the 1834 restaurant. Unfortunately there were no seats outside but beer was still served, so we didn’t mind too much. I had an enormous roast pork chop, which was delicious and highly recommended. It was served with the back fat and skin on, which was excellent. Germany knows what to do with pork. (Beef, on the other hand… not as good.)
September 22 was a travel day, putting an end to our time in Berlin and, for us, kicking off the Oktoberfest celebration. Before leaving the US, we purchased a group train ticket that was only good for a specific train, so it was imperative that we all make it to the Hauptbahnhof on time (Technically it was imperative that I be there on time. The ticket was in my name; I could have left the rest of the group behind…). We made plans to meet at the Starbucks across from the rest of the group’s hotel and then ride the U-Bahn from there, leaving well in advance of the departure time (On my suggestion…) to give ourselves more than enough time.
The next morning it took a little longer than I expected to pack up, meaning I left my hotel shortly after the meeting time. Since it was probably a ten minute walk to the Starbucks, this made me worrying late and I ended up meeting Jason and Dave coming to my hotel to look for me.
Already late, we needed to buy U-Bahn tickets. An annoyingly slow kiosk prevented us from catching the first train the we saw at the station, and due to it being Sunday the next one wasn’t due for some time. This caused some stress for the group. I learned that Dave in particular hates risking missing flights or trains.
Once on the train I made an offhand comment that perhaps we should have walked further to another U-Bahn station to avoid a change of trains. This shocked (Shocked!) Kortni because she and I had apparently had a spirited debate about this very topic the day before, with my taking the opposite side. I had no recollection of that. In my defense, I was tired at the time?
Luckily we made the necessary transfers successfully and arrived at the Hauptbahnhof with enough time to get breakfast. Without an overwhelming amount of time, we picked the first food we saw, which happened to be a McDonald’s. Unlike Jason and Dave, who ordered with no trouble, the kiosk we used didn’t give me a receipt. It was a little worrying but I ended up getting my food just a few minutes before the scheduled departure. I walked down the escalator with my food as the train pulled into the station, so in the end, we made it on-board and found our way to our seats.
German trains are amazing. In order to sit together on the trip, we ended up buying first-class tickets, which gave us plenty of space. The two couples shared a table and I sat across the aisle, sharing a smaller table of my own with a nice older German lady. When she sat down she started talking very excitedly to me in German. After about half a minute she paused, I said “Sprechen Sie Englisch?,” and she gave me a very disappointed smile and didn’t speak to me again.
The trip itself was uneventful. We chatted, snoozed, and watched the scenery go by. Several hours into the trip I did drink a couple beers procured from the convenient dining car.
Last week I was out in the Bay Area for the I ❤️ APIs conference at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. I flew out a couple days early to spend some time exploring the coast with Kaitlin and Aaron, and then took in some interesting sessions covering API design, business development, and community building.
Check out the rest of the pictures in the gallery.
To celebrate Jason’s birthday, Elizabeth suggested that we all buy tickets to a Berlin Beer Tour and surprise Jason with them when we arrived in Berlin. It was a fun idea and the tour turned out to be great. We went into it thinking we’d get to visit three different spots and ended up visiting at least twice that, with stops for Currywurst and Bierliquor sprinkled in as well.
We met Bastian (short for Sebastian), the guide, and the rest of the tour at the Weihenstephaner beer hall in Hackeschen Markt. That was also our first stop, which was convenient. The tour guide was a little worried because we had just enjoyed a liter in their Biergarten, but we assured him that it was fine and things got underway.
In addition to the five of us, there were three others on the tour, plus Bastian. There was Jenny, a British woman who was clearly there to spend quality time with Bastian, and another couple from the UK: a rugby player named Tom and his girlfriend Celeste.
The morning of September 21 was clear, an ideal day for sightseeing. We needed to be in Hackescher Markt later in the day for a Berlin Breweries Tour, so we headed to the eastern part of the city and started exploring.
In fact, our first stop was Hackescher Markt on the way to Alexanderplatz and the TV-Tower. Kortni bought a Nutella crêpe from a vendor who made it in front of us, and Dave and I bought bratwurst on rolls. Mine was delicious; unfortunately, his was not fully cooked and so he only ate about ⅔ of his.