Back to reality

Andrew Bolster

Senior R&D Manager (Data Science) at Synopsys Software Integrity Group and Treasurer @ Bsides Belfast and NI OpenGovernment Network

Realised it’d been a while, thought it was time for an update. I’m gonna try and make an effort to get closer to an ideal of something like #weeknotes as I’ve always been jealous of Adrian’s ability to put this thoughts down and get them out the door in a sensible way…

Anyway, use the Table of Contents above to skip to bits you may care about.

Farset Updates

So, this was the actual reason for this update but it started a weird thought process that led to this blog.

Post renovation work at Farset has been the definition of a group effort; everyone’s doing their bits to make small improvements as they go along (and while being COVID save…), and we’ve been terrible at collecting them and sharing those updates, so people could easily be forgiven for thinking that bugger all has happened since COVID.

Art has been essential in encouraging people to throw post-its around the space with ideas for people to pick up. I didn’t take photos of all of them but here’s the ‘master panel’ in the entrance way.

2020-09-08 12.38.27

I’m only gonna include stuff that I did today after not having been in the space for a month, but I encourage everyone contributing to take the credit and share what you do to fix and grow our wee space in these times.

  • We’ve got working calipers (and a stash of relevant batteries)

    2020-09-08 12.53.51

  • Coat trees in both desk-spaces (which are ‘gentrified’ according to one member :joy:)

    2020-09-08 12.00.49

  • Managed to unpack, blade, stash and label the Circular Saw that we’d ordered before I left (Do not attempt to use unless you really know what you’re doing, do not work alone, etc, etc.)

    2020-09-08 12.55.48

  • As part of our newly-ratified Guest policy, got a nicely hazard taped visitors book with appropriate warnings2020-09-08 11.13.512020-09-08 11.13.46

  • A Dremel-esque workstation got set up on the workbench (mostly just to match with it’s friendly drill press)

    2020-09-08 12.56.10

  • Fixed the heights of the rolling drawers we’d ordered ages ago to see if they fit under the workbenches (they do) so will take a proposal to the board about getting a load more to help with organising the workshop

    2020-09-08 12.46.17

  • Put the clock up in the downstairs coworking space (all the other spaces already had one from a previous pass)

    2020-09-08 13.07.48

Not shown; all the other awesomeness others have done. This is just for my own sake and because doing updates in our Slack doesn’t exactly provide much visibility for the outside

Previous interesting highlights not from todays work;

  • Updated AV setup in the Event Space

  • We’re getting a laser cutter but we’re not talking too much about details till it’s all confirmed

  • Not our work, but there’s an EV charging point outside our space, so that might have to get listed on the website at some point…

  • Loads of social distancing signage (and Arts fantastic signage templates; but no spoilers)

  • A couple of cast-able screens that we’re not entirely sure where to mount yet (ideas welcome)

    2020-07-23 17.58.27

Lockdown, Travel, Coronavirus, and Moving

Everyone and their aunt has done a COVID lockdown stress post so here’s some highlights for myself.

  • Got stuck with my partner during lockdown as it made more sense to stay at my place as I have better access to Deliveroo; haven’t killed each-other yet, although it’s been close a few times…
  • Work has migrated pretty well, some teething problems but nothing that can’t be managed. Still enjoying the work and the opportunities, and pushing for them to take a more active role in the now estranged Belfast/ NI tech scene, encouraging people to submit personal talks to NIDC (Come see mine!) etc and basically ‘get out there’ more, but with limited local management beyond team leads like me acting alone, getting sign off can be slower than I’d like.
  • Took said partner to France to visit my parents in a village in the deep south (Hérault-ish) after persistent chastising; isolated in the village for 3 days before the locals would even consider talking to us as we were ‘unclean’, but once we got past that barrier, spent the next two weeks enjoying ourselves, me, mostly enjoying wine and cheese, and my partner, mostly enjoying the pool of a friend of the family and posting cheesy artsy videos on instagram….


  • As you may know/remember, France was taken off the ‘green list’ while we were over, but we were aware of this possibility and took the risk anyway; we got caught out by a feckless reactionary government response that was locking out countries while opening up schools and pubs. Good job :man_shrugging:

  • So, we returned when we’d planned to, and locked ourselves down as per the guidelines. Fortunately, I’d gotten an Index just before we left, so I had fun playing with HL:Alyx, and yes, it’s as good as everyone says. Partner prefers Space Pirate Trainer though


  • Some may know that after spending 8 months in lockdown with my Harry Potter Style ‘cupboard under the stairs’, standing desk or no, has taken a toll a bit, and I’d been keeping an eye out for interesting properties. I’ve been doing this for years with weekly digests from PropertyPal, but had only been even vaguely excited about one in months, until one strange one popped up, right in the middle of our isolation…. We dispatched a friendly telepresence robot to take a video walk through for us, and in a day of bouncing back and forth, it was ours. We move in next month. Best bit? It has both a study (aka ‘bedroom two’) and most shockingly for that area of Belfast, a garage, which I’m hoping to turn into a bit of a carpentry setup… to then build a bar, since IMO in this whole post-covid world, everyone going to the bar together and mixing with loads of different people may be a thing of the past for a while…. So why not have a few folks round for a few tins in style!

Upcoming Projects

So far I’ve committed to;

  • Doing a half day workshop on pandas and arrow for the NIDC pre-workshops on the 8th of October
    • And then reusing said workshop for UUJ’s Data Analytics MSc Guest Lecture series….
  • Doing a talk on Data Science Onboarding Best Practices for NIDC proper
  • Finishing editing a very drunken Data Delinquents ‘podcast’
  • Getting back to the funders of DataArtNI about our plans to restart it (a programme that was painfully confirmed just in time to be locked down hard)

Wee buns…. :grimacing:


I hope to get better at this ‘updating’ stuff as a form of journaling, because, if lockdown has taught me anything, time has no meaning, memory is fallible, and if you don’t record things, they’re lost to time and really difficult to reverse engineer when you realise you should have written it down six months later….

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