This post, as I write it, reads a bit #humblebrag-ey, but I’m going to keep it that way. 2011 was an amazing year in my life, and I can only hope there’ll be more like it. The post is also pretty boring, so don’t read this unless you actually want to know what I was up to last year. I mostly write these for myself.
Had to give myself a slight bump from last year: been playing soccer consistently twice a week. Added an 11v11 full field 90 minute game on Sundays. We never had subs, and I was eventually able to play through the entire game without being completely out of gas – something I could never do even at the end of a full season in high school. Fixing my feet last year is really paying off. Guessing my asthma is slowly getting less severe as I age, though it’s still there. The end of the year was marred by a really shitty leg injury that I brought entirely upon myself during a 6v6 game (pro tip: don’t cut people off from the ball aggressively when you’re already up 9-0 and they’re in a full sprint); I spent most of November and December rehabbing it. I’ll be ready for the start of the January season, and actually might come back with better balance due to all the rehab work I did.
I also started riding my bike to and from work – initially almost every day. I have since gotten a bit lazy, even before the leg injury put it out of the question. I suspect I’ll get back into it, especially as it gets warmer.
I finally made it to a SXSW. It was an absolutely epic week (did not go to a single talk.. didn’t even have a badge), but I probably won’t go again – Austin is too small and boring of a place to spend that much time at, and I can go to parties and get drunk with nerds anywhere. There is talk of a trip to Vegas instead.
Went to Amsterdam with Alexa and a couple of friends, which was awesome. The last full day we were there, we rented a bunch of bikes and went on a ride through the Dutch countryside – probably one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Gabe came up from Paris and hung out for a few days.
Finally made it to an away Blues game in Denver with Wade. We also got hit on by a cougar – always a treat.
As part of the Urban Airship acquisition of SimpleGeo, I got to explore Portland on a couple of trips, and actually did a decent job – tried a bunch of local restaurants (including the food carts!), and went on a big brewery crawl with coworkers. Portland is way too clean a city for me, but it is a great place in general. Looking forward to spending more time there.
After attending Surge, I spent a couple of nights in Philly, hanging out with my old high school friend Blaise. Ended up being a very relaxing trip, though I did not explore much of the city during the daytime – Blaise was too hung over, and slept most of the day.
I still wasn’t as opportunistic with my trips as I would like. 2012 promises to be an even better travel year – in the middle of planning a trip to Belgium around the Fosdem conference! Also on the list are Vegas, Seattle, DC, and LA.
During the first part of the year, we deployed our awesome distributed index to production and started iterating on it. I was heavily involved, though I will admit that I was pretty clueless at the time. For a large part of it, I was blindly implementing things I only half understood. However, as active development slowed down due to external distractions, I was able to go back, read some books and papers, and actually get a grip on what was happening. I feel like I ended the year solid on Java, concurrency (particularly on the JVM), and broader topics related to distributed systems. By the time acquisition talks came around, I felt like I could speak intelligently to an erudite audience about the work we were doing and possible future directions. As I thought about various problems, things others had said before that I just took for granted started to make sense. I refactored a lot of old code, both mine and otherwise, with unequivocally positive results. Feels good, man! I have also identified tons of other things that need to be refactored or rewritten in the process – need more hours in the day, as always.
I got a bit obsessed with parallels between complex systems in various industries and web architecture. That lead to a fairly productive cycle of research and reflection, resulting in the Surge 2011 talk.
I believe it was the best talk I had ever given, low as the bar may be, and the feedback I got on it confirms that. I will look to build on that. Also moderated a panel and took a smaller part in a couple other multi-speaker events. Getting up on stage for a keynote with Matt at Where 2.0 was probably the most intimidating public speaking experience to date, albeit a short one.
A big goal for 2012 is to get accepted at Strangeloop again, so I’ll likely be submitting multiple talks to that.
I’m keeping the minus, because I feel like I could have worked a lot smarter (not harder) – several books and papers that I read half way through the year would have made a tremendous difference in my productivity if read sooner.
I feel about the same about this year as I do about last year: a couple of the posts seem worthwhile, but one of them is piggy backing on Surge and another on someone else’s research. I could do a lot more, and hopefully will in 2012. Since writing more was one of my goals from last year, I have to give myself a downgrade.
I made quite a few new friends this year, which I’m very happy about. I caught up with an old friend I hadn’t spoken to in nearly 4 years in Denver – that’s pretty big! I did a decent job running into people as I traveled to their cities. I also fell out of touch with others, but the overall trend is good.
Absolutely zero improvement there. Just did not do anything.
General Learning: B+
I’ve been reading tons of papers and slowly working my way through a pretty low level computer systems book. I feel like I’ve grown more in the past year as an engineer than I did in the 3 years before that.
Outside computahs, I read a few general interest books (mostly related to business and the financial crisis). Taking advantage of any opportunities I have to pick the brains of more experienced people, I learned a bit about startups, the venture model, and other general financial topics. I’ve also started regularly reading the Economist and paying attention to financial and political happenings. For the most part, it’s just depressing – it’s been all about the Euro crisis and the US election since I started reading, but I do feel parts of my brain that have long been dormant coming back to life. Reading about non-technical subjects has caused me to generally feel more sharp, since my mind isn’t completely tunneled all the time.
Goals for 2012
- I want this to be the year I start to feel comfortable on a snowboard. Alexa and I are both getting all our own gear this year, and I’m putting a roof rack on the car this week. No more excuses. Mother nature, of course, is shitting on my plan by withholding the snow.
- Getting a talk accepted at Strangeloop. I will obviously apply to speak at and attend many other conferences as well, but Strangeloop is my annual Moby Dick.
- Fucking pick up the guitar. It’s just sitting there in the corner, mocking me.
- Start participating in some sort of regular exercise that requires the use of French. Just added a “I can also communicate in french, if that’s easier” to the end of an email with a Belgian landlord, and it took like 5 minutes to put that together and double check.
- Get through the Computer Systems book; keep reading books, technical and not.
- Write some meaningful code in assembly, C, and a functional language (probably going to end up being Clojure).
- (Re)learn me some discrete math, with particular focus on set theory and logic.
- Learn R, re-learn statistics, advanced regressions. Wonder if I still have those notebooks.
- Go broader on databases. People apparently consider me a Big Data guy now. I think that label is fucking stupid, but I should probably get a better grip on databases that aren’t MySQL and Cassandra.
- Write more – technical and not. Keep up the private travel log I started.
- Have fun in St. Louis. Every year I go, and every year I hate it. There are fun things to do in St. Louis, we just have to do them.
- Meet more strangers. Wade and I took a chance and hung out with two dudes we met at a bar playing ping pong after the hockey game, and it was fucking awesome. Mike, Richard and I also nearly got in a fight with some xenophobes in Amsterdam; need more of the former, less of the latter.
- Be a better editor. I used to write laconically, and people liked it. This reads like a 12 year old wrote it.
- Spend less time reading Twitter and other internet horseshit.
- Actually dress up for Halloween. I got all the stuff to make an awesome Bender costume this year, and then got lazy and didn’t go out at all.
Photos from 2011