Hello 2017

January 2, 2017

This is a little bit of a retrospective post, and a little bit of a resolution post. It feels quite gauche to me to catalog accomplishments, but I also believe that it’s really important to take a moment to appreciate what I’ve worked on, and future me will benefit from the record. Also I spend most of my time thinking about things I’ve done wrong, so writing this was a welcome change.


I had a really productive year! I released a trio album of standards, something I’ve been wanting to do since I was 16 years old. I released an EP with Megan and Toby, that we made on Toby’s and my trip to Cleveland last winter. We’re trying to do that again this year, hopefully!

At work at Etsy, I ticked off the 2 year mark, and moved from feeling like a rank novice to feeling like I genuinely contribute more than I take. I have my amazing coworkers to thank for much of that. We shipped big projects, and the team grew, too! I also got the chance to rotate on an infrastructure team, seeing a whole different side of our stack than I usually do.

I wrote 32 (!) blog posts, more than any other year by far, for a total of 81,375 words. That’s like a 200 page book! (Or a 500 page book, in 14 point double spaced comic sans, anyway, at least according to this totally legit website that I’m sure is completely accurate…)

Most of those posts were about Sild, the lisp that I “finished” writing this year after 3 attempts. I learned so much from that project… I learned about lisps, and I learned about C and compilers and memory allocation and a bunch of other things, and I started to learn about how to express technical concepts in prose. That project was the biggest, hardest thing I’ve done so far, and I can honestly say it levelled me up in a ton of ways, both obvious and subtle.

I wrote more and about more things this year than I ever have before in my life, and I feel like for maybe the first time, I’ve developed a prosaic voice, and a writing workflow. And people actually read what I wrote! Sild was on the front page of Hacker News, and though I have my issues with the orange website, I can’t deny that it was thrilling to see the enormous spike in traffic, from all over the world, and I was pleased that the comments were generally positive and even helped me understand some things I was struggling with.

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Writing so much helped me zero in on what and how I like to write! It turns out I really enjoy writing extremely procedurally detailed posts about projects I’ve worked on. I don’t want to position myself as an expert, I just want to be very thorough and genuine and clear about what I did and what I learned doing it and why and how! I feel like there is a lot of pedagogical value to that perspective and voice, and I’d like to continue working on it.

Oh and Sofie and I got a cat! And it turned out to be an awesome cat, that loves laps. If you want a cat in New York, check out Anjellicle Cats… they work with Koneko Cat Cafe, which is where we found Cara.

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I mean, who rescued who, amirite??

2017

Some things I am thinking about trying to do this year:

Redefine my relationship with creativity.

This is funny, because this was actually my first post and my resolution in 2013. I succeeded, wildly, but in a way I could never have anticipated, because that was the year I started learning to program, just a few months after posting that photo. (It was on wordpress before I ported it.)

I guess you could say this is an ongoing process, but concretely it means for me this year figuring out how exactly I want to fit creativity and art and music into my life. Music used to be the only thing I did, basically. Now it’s one of many things I do. That’s a good thing! I feel much more balanced and healthy! But not performing and teaching professionally means that if I want to continue to improve on what I know and create music then I’ll have to be much more intentional about it. The same goes for photography, something I used to really enjoy but have let languish for years now as other pursuits filled up my time.

It’s not a given that I’ll keep these things in my life, I may become too swamped with other ambitions to keep my guitar chops up, or I might decide I just don’t have the energy to pursue photography anymore at all. But I don’t want to just let things happen to me, I want to remain intentional about how I spend my time.

That said,

Make and listen to more music

This is an easy one. I want to continue to make music, and more of it. I have more specific thoughts on what that might mean and how that might look but they aren’t especially relevant right now, and will likely change.

I want to listen to more music and more actively listen to music, especially my friends’ music. I know how hard they’ve worked on it, and I have some extremely talented friends! I’m also very lucky that as a programmer I have an enormous amount of multitaskable time in my day to day that can include music, I ought to be more picky about what I listen to while wrangling javascript or whatever.

Fill some gaps in my education in earnest

As a “self taught” engineer (I have issues with that term, but you know what I mean…) with an MM in Music and a BA in English, it’s almost a given that I’ll lack quite a bit of knowledge when it comes to teh computings. But as I enter my (almost) fourth year as a programmer (holy shit), I’ve actually filled in quite a great many of those gaps. I feel pretty confident in what I know, now, especially considering how recently I’ve come to the field, but the flipside to that is that I really do appreciate what I still don’t know, and oh sweet little baby Jesus is there a lot of it.

There are a plenty of things that a traditional CS education provides that I simply won’t run into that often in my day to day. Algorithms and data structures are the canonical examples, they’re useful in my work sometimes, and occasionally make a very big difference in the performance of some task or application I might be working on, but I could just as easily stumble through a web development career with the essentially cursory understanding of them that I have right now. And in any case, I have experienced coworkers to ask when that kind of thing comes up, right? Sure, now, most of the time. But they’re not always going to be around! And someday I would like to be those people, not just lean on them. Also, I’m like, super interested in this stuff! That’s ultimately why I do it!

There are so many ways to access this information, from online lectures on youtube to coursera courses to books to forums… many sources that I’ve availed myself of before, but I’ll have to be more consistent and controlled if I want to truly fill in the gaps, not just study whatever occurs to me in relation to whatever I’m working on (not that there’s anything wrong with that of course!)

The other area that I need some serious halp with is math. I suck at math. The only reason for this deficit is that I basically haven’t done it since high school, and let’s just say I didn’t have engaging math classes back then. In theory, I love math! Bert and I even had a textbook reading club last year that we managed to keep going for multiple weeks! But it’s hard to learn really general, rudimentary abstract things when that fun project is sitting in the back of your mind, especially when $FUN_PROJECT also teaches you a ton of things! James gave us a killer booklist though, and even though it might take me multiple years to get through it, having a defined path to follow is a godsend for this kind of learning for me.

Speaking of books…

Read more dammit.

And stop pretending the internet counts, because it doesn’t. I’ve got a ton of books on my shelf that I’ve been putting off, and I’m going to read them, dammit.

Take my health seriously.

Look I know this is pretty quotidien but let’s all lose those 50 pounds we’ve been carrying around, all right? And drink less, and eat better, and sleep better, and meditate more, and generally not treat my body like shit.

Think deeply and carefully about how I want to consume and be consumed by media

How do I really want to take in the world? What do I really want to read to get my news? Who do I want to maintain relationships with in the world and online? There are a lot of nasty defaults to these questions if you don’t really consider them. Do I really need to be facebook friends with that OKCupid date from 2009? What value does maintaining that relationship really add to my life? Do I really want to keep a facebook tab open all the time where I am at continual risk of being tricked into clicking some dumbfuck slideshow link because my lizard brain wants to see $FEMALE_CELEB in a tank top? What the fuck even is facebook, and twitter? Who are these people?

These websites and others like them have the potential to add real value to my life, and have. They’ve kept me connected to or at least abreast of the lives of many people I know and care about, and made it possible to have meaningful interactions with people I really look up to, it’s true. Infosuicide is a lovely, dark and deep idea. But baby and bathwater etc.

I don’t have to go nuclear to rethink how I interact with these services. I don’t have to remain logged into them and carry their ad tracking cookies around with me to every website I visit. I don’t have to share a curated version of my life on them and read about others’ all the time, and I don’t intend to default to those things anymore.

This belongs to a wider category of things that I want to be more conscientious about this year. This is the year I want to learn cryptography in earnest (see above re: CS fundamentals) and decide if PGP encryption is a thing I want to use. This is the year that I consider setting up a personal VPN and maybe using Tor and Signal. This is the year that I stop being complacent about how I’m tracked and surveilled in all aspects of my online life.

Clean up my dotfiles

Yeah, sure, that deserves it’s own top level header.

Rust is awesome and I’m going to continue to learn it!

I’ve really enjoyed working with Rust in the past few months, and the community has been remarkably welcoming. It’s a challenging language, but there is a lot of really good work in there, and so much to learn.

A real blog redesign.

Someone on reddit pointed out how bad this blog looks on an android device. Having recently switched to android myself, I wholeheartedly concur. This plus Middleman upgrading with breaking changes (pinning me to the version I started with) means I might be looking at another port. This may or may not involve writing my own static site generator.

I’ve been thinking about a real redesign for a while but I am not sure what I want to do with it yet, visually. I definitely want it to stay super simple, but I also want it to be easier to add photos without commiting them. This might mean a Digital Ocean or AWS host for static assets, but again that likely would require my own static site generator.

More blogging, but less blogging?

I want to continue to write here. I’ve been really pleased with the positive impact working on this has had in my life. But I don’t see myself writing as much as I did last year. I haven’t decided if I want to like do one post a month at least or something? Or maybe write more often but shorter posts? Or write more thot-leder things? I don’t know yet! I have a few drafts sitting around, but nothing very intricate.

Coda

2016 was a really great year for me, when I really think about it. It was also, for a variety of reasons, super fucking stressful. 2017 will likely not abate that.

The common thread running through all of the aspirations I’ve listed here is intention. I want to learn how to be more controlled and intentional with how I spend my time and what I do with it. I want to work harder and better, but less. I want to make space for the things and people that really matter to me and ruthlessly cut out the rest, and I want to give deep thought to what and who those things and people are.

I guess that’s my New Year’s resolution, then.

2017 is going to be a really interesting year.