A belated retrospective of 2015

Posted on 22 January 2016 by Joseph

If I had to choose a unifying theme for my 2015, it would have been exploration. Travelling, learning new things, and meeting new people all played prominent roles in my life this past year. In addition to the things below, I also accomplished two of my 35 by 35 goals: I ran a beer mile, and I flew in a helicopter. Both fun, but not really the most exciting things I did this year.


  • Went on an amazing, 2-month-long road trip across the US and back with Cassie. I took the first 10 days off, but spent the rest of the time working remotely - finally taking advantage of the amazing flexibility that offers. Our path took us south to Dallas, then across the southwest with a majority of the time spent in Utah, then up the Sierras, through California to the Pacific Northwest. We spent a week in Portland, I spent a week in Olympia while Cassie hopped to Alaska, then we spent a week in Seattle before driving to Denver to spend our final week. It was an amazing trip, we got to see so many amazing places, and I got to spend time with some amazing people.

  • I bought myself a wet shaving kit and learned how to wet shave. There is definitely a flow aspect to wet shaving.

  • I learned to sharpen a knife to an edge sharp enough to shave with. I used one of these stone sets , and spent a lot of time practicing, but now my knives are all scary sharp.

  • I built several semi-major projects in functional languages. Specifically, I built a risk scenario DSL for work, and I built an in-memory RRD-style time window database, both in Haskell.

  • I got back into running for a while, exclusively trail running. Trail running is a different game entirely, at least around here where a run will routinely take you over 1000ft of vertical gain. I ended up doing some of the longest runs since my last half marathon.

  • I took my first yoga class, and then ended up doing quite a lot of self-directed yoga. More generally, I took some agency over my (terrible lack of) flexibility and invested the time to improve it.

  • I made over $1000 in passive income, primarily from dividends on ETF investments.

  • I learned how to play the amazing game Diplomacy and played two games with a group of friends. Diplomacy is easily the most intense game I've ever played. In short, to progress in the game you are required to ally with some players, to the detriment of others. The outcome speaks to all sorts of deep-seated feelings about friendship, betrayal, and loyalty. It is the only board game where my heart has been pounding as the moves go in, in the knowledge that people I know in the real world may be genuinely angry with me as a result of my choices. Despite that, playing also helped me with another of my goals for 2015: stay in better touch with my close friends.

  • I studied quite a bit of Spanish, first with Rosetta Stone, then with Duolingo. I am still a long way from even conversational fluency, but I am definitely improving.

  • I got to spend some time with my little sister in her natural environment, meet her friends, and see what her life is like.

  • I travelled quite a lot for work and spent more time interfacing with other companies. This was both good and bad.

  • I spent some time learning about the foundations of distributed computing, reading some of the Dijkstra Prize papers and other recommended papers, as well as a lot of blog posts and short books. I think the topic is fascinating and it's very relevant to the things I have been working on lately.

  • I read quite a few books, maybe 25 or so, including some really good ones:

Things that happened to me

  • My identity was stolen and used to submit a fraudulent tax return. Dealing with that spurred me to write an angry and as of yet unpublished polemic on the subject of victim blaming for identity theft.

  • There were some major startup-y events at my place of employment, though I can't really elucidate.

  • I tore a pulley in my left ring finger, taking me out of the climbing season.

Failed goals

  • Write 100 startup ideas I wrote maybe 20, though I fleshed out a couple well beyond just writing them down.

  • Boulder V7 outdoors I was SO CLOSE to doing this, then I tore a pulley D:

  • Run a sub-20m 5k If previous experience has taught me anything, it is that I need to do speed training to get fast at a 5k distance, and my trail running did not cut it. Also, sometimes I kind of hate running.

  • Finish the LA Times PoMo List I didn't really even give this one a good try tbh.

  • Learn about and build microservices I kind of forgot about this one, but I resurrected it at the beginning of this year. I have been working on microservices in several languages since the first of the year (albeit with purely pedagogical aims).

  • Learn to cook some sauces This was just lazy.

New goals for 2016

  • Read the rest of the Dijkstra Prize papers
  • Read the papers Nancy Lynch suggests for her her distributed computing course
  • Make $2000 in passive income
  • Continue to study and improve at Spanish
  • Boulder V7 outdoors
  • Finish the AFI Top 100 list
  • Learn to ride a motorcycle
  • Go one full month without buying anything
  • Sew something pretty good
  • Create another major project in a functional language
  • See all of my close friends
  • Run 10 miles in one sitting
  • Write 12 things and publish them
  • Release one of my side projects
  • Floss 300 days
  • Participate in a food-eating contest
  • Make Tonkatsu ramen
  • Get better at chess

Several of these are goals on my 35-by-35 list, and several others contribute to those goals. I'll be 32 this year, so I need to get crackin'!

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