Cultural Review 2022
I no longer write separate reviews of books and films for each year, instead
see the Currently Reading 2022 note in the Digital Garden for a
list of what I read and watched in 2022 which included 19 books, 49 films, 5
single-player video games, and 4 shows.
I watched so many movies last year that I became sick of the entire medium and
struggled to find movies that piqued my interest. That said my list of films
worth obtaining physical copies has grown to over 50 films and I hope in 2023 to
focus on sourcing and re-watching them instead of seeking new film experiences.
This is the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic and the first full year in which
we had a vaccine available. That said, the disease continued to spread and
develop new variants. Our protocols have relaxed somewhat: we go shopping in
stores when needed, visit friends and family, see doctors, have contractors into
the cabin, travel and stay in hotels. We still haven’t returned to conferences
or gone into the office. We chanced dinning in a handful of times. We still mask
everywhere with quality N95s and have kept up on each booster when it became
available despite the fevers they induce. Nevertheless, mask mandates were
lifted and accurate case tracking went out the door and the population resumed
The year started with celebrating at Hot Well Dunes outside of Safford with
Clint, who would soon depart for a new ranger gig in northern California. Once
again, our friends would be scattered and my social life confined largely to
online chatter. The winter would prove to be warm and dry, but the monsoon would
hit early and hard. Jess’s courses would be in-person this year, and so we
picked up a small townhouse in Las Cruces, NM. I would divide my time over the
rest of the year between New Mexico and the cabin.
The bathroom asbestos abatement began in earnest in February. A crew removed all
materials except for the fixtures. I would be without a shower for nine months.
Electric and plumbing would get done later that spring. The project would result
in replumbing the entire cabin and replacing a third of the electrical circuits.
Drywalling and tiling wouldn’t begin until August. Televera tiles and sink from
Juarez were used to decorate the shower and counter tops. Slowly the cabin is
moving from an “Alpine” vibe to “Southwest.”
A Master Gardener workshop in Duncan inspired reinvestment into the idea of
building a robust garden at the cabin. I began experimenting with a winter
container garden of potatoes and later expanding into the yard with a sixteen by
four foot raised bed protected by a seven-foot tall deer fence. The containers
also spread to the front porch where I constructed “the lounge,” a sitting space
lit by strings of light and covered in plant containers growing potatoes, beets,
In February, Russia began a bloody and pointless invasion of Ukraine breaking
decades of peace in Europe. Although their initial advances were halted, the
conflict would continue through the year draining resources from Russia and
causing energy shortages globally.
Meanwhile work kept at a pace that slowly wound down with each passing quarter.
I felt dreadfully burnt out and tired of the entire PHP environment. The only
respite came from opportunities and to train and mentor new developers bringing
them in, and up to speed on payment projects that I had developed over the
previous two years.
Come may we left on our first trip of the year: to Wisconsin to visit family for
two weeks. This would be my first trip to visit family since the pandemic began.
We were able to get out to Apostle Isles on the first boat tour of the season
when the islands where still encrusted with winter ice and riddled with snow
Returning to New Mexico, Jess went to an archaeological field school outside
Albuquerque until late July. I tended to the garden and prepared for our second
trip of the year to New York. Originally planned as a trip to HOPE and to drop
in on east-coast hackers, I eventually got cold feet and we instead rented a
cabin in the finger lakes area of New York, visited relatives for three weeks
and then returned home stopping only in Eureka Springs, AR to stay in a haunted
The monsoon was in full swing upon our return and that meant mushroom season.
Heading up to Mt. Baldy in between the rains revealed a treasure trove of exotic
mushroom varieties but most importantly chanterelles of which I basketed some
twenty pounds over a two week period.
Throughout the year I struggled with making zazen a habit. My sutra reading and
participation with online zen communities that began had flourished in 2020
began to fade. At the same time, my hiking dropped off and I put on weight.
Depressive episodes came and went but I chiefly began to feel expressly tired
all of the time and I developed a feeling of discomfort. A sleep stud in the
fall would show I had sleep apnoea, and probably have had for some time.
The final trip of the year was to the Washington Coast to house and dog sit for
three weeks. This would be my first plane flight in four years. The coast was
foggy and hikes were often shrouded in darkness with only the footpath to
accompany me. I explored all around Williapa bay eating seafood, hiking trails,
and buying up souvenirs. Realized that after twenty years of visiting the PNW, I
don’t actually care for it and will probably not return for some time.
Upon returning, I felt restless to find a project to work on. I had written, but
not published many notes in the digital garden. I began typesetting my Ireland
travel adventures in an early effort for writing a novel. Upon reflection I realized
that I missed the long-form journaling that I once had as a nightly habit.
Resuming the routine was delightful.
Folks visited for Thanksgiving but it was another virtual Christmas from the
cabin rounding off the year with a feast of homemade kraut, uska and borscht.
One sentence micro-reviews of each film, show, book, and game that I watched,
read or played over the last year. Each item recieves a letter grade from F
(terrible) to A (a must watch/read).
- Reserve for items that are so good and re-watchable/readable that they
deserve to bought as a physical addition to my library.
- This is a re-read or re-watch of a volume in my library.
- A multi-episode show, an ongoing comic, or series of books instead of a single
Films (36) & Shows (10)
- There Will Be Blood - A (B)
- Long biographic exploration of the nature of the oil rush to the west. A deep
exploration on the relationship between religion and money in the American west.
- Legend - C+
- Watched just for the famous “unicorn” scene that many claim was reused in the
dream sequence of Blade Runner. It’s not a particularly smart film, but it
does leave me wishing the genre had taken off more than it has.
- Snowpiercer - B+
- The imagery of Snowpiercer is stunning and lasts with me. A kind of dark Willy
Wonka story and examination of class barriers. Worth a watch.
- Annihilation - C-
- Forgettable. It’s science fiction. It’s a blockbuster.
- The Holy Mountain - A (B)
- Second favorite Alejandro Jodorowsky film after El Topo. Although,
unfortunately decidedly less coherent.
- Jonny Mnemonic - B+
- Based on a William Gibson short story and it does a very good job of capturing
the kind of vibe that I get from reading Gibson.
- 8 1/2 - A (B)
- One of those art house kind of films examining the kind of burn out that a
creative type feels while trying to force something into creation that just
refuses to budge. There’s a lot of characters, scenes, just stuff that spoke so
very much to my life in this film.
- Yojimbo - A (B)(R)
- One of Kirasawa’s more lighthearted period pieces. Yojimbo is a rounin who
comes to town and pits two gangs against each other to their mutual destruction.
- Crooked House - B
- Fun who-dunnit type of film with a decent amount of Brittish humor thrown into
- Hackers - B+
- Required watching for the folks over at hackers.town. Watched twice in the
last year. It grows on you. Someone described this to me as a film about what
2600 imagined they were up to in the nineties.
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers - C+
- Watched the original. The inspiration for pod people, lizard people, all the
different wonderful conspiracies that our government is run by people totally
out of touch with humanity.
- Saturn 3 - B
- This was probably a big-budget when it was made, but has a very cheap “B”
quality feel to it today. Nonetheless, the robot is absolutely terrifying.
- Death Race 2000 - B
- Bloody, violent, brilliant. Just dumb but in a constant state of satirizing
- Sneakers - A-
- A heist/hacker film. It seems like the early nineties had a host of films
fascinated with hacker-chic. As far as a “hacker” film goes, it’s pretty good
even if villian has a bit of Bond-villian vibe going on.
- Escape from LA - C
- Not as good as the original. It leans too far into attempting to both lampoon
Hollywood and provide a satire of American culture that ultimately makes it fall
flat compared to the original.
- The Quiet Earth - B+
- A post-apocalyptic film out of New Zeland. Don’t mind the “science” as none of
it makes any sense. One of those, someone guy wakes up and finds himself the
last soul on earth, except for a couple others. Great atmosphere.
- Mad Max - B (B)(R)
- The original Mad Max tells a story on the edge between Fallout style
distopia and our present day. The way it captures the dissociation between Max’s
career as a cop seeing the collapse of orderly institutions and his family life
where he tries to maintain a semblence of normalcy is entirely topical for our
- The Road Warrior - B (R)
- The sequel introduces so much of the aesthetic of post-apocalyptic film. As
far as action films go, its violent, exciting, a thrill to watch but misses the
social commentary of the first film.
- Shazam - C-
- Dumb fun. Watched in the single-screen theatre, so it was my only option.
Otherwise, not worth it.
- Night is Short, Walk on Girl - A (B)
- Brilliant feature-length tour-de-fource of Masaaki’s creative ability and a
welcome return of many of the side-characters from Tatami Galaxy.
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - B
- There is a good twist to this film. It is a great romanticization of Hollywood
and Los Angeles and a time period that is far behind us. A good film to watch
and revisit a time before I was alive.
- Johnny Handsome - B-
- A pulpy kind of noir film with a big dose of revenge thrown into the mix. It
was a fun watch on a hot afternoon when I needed to find a cool theater to sit.
- The Public Eye - B+
- Joe Pesci plays a photo journalist specializing in murder photos who gets in
over his head. A really decent noir from the early nineties that captures much
of the better aspects of the genre.
- Pulp Fiction - B+
- Surprisingly not taken in by this film nearly as much as I expected.
- The African Queen - C+
- Bougart plays an excellent drunk. Not my favorite of his films, but it’s one
that I’ve seen posters and clips from so much that it is worth a watch.
- IT Chapter 2 - D
- Heard great things about Chapter 1. Can’t say the same for Chapter 2.
- A Simple Plan - B
- There’s a big part of me that loves films featuring the northern-midwest,
particularly if they do a good job of capturing the kind of culture you find in
WI and MN. A comedy of errors that build and builds in an increasly tragic way.
- The Vanishing - A- (B)
- Lighthouse double feature! The Vanishing is a fairly similar concept to The
Lighthouse. People go nuts. Then they disappear from the rock.
- The Lighthouse - A (B)
- Watched this in an art-house in Tucson. Great atmosphere and storytelling.
Absolutely terrifying and iconic imagery.
- The Saga of Tanya the Evil: The Movie - B (S)
- Good sequel film to a dumb show that I still can’t believe I watched.
- Princess Mononoke - A (B)(R)
- I discovered Ghibli-fest this year and made the three hour drive to
Albuquerque just to catch my favorite of the Ghibli films.
- Spirited Away - A (B)(R)
- My second-favorite Ghibli film and a wonder to catch on the big screen.
- The Dark Crystal - A-
- Hensen’s films have aged extremely well. The puppetering is something that is
extraordinarily timeless in presentation.
- Ford vs Ferrari - C
- This film takes a subject matter that I know, and care nothing about and makes
it fascinating. It wasa fun watch in the theatre, though not sure if it is worth
putting an effort into watching it.
- Battle of Unato - B
- Unato is a weird sell. It has the tone and feeling of the good half of
Kanebari, but is missing most of the character development and lethality of
the monsters. Yet, it was fun to revisit the setting and characters.
- Hustlers - C+
- A good watch. I would actually call this a heist-film, although one from a
wildly different perspective than anything else in the genre.
- Tokyo Godfathers - A (B)(R)
- Satoshi Kon’s life and career was cut far too short. Making this an annual
Christmas Eve watching.
- Planetes - A (B)(S)
- This is the kind of slow, character driven kind of Anime that seemed to appear
for a very brief period in the early 2000s before disappearing into the hole of
- Devilman Crybaby - A (B)(S)
- Masaaki at his most violent. The story is a rather hopeless Faustian
experience that simply escalates into the stratosphere. Beautiful animation
- Bojack Horseman - A (S)
- Very slow start. It took until half way through the first season to really get
hooked on the show. Then the ride was wild – I could oddly relate to almost the
entire cast. The ending was… tame, should have ended an episode earlier.
- The Expanse - A (S)
- Amazon is throwing a lot of money at this show, and it really shows. The last
season on ScyFy was rather lacking, but this is a return to the intrigue and
games of the earlier seasons.
- Rick & Morty - B (S)
- The episodes themselves are good, but I’m starting to get a feeling that the
show is starting to run out of material. The latest season is also starkly
lacking in any kind of character development for Rick, which has largely been my
interest in the show.
- Tatami Galaxy - A (B)(S)
- Masaaki at his best! An absolute favorite. I had forgotten so much of how this
show plays out. A great examination of personality, of the absurd, and leaves me
wanting to visit Kyoto.
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistence - A- (S)
- Still waiting on a second season. Overall, excellent except it ends on a
lighter note leaving a huge gap between the events of the show and film. Yet, it
excellently captures the feeling of Hensen’s work.
- Magic 2014 - C
- Fun distraction for a short time. The limitated number of deck options and
inability to really engage in deck building though severely limited the
replayability of the game.
- Mario Maker 2 - A (B)
- Made some really fun levels with this, and played some really fun levels. If
anything, I became distracted too quickly by…
- The Legend of Zelda: Breathe of the Wild - A (B)
- An epic game that lives up to it’s reputation. A wonderous take on the open
world genre adapted to the sensibilities of Zelda. It does start to get tedious
after a while, particularly if you approach it from a completionist viewpoint.
- Return to Dominaria by Martha Wells - F
- Tried to give reading the Magic lore a shot. Wow. Glad that I gave away my
Magic books and didn’t decide to revisit them.
- Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson - B
- Gibson is slow to get into due to his books being so thuroughly embedded in
the world that they inhabit. Once you get the hang of the slang, and can relax
the analytic mind and just accept the ride the book opens up.
- Night is Short, Walk on Girl by Makoto Ueda - B
- A fun exploration of Kyoto over the course of a year. There are some stories
the film improves upon, and some (the stage play section) which work much better
in written form.
- On the Road by Jack Kuroac - A (B)(R)
- Oh how many times have I made my way through On the Road? I keep a copy in
my glove box for emergencies. Flip it open to any page, it’s a bible for the
western traveler and dirtbag.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - D
- This is the schlock lies that saturated our society in the nineties and is an
artifact of a time I am glad is well done and over.
- Goodnight Pun Pun by Inio Asano - A- (B)
- Extremely depressing examination of mental illness. Perhaps too nihilistic. It
pushes the envelope far beyon any of Asano’s other writtings and into Grave of
the Fireflies territory.
- The Mindful Way Through Depression by J Mark G Williams - B
- Useful and grounded examination of the usefulness of mindfulness in a
psychological setting. Devoid of the more Bhuddist influences that underscore
mindfulness. But the exercises are worth trying.
- 4 Hour Workweek Tim Ferris - D
- I’m not accepting book suggestions from entrepeneurs anymore.
- Deep Work by Cal Newport - A (B)
- There is some excellent advise in Deep Work for getting out of the burnout
rut that endless networking and distraction can lead to. This book has greatly
improved my ability to get work done while cutting down the number of hours in
the day that I need to dedicate to that work.
- The Cult of the Dead Cow by Joseph Menn -C
- I just can’t really get into Menn’s journalistic style. He is simply too
conventional and conservative to really appreciate what he’s covering.
- Domain Driven Design A (B)
- An excellent book on architecture for building software around business
processes. After practicing this for several years many of the concepts in the
book have started to crystalize – as well as objections to some areas and
- Implementing Domain Driven Design A (B)
- DDD is a more high-level overview of the ideas while Implementing is a more
hands-on approach examining particular implementations of those ideas. The two
texts should be read together.
- Level One C
- Returning to Magic the Gathering after a decade break and deciding to make
something of an attempt to actually grasp the strategy of the game instead of
just building themed decks around whatever concept amuses me. This is a pretty
solid e-book explaining a lot of how to approach tournament magic.
- Test Driven Development: By Example , By Kent Beck- A (B)
- An incredibly boring book, and yet incredibly influential on how I do my
development in the last year. It’s like pair programming with a master – Ken
painstakingly desribes every step in his decision making process as he goes
through every single line of code in a simple project. It’s painful, but I found
thinking about a project like Ken to be revolutionary in my ability to organize,
decompose, and execute my daily assignments.
Podcasts // Notable Online
- Welcome to Nightvale
- Listened to all of Welcome to Nightvale in 2019 and it was an absolute
blast. It very much captures the kind of madness that you find in desert
- Alice isn’t Dead
- Wrapped up the first season of Alice isn’t Dead. Its a great road podcast to
listen to on a late late drive across the open expanse of the Southwest.
- Desert Oracle
- News and nature essays from the Southwest. This show is a continuously
evolving affair that perfectly captures the essence of the “desert philosopher.”
- Lindsey Ellis
- Excellent deep literary analysis wrapped up in entertaining video essays.
- Red Letter Media
- These guys dive a touch into being too edge-lordy at times, but they do have
quiet a deep understanding of film and do a great job of contemporary film
criticism with a good sense of humor. Does feel like sitting down with some WI
friends over beers.
- David Bull
- Great videos that dive into both the history of Japanese woodblock carving and
demonstrations of modern recreations of many prints.
- Sarah’s Scribbles by Sarah Anderson
- Fun, honest, four squares of comedy.
- Drugs and Wires by Mary Safro and Io Black
- Brilliant alternative-history exploration of the post-Soviet nineties in a
world where we skipped desktop computers and dived directly into mind-alterting
One sentence micro-reviews of each film, show, book, and game that I watched,
read or played over the last year. Each item recieves a letter grade from F
(terrible) to A (a must watch/read).
- Reserve for items that are so good and re-watchable/readable that they
deserve to bought as a physical addition to my library.
- This is a re-read or re-watch of a volume in my library.
- A multi-episode show, an ongoing comic, or series of books instead of a single
Film & Shows (33)
- Made in Abyss B (S)
- The environment and creativity that goes into the ecology of the abyss makes
for an interesting show. It’s a pity it abruptly ends.
- The Greatest Showman C
- An okay film. Entertaining to watch, but not memorable.
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi B+
- A mess. Like most of the new films, it isn’t bad, it just isn’t great.
- Oscars Short Animations 2018 C
- A mixture of good and bad as can be expected.
- Ready Player One C-
- Like most of the 80s era directors, Spielberg has quite lost his touch.
- The Shape of Water B-
- Held off on this, because I had low expectations. But was pleasantly surprised
by an interesting inversion of the swamp-thing type film.
- Blade Runner 2049 A (B)
- The only honest, non-cyncial cash-in on Ford’s career. This is actually a
good, stand alone film and a better than good sequel to the original.
- Solo B-
- Didn’t really need the backstory to Solo, but surprisingly didn’t entirely
destroy the character.
- March Comes in Like a Lion C (S)
- A rather slow slice of life. Probably would enjoy it more if I was in the
right mood. Difficult to really watch more than an episode or two at a time.
- Elysium C
- Blockbuster of the big graphics, guns, explosions variety. Entertaining while
I watched it.
- Arrival C+
- I really liked Ted Chiang’s collection of short stories, but they really don’t
translate into movie form nearly as well.
- Citizen Kane A (R)
- Brilliant work by Orsen Welles. A classic that I alone in my household enjoy.
- Delirium C
- Above average horror film, which puts it at about average for most films.
- Synecdochee, New York B+
- Film took me by surprise. Synecdochee captures a kind of creative ennui and
stuckedness in life that I could relate. The surrealism and direction made for a
wonderful film similar to the works of Gondry.
- Dark City B+
- A neo-noir with Jennifer Connelly set in a bizarre dystopian world. Another
film that is worth a watch.
- Uresai Yetsura: Beautiful Dreamer A (B)
- Never saw any of Uresai Yetsura before this, but it left me itching for more.
The film wonderfully captures a kind of adolescent dreamscape and capitalizes on
animation’s ability to break rules.
- Looper C+
- Theirteen Monkeys but with a much more straightforward plot.
- Mullohland Falls A- (B)
- An excellent entry in the noir genre. It hits all the beats just right with a
more modern tempo.
- Your Name A-
- Beautiful. Gorgeous. I can see why this film raked in so much cash. It has a
little bit of everything in it for everyone – science fiction, adventure,
- Lost Highway C-
- Lynch misses more balls than he hits. There are films like Mulhollland Falls
or the original Dune that I love, but so much else is just lost on me.
- Let the Right One In B+
- Swedish films have this strange way of just being extraordinarily creepy.
- Cloak and Dagger B+
- Strangly don’t remember watching this, but I must’ve liked it.
- Evil Dead II B- (R)
- The king of the “B” reels. The Evil Dead films still hold up.
- No Country for Old Men B- (R)
- Great film for the Southwest, and having now lived out here, I can see how it
captures both the landscape and the people.
- The Sixth Sense C
- Finally watched this film, and I can say, it was mediocre.
- Number 23 C
- Jim Carrey does his best work when he’s not trying to be funny.
- Miss Hokusai B-
- Great period piece about the life of Hokusai’s daughter who apprenticed and
followed him in his work.
- American Psycho B+
- Perfect film for this era, truly captures the American Dream.
- The Resident D
- Santa Sangre A-
- My introduction to the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky (outside of the
Metabarrons that is). Brilliant explosion and truly an expansive attempt to push
the medium into new realms. Horrifying all the same.
- El Topo A (B)
- A stand out in Alejandro Jodorowsky films and perhaps my favorite of the lot.
A brilliant splash of style, an exploration of Christian and Eastern thought,
wrapped up with a dark plot.
- The Usual Suspects B+
- Excellent heist film, perhaps the best that I’ve seen in the genre.
- Vanilla Sky C
- Extremely slow start with an eventual payoff. Debatable on whether it’s worth
- The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas C
- An excellent collection of advise for the professional developer.
- Test Driven Development by Kent Beck A (B)
- This book really grows on you. It’s like pair programming with a master.
Really boring to read. But transformative in how you approach problems.
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius A
- A great introduction to classical stoic philosophy, but greatly overrated by
the Hacker News crowd.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo A (R)
- Kondo’s ideas on consumerism and focusing on owning stuff that brings joy is
certainly worth a look.
- Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein C
- Dirty old man’s adventures through time and space. Heinlein is overrated.
- The Nine Princess of Amber, The Guns of Avalon, The Signs of the Unicorn,
- The Hand of Oberon, The Courts of Chaos, and Trumps of Doom by Roger
- Started my way through the Chronicles of Amber series, and I must say that
it is a great alternative take on modern fantasy that actually adds to the
- Solanin by Inio Asano A (R)
- This is my third or forth run through Inio Asano’s Solanin. It has become a
rather core entry into my personal philosophy.
- Queen Emeraldas by Leiji Matsumoto B+
- Great to see more of Leiji Matsumoto’s works make it into English. I’m getting
tired of having to read them in French.
- Minecraft A
- I stayed away as long as I could, but it got me in the end. This game is
- Mario Kart 8 A-
- Another great entry in the series that maintains the same level of quality as
other entries in the series.
- Team Fortress 2 A
- The last FPS that I still play. Worth checking out since it still maintains a
nice casual feel to the servers.
- Super Mario Odyssey A-
- Probably the best 3D entry since Mario 64. There are some truly great levels
in this game, although there are also some truly forgettable levels as well.
- Rocket League B
- Worth playing if you have some friends to play it with, otherwise a pass. I
don’t know how anyone actually controls the cars themselves, it’s utter chaos.
Here’s my 2019 reading list for tech and career focused improvements. Guaranteed
to change the minute that I wrote it down. A handful of these are good books
that I’ve already read and need to revisit like Domain Driven Design,
Implementing Domain Driven Design and The Go Programming Language. Others,
have sat on my shelf for a long time unread (Code Complete 2) and are due for
a second attempt.
For Improving Legacy Code
Last year, I was able to check learning Ansible and Docker off my todo list. I
feel rather comfortable with both at this point. Yet, the world of web
development ever marches onward. Here is what I would like to focus my attention
on getting up to speed on this year:
- Go for Web API Development
- Godot, Solarus or Amethyst Game Engines (have to dream)
One sentence micro-reviews of each film, show, book, and game that I watched,
read or played over the last year. Each item recieves a letter grade from F
(terrible) to A (a must watch/read). This year, I add some additional signfiers:
- Reserve for items that are so good and re-watchable/readable that they
deserve to bought as a physical addition to my library.
- This is a re-read or re-watch of a volume in my library.
- A multi-episode show, an ongoing comic, or series of books instead of a single
Film & Shows (48)
- Rogue One B+
- This is only the second new Star Wars film and I’m already getting franchise
fatigue. Nonetheless, an excellent addition – likable characters and an
exciting premise that plays out like an old Star Wars FPS game.
- Secret Life of Pets C
- An unremarkable animated feature that did nothing particularly novel or
groundbreaking but was enjoyable none-the-less.
- The Shining A- (B)(R)
- I am rather fond of the works of Stanley Kubrik, and the Shining is an
outstanding film although perhaps not in the same catgegory as Clockwork
Orange or 2001.
- Gosford Park A (B)
- A strange favorite of the year. Gosford Park is a standard murder mystery
with the added take of Brittish black comedy and insights into Brittish
- The Black Cat B+
- Great horror from the Italian director Lucio Fulci.
- The Big Sleep A- (B)
- Continuing the noir theme. Good film. Not mu
- Eyes Wide Shut B+
- Not sure what to say. The film was good. The charaters and scenario
interesting. But for the folks involved, I kind of expected more.
- Necromancy B+
- Fun schlock horror anthology
- Kafka the Last Story D
- Just an atrociously boring
- The Saga of Tanya the Evil C (S)
- Not quite sure how I started watching this, it did turn out better than you
- Flip Flappers C (S)
- Beautiful scenary, but the show didn’t really seem to know where to go. After
a handful of nice episodes it just loses all steam.
- Point Break D
- Bad acting. Mediocre plotting and filming.
- Ex Machina C
- Ok science fiction film of the Hollywood variety
- Lost in Translation B+
- Friends have recommended this film to me for some time. I found myself,
actually disappointed in it, but perhaps it was due to the hype.
- Lavendar C
- Another forgetable horror film
- Vertigo B
- Hitchcock at his finest
- Lars & The Real Girl A-
- This film starts out making you feel really uncomfortable, but by the end you
- Escape from Alcataraz B+
- Good old film
- The Arroyo F
- Dazed and Confused A+
- Started a theme of “night” movies. This is one of those quotable films that
somehow never actually get watched. Excellent social commentary, atmosphere, a
kind of film that takes you back.
- Before Sunrise C
- Continuing the night theme. I see where the directory has started a kind of
reputation for making movies where people hang out and talk.
- A Brighter Summer Day A (B)
- This film is absolutely brilliant! But do set aside the time to watch it. I
didn’t realize that it’s novel length.
- Night on Earth B
- Night theme. A series of short stories interconnected by the late night taxi
- The Life of David Gale D
- Forgetable Kevin Spacey film. Starts with an agenda and doesn’t get far.
- Baby Driver B-
- Big name Hollywood film. Good music. Surprising lack of actual car chases.
- Shutter Island B
- Finally finished Shutter Island. I’ve started this film three or four times. A
good dark mystery, a psychological thriller of the mind-fuckery variety
- What We Do in the Shadows A-
- Fun mockumentary comedy out of New Zeland
- The Dark Tower C
- Sort of a mess, but that was my view of the books as well.
- Blackwell Ghost D
- More forgettable horror films
- Mulholand Drive A-
- Starts out slow, but transitions into a much better film. It is oddly obvious
when Lynch got the funding to take this from a TV Special to feature film.
- The Great Gatsby B+
- Brilliant big-cinema film that captures the excess of the period and
highlights much that might be missed by a contemporary reader of the book.
- The Warriors B
- I keep telling the pets to “Come out to Play”
- The Black Swan B-
- A Perfect Blue rip-off.
- Escape from New York B
- Love John Carpenter’s various takes on the Science Fiction genre. His visuals
continue to live up and the characters are fun.
- Jurassic World C+
- Kickstarting Jurassic Park again. Hollywood blockbuster. On the better end of
the scale for these kinds of films, but still not worth it.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 B+
- Just as good as the first.
- The Conjuring 2 C+
- Better than average horror, not great cinema, but entertaining.
- The Maltese Falcon A
- The source of the maguffin! A must watch for the noir and film history buff.
- The Battle of the Sexes B
- Watched this in downtown Durham. Fun. Worth it if you were burning time on a
- The Woman in the Window B+
- Short noir film, but one that really captures all of the different themes and
styles of the genre.
- The Oblong Box B+
- Help! I am running out of Vincent Price films!
- The Thaw D
- The Lady in the Van B-
- A nice feel-good film
- Skyfall C
- I am so far behind on James Bond films.
- Valarian and the City of a Thousand Planets B
- Beautiful! Wonderful blockbuster with all the giant special effects. A pitty
- Kiss the Girls C-
- Described as a “neo-noir psychological thriller,” I didn’t really find it
worthy of being called nor, nor pyschological
- Intruders D
- Red Skeleton Holiday Special A
- Great way to end the year.
- Statistics in Plain English by Timothy C. Urdan B
- A helpful, straightforward introduction to statistics that is perhaps useful
to the social scientist but unfortunately skips most of the math useful for
Machine Learning which was why I was reading it.
- Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister
- Didn’t find much use out this business book.
- Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (B)
- Very fast read and, as expected of Gaiman, a very well written contemporary
interpretation of Norse myth.
- The Book of Yokai by Michael Dylan Foster
- Deep dive into all things Yokai and a great overview of thse Japanese
- Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (B)
- Extremely well written short Science Fiction. Every single one of these is a
- IQ84 by Haruki Murakami F
- An astonishingly boring and disapointing thousand page read that rehashes the
tropes of Murakami’s earlier books.
- The Great Gatsby by F Scots-Fitzgerald
- Following watching the Film, I had a sudden urge to read the book. It holds up
well and continues to be relevant to our divided nation.
- Wizards First Rule by Terry Goodkind
- Adolescent drivel and wish fullfilmment. A novel that I would have probably
eaten up as a teenager, but can’t stand as an adult.
- Opus by Satoshi Kon B+
- Satoshi Kon’s unfortunate early demise leaves this book unfinished. Yet, it
remains a fun run.
- Nijigahara Holograph by by Inio Asano (B)(R)
- Asano’s take on horror. This is my third run through Holograph, the
narrative is exteremly dense requiring close attention to untangle the twisted
motivations of these characters.
- Ryuko by Eldo Yoshimizu C+
- Beautiful artwork, but dreadfully cliched plot. The French edition is an easy
read for a beginner in the language.
- Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind by Hayao Miyazaki (B)(R)
- Miyazaki’s masterpiece of manga. A darker take on the environmental themse
present in Nausicaa.
- Genshiken by Shimoku Kio A (B)
- I found myself relating rather uncomfortably with the characters of
Genshiken. A realistic and non-romantic take on the situation. I hear the
sequel rather undermines it’s themes and ending though.
- Yoon-suin by David McGrogan (B)
- A strange, far-eastern themed OSR book.
- Micropend6 by Sigil Stone Publishing
- Sure would be fun to find a group to play these games with. The D6 system was
a favorite for me as it focused on cinematic gameplay over crunchy numbers.
- Tiny Dungeon by Gallant Knight Games
- Another attempt at a paired down rules system for easy play.
- Dungeons & Dragons: The Players Handbook 5th Edition A (B)
- 5th Edition is a truly exciting return to what I enjoy in a D&D game. If only
I could find a group to play with these days.
- The Misty Isles of Eld Aby Chris Katulik and Robert Parker (B)
- An adventure that would be fun to play, but was quite a fun read non the less.
- The Legend of Zelda A (B)
- Never played the original until I got it on the 3DS virtual console. The title
has aged well and is still worthy of a playthrough.
- Pillars of Eternity B
- I really wanted to like Pillars of Eternity as I’ve been reminisce for the
old Infinity Engine style games. Yet, Pillars just couldn’t quite keep my
attention and started to be feel like a grind.
- Borderlands 2 A (B)
- Endless piles of content and all of it a wonderful. Perhaps one of the best PC
titles this decade and a blast to play with friends.
- Don’t Starve Together A (B)
- Another fun multiplayer title. Don’t Starve is a survival game that really
tests your teamwork to survive.
- Team Fortress 2 A (B)
- A fun FPS that has a strong community and plays well on almost any system.
Valve is still patching and updatingthe content so it doesn’t go stale.
- Windswept D
- Beautiful, but shallow game. It took roughly a single evening to explore the
full potential of the game and put it back on the virtual shelf.
- Minecraft A (B)
- Finally took the dive into Minecraft and found it just as fun and addictive
as I always feared it would be.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds A (B)
- A perfect return on the handheld to the traditional Zelda formula.
- Paperclips A
- Free online game and a really fun take on the paperclip maximizer thought
We started 2017 with the simple goal of settling into our cabin in Alpine,
exploring the nearby trails and outdoor opportunities, and reconnecting with
side project long abandoned to hiatus. As the year progressed, it took on an
increasingly fever pitch that left us longing for that empty stretch of winter
- Sprint A
- Hotelled at the Wigwam Village in Holbrook, AZ
- Sprint B
- Started waking early and walking three miles each morning
- Sprint C
- Explored downtown Raleigh, NC
- Sprint D
- Spent the weekend at La Posada in Winslow, AZ
- Sprint E
- Spent the sprint sick with norovirus
- Sprint F
- Exploring creating a single-player Damasca using Solarus
- Sprint G
- Visited Wisconsin for my niece’s baptism
- Sprint H
- Visited my grandparents in Cleveland, OH
- Sprint I
- Investigating growing Orchids
- Sprint J
- Camping trip to Blue Crossing
- Sprint K
- Writing retreat at Cottonwood Campground, Reserve, NM
- Sprint L
- Jess visited Portland
- Sprint M
- First time playing Dungeons & Dragons in five years
- Sprint N
- Cabin trip in Bluff, UT
- Sprint O
- Converted my blog to Jekyll with a new design and posts
- Sprint P
- Attended funeral for Grandpa James in Cleveland, OH
- Sprint Q
- North American Mycological Association Regional Foray in the White Mountains
- Sprint R
- Backpacked West Mount Baldy Trail
- Sprint S
- Jess on Fire
- Sprint T
- McBride Mesa Trail #26 (13+ Mile/16 hour Hike of Doom)
- Sprint U
- Quarterly Vacation to Durham
- Sprint V
- Clint Visited & Apache Box
- Sprint W
- Katie Visited
- Sprint X
- Grandma James’ Funeral in Cleveland, OH
- Sprint Y
- Zend Framework Fundamentals Class
- Sprint Z
- Christmas in Spearfish
- The most relaxing quarter. Found time to play – games, films, reading; and to
pick up time for writing and pursueing creative projects.
- In exploring, found George’s Lake Trail. A beautiful oak glade at the base of
Escudilla and just outside of town (indeed it’s within a half mile walk of the
house). A complex of old roads in the area affords over six miles of hiking
end to end.
- Started the year at over 215 lbs in weight which puts me into the obese
category for my height. Started the RealAppeal program, offered by my health
insurance and through my employer, with a goal of dropping to 180 lbs. Dropped
my weight to 194 lbs at it’s lowest, but spent most of the year at 198 lbs.
- Explored a lot of culinary delights: crawfish casserole, shrimp in pesto-tomato
sauce, turkey breast with almonds, butter chicken, celery and sausage
frittata, lentils and rice, squash and browned butter pasta, chicken
scarporiello, caldo verde, creamed spinacha nd cauliflowr soup, lamb chops,
and miso chicken
- Replaced the single-pane windows on the house and officially became a resident
of Arizona, although saddly not in time to put in for an Elk tag (need six
months of residency.)
- Started a dialog with Dart Zaidyer about the Solarus Engine and its potential
for creating a single-player Damasca game. He converted the old Magrathea maps
into the Solarus engine format and we began working to fix linking them
together as I researched Lua and the API that powered the game engine.
- Home adventures included hotelling at the Wigwam Village in Holbrook and La
Posada in Winslow, AZ as we explored the delights of North-Western AZ.
- Followed Jess to a training session in Flagstaff
- Started taking extra time in the Quarterly meeting to really explore the
Triangle area. If I am to be flown across the country, I ought to take the
chance to look into museums, buy souvenirs, attend concerts and such.
- Dana visited and we took her to Sante Fe.
- Ended Quarter with trip to Rhinelander for Felicity’s baptism followed by my
last trip to see my Grandparents before their funerals later in the year.
- Culinary delights continued: quinoa pasta and burnt butter sauce, french onion
stratta, schnitzel and beat sandwiches
- Continued exploring and hiking, cover over seventy miles and adding Lamphier
Trail, Juan Miller Road, MS Mountain Trail, Pueblo Park Interpretive Trail,
Indian Creek Lookout, Cottonwood Canyon, Bonanza Bill, and Goose Point road to
the list of trails that I explored.
- Rewrote joehallenbeck.com from Wordpress to Jekyll including a new
mobile-friendly design. Implemented a system for updating the site, analytics
via a personal Pikwik install instead of Google spyware, and several new
posts. Took down the Wind-Up blog and imported the posts into my Portfolio
site. Started working on a similar treatment for Dreamscapes, but never got
around to it.
- Played D&D at Flying Rook Games while Jess was out in Portland, but just
couldn’t find the time to make the commitment to the three-hour round trip
biweekly to attend.
- Picked up zazen over lunch and kept at it through the summer, although tailed
off by Q3. It is a practice that I have long wanted to make routine, but also
find that my life is plenty busy without adding another daily item. I have
been interested in the Zen center in Silver City, and perhaps if I could make
it down there, I could find instruction in the matter and better practice. As
such, I’ve put meditation on the back burner of things to do, time permitting.
- Completed the third year of a “social media fast,” with several interesting
introspections coming from it. Namely the observation that Social Media
creates the illusion of being connected to friends. That smaller, more tight
knit communities create better interactions. That I ought to spend more time
seeking friendships among my immediate peers, or at least maintaining
relationships through direct contact. Also, that I largely get nothing from
Facebook. Find Twitter and Hacker News amusing, but ultimately distracting.
That I would be better
- Found time to regularly play Team Fortress 2 with Will and Clint
- Celebrated our sixth anniversary with a trip to Bluff, UT to stay at the Comb
Ridge Bistro and explore Bear Ears National Monument (our interests in the
area pre-date the creation of the Monument).
- Grandpa James passed away, necessitating an emergency trip to Ohio to attend
- Attended the Regional North American Mycological Association Foray at Sunrise
Ski Resort. Learned a ton about mushroom collecting in the area and set about
amassing thirty-some pounds of mushrooms (pre-dried). Signed up for a
membership with the organization and looking forward to future mushroom
hunting next year.
- Moved into the house as I disposed of three bags of the prior owner’s linens.
Purged an exsessive amount of old paperwork to the fire bin. Decorated the
- Ended the quarter with a two night backpacking trip to the top of Mt Baldy via
the western trail. Sprained an ankle.
- Got cat, Tilde!
- Started the quarter with a 13.5 mile all day hike of the McBride Mesa Trail. A
volunteer activity for the Forest Service as we checked the trail conditions
and determined the true path of the trial via multiple GPS unit.
- In total we hiked a 100 miles this quarter, and according to my Garmin, took
half a million steps.
- Jess came along on the Quarterly trip to Durham this time. We saw a Robert
Cray concert, toured the triangle area and had a generally good time.
- Clint visited. Took him on the grand tour of the area.
- Katie and Ben flew out to visit.
- Grandma went into hospice and for three long weeks we wondered about her
condition. She passed away in November on Thanksgiving Week. This necessitated
a wild drive across the country to Cleveland, trailer in tow, for a second
- Returned home for two weeks before needing to leave again for our Christmas
plans in Spearfish. Two days driving up, celebrated over the weekend, two days
driving back, and then back to work.
- Ended the year with lobster at the Foxfire in Alpine
- Peopleware book club
- Started a Modern React and Redux UDemy Course; took a deep dive into the
React ecosystem but really I don’t do enough front-end UI/UX work these days
to keep on top of it or make much use of it on a daily basis.
- Abandoned Pomodoro, it isn’t an appropriate technique for development except
as a means of breaking a procrastination cycle.
- Big research into accounting platforms, from Quickbooks, Freshbooks,
Zohobooks, and their integration pain-points for a business interested in
offloading a bespoke accounting system (integrated into a software monolith).
The particular painpoints where the need to export over ten years of
pre-existing accoutning data, and also create an automated platform that could
record a large volume of daily orders from an external system. Found
Zohobooks perhaps the easiest platform for this use case. Would spend the next
two quarters implementing this integration.
- Create a self-sylalbus for studying Machine Learning. Started with reading and
completing the example problems in Statistics in Plain English and
Statistics: A First Course. Read through the Tensorflow documentation.
Completed the first half of Coursera’s Macine Learning course.
- Work signed us up for Zend Fundamentals I. Completed the course before the end
My annual retrospective is running a bit late this year. Probably because there
has been so many big life-changing developments in the last year. This has
inspired a great deal of introspection and anxiety. I describe 2016 as a very
necessary year. Not an enjoyable year, but a year where I was mostly
reactionary to a long sequence of unavoidable events that started with the
totaling of Ford Explorer in late 2015 and leading up to the eventual
The year of necessity has become my description of 2016. Everything happened
because it had to happen. There was little agency involved, but rather a great
tide swept me along. It took me from Wyoming to Arizona. It took me from
Clifton to Alpine. It put me into a mortgage. It put me into a car loan.
In between, I found some time to read, game, and watch thirty some films.
Somewhere around the midsummer I fell into a kind of fugue where all my hobbies
and activities started to feel more like chores than entertainment. I read,
gamed and watch films out of habit rather than enjoyment. Nihilism set in, I
looked ahead on life and just saw an infinite number of books to be read and
realized that the act of reading was itself meaningless. Life seemed an
infinite set of tasks, each task leading to yet another task, and no task
itself intrinsically meaningful.
Since settling in Alpine, my mind seems more settled and at ease, but one thing
that came of this is a realization that there is simply too much to do in
adulthood and not enough time to commit to all of it. More importantly, my time
is often consumed not by what I want to do, but what I need to do. That I would
be better off setting aside all commitments and evaluating them. Do I receive
commiserate value for my time in work (existentially that is, not monetarily).
Would that time be better spent in some other pursuit? How much enjoyment do I
get out of a perfectly folded closet?
Redundancy in Task Management
I like lists. I like checking things off lists way too much. This can, at times
become overdominating to my lifestyle and at the start of 2016, I started to
realize that I was drowning in lists!
A couple years back, I started to keep a daily work log to remind myself of the
work that I had done over the year. I consolidated that work log each sprint
into a sprint log, and each quarter into a quarterly log and each year into an
annual log. I documented the work I did both in TimeKeeper, in
Trello/Todo.txt, and then again in my summarizations.
The redundancy had to be eliminated. With this in mind, I stopped keeping a
daily log. Now, I keep my lists in Todo.xt and my time in TimeKeeper. I do make
a very short Sprint review every two weeks but I focus on only documenting
extraordinary events and future plans instead of the minutia of everyday
living. The quarterly log is a summary of those extraordinary events and the
annual review a further summarization. There is no need to go back and review
past todos and past sprint logs.
One of these days, I will write a nice, long post about my task management and
The Permanent Southwest Trip
The move to Three Way could best be described as an adventure. We started on
brisk -26 degree evening in Jackson, WY. My trailer jack broke off in my hand.
I was able to lever it onto the hitch using a spud bar only to have it bounced
off in heavy traffic in Salt Lake.
Three-Way was our new home on the intersections of Hwy 78 and 191. Home to a
corner store, the USDA and the Department of Transportation. We lived for the
first two months out of a Fema Trailer. At thirty feet long, it felt cozy but
at times also claustrophobic. Jess walked the hundred yards to work each
morning. I worked off a cell tower. In the evening we walked the dogs down to
the Airport and back trying our best to avoid the occasional rattle snake and
overly curious horse.
Come March, we found housing on a six acre property just a short walk away from
the Gila River. As a condition of renting, we put in a floor and signed a six
month lease hoping to make a more permanent home for some time.
Greenlee County, of which there is only really two towns: Duncan and Clifton
proved a strangely magical location. Through the spring we were visited by all
kinds of exotic birds, lizards, snakes, tarantulas and insects the like of
which I have never seen before. I killed no less than dozen scorpions in the
house and one rattlesnake that wandered too close to the porch. At night,
javelinas roamed about in the yard. The summer proved far too hot for me –
reaching 120 on one day. I confined myself to the office, the only room with an
air conditioner, and slept through most of the afternoons while working late
into the night. The August rains helped some and soon the washes around the
house swelled and flowed.
In the end, Greenlee County proved a short lived adventure. A promotion was in
store for Jess moving us up the Mogollon Rim to higher elevations, cooler
climates, and more familiar surroundings. For the long-term this is perhaps
best, but Greenlee is a mere two hours away at any time, inviting us back to
the deep desert whenever we tire of mountains and prairie.
The Alpine House
Greenlee was exotic, exciting, but altogether too hot and alien of a climate
for me to see any extended stay. We found ourselves, by midsummer, looking
northwards to Alpine, AZ. There, at an elevation of 8,000 feet the climate was
far more temperate. The summer reached only the low nineties, the nights stayed
cool, and in the winter there was snowfall. The hiking was excellent, the
forest a mixture of aspen, oak, and ponderosa much like my beloved Black Hills.
Jess applied, and was offered a promotion in the district. The town, of a mere
100 people in the winter, proved a tough nut to crack for rentals. However, we
quickly fell in the love with the area. Springerville proved a treasure trove
for shopping. Between Safeway, Western Drug, and two hardware stores we were
well set. The location, a perfect basecamp for the southwest. In five hours we
could be in Moab, Sante Fe, Tuscon, Silver City, or the Grande Canyon. In the
winter, we found snow shoeing available above 10,000 feet at Hannagan Meadows.
If we grew tired of Winter, a twenty minute drive put us in the Blue and a two
hour drive put us on the desert floor.
By luck, we stumbled upon a cabin that was in our price range. Built in 1962,
it sat on the back of a quarter acre lot a mere quarter mile walk from the
Forest Service. Three bedrooms, a single bathroom, and an expansive Arizona
room that looked out over the valley and up to South Mountain. Only minor work
required, a new metal roof, a wood stove added to the living room, venting for
the bathroom and dryer and it was soon ready for the long term.
Granted, we first had to run the gamut of the mortgage which proved a nightmare
that consumed two months of my summer. An employment paid move from Three Way
up the hill, unpacking, and the long run of house guests who always arrive
shortly after such ventures.
May was occupied by chickens. A strange thing to occupy a month. We picked up
six chicks from Tractor Supply near the end of the season. In the spare bedroom
we set up a brooder made from cardboard boxes. There the chickens grew for
another month while I busied myself with building a coop.
I got a design off of Catawba Coops detailing a nice A-frame style chicken
coop and made some modifications for the climate and potential threats. The
wooden roof, I swapped out with metal. The fencing I made smaller to keep the
snakes out. The project consumed the weekends for over a month. In the end, we
got five hens and a rooster out of the mix. The rooster died before fall, but
the hens started laying eggs around September and kept up almost until
The Places I Did Go
The change of region brought with it the opportunity for exploration. Sadly, we
found little time for camping trips, nor extended hikes. We tasted a lot of our
new home but left many a trail for deeper exploration in years to come.
Greenlee County was our first campaign. Starting with hiking the State Lands
around the Airport. We made regular trips up Willow Creek Wash and cold Water
Canyon. The area was ripe with slot-like ravines that proved both fun hike down
and clamber about. From the desert plane we descended down into one wash,
walked it until we met up with another, walked up the new wash then climbed out
to cross the plateau back to our truck.
The BLM’s Black Hills Byway proved a continuous source of amusement. We spent
many weekends on Goat Camp Road, Tank Road and Black Canyon. East of Three Way
we discovered Apache Box, a bizarre formation where Apache creek plunged down
through thick layers of rock from the Colorado Plateau down to the valley
We mixed with the community. Attended birding classes. Attended container
gardening classes. Helped with creek clean up and met our neighbors. We were
sociable in ways that we never quite found in the stuffiness of Jackson nor the
closed community of Ashton.
Then there comes the trips. We made several passes to Silver City. First to
explore the Gila Cliff Dwellings, then later to stay at the Bear Creek
Come September we made our way up to the old stomping grounds in Idaho Falls.
There to polish off a few day hikes. We hit the Aspen trail, which we had tried
the prior spring but found too muddy to attempt. Then we hit Wind Cave, which I
had wanted to see for some time. The entrance of the cave is a massive gash
through the cliff face. A cold river runs out of it’s mouth and it seems like
such a place that dragons would be found.
We made trips up to Sante Fe. Ate at their many good restaurants, hiked the
Dale Ball and La Tierra Trails, and witnessed the miraculous staircase. We
talked for some length on the idealism of Sante Fe as a city. It’s
walk-ability. It’s historic architecture. Yet, after a week we found ourselves
pleased be home and away from the crowds and rush of traffic.
I made way to San Diego for my Grandmother’s eightieth birthday. A good
“workation” as I like to think of them. Taking advantage of the opportunities
of remote work to visit relatives without the need to use PTO. The same was
done for Christmas, as we ventured north again to Portland. This trip proved
vastly more complex than intended as we hit snow storms on both the going and
coming delaying us considerably. Yet, it was fun to drive across Nevada, a
state that I have hardly seen. It’s big open bowl, empty rocky landscapes that
stretch out to slowly rising mountains. The state excites me and I hope to
return to really wander it appropriately.
Fossifying My Workflow
Last year, I took a huge step back from my personal workflow to evaluate just
how much SAAS and licensed applications have slowly infiltrated my work. Slowly
my daily task-management regiment went from the wonderful Todo.txt to
Trello. Synchronizing my working directories between my two desktops, laptop
and phone had gone from a series of duplicity scripts to Dropbox. My note
taking had gone from text files, paper and pencil to Evernote. My development
platform had slipped away from Vim and into PhpStorm.
First, I gave up PhpStorm and went full-on terminal. I don’t regret it.
PhpStorm and Xdebug never really played well together. Once I really had all my
Vim plugins put together, I replicated every piece of functionality that I
wanted. Tmux, I finally grokked. Writing on the terminal is vastly more
When I look back through my archives, I find files that go all the way back to
the nineties. Some of these files are binary media files for applications long
dead. Yet, a lot were simple text files that I can still open and read today.
Some people delete everything on their computer, my habit is to just keep
everything. I enjoy being able to go back and retrieve a file from a decade
SAAS and proprietary binary file formats breaks this. It imprisons my
documents, my ideas, my notes. Trello might be happy to let me download an
archive today, but will it in ten or twenty years? Will it even exist in twenty
years? They make no guarantee of the accessibility of your archives.
My fears are already confirmed. Trello was sold to Atlassian. Evernote changed
up it’s free and premium plans shortly after I jumped ship. It is clear that
notes created in Evernote are not my notes, not in the same sense as a markdown
note on disk is my note. Both Trello and Evernote can take their ball home at
any time leaving me without a historical archive.
Thus, I switched back from Trello to Todo.txt. I copied all of my notes out of
Evernote and turned them into markdown files. I even wrote a script that went
through every binary document file in my home documents directory, converted it
to markdown and then archived the binary document file. At this juncture, every
document file that I work on, with the exception of spreadsheets which are in
the OpenDocument file format, are markdown or latex files that I typeset to
pdf, html, or Docx depending on the consumer. In large though, I have greatly
gone by the hand-written word. Design notes on graph paper are vastly faster,
and more expressive then any computer document.
I did not go back to Duplicity for my synchronization. Duplicity always proved
too limited in scope when dealing with more than two devices needing to sync.
There was a need to manually run the script and confirm the overwrites. The
lack of file watching proved an issue if I edited a file on one device, then
switched devises and continued editing without running duplicity then I ended
up with two conflicting files. Sadly, I have not found an open source solution
to the problem. Dropbox has that NSA-friendly, integrated into everything,
creepy factor going on. It lacks a lot of the power-user attributes that I
want. I don’t want a “Dropbox” folder. I want a home directory, multiple
file-system synchronization process.
While not open-source, Reslio Sync, will at least let me pay a one-time
fee for the binary application, and then run it across all of my devises. It
does all the power-user things that I want. Selective syncing, arbitrary file
locations for syncing files, renaming files, and the ability to control
synchronization so it stays inside my local network. If one day the binary
stops working, I’m just out the cash that I paid for it. I can drop it any day
for a OSS solution if a solid one ever shows up.
There are a few pain points that I have yet to fix. Mostly, on the cell phone.
The Todo.txt application don’t seem to support the full scope of possibilities
that found on the desk top. I miss being able to quickly add a new todo when on
the road. Instead, I jot them down on a notepad and add them all in when I get
back to the home office. Likewise, shopping lists have gone back to the
pad-and-paper method. I am also, still on Lightroom for my photo editing, but
will probably never upgrade to the Creative Cloud.
Docker continues to allude me. I have read through the documentation. Read
through a great number of tutorials. I have docker containers running on my
system and continue to experiment with them on side projects. Yet, it just
feels like an unnecessary layer of abstraction on top of an already fine
ecosystem. Coworkers continue to praise Docker, and I assume that at some
juncture Docker will just click. A large chunk of the praise seems to be due to
a synergy created by using Docker and various AWS services. I am not a huge fan
of AWS. It feels like another form of vendor lock-in where their services,
while amazing useful, also create an interdependency between the software and
the availability of their stack.
A second tool I worked on this year was the Go Language. I picked up a copy of
The Go Programming Language and worked my way between the covers. While I did
a lot of little practice problems that really demonstrated the power of the
language, I had no deeper side project to work on with it and am still more
excited about Rust’s potential (not that I have anything that I want to build
with Rust either!)
Last, I picked my way through the documentation for React and Redux. React’s
documentation and platform has stabilized a lot since I last investigated it
two year’s ago. Where once there was poor documentation and only a smattering
of conflicting blog posts there is now a much more solid foundation to start
with. Redux though, still seems to be in a transitive state. The libraries used
in a React-Redux stack still in transition with documentation often lacking.
The choice of libraries still varied and shifting with the ecosystem. Yet, I
library has embarked on and worth further investment.
2017 In Resolution
The Four 200 Hundreds
I made a strange discovery last year. Focusing on personal projects instead of
time working on personal projects results in personal projects never shipping.
A few years ago, I shifted to working on personal projects the way that I
worked on work-work projects. I broke the projects down into actionable,
measurable tasks. Itemized them like I would user stories in Jira. Filed them
away in my todo list. Then lost all passionate energies to actually complete
Each sprint, I added the same actionable items for my personal projects to the
list. At the end of each sprint, I moved them to the next sprint. Structuring a
personal project in this way made it just feel like more of my day job instead
of a form of play.
So instead, I’m switching away from managing my personal projects. Instead of
focusing on “finishing” a project, I’ll focus on “spending time” working on
whatever I am moved to work on that day. I will track time spent on projects
rather than milestones of projects.
So far, this seems to be working. After two years stalling on the rewrite for
this blog, I actually got the Jekyll skeleton into place and all of my posts
exported. I started playing around with the Solarus engine and tinkering with
some old Damasca files. I started reading OSR books and putting together a
rewrite of my campaign settings. All back-burner projects that have languished
I call it the Four 200 Hundreds. Four subject areas, each with a dedicated
block of 200 hundred hours for the year. This works out to 50 hours a quarter
or roughly eight hours per subject a sprint. The subjects are writing, arts
(music, game development, drawing), reading, and audio-visual media (games and
The One Thousand Miles
The second item is, fitness. This summer will be six years since the cave days.
Since then, I’ve packed on weight. I do hit the gym, and get my three to four
mile walks in several times a week, but I don’t do it with any kind of
enthusiasm. The last time I really got into shape it was on my bicycling tour
of Ireland. Four to eight hours on a bike for three weeks was a great way to
lose well over twenty pounds. Coupled with an active employment, I kept the
weight trimmed down for a while.
What I really want to do is a through hike of the PCT. That’s 2,650 miles over
4.5-5.5 months which is going to work out to 16 to 18 miles daily under load.
Such a project would require considerably greater physical capacity then I am
at now where a ten miler, unloaded, is around my maximum range.
In the heart of the four 200 hundreds, I thus have fifth goal: the one thousand
miles. I want to have hiked, that is focused walking activity and not just
meandering about the house, one thousand miles by the end of the year.
A quick run down of all the films, shows, books and games watched, read and
played over the last year.
Film & Shows
This was the year of film. Starting in the FEMA trailer in Clifton, the big
screen TV that came with the new house. We had every excuse to watch movies. We
are running low on Hitchcock and Price films at this point. There are so many
of them (over 30 in total!) that I can’t give time for each. Instead, I’ll just
break each down to a letter grade.
Not mentioned, but started Steven Universe, FMA: Brotherhood, The Guild,
Amanchu, Dark Mirror and Flip Flappers.
- Moment A
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens B+
- A Boy & His Dog A
- Dogma B
- Limmey B
- The Revenant D
- The Life of Pi B+
- Theatre of Blood C
- The Wrong Man C
- Erased (Anime Series) C
- The Hills Have Eyes D
- Alice Through the Looking Glass C
- Iron Man D
- Big Fish C
- Kiznaiver (Anime Series) D
- Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Anime Series) A-
- One Punch Man (Anime Series) B
- Suicide Squad D
- The Haunting C
- The Edge of Tomorrow B-
- The Enemy of the State B
- The Conversation A
- Night of the Hunter D
- Crimson Peak A-
- Central Intelligence D
- Now You See Me 2 D
- The Babadook B+
- From Beyond the Grave C
- The Asylum C
- Stir of Echoes C
- Scott Pilgrim vs The World C+
- John Wick C+
- I Am Big Bird B-
- 13 Assassins B-
- 2001: A Space Oddyssey A-
- War Dogs C+
- Rear Window B
- Shadow & Fog A-
- Chinatown A
Not mentioned, but started Queen Emerladas, Galaxy Express 999,
Peopleware, Ryuko, The English Calendar, and half a dozen Science
Fiction & Fantasy Magazine volumes.
Saw the film, decided to read the book. The book is very detailed, and very
slow. I think it worked better as a film, as the book was very much written for
people who would want to geek out over the science in it.
Read the backlog of Scott Kurt’z other comic. Glad that I waited for
something of an archive to build up. The comic can be slow reading as a daily
but the backlog helps hook me in.
Get A Grip
Another business narrative for those who like to imagine that they’re
executives in the book and not just another drone trapped in whatever political
mechanations middle management has in store for them. Okay, I’m being overly
cynical but I would like to see more business books written from the
perspective of running teams for the middle manager or line man and how to
handle the demands that stem from both above and below. It seems like a cheap
cop-out to write your book about C-level executives who appear to be free to
steer their business willy-nilly.
An amazing historical record of pre-war Japan and an important read in light of
our current political times. It is fascinating to watch how a progressive
forward thinking government can be erroded and transformed into the fascist war
machine just a few decades later.
I really like Steve Wolin’s idea of managed democracy. There are some good
ideas in this book. However, I struggled to get over Steve’s apologetics for
the Democractic party. It would reason that the Democrats are as much a part of
managed democracy as the Republicans and share just as much of the blame for
our failures. Elevating them up as the true will of the demos seems wishful
The Life Changing Tidying Up
People kept talking up this book, and I’ve been struggling this last year to
really minimize my life. This would have been better as a pamphlet. There were
a handful of useful tips, but they were all lost in the flood of prose.
This is the fourth or fifth time through Solanin. At this point, I’ve read it
at quiet a few different points in my life. As an unemployed post-collegiate
student. As a young man starting hist first relationship. And now as a young
man having been in a steady relationship for five years. It’s a rare book that
continues to speak to you each time.
Stand Still Stay Quiet
Well written, absolutely beautiful modern take on a lot of Scandinavian lore. A
zombie story, with monsterous trolls, ghosts of the dead, and a ravaged Europe.
A lot of fun, although I’m begining to get the feeling that the characters have
plot armor. The early story really built up the trolls as being nearly
undefeatable. Scourging entire military operations. Laying waste to cities.
Yet, our rag-tag team takes them out like to much butter.
Jacques should stick with coffee shop banter. I just can’t take his style or
characters seriously. Love QC though.
The Go Programming Language
One of my long standing complaints with language books is that so many of them
are written for the absolute novice. The first section goes through different
variable types. Basic boolean logic. Maybe by the later half of the book can we
get into the meat of how to use the language to get things done. The Go
Programming Language is excellently written not for that novice. Rather,
it’s written for the experianced programmer trying to get started and
productive with Go fast. In this respect The Go Programming Language succeeds
A really good brain teasing science fiction text. Another volume that I simply
had to read in a single night.
Not mentioned, but started Pillars of Eternity, Borderlands II, Too the
Moon, and some time on Graal Online and Eve Online.
Wow. It has been a long time since a game hooked me to the point where I stayed
up until dawn just to see how it ended. The story, characters, atmosphere. The
80s era camping gear of my childhood drawing in that sense of western camping
nostolgia. I’ve lived up at Black Rock. The game captures the feeling and
remoteness of Wyoming.
There were so many people on Facebook and Twitter that kept recommending this
game to me. It took me three tries to actually get into the game. Each time I
stopped right around where the skeletons appeared. The game play in Undertale
is really simplistic, too simplistic. But after a slow start, it gains some
momentum. It’s enough to get me to the end of the game, but not good enough
that I would bother playing through it over again to get all of the endings.
Torchlight II starts out very slowly, but becomes extremely fun in the late
game once the characters have access to their full arsenol of spells.
Unfortunately, this also seems to be the point in which game breaking bugs
start to appear. We had enitre unplayable nights because of players not being
able to join games or the AI simply bugging out and refusing to interact with
us. For a game that’s been out for years, I would have hoped these issues would
have been fixed by now.
Time for the annual retrospective. We can look back on last
year’s and reflect on the last year
and my resolutions for this new year. This last year was truly a year of
unexpected surprises from switching employers to totaling my precious Ford
Explorer after eleven years of use, to a wild last minute wintery move from
Jackson, WY to a small trailer in Greenlee County Arizona.
The new year brought with it a new employer, Research
Square, where I joined a dedicated team of
professionals working on both the website and internal tooling of a
medium-sized, fast growing company out of the Research Triangle area of North
Carolina. The best part was that it was still telecommuting, so my old office
was my new office: home.
The new team brought with it the opportunity to really dig into becoming
intimate with a lot of the best-practices that I had, until now, only really
read about: domain driven design, agile, code reviews, unit and integration
testing. It also brought with it a new set of tools to learn: Silex Framework,
Zend Framework, Doctrine ORM, Elastic Search and the variety of services
provided by AWS. In total, I scored probably another two dozen buzzwords to add
to my resume.
Throughout the year, I read a solid stack of business texts and DDD texts such
as Domain Driven Design, Impelementing Domain Driven Design, Remote, The
Lean Start Up, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Drive and Good to Great. At
home, I attended a variety of tech related meet ups hosted by Spark, my
co-working office and in North Carolina, I made it to my first conference, the
All Things Open conference in October.
Unrelated to my day-time employer, I finally gave up on hosting my own e-mail
server and shut it down. My e-mail provider is now G-mail. I also went through
the process of forming Joseph Hallenbeck, LLC in my home state of South Dakota,
formally establishing a separate business account for the odd gigs that I accept
and began a very slow discussion of the idea of on-the-side consulting.
We had some delightful trips this last year. It started with a few nights in
McMenamins in Oregon with Jess. A beautiful hotel grounds with hidden little
pubs all over.
Come spring we embarked for our third trip to the Southwest. This time we
explored south of Moab in what turned into a long car trip circling south into
Arizona, New Mexico and up to Taos. We certainly planned too much for that event
and are looking forward to revisiting many of the places we saw the year prior.
Nearer to home, we rented a cabin in Pinedale for a four day weekend of snow
shoeing half-moon lake and the surrounding area. Latter in the season we would
also rent a cabin on Slide Lake for a night and venture back to our old stomping
grounds in Island Park to polish off a handful of trails. In early spring we
also ventured into Beaverhead-Deerlodge to pick our way out to a campground.
Caver Classic came in the summer where I ventured back to Custer, SD with Clint
Augustson for some exciting caving adventures. We finally tracked down Cave 41
and as a bonus hit Onyx cave. Classic-lead events included the Club Room in Wind
Cave and a trip out to Japanese Gardens in Jewel.
An unexpected trip came after the All Things Open conference when I had to drive
from North Carolina to back home in Wyoming after buying a new truck after the
Nights of Relaxation
Having little success at finding companionship in Jackson, I turned to
recruiting my friends to play through Borderlands 2. We ended up meeting up
nearly once a fortnight through the entire year.
Alternatively, I took to taking quite long lavender baths, an old fashioned in
one hand as I worked my way through such series as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,
Mushi-shi, Kids on the Slope, Gatchaman, and Parasyte.
I also enjoyed liberal use of the gym. Jess finally talked me into a membership
and I found that I rather enjoyed hitting the gym for my lunch break. There I
could sit back and watch some American animation: Rick & Morty, South Park,
and Adventure Time all while burning through six to eight hundred calories.
Later in the year we discovered HIIT training which did wonders for preparing
for Caver Classic.
Cooking, Figure Drawing, Fence Building, Fiddling & Jazz
One thing that I did not fail on was cooking. I canvassed the world this year
with recipes from India and Italy. I cooked kraut, lamb leg, curry, turkey
meatballs, duck, tapanade, Tuscan papa al pomodoro, paprikash and expensive
saffron flavored fish soups. We roasted our own coffee beans on a wood stove and
made cakes in dutch ovens.
In the Winter and Spring, I hit up figure drawing at the art center. I went
fairly regularly until the weather was too nice to be spending the evening
couped up in doors. But I did fill a whole book of newspaper print with
drawings. I photographed them, but haven’t had the time to prepare them for a
Once the snow cleared, I took to building a fence around the property that we
were renting so the dogs would have a proper yard to run about in. One weekend
later we had a four-foot tall fence running from T-stakes around the yard. A
fence the dogs never once found a way out.
Watching Kids on the Slope and attending the Teton Orchestra inspired me to
dig back into my music days. I sorted through all of my old sheet music, broke
out the fiddle and started playing away at all the old songs. I kept it up well
for a couple of months. I even bought the Fake Book and started listening to a
long list of Jazz greats hoping to work out their pieces on the fiddle. The
madness that was Autumn took this away, and I hope to return to playing soon.
Completing the Day List in Jackson
One of the first things that I did when we moved to Jackson was to draw up a big
list of everything that we wanted to do. The list included every campground to
camp at, every day hike to hike, every backpacking trip, every outdoor activity
that I could imagine. While we moved out leaving a lot of the multi-day hikes
still on the list, we pretty much cleared the day hikes.
In the winter we hit on snow-shoes half-moon lake and the trails in Snake River
Canyon. Once the snow melted we hit Mosquito Creek and Red Top Meadows were we
explored Munger Mountain. Closer to home we cleared out Hagen’s Trail, Woods
Canyon to Crystal Butte loop, Goodwin Lake and Wilson Canyon.
The regular bicycling to Spark slowly sparked a reemergence of my interest in
bicycle touring. I found myself in reminiscence and slowly drawing up plans for
yet larger, bigger trips. In the end, I decided to start doing S24O, that is
sub-twenty-four-hour-outings by bike, but by then the winter snows had already
set in and I had to wait until the spring thaw.
One odd item was a highlight of my summer. Volunteering for the Lion’s club in
Jackson. We helped with a hot-dog feed for kids at Kid’s Fishing Day and latter
they hit us up to help with a breakfast feed at the County Faire which we helped
out with great zest.
A Feast of Films & Books
We feasted regularly on manga, non-fiction, anime, and a pile of films. But this
deserves it’s own separate entry.
Zen & Simplification
Jackson is a very restless community. A place that truly inspires you to
constantly be going, always amping up the stress. To combat that, I bought some
zafus and zabutons, read a long list of articles online on how to sit zazen and
gave it a try. In the meantime, I read through The Three Pillars of Zen and
skimmed through half a dozen other texts related to the practice. I am not quite
sure if it has helped or not yet. For a time, it certainly encouraged me to take
some time in my crazy day to just sit.
A second thought also began to bug me. That I was simply drowning in stuff. I
had boxes and boxes of notes from college, books that would never get read
again, cloths I would probably never wear, broken computer parts and duplicate
tool sets. I started trying to organize everything and most importantly started
gathering more and more stuff to dump into the grand box of donations. By the
time we moved, I unloaded one entire pickup truck load of stuff. The result is a
feeling of being so much more mobile, so much more free. When we moved,
everything we owned fit into a single U-Haul and we did it all on just a little
over two grand. That is a sense of freedom I am just not willing to trade.
The Wild & Unexpected
Two big unexpected events happened to me this year.
First, the Beast hit a deer outside of Boise. As a sixteen year old vehicle, it
was totaled. I took my insurance pay out of three grand and walked. It was a
really sad event for me. I had that explorer since my second year of college. My
first car and one that I practically lived out of for some time. I immediately
started looking for a new vehicle and came upon a craigslist add for a 2014
Toyota Tacoma in North Carolina. It fit everything that I wanted: manual, V6,
tow package, low miles. I flew out for my conference and called up the owner to
schedule a test ride that night. Bought it and drove it all the way home to
Second, after a great deal of discussion we decided that Jackson simply was not
the place for us and we wanted to move on. Particularly, Jess really needed to
advance in her career just as I was doing in mine. So she started the job hunt,
and unlike past job hunts, found immediate success. In no time at all our
Christmas plans went from simple, to packing up and moving. We landed in
Greenlee County Arizona in a little trailer in an unincorporated community along
the New Mexico border. What surprises life throws us.
Unfortunately, I got to very few of my projects that I enthusiastically proposed
last year. In my wake, I left a constant growth of crazy ideas and
half-implemented works. This is pretty much becoming my annual tradition.
Announce a bunch of fun projects. Put them on my to do list for a few months.
Then scratch them off and go read a book.
The Searchable Lovecraft
An elastic-search powered searcahable index of Lovecraft’s works. Type a query
get back the stories and lines that query was found on. I intended this to be a
meet up demonstration for a talk that I never gave.
A cookbook containing all my favorite recipes and a complete collection of what
I consider my “repertoire” of cooking delights.
The Photography Review
I started the process of going through all of 2015s photographs in Lightroom.
However, after a month of digging through files, I really started to lose a lot
of interest in photography overall. There is just so many photographs being
taken these days and other than tagging them and forgetting about them, I really
was not in the mood for post production at any point in time through the year.
The 30 Year Review
My shelves hold hand written journals going all the way back to grade school.
One crazy idea that I had was to type up the last eighteen years of journals in
to a giant document then typeset and print it out in hardcover. I got through my
first year of college and then lost interest in the pain of data entry.
Sometime in the summer I realized that there was a game store in Rexburg, a
short two hour drive away and lost myself in the daydream of getting back into
playing magic. I picked up my old boxes of cards from home, bought a couple
hundred dollars of the cards from the current sets, went to one Friday-night
magic and lost interest.
Rust went 1.0 this year and yet I haven’t touched Rust since it’s beta. Last
time I tried to compile the Rusty Centipede it broke in maddening ways and I
never was able to get the build to work.
… and NaNoWriMo, The Weird Tale, my blog in general, the Renaissance Man
project, blog re-write, interactive travel-map, link-posting website, and
updating my campaign setting.
2016 In Resolution
Once I really start to look over the year, go from thinking that I really got
nothing done to wow, I really took care of a lot. My only regrets would be that
I abandoned a lot of larger projects and spent very little time knocking out
more of my multi-day hiking trips that I had previously planned out.
So what would I want out of this next year? I would want to settle into Arizona
and truly explore the new countryside. I would want to find some social
connections, find a group to roleplay with, look into the local grotto and make
professional contacts in the local community and in Tuscon. I would want to keep
up the reading, gaming, and film watching.
I already have a reading list prepared and would
add on to it a desire to watch one film a fortnight, two seasons of shows a
quarter, and set aside some serious gaming time in the new house.
- Watch more films (try for once a fortnight)
- Watch more shows (try for two seasons a quarter)
- Complete the reading list
- Play more video games
Get Out More
One of my regrets in Jackson is that I let the community make me very
claustrophobic. The rush of tourists. The brisk attitudes of the locals.
Eventually, I just didn’t want to go out anymore. This time around, I want to
really take advantage of my telecommuting opportunities. Take time to work from
Starbucks or a local restaurant. Maybe commute from camp or a nice picnic
ground. Take a few more times to go out alone and really contemplate the world.
Spend more time out on the trail. Spend more time going to the movies and
exploring nearby communities. Start actually working towards that big
- Work away from home more often
- Quarterly writer’s retreat
- Get out to the theater be it film or stage
- Get out of town once a month
- Attend tech, roleplaying, and caving meet ups in Tuscon
- S24O Bike Tours
- Some trip ideas:
- Puerto Rico
- Train Ride to Durham
Last year, I said I would do 12 blog articles and set out to do that right away.
In the end, I just stopped writing altogether through the spring and most of the
summer. When I returned, I found how much I had missed it! Yet, I never did do
that weird story, write for NaNoWriMo or shuffle through my campaign setting the
way I had said that I would. Somehow, I forgot all about it. This year, I want
to write more. I want to write more blog articles. I want to write more short
Besides just writing. I want to create more. I want to spend more time working
on my drawings. More time playing the fiddle. More time just creating new things
be it cooking, carpentry, or programming. I already have some crazy ideas like
building a camper for the truck and updating my blog.
- Play my fiddle
- Spend more time drawing
- Build a truck camper
- Rewrite TimeKeeper
- Rewrite back end in Rust, Go, and Python
- Rewrite the front end with React
- Add Google account authentication
- Build up my consulting business
- Rewrite my blog as a static website
Waste Less Time
Waste less time, or better put waste time better. One thing that I realized in
Jackson was that I tend to deffer to spending time poorly. Instead of hammering
through work I wander about the house cleaning things that already clean. I
waste hours procrastinating on projects that I don’t have any interest in really
doing and would be better off simply scratching off the list altogether and
moving on to something better. I spend too much time organize the altogether too
much stuff that I own. I spend not early enough time watching the sunrise,
sitting zazen, and really listening to music.
- Less procrastinating on my day job. Less twelve hour days with four hours of
intermitent, unneccessary chores
- Try to see the big picture more at work
- Cut back on caffeine and try to get more energy in the day
- Make the social media fast an annual thing
- Sit zazen and exercise daily
- Simplify all the “stuff” in my life
- Waste less time procrastinating on projects I don’t want to do and more time
working on the projects that I’m passionate about.
- Figure out what the above means.
To match up with the list of books and films read or watched in 2015 is a list
of books that I hope to get to this year. There are a lot of re-reads in here. I
am finding that as I get older I am much more inclined to step back and re-read
a good book then I am to always be searching for the next great thing. I’ve also
grown a lot more choosy on what it is I do start up reading. There just isn’t
enough time in a year to rush though a paperback a week like I did way back in
High School. I also suspect the list will evolve substantially as the year goes
on based upon my seasonal whimsy and discovery of new authors.
There is no way I will be getting to all of these volumes. For a lot of them,
like Pic Iyer’s Falling Off the Map, The Open Road, and The Art of
Stillness – I inclined to only read one. Likewise, a lot of the philosophy
texts, I doubt I will be getting to all of them. And my employer also gives me a
reading list of sorts which I haven’t added to the pile of computing volumes.
Philosphy, Zen & Theology
Roleplaying Game Rulebooks
So folks seem to be doing this: jotting down a list of the books, graphic
novels, and films read or watched in 2015 with a short review of each.
A few surprises hit me in looking through the list. First, I read a lot of
non-fiction. Much more then typical in any given year. Second, I read very few
novels: only three. While I read a great deal of graphic novels. What is not
shown here is the vast number of short stories that I’ve been reading. I
remember a teen being bored with short stories. How were we supposed to really
connect with a character over twenty or thirty pages? These days it seems like
even the novella is just too long. Who has time to read through twenty thousand
words of prose? Hopefully next year will see a return of the novel to my
The other thing I find interesting. I also seem to be paring down my need for
novelty in my reading. I am going back and rereading good books that I had read
as a teenager. In fact, the three novels I did read? I have already read each of
them at least three times already.
So let’s kick this off.
After watching the film, I immediately felt the need to revisit the novel. Now
The Hobbit was one of my favorites as a child and one that I read several
times more then I ever read The Lord of the Rings.
My third pass through Kerouac’s masterpiece. This is one of those novels where
each read leaves me thinking differently. My first read had me completely caught
up in the sense of wanderlust. My latest read really seemed to put me into
thinking about just how disgusting Moriarty is as a human being and yet just how
easy it must have been to want to get caught up in his self destruction.a
Dune by Frank Herbert
A revisit to Dune, an annual read of my teenage years. Upon revisiting this
novel, I’m amazed at just how much my political ideology was shaped by Herbert.
Particularly the message that when you ask others to do for you which you could
do for yourself, you are inviting them in to have power over you.a
Remote by Jason Friend and David Heinemeier Hansson
A text that Research Square gave me upon joining. This is a rather light read,
one that you could probably finish in a single reading. I don’t think it really
said anything that isn’t rather obvious to anyone who has teleworked before.
Another text that Research Square asked me to read before starting. This is a
rather great read, particularly in the sense of how big of an impact the
thinking from this text has hit the tech sector over the last decade.
A collection of Abbey’s essays. Some good. Some bad. It’s rather a mixed bag as
I am one of those rare breeds who prefers Abbey’s novels over his non-fiction.
Really got me thinking about what is teamwork? How we approaching working in
groups is a notion that has started to slowly interest me the last few years.
A huge solid read. This gave me so much insight into how many larger
applications are structured.
A more hands-on look then Domain Driven Design. Although, I felt like it was
starting to get padded out by the end.
Drive by Daniel H. Pink
An examination in the obvious. I’m seriously amazed that it took this long for
business’s to realize that people are motivated by things other then just
gathering up pretty pieces of cotton paper.
It’s Hegal in all of his racist glory.
If you were to go into a used book store and look at the new age section you
will find a copy of this book. Buy it. I always thought it would be a bunch of
rubbish but it’s actually a very solid read and perhaps the best introduction to
Zen that I have found at this point.
A not particularly interesting examination at the steps taken by businesses to
move from being middling to great businesses. Yawn.
Manga Read & Graphic Novels
Total: 10 (If Counting Volumes)
Third pass through this wonderful autobiography by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I randomly
read a handful of his shorter comics as well during the same time. I am always
impressed by his struggles and the wonderful depiction of post-war Japan.
One of my most exciting feats this year was to read the first two volumes of
Galaxy Express 999 in French. I have waited over a decade for Viz to get around
to translating this work into English. It’s been out in French for years! Well,
I figured French is easier than Japanese, so I bought the whole series from
Amazon France and learned French! These comics are just as wonderful as the
Continuing to keep up on The Origin as volumes are released. This year, I
finally caught up with with the publisher’s release cycle and had to start
This is an odd one. I find the story to be extremely dry and slow. The
character’s plod along through very routine life events. Yet it’s drawn so
beautifully that I just have to pick up each new volume.
Star Power by Michael Terracciano and Garth Graham
It’s been years since Dominic Deegan ended. I tried to start reading Star
Power when it first started but found the release too slow to grab my interest.
I gave it a year for the archive to fill up and then plowed through it with
Johnny Wander by Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya
I have a folder where I stick comics to read. Johnny Wander was randomly
selected from that folder. The comic is great, although lately published at a
rather random or slow pacing so I have already lost track of it.
Dumped into the donation bin. It took two tried to read through Anno’s book. The
inside humor probably works for anyone who is really, really into classic anime,
but it just doesn’t work for me.
Total: 14 (*6 in Theaters)
Since I prefer The Hobbit novel to The Lord of the Rings, I found that I
just could not get into this film. The Hobbit novel is a light hearted
children’s adventure. The film, is a serious action-adventure flick. Pass.
A solid biopic on Alan Turing that did a rather good job of portraying the man
in all of his facets.
Terry Gilliam can do no wrong in my book. The Zero Theorem was just a solid
watch and a great summarization of the ideas presented in his other works with
all the same quirkiness that I would expect.
This was on my list of films that I watched, but for the life of me I don’t
recall actually having watched it this year. Ah well, a solid film. I think
satire of the typical horror film really didn’t get in the way of the film being
good in it’s own right.
Saw this showing in the local theater and just had to take Jess. A rather
touching mystery worth a watch as Ian McKellan does a great job at portraying an
aging Mr. Holmes.
The blockbuster of the season. Easily the best film that I saw this year.
Completely lived up to the hype.
Starting off our movie classics for the year was They Live which I just had to
watch after listening to a piece by Zizek where he used the film as a starting
point to launch into a discussion on Western politics.
Saw it twice before it moved on from the theater. The first time, I just
couldn’t get over my critical nostalgia. By the second watching I could just sit
back and enjoy it for what it was worth. The last act had some massive plot
issues, but the characters were interesting and I feel Kylo Ren is going to end
up being just as interesting of a villain Vader.
The first Daniel Craig Bond film that I caught. Made me want to go back and
watch the rest of his Bond films, or even further back to watch them all.
Nothing really new here. Bond is Bond is Bond.
On Halloween we got into a bit of a Vincent Price kick. House of Usher was
definitely an interesting watch. Particularly if you put on your feminism
goggles. It’s amazing how much society has changed.
Part two of our Vincent Price kick. I don’t really find Price frightening. I
find him kind of lovable.
Now this was a good creepy film. Beautifully shot. It was interesting that the
week after watching this film it was announced that someone had succeeded at
performing the horrifying procedure depicted in this film – transplanting a
The good reviews reached my ears regarding The Martian so we ventured out to
the theater and bought our popcorn. A really solid science fiction film that
will probably end up being this decade’s greatest contribution to the “hard”
category of science fiction.
I got to love my grandfather’s love of bad films. I am amazed at just how many
martial arts films came out in the eighties. No wonder kids of that decade grew
up to watch Anime.
Anime / Animation
Total: 11 (Counting Seasons)
Mush-shi is just as beautiful in the second season as the first. The only sad
thing is that it should come to an end. Each atmospheric episode was a wander
and highlight of my week.
Could never quite get into nor drop this series. The fact that Yes is their
soundtrack just made everything awesome.
Caught this series while on a trip to Ohio. Death Billards was a great stand
alone and most of Death Parade was easily on par. The only thing that ruined
Death Parade was a misplaced need by it’s creators to escape from just being
an episodic examination of people’s lives and to try to give it a running plot.
Had it just gone the way of Mush-shi, it would have easily been a perfect ten.
Bobduh over at Wrong Every Time seems to love Gatchaman
Crowds so I gave it a whirl. While I sympathized with it’s message, I thought
it was completely lost in the show’s over-the-top camp. After the first season,
I dropped it.
If you want to get people to listen to Jazz, show them this show. This is
perhaps Watanabe’s second greatest series (after Cowboy Bebop). The characters
just feel so very real.
Bakamonogatari was a visual splendor that I devoured. Since then each
subsequent series seems to end up less and less enticing and yet I feel as
though I will probably end up watching them all.
A good show, not a great show, but a very solid good show.
This show is just plain non-serious fun. Rapidly became my go-to show to watch
while exercising or just needing some low-commitment time to burn.
I saw a few clips from Rick & Morty when season 1 came out and thought it
funny buy never looked it up. Man, I haven’t binge watched a show this hard
since college. The nihilistic ennui. Woo.
South Park was hitting all of the right spot’s this year. Particularly living in
Jackson, WY where the whole gentrification and yuppie take over is in full
swing. This could have been a documentary about my life.
It is that time of year again, time for my retrospective. A look back on last
year’s goals and a reflection on what I would like out of
this year. It may be a month late for New Year’s resolutions, but I do get to
One thing that I started up last year was a much more rigorous interpretation of
David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I used a similar process towards breaking
down and getting to tasks in the past, but this last year was one where I
focused much more on continuously revising my goals, recording what I got done,
and asking myself what I needed to do next. Some time, I will get a series of
essays put together to discuss my process.
2014 closed out with my last day at 44 Interactive, and I hope a permanent move
away from the marketing side of web development and into the more fulfilling
realm of application development as a Software Engineer with my new employer,
Research Square out of Durham, NC. I am still remote, having moved from Ashton,
ID up to Jackson, WY – a town much more my style and now working out of Spark,
a nice co-working spot that has encouraged me to once more shed my outer humbug.
While working at 44 Interactive, I developed a bespoke shopping cart that saw
itself launched on Dakota Golf and Warriors Never
Giveup. This project implemented the entire
workflow that user’s expect of a shopping cart: adding products, customizing
product details, checkout, payment collection and processing through
Authorize.Net or PayPal, and shipping.
A few fun features I developed was a reworking of the underlying models of our
CMS to use the Eloquent ORM, integration with Composer and Bower for pulling in
libraries, building out a re-occurring events module for calculating things like
“occurs on every last Thursday of the month” or “repeat every Monday.” One
showcase item is the HTML5 Canvas powered course
tour on Dakota Golf whose
administrative tools allow for drawing arbitrary polygons and detecting when a
mouse enters a polygon.
In the brochure realm, I launched McDoctors,
Dakotastour, Wings of
Thunder, Howeinc, and
With my change of employers, I am hanging up my System Admin hat, which was a
fun one to wear for a time. No more debugging package conflicts, no more reading
PCI reports, or writing new rules for
mod_sec. I do delight in the fact that I
consolidated servers costs by 50% during my tenure and brought up time to 99.9%.
I am committed to continuous professional development in my field. I do this via
reading and writing blogs, reading technical manuals, as well as investigating
topics in computer science that might only be orthogonal to my day-to-day life.
In the last year, I read Miracle Man Month and Code Complete. After a short
affair in learning LateX last spring, I turned to devour every article and
online book I could find on the Rust language and began following the language
mailing list as well as subscribing to frameworks like Piston. I wanted to
really make some open source contributions, but never quite found a niche where
I could step in and help out.
After some consideration, I released the DropFramework and my
TimeKeeper application onto Github. The first, I
do not take seriously as anything more than a learning project and the latter is
a really helpful tool that I use every day.
Oh, and those projects I promised last year? I started on a lot of them, then
lost interest. Instead, I started Rusty Centipede –
a Centipede clone using Rust.
What about outside of work?
I had some great outings this last year. Helped out at the Ashton Dog Derby,
snowshoed to Warm River Cabin in Caribou-Targhee National Forest, visited
Gallatin National Forest,
backpacked the Escalante area of
Utah, hiked the St. Anthony
Sand Dunes, backpacked the tallest of
them: Juniper Hill, attended a field
class on native plants, stayed at Bishop
Mt. Cabin, canoed Big Springs, caved the Civil Defense Caves, camped at Granite
Hot Springs and Grassy Lake. Not to mention all the day hikes up Crystal Butte,
Cache Creek, Teton Pass, and the Gros Vertre since we got out into the Teton
National Forest area.
Oh and all these links to my blog posts. Last year, I set a goal of 12 articles
and right now, I count 15!
Tried my hands at roleplaying via Skype. Just never got the hang of it, and fell
out of doing it after a couple of months. Never did get up the courage to show
up at Friday Night Magic and Jackson, unfortunately does not seem to have much
of a gaming culture going on.
Took way too long of a break from playing any kinds of games. According to Steam
I didn’t play a single game from December of 2013 until November of 2014, almost
an entire year. My burst of gaming lately is an attempt to make up for that with
games like Bastion, Trine 2 and fun times on Terraria with friends.
Had good times with some friends. Keegan dropped by almost unannounced from
Death Valley. Clint came out and stayed with us for a month in June. I got out
to the Black Hills and Sioux Falls to hang out with friends on multiple
occasions and even made a trip out to San Diego, Portland and Rhinelander to hit
all the major family holidays.
At home, Jess finally talked me into a gym membership and I’m starting to shed
all the stress pounds that I’ve put on since the cave days. And, I’m making a
good dent in my student loans while feeling much more financially stable. No
more big rental houses that eat up each week’s paycheck.
My to-read bookshelf is considerably emptier. I caught up on my backlog of
National Geographic, read Mishima’s Death in Midsummer, Kawabata’s Snow
Country and Thousand cranes, Mobile Suit Gundam Origin volumes 1 through 6,
A Dance with Dragons, Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition, Westward,
Traveler and Exalted. I started a larger stack of books that I never
finished though. In film and television, I watched Kill-la-Kill, Galaxy
Express 999, Battleship Potemkin, Dexter, Monogatari, Mushi-shi, Ping
Pong, Her, Under the Skin, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Guardians of
the Galaxy, The Hobbit, Mardy, and Terror in Requiem.
I started to study French and have, at this point, some what of a grasp of the
written language. I never got around to working on the Weird Tale, NaNoWriMo, or
Architectural Drawing. I am quite far behind on processing my photographs.
2015 In Resolution
If there were any regrets that I have this last this last year it would be that
the later half of the year was entirely eaten up by progressing my career – job
hunting, working on side projects to develop my skill set, and reading, reading,
reading up on sound development practices. I started 2014 on a good role with
healthy exercise, outdoor activities, calm reading at the lake shore. I am
looking forward to spending this year easing into my new job and finding time to
delight in my non-programing hobbies.
More Reading, More Anime, More Games
I had a good list of shows and books that I read last year but it’s nowhere near
when I was in college and could put away a novel a fortnight, an Anime a month,
and get four or five good games in each season. So above all else this year, I
want to spend some time clearing out my “to read” pile, getting more books off
my Amazon wish list, and more Anime’s off my “Plan to Watch” list on
More Hiking, More Caving, More Camping
Camping died out in August for me. Just too much going on, but this year I want
to see a return to the South West, I want to spend weeks out at camp and come in
to the coworking office. I have a laundry list of hikes, camping trips, canoing
trips, and a handful of local caves that I must out to this Winter, Spring,
Summer, and Fall.
Keep Studying French
Last year, I took up French out of frustration that the Manga for Galaxy
Express 999 has languished in Viz’s control. This year: Keep working on it.
Catch up on my backlog of photos from 2013 and 2014. Really get out into the
back country of Tetons with a D80 or a new DSLR and tripod. Get a gallery
showing somewhere calm, like Ashton.
Aim for another 12 solid articles.
I used to Journal a lot. An hour a day. I cut back on it as my career
progressed. Ran out of time. This last year, I started a 5-year journal. Six
lines a day every day. It’s a great way to get back into journaling.
NaNoWriMo & The Weird Tale
November is in the clear this year, nothing to get in the way for churning out a
quick novel. Also, there is little excuse for my draft of “The Weird Tale” to
still be sitting on my desk. Time to get it done.
Campaign Setting & Roleplaying
There has been several requests for me to update “The Rinn,” my Celtic,
otherwordly campaign setting and then to run a new game using either the D6 or
new D&D rulesets.
Jess got me a membership with the Art Association of Jackson. Now, I can get
back to working on my figure drawing and dreaming of that graphic novel I will
never get around to writing.
The Renaissance Man Project
This is an odd project that I came up with – to research what modern to
contemporary writers and philosophers have written about the concept of the
“Competent Man”, the “Renaissance Man,” or the “Polymath” and then compose (1) a
series of essays considering these thoughts, (2) whether it is possible to be a
modern Renaissance man and what criteria would encompass this feat, and (3) what
is laking in my own self development to be a well-rounded, competent individual.
Ghostify My Blog
Okay, I can’t help it, I do have some technical projects to work on – get this
blog off WordPress and on to Ghost. Export all my articles, build in discourse,
and finally get this theme to be 100% responsive bootstrap.
I started making a Centipede clone last year using Rust. My goals right now are
arcade games in my spare time.
In the spirit of the season, I hope to do a little navel gazing. So, if reading
through a pile of narcissistic schlock wherein I attempt to showcase just how
amazing my life is, read on. Otherwise, it would be best to skip this.
Honestly, I would not blame you at all.
Professionally this year has held quite a roller coaster of changes. I changed
firms, moving over to 44 Interactive. This brought
with it a much wider range of responsibilities and opened doors into expanding
my skills into a avenues that I had not yet explored.
At the new firm, I switched to developing 100% on Linux
(Ubuntu and CentOS). It was a
rocky first month, but now I would never switch back to working in the Windows
environment. I oversaw a major revision of production servers at the new firm,
getting things PCI compliant and automating a lot of processes using
Python and Bash – two languages that I picked up last
I picked up a lot of new tools with the move as well. I started doing regular
development in Code Igniter, expanded my
knowledge of Lemonstand, and wrote an internal
toolset using Silex. I modernized my front-end
skills – working with LESS, HTML5, and building
increasingly more complex ajax sites with a much more solid understanding of
I worked on our custom CMS, normalizing it’s database structures, introducing a
number of design patterns to enhance re-usability, getting it into a
repository, and wrangling out a lot of cruft as it became a leaner, more
As for personal projects, I rewrote the templates for my portfolio and
“culture” blogs, moved them onto my own
VPN, started hosting my own e-mail server, and got onto
Linkedin and back into regularly blogging. I started to revise my old
coursework in C and daydreaming of making some small game projects in C/Python.
2013 saw me move four times. I started with a move to a new house in Sioux
Falls on the first of the year. I split my time at that house with traveling to
a second rental in Hullet, Wyoming. In May, the rental in Hullet went away and
I began dividing my time between Sioux Falls and Island Park, Idaho (and later
on another move down the mountain to Ashton, Idaho where I began to telecommute
100% of the time).
All this moving gave me quite an incentive to cut down on my possessions. It is
amazing what a couple years of sedentary life can do for property. When I moved
to Sioux Falls a couple years past, all I owned fit in my trailer. This year,
it took me six loads to haul it all out to Idaho.
The new house, in Sioux Falls, lacked counter space, so I took this as a
challenge to take up carpentry. I built a fine Oak butcher-block style table
that now resides in my home office as a standing desk.
In Sioux Falls, I made it to figure drawing nearly every week that I was in
town, amassing quite a collection of drawings and
In Idaho, I explored Craters of the Moon, backpacked the Jedediah Smith
Wilderness Area, dipped my toes in Bear Lake, explored half a dozen different
day hikes throughout the area, and am now regularly snow shoeing along old rail
road right of ways. All of this resulting in a pile of nature photographs that
I am just now starting to compile and process.
I had a bit of a health scare in Idaho. A false appendicitis lead to all kinds
of new experiences with the American medical system. A sciatica afterwards left
me crippled for nearly a month. In the end, I found myself resolved to get back
into shape by switching to a standing desk and waking early for a heavy dose of
aerobics before work.
Through the year, I discovered Black Books, read
the translated works of Yoshitiro
Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of
re-visited Kerouac, and the poetry of Allen
Ginsberg. I played
Fez and Shelter. I
began the Prince of Persia series and Zelda Twilight Princess.
I made it a point to try to put 30 minutes each day into reading a text about
computer science, be it a volume on patterns for Python, pointer arithmetic in
C, or artfully designing databases. I feel that I have reached the point where
I just “get” it when it comes to development. I can sit and read across the
field and generally understand the content and feel confident that I can apply
the techniques in the texts without misinterpreting them or misapplying them.
2014 In Resolution
So, I suppose now that I have sat down and covered the many highlights of the
last year I should address myself to the upcoming new year and the good things
that I want to bring about.
I am going to keep reading. I am going to keep putting that 30 minutes of
personal development in CS each day, but I also should set more time aside to
just sit down and game. Two hours for two nights a week and maybe a couple
binges – lets say 160 hours by the end of the year which would put me through
four decently sized games. Now that we’re on the new console generation it is
time to pick up a PS3 and the backlog of exclusive titles along with all the
Wii titles that I let slip.
I hope to pick up a role playing group for one evening of the week, and
challenging myself to finally break down and go to Friday-Night Magic.
I want to challenge myself to bike to Driggs and back this summer (80 Miles). I
would also like to backpack Targhee Peak via Coffin lakes, challenge myself to
complete the backpacking trip to Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area, snow shoe to
Warm River Cabin, canoe Warm River to Snake River, and spend a week backpacking
The big thing is going to be the projects for this next year. Items, I really
am excited to see. I just have been so busy the last couple of years to really
focus any of my attention on some personal projects other than the occasional
I’ve already addressed Pecunia in this blog. This is my open-source financial
planner/budget maker built around Silex (although, I am now leaning towards
Laraval4). I envision this as a multi-user website that will allow users to
create budgets, log expenses, and keep track of their personal finances. Oh,
and it will be completely open-source and available for review on my BitBucket
account. (Personal Deadline: Spring 2014)
This is a much more vague idea, because I just have not sat down to flesh it
out. I want to sit down and make a small collection of old-school arcade clones
in Python, and slowly work my way up to creating a nicely polished 2D
platformer. (Personal Deadline: 2015)
The Weird Tale
I have this short story that has been in the works for three years. In my day
planner, it’s noted down as “the weird tale.” It’s a Lovecraftian tale of
monsters and madness. I really need to finish it. (Personal Deadline: Rough
Draft Summer 2014, Final Draft Fall 2014)
It’s nice to be blogging regularly again. This year, I aim for 12 solid
I have spent the last three years working on figure drawing. It’s time to
return to architectural drawing. Once it gets nice outside, I aim to take the
easel outside and start sketching out each of the buildings in this small town.
An annual addition to the list, since I still haven’t done it. I really need to
get a gallery showing put together of my photos. The issue is always that by
the time I have a good enough collection of photos for a given place, I move.
(Personal Deadline: Fall 2014)
I’ve been off NaNoWriMo since somewhere around 2007. It’s time to get back in
there and write a new one. So this year, let’s be serious and put it on the
Inevitably, more projects will probably arise in my mind through the year, and
I will address them as they appear, but for now that’s the whole list.