Joseph Hallenbeck

Annual Reviews

May 22, 2020

2019 Cultural Review

Filed under: Literary Criticism part of Annual Reviews

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).

Key:

(B)
Reserve for items that are so good and re-watchable/readable that they deserve to bought as a physical addition to my library.
(R)
This is a re-read or re-watch of a volume in my library.
(S)
A multi-episode show, an ongoing comic, or series of books instead of a single contained volume.

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. Definitely recommended.
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 the mix.
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 American politics.
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 era.
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 moe.
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 throughout.
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.

Games (3)

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.

Literature (12)

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 improvements.
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 communities.
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 virtual realities.
January 01, 2019

2018 Cultural Review

Filed under: Literary Criticism part of Annual Reviews

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).

Key:

(B)
Reserve for items that are so good and re-watchable/readable that they deserve to bought as a physical addition to my library.
(R)
This is a re-read or re-watch of a volume in my library.
(S)
A multi-episode show, an ongoing comic, or series of books instead of a single contained volume.

Film & Shows (33)

Q1 (5)

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.

Q2 (4)

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.

Q3 (12)

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, romance.
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.

Q4 (12)

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
Dumb
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 it.

Books (11)

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
Zelzany
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 genre.
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.

Games

Minecraft A
I stayed away as long as I could, but it got me in the end. This game is genius.
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.
December 22, 2018

Tech Reading List 2019

Filed under: Software Development part of Annual Reviews

test driven development cover

Books

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

Architecture

Soft Skills

Languages

DevOps

Tech Focus

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:

  • React & Modern Javascript Development
  • Go for Web API Development
  • Godot, Solarus or Amethyst Game Engines (have to dream)
January 12, 2018

2017 Cultural Review

Filed under: Literary Criticism part of Annual Reviews

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:

(B)
Reserve for items that are so good and re-watchable/readable that they deserve to bought as a physical addition to my library.
(R)
This is a re-read or re-watch of a volume in my library.
(S)
A multi-episode show, an ongoing comic, or series of books instead of a single contained volume.

Film & Shows (48)

Q1 (11)

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 classism.
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 would think.
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.

Q2 (12)

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 love it.
Escape from Alcataraz B+
Good old film
The Arroyo F
Stupid
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 rides.

Q3 (13)

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.

Q4 (12)

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 double feature.
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
Dumb
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
Dumb
Red Skeleton Holiday Special A
Great way to end the year.

Books (18)

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 monsters.
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (B)
Extremely well written short Science Fiction. Every single one of these is a must read.
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.

Games

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 experiment.
January 01, 2018

2017 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

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 duldrums.

Sprint Highlights

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

Personal Highlights

Q1

Whale skeleton in the NC Natural History Museum

  • 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.

Q2

A beagle cools off in a mountain stream in the shade of a boulder

  • 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.

Q3

Basket of wild foraged mushrooms

  • 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 the funeral.
  • 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 Arizona room.
  • Ended the quarter with a two night backpacking trip to the top of Mt Baldy via the western trail. Sprained an ankle.

Q4

Winding mountain road descending through juniper covered hills

  • 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 funeral.
  • 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

Professional Development

  • 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 of December.
May 05, 2017

2016 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

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 first-home purchase.

Personal Highlights

Existentialism

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 note-keeping systems.

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.

Chickens

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 Christmas.

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 floor.

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 Cabins.

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.

Professional Development

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 distraction free.

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 ago.

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.

Learning New Tools

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 can say that this seems like the most stable direction that the Javascript 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 these tasks.

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 for years.

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 film).

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.

January 12, 2017

2016 Cultural Review

Filed under: Literary Criticism part of Annual Reviews

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.

Q1

  • 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

Q2

  • 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-

Q3

  • 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

Q4

  • 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

Books

Not mentioned, but started Queen Emerladas, Galaxy Express 999, Peopleware, Ryuko, The English Calendar, and half a dozen Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazine volumes.

The Martian

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.

Table Titans

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.

Showa

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.

Democracy Incorporated

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 thinking.

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.

Solanin

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.

Alice Grove

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 amazingly.

Otherworld Barbara

A really good brain teasing science fiction text. Another volume that I simply had to read in a single night.

Games

Not mentioned, but started Pillars of Eternity, Borderlands II, Too the Moon, and some time on Graal Online and Eve Online.

Firewatch

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.

Undertale

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

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.

February 17, 2016

2015 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

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.

Professional Development

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.

Personal Highlights

Travel

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 conference.

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 blog post.

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.

Volunteering

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 Wyoming.

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.

Abandoned Projects

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.

The Menu

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.

Magic Cards

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.

Rusty Centipede

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.

Cultural Goals

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 out-of-the-country trip.

  • 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:
  • Alaska
  • Puerto Rico
  • Mexico
  • Train Ride to Durham

Write More

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 stories.

Create More

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.
February 16, 2016

2016 Reading List

Filed under: Literary Criticism part of Annual Reviews

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.

*Re-read

Fiction

(Total: 22)

Novels

Graphic Novels

Non-Fiction

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.

(Total: 27)

General Non-Fiction

Computing

Philosphy, Zen & Theology

Roleplaying Game Rulebooks

February 15, 2016

2015 Reading & Media Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

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 reading.

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.

  • Re-read

Fiction Read

Total: 3

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

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.

On The Road by Jack Kerouaca

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

Non-Fiction Read

Total: 10

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.

The Lean Start Up by Eric Ries

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.

Beyond the Wall by Edward Abbey

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.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

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.

Domain Driven Design by Eric Evans

A huge solid read. This gave me so much insight into how many larger applications are structured.

Implementing Domain Driven Design by Vaughn Vernon

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.

The Philosophy of History by Hegel

It’s Hegal in all of his racist glory.

The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau Roshi

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.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

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)

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

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.

Galaxy Express 999 Vol. 1-2 by Leiji Matsumoto (French Translation)

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 Anime.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Vol. 7-9 by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

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 waiting.

A Bride’s Story Vol. 5 by Kaoru Mori

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 great enjoyment.

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.

Insufficient Direction by Moyoco Anno

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.

Films

Total: 14 (*6 in Theaters)

The Hobbit

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.

The Imitation Game

A solid biopic on Alan Turing that did a rather good job of portraying the man in all of his facets.

The Zero Theorem

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.

The Cabin in the Woods

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.

Mr. Holmes

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.

Mad Max

The blockbuster of the season. Easily the best film that I saw this year. Completely lived up to the hype.

They Live!

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.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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.

James Bond: Spectre

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.

Fall of the House of Usher

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.

House of Wax

Part two of our Vincent Price kick. I don’t really find Price frightening. I find him kind of lovable.

Les Yeux Sans Visage

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 human face.

The Martian

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.

Blood Sport

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 Season 2

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.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Season 1

Could never quite get into nor drop this series. The fact that Yes is their soundtrack just made everything awesome.

Death Parade and Death Billards

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.

Gatchaman Crowds Season 1

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.

Kids on the Slope

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.

Hanamonogatari

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.

Parasyte

A good show, not a great show, but a very solid good show.

Adventure Time Season 1

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.

Rick & Morty Seasons 1-2

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 Season 19

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.

February 07, 2015

2014 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

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 them eventually.

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.

Professional Achievements

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, SDN Communications, Dakotastour, Wings of Thunder, Howeinc, and All-About-U Adoptions.

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%.

Continuous Development

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.

Rainbow over Island Park, Viewed from Bishop
Mt.

Personal Projects

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 MyAnimeList.

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.

Photography

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.

Blog

Aim for another 12 solid articles.

Journaling

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.

Figure Drawing

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.

Rusty Centipede

I started making a Centipede clone last year using Rust. My goals right now are to keep on top of PHP, Rust, Javascript, and Python as my four languages of choice. PHP and Python for work. And Javascript and Rust for making fun little arcade games in my spare time.

January 02, 2014

2013 In Review

Filed under: Journal part of Annual Reviews

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.

Bogun

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 spring.

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 modular/pseudo-classical JavaScript.

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 focused application.

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.

Oak Table

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 sketches.

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 Chomsky, the translated works of Yoshitiro Tatsumi, Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, 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 in Escalante.

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 essay.

Pecunia

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)

PyGame

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)

Blog

It’s nice to be blogging regularly again. This year, I aim for 12 solid articles.

Architectural Drawing

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.

Photo Showcase

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)

NaNoWriMo

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 list.

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.