Anno Domini 2016
So we are going into the first week of the Social Media Fast. Said my goodbyes
to Facebook and Twitter on Monday and hit the road for the wild open web. I get
a weird sense of excitment about the project. Odd thoughts about all this new
free time I will find in the next couple months. What exciting new web comics or
blogs will I uncover trying to stem my boredom?
The first step for our great fast is to set up a
/etc/hosts file to block out
the most time consuming of the social networks:
Already added one new domain to the list,
disqus.com. Disqus has become a kind
of centeralized, outsourced commenting system that a lot of blogs and news
sources have started to use. Even my site! So, I found myself reading an NPR
article and skimming to the bottom to read the inflamatory comments. Well,
that’s no better than just reading Reddit. So I nuked the domain which generally
kills the plugin from working on most sites. Now, I don’t have a distraction
from reading the original author’s article. Dumping comments altogether is hard.
But it is one thing I want to do on my own blog. Comments tend to be very low
value and off the cuff. They devolve into nonsensical arguements that are
attactive and easy to get caught up in but reveal very little value. If someone
really wants to say something they should think it through, write it up, and
publish it on their own website.
What is not on the list yet is Google. I really wanted to switch over to Duck
Duck Go or Qwant for my search engine. But it appears that many of the more
off-the-beaten-path search engines don’t really have integration into browsers.
I would need to install a Qwant extension for my browser. So this will take a
little more effort than just editing the hosts file.
Then there is the phone. Google search is majorly integrated into the OS.
Editing hosts on the phone appears to require rooting the phone, which I haven’t
done nor really have plans to do. So instead, I realied on deleting my bookmarks
to social media sites. Still, found myself on a couple of ocassions absent
mindedly punching in Facebook. Even spent some time on Youtube when I got back
from a trip and hadn’t quite gotten the hosts in to place.
The first positive results are a sudden feeling of spare computing time. A
greater desire to read articles all the way through on the few posts that come
up on my RSS feed. And a greater desire to read general news sources versus a
concentration on computing news.
I am currently undergoing a process of slowly converting this and my other blogs
from WordPress to Jekyll. One of the first items that I needed to account
for was converting all of the posts from WordPress into Markdown for use by
Jekyll itself provides a process for importing, but I was intially displeased
with the results. I want my posts exported into Markdown files so I can continue
to retain them in a simple plaintext format that can be post-processed into a
variety of typesettings be it online or perhaps a print format. The default
setting only outputs html.
In all honesty, I’m not sure why I’m using Jekyll. The Ruby dependency ecosystem
always seems like such a pain to me. Dependencies not automatically resolving.
Things breaking from one system to the next. But, I don’t really know of any
other big-name static site generators in other languages. I’d do a Python one in
So, for my own personal memory. This is the process that I went through to get
my posts out of WordPress and into Markdown:
1. Export Content from WordPress
Wordpress has an export tool when you are logged in to the admin dashboard. By
selecting “All content,” I can get everything from the site in a massive XML
file. This gets us a little closer.
2. Ignore Jekyll-Import
Jekyll has a series of importers for popular sources. It even has two for
WordPress! I tried both with little satisfaction. They take the exported XML
file and spit out HTML copies of our articles. If I wanted to get back to
MarkDown, this would require additional post-processing.
I stumpled upon a Python tool that does the trick so much better. ExitWP
takes the exported XML file and converts all of our articles into *.markdown
Follow the instructions to install the dependencies. Dump the XML file into the
wordpress-xml directory and then run
python exitwp.py. I found that there
were some linting issues in my XML file that caused it to fail. Opening the file
in VIM and tracking them down via it’s XML linting functionality made it pretty
4. Copy Your Images Directory
Unfortunately, you are still left copying the images directory and manually
updating the links to images to get things working. This isn’t a major problem
for me as a migration does entail a lot of additional overhead if you want to do
it right – 301 redirects, image updates, cleaning up posts.
A year ago, I did a fast from Social Media. From July 2015 until the end of
September I went without Facebook, Reddit, Slashdot, Twitter, and Hacker News.
I never really did much of a post mortem for the project.
There is a lot of very interesting writing going on these days about the topic
of social media and information overload. We see bottomless bowls of
information designed to operate like skinner boxes while providing little real
value. The age of distraction. Which has a direct effect on our ability to
concentrate. And a nagging feeling that the internet has gone from a
wonderful, magical, freeing community, to another platform for solidifying
traditional power and mainstream culture. Maybe this is why I find myself
hanging out on freenode late at night these days argueing with other aging
Others who have tried to cut themselves off from the internet reported finding a
sudden abundance of free time. Yet, as they went along they simply found other
ways to procrastinate. Eventually returning to their previous level of
productivity. Maybe the new distraction was more meaningful. Or maybe it wasn’t.
But it does reveal that a great deal of your productive hours are really a
measurement of your own willpower.
I found a similar effect. The first month was filled with an abundance of free
time. My day job became that much more productive. My evenings had much more
time for reading. Then two things began to slowly fade in (1) I began to cheat
on the fast. Slowly Reddit slipped in. A quick peak at Facebook. (2) I began to
find that my productivity gains slowly faded, filled instead with just idle
distraction. If I wasn’t distracted by Reddit, then I was at least distracted by
a sudden urge to organize my pens or muddle through my day planner.
Here is the thing that I found most interesting. Facebook really wasn’t that bad
of a culprate. It was easy to cut Facebook out. It was easy to start reading
Facebook again. Facebook was, ultimately, still rather useful with regards to
keeping up on the lives of friends and family. My major gripe with Facebook a
year ago was the sheer amount of promoted content. The feed was full top to
bottom with clickbait articles and random nonsenses being shared endlessly. It
made me miss the endless parades of baby pictures. Yet, it seems someone at
Facebook realized that this was bad for business and started to turn the
ship around. There is still random promoted content on the feed. But I am happy
to say that I am starting to see more and more content contributed by friends.
Which leads me to being willing to keep Facebook around for yet another year.
News aggregators though? Sheer evil. Might as well be a slot machine for
internet addicts. Every refresh of Reddit brings up new articles, memes, and
comments. Hacker News and Slashdot are at least a little more professionally
orientated but they too form a kind of bottomless bowl. Once you take a hit of
Reddit, an hour or two is gone instantly.
Post fast, I realized that Reddit just had to go. Hacker News and Slashdot were
managable. I’ve weened myself down to only reading Reddit on the phone when I
truly, truly have nothing better to do. The common demoninator on Reddit today
is the absolute bottom of the barrel. The shilling is through the roof. There
isn’t a post that doesn’t have some viral web marketer squatting on it trying to
hawk their wares. The last thread I read was some stupid joke about balding
dominated by comments sounding eerily like ad copy, promoting this or that
product to bring back your hair.
Which brings me to the amazingness that is the RSS feeder. RSS turns the
relationship of the news aggregator upside down. Rather than the news aggregator
pushing news to me. The mob, or more likely an army of marketers, deciding what
news ought to be read. I can instead pull the news to me. I get to decide the
writers who I will read. The topics to be read.
This breaks the addictive quality of the new aggregator, but also allows me to
stop wasting time reading low-quality comments and low-quality posts. I can
focus my attention on particular publishesr, such as NPR, BBC, or local
newspapers like the Jackson Hole News & Guide and the Silver City Daily Press. I
can pull in international feeds like L’actualite and Le Monde. I can also focus
my attention on a particular author like Will Wheaton, Stephen Fry or Brad
Warner. I can create huge collections of slowly updated blogs that post long
form essays once or twice a year or faster blogs that publish once or twice a
day. I can pull in writers on esoteric topics that interest me like Rust
development, Zen, Asian History, Anime, or Roleplaying. I can even add Slashdot
and Hacker News – get the article prepackaged without the temptation to waste
time wallowing about in the comments.
Essentially, I very quickly found myself thinking more and more about the types
of things that I read online, the topics that interested me, and seeking out a
diverse selection of the best writers in those topics. I stopped browsing
whatever popped up in front of me. It became a much more intentional
relationship with the media.
My thoughts are, to do this again. Make it an annual thing. No social media for
three months! August. September. October. Which will be great. I’ll miss all of
the election nonsense. Read the articles on my RSS feed. Make my own call on the
The sites that are verboten:
- Hacker News
And any other site that has characteristics that resemble any of these sites.
StackOverflow gets a pass. I can’t do my job without StackOverflow.
But let’s take this one step further this year. Google has gone evil. So let’s
cut out google.com as well and switch to Duck Duck Go or Qwant for my search
engine. I’m still giving the various other google products a pass: e-mail,
docs, drive. Those I, unfortunately need for work. But I can intentionally
choose to try using a different search engine for three months.
In 2013, I was fresh on my switch from Windows to Linux as my full-time OS. I
was reading books like David Allen’s Getting Things Done
and looking for a good digital planning system. Enter Gina Trapani’s
Todo.txt allowed for command line todo lists. Every was stored in a plaintext
file, easily editable with any text editor or automated via the command line. I
used it for roughly a year. At the time I both loved and hated using Todo.txt.
On the one hand, it was easily automated. I could set up daily and weekly tasks
to be automatically populated to my list in the morning. I could easily bulk
edit things in VIM.
But there was still some big pain points. My lists tended to get way too long
– scrolled right off the top of my screen. There was no easy way for managing
multiple todo files. There also wasn’t much for sorting. The result was that
managing my lists and getting an overview of everything became increasingly
When my employer started using Trello for product management, I saw my
solution. Trello does a great job of visualizing where all my tasks belong.
Following GTD, I had a backlog column, next actions column, today column, in
progress, and done. Moving cards between columns let me visually see the flow
of work through the day. A big tickler board kept all my long-term ideas.
Now in 2016, I find myself re-installing Todo.txt and giving Trello the boot.
Why if it was such an excellent system?
There are a number of pain points that Trello simply cannot get over that
Todo.txt solves easily:
A theme for a lot of my projects this first quarter of 2016 has been a move
away from Vendor lock in. I got rid of my IDE and switched back to developing
using VIM. This got me to thinking about how many other products I use that
have vendor-lock-in. Evernote instead of just keeping plaintext files. Dropbox
instead of using rsync. And Trello instead of Todo.txt.
With Trello, my done lists, my massive tickler list of project ideas, and my
entire workflow is dependent upon the continued existence of Trello the company
and it’s good graces to continue hosting all of this content for free.
Now Trello does have an export feature, but the result is a massive json blob.
It might as well be binary for as much use as I will get out of it. I most
certainly will be backing up all my trello boards. Yet, if I ever wanted to
make use of this data, I will first need to write some kind of interpretor for
Todo.txt, as a plaintext file manager is to todo lists what Markdown is to Word
Documents. It’s open, interchangeable, can be opened nearly any file system. It
will follow me for year’s to come.
Switching back to VIM and working on the terminal all the time made me realize
just how many computing tasks I have left un-automated.
In planning my daily todo tasks there are a number of recurring todos. A daily
stand up starts my work day. A sprint planning meeting occurs every other week.
Duolingo calls my daily French learning session. Monthly bills need to be paid.
On Trello entering these items into my board is a manual exercise. I keep a
second board of “reoccurring” tasks that I copy over at the start of each
sprint. It takes me thirty some minutes just to do this.
Now Trello does have an API, but I would need to learn it, probably create some
kind of developer account, get API keys, compose some sizable application to
interface with that API, make REST calls. It would take me probably a week’s
worth of work to automate that entire process.
With Todo.txt, and a little BASH-fu and a cronjob, this all gets automated
away. Every night my daily tasks get added to my todo, every sprint my
per-sprint tasks get added to my todo. At the end of the month a note to pay my
bills shows up on my todo. This gets offloaded so I no longer need to think
Task Creation Friction
GUI’s add friction to any task.
Trello is no different in that regard. If I want to add a new task, I need to
fire up a browser, navigate to Trello (assuming I even have an internet
connection), create the card, name it, click a bunch of buttons to add a label.
Sometimes, I just don’t want to do all of this, often times I find that I don’t
sufficiently break a task down into small enough tasks purely out of a
resistance to creating more cards.
Todo.sh, being on the command line means I need no internet connection, I can
simply start typing to add my task, and there is little overhead in truly
breaking any project down into atomic tasks that can be accomplished in a
After considering these options, I decided to revert to using Todo.sh. After a
week of being back, I find that I love it. I am still working out my system for
using Todo.sh. It truly is powerful. I’ve already discovered quite a few
commands and options that I had no idea even existed before (I never realized
there is a means of doing a logical
or for terms or excluding terms via
I could easily write up an entire second post about how to manage todos, how to
install the script, get yourself running, useful aliases and methods for
creating new add ons and automating things. Once I really get my daily system
going, I could probably write a whole post on that as well.
I would highly recommend a read through Michael Descy’s Plainttext
Productivity website as the tips are quite
above board. The biggest take away is priority management. Only use three or
four priorities and use them to management where an task exists in the GTD
(A): Tasks that are in progress. Keep this below three tasks at a time
(B): Tasks that I will get to today
(C): Next actions that can be started now. Descy uses this for “Next
Actions this week,” I use it for tasks to be done this sprint.
(D): Descy uses this for “Next Actions next week,” I use it for tasks that
are currently blocked
(E): Tasks that are part of a project currently prioritized as an
C task. For multi-part projects whose parts I don’t want cluttering the
view when I query for the current day’s tasks, I create a project stub. When
that stub is in progress and I need to know the next part to work on, I can
query for all the
E priorty tasks for that project.
Everything else is in the backlog which for me is items to be done this
quarter. Anything further back goes on the tickler to be evaluated some day and
added at my leisure.
Add-Ons & Set Up
A very brief overview of my current Todo.sh set up.
First, I have the todo.txt-cli script installed in my dotfiles repository which
has it’s own script for installing all of my related configuration files on any
system I touch. The todo lists themselves are in their own separate repository
since I don’t manage todos on every system that I touch.
I follow the instructions for setting up auto completion. I also set up a
number of aliases for different todo lists:
todo: for my daily, sprint, and quarterly task list
todot: for managing my tickler list
todos: for managing my shopping list
The aliases use the
-a flag since I prefer to not auto archive by default.
Each alias has it’s own
todo.cfg file which each sources a
and only exports configurations that are unique to that command. As a base, I
changed my priority colors to Blue, Green, Brown, and Red solarized values for
the A-D priorities. Changed the project color to red and left the context a
nice light gray.
As for the add ons, I added:
- archive for archiving only selected items
- edit for quickly opening the todo in VIM
- sync and it’s requirements
- pull and push for quick version control my todo lists.
- projectview has some pretty formatting for project lists
- recur for automating recuring tasks. I tried the
ice_recur module but simply could not get it to work on my system.
- xp another task visulation. This time for done tasks.
- pri and rm (with a soft link for
p as a shortcut) for bulk editing priorities and deletions
- lsgp/lsgc another project and context visualization.
Still Some Rough Spots
There are still some rough spots in Todo.sh land. First, sorting is still not
quite perfect. Ideally, if I type
todo lsp, I would like to have all my tasks
listed by priority, then line number grouped by project. The best that I can do
right now is by priority and then line number. Project grouping only occurs if
I group the project lines together in VIM.
Secondly, the one big item that Trello had going for it was it’s phone app.
This made adding tasks on the go quite easy and made looking things up easy as
Perhaps some of the various todo apps will have the functionality that I need,
or perhaps I will need to compose my own app to meet my needs. The joy of the
matter is though, I’m not locked in. I can easily develop that app if I so
Time for the annual retrospective. We can look back on last
year’s and reflect on the last year
and my resolutions for this new year. This last year was truly a year of
unexpected surprises from switching employers to totaling my precious Ford
Explorer after eleven years of use, to a wild last minute wintery move from
Jackson, WY to a small trailer in Greenlee County Arizona.
The new year brought with it a new employer, Research
Square, where I joined a dedicated team of
professionals working on both the website and internal tooling of a
medium-sized, fast growing company out of the Research Triangle area of North
Carolina. The best part was that it was still telecommuting, so my old office
was my new office: home.
The new team brought with it the opportunity to really dig into becoming
intimate with a lot of the best-practices that I had, until now, only really
read about: domain driven design, agile, code reviews, unit and integration
testing. It also brought with it a new set of tools to learn: Silex Framework,
Zend Framework, Doctrine ORM, Elastic Search and the variety of services
provided by AWS. In total, I scored probably another two dozen buzzwords to add
to my resume.
Throughout the year, I read a solid stack of business texts and DDD texts such
as Domain Driven Design, Impelementing Domain Driven Design, Remote, The
Lean Start Up, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Drive and Good to Great. At
home, I attended a variety of tech related meet ups hosted by Spark, my
co-working office and in North Carolina, I made it to my first conference, the
All Things Open conference in October.
Unrelated to my day-time employer, I finally gave up on hosting my own e-mail
server and shut it down. My e-mail provider is now G-mail. I also went through
the process of forming Joseph Hallenbeck, LLC in my home state of South Dakota,
formally establishing a separate business account for the odd gigs that I accept
and began a very slow discussion of the idea of on-the-side consulting.
We had some delightful trips this last year. It started with a few nights in
McMenamins in Oregon with Jess. A beautiful hotel grounds with hidden little
pubs all over.
Come spring we embarked for our third trip to the Southwest. This time we
explored south of Moab in what turned into a long car trip circling south into
Arizona, New Mexico and up to Taos. We certainly planned too much for that event
and are looking forward to revisiting many of the places we saw the year prior.
Nearer to home, we rented a cabin in Pinedale for a four day weekend of snow
shoeing half-moon lake and the surrounding area. Latter in the season we would
also rent a cabin on Slide Lake for a night and venture back to our old stomping
grounds in Island Park to polish off a handful of trails. In early spring we
also ventured into Beaverhead-Deerlodge to pick our way out to a campground.
Caver Classic came in the summer where I ventured back to Custer, SD with Clint
Augustson for some exciting caving adventures. We finally tracked down Cave 41
and as a bonus hit Onyx cave. Classic-lead events included the Club Room in Wind
Cave and a trip out to Japanese Gardens in Jewel.
An unexpected trip came after the All Things Open conference when I had to drive
from North Carolina to back home in Wyoming after buying a new truck after the
Nights of Relaxation
Having little success at finding companionship in Jackson, I turned to
recruiting my friends to play through Borderlands 2. We ended up meeting up
nearly once a fortnight through the entire year.
Alternatively, I took to taking quite long lavender baths, an old fashioned in
one hand as I worked my way through such series as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure,
Mushi-shi, Kids on the Slope, Gatchaman, and Parasyte.
I also enjoyed liberal use of the gym. Jess finally talked me into a membership
and I found that I rather enjoyed hitting the gym for my lunch break. There I
could sit back and watch some American animation: Rick & Morty, South Park,
and Adventure Time all while burning through six to eight hundred calories.
Later in the year we discovered HIIT training which did wonders for preparing
for Caver Classic.
Cooking, Figure Drawing, Fence Building, Fiddling & Jazz
One thing that I did not fail on was cooking. I canvassed the world this year
with recipes from India and Italy. I cooked kraut, lamb leg, curry, turkey
meatballs, duck, tapanade, Tuscan papa al pomodoro, paprikash and expensive
saffron flavored fish soups. We roasted our own coffee beans on a wood stove and
made cakes in dutch ovens.
In the Winter and Spring, I hit up figure drawing at the art center. I went
fairly regularly until the weather was too nice to be spending the evening
couped up in doors. But I did fill a whole book of newspaper print with
drawings. I photographed them, but haven’t had the time to prepare them for a
Once the snow cleared, I took to building a fence around the property that we
were renting so the dogs would have a proper yard to run about in. One weekend
later we had a four-foot tall fence running from T-stakes around the yard. A
fence the dogs never once found a way out.
Watching Kids on the Slope and attending the Teton Orchestra inspired me to
dig back into my music days. I sorted through all of my old sheet music, broke
out the fiddle and started playing away at all the old songs. I kept it up well
for a couple of months. I even bought the Fake Book and started listening to a
long list of Jazz greats hoping to work out their pieces on the fiddle. The
madness that was Autumn took this away, and I hope to return to playing soon.
Completing the Day List in Jackson
One of the first things that I did when we moved to Jackson was to draw up a big
list of everything that we wanted to do. The list included every campground to
camp at, every day hike to hike, every backpacking trip, every outdoor activity
that I could imagine. While we moved out leaving a lot of the multi-day hikes
still on the list, we pretty much cleared the day hikes.
In the winter we hit on snow-shoes half-moon lake and the trails in Snake River
Canyon. Once the snow melted we hit Mosquito Creek and Red Top Meadows were we
explored Munger Mountain. Closer to home we cleared out Hagen’s Trail, Woods
Canyon to Crystal Butte loop, Goodwin Lake and Wilson Canyon.
The regular bicycling to Spark slowly sparked a reemergence of my interest in
bicycle touring. I found myself in reminiscence and slowly drawing up plans for
yet larger, bigger trips. In the end, I decided to start doing S24O, that is
sub-twenty-four-hour-outings by bike, but by then the winter snows had already
set in and I had to wait until the spring thaw.
One odd item was a highlight of my summer. Volunteering for the Lion’s club in
Jackson. We helped with a hot-dog feed for kids at Kid’s Fishing Day and latter
they hit us up to help with a breakfast feed at the County Faire which we helped
out with great zest.
A Feast of Films & Books
We feasted regularly on manga, non-fiction, anime, and a pile of films. But this
deserves it’s own separate entry.
Zen & Simplification
Jackson is a very restless community. A place that truly inspires you to
constantly be going, always amping up the stress. To combat that, I bought some
zafus and zabutons, read a long list of articles online on how to sit zazen and
gave it a try. In the meantime, I read through The Three Pillars of Zen and
skimmed through half a dozen other texts related to the practice. I am not quite
sure if it has helped or not yet. For a time, it certainly encouraged me to take
some time in my crazy day to just sit.
A second thought also began to bug me. That I was simply drowning in stuff. I
had boxes and boxes of notes from college, books that would never get read
again, cloths I would probably never wear, broken computer parts and duplicate
tool sets. I started trying to organize everything and most importantly started
gathering more and more stuff to dump into the grand box of donations. By the
time we moved, I unloaded one entire pickup truck load of stuff. The result is a
feeling of being so much more mobile, so much more free. When we moved,
everything we owned fit into a single U-Haul and we did it all on just a little
over two grand. That is a sense of freedom I am just not willing to trade.
The Wild & Unexpected
Two big unexpected events happened to me this year.
First, the Beast hit a deer outside of Boise. As a sixteen year old vehicle, it
was totaled. I took my insurance pay out of three grand and walked. It was a
really sad event for me. I had that explorer since my second year of college. My
first car and one that I practically lived out of for some time. I immediately
started looking for a new vehicle and came upon a craigslist add for a 2014
Toyota Tacoma in North Carolina. It fit everything that I wanted: manual, V6,
tow package, low miles. I flew out for my conference and called up the owner to
schedule a test ride that night. Bought it and drove it all the way home to
Second, after a great deal of discussion we decided that Jackson simply was not
the place for us and we wanted to move on. Particularly, Jess really needed to
advance in her career just as I was doing in mine. So she started the job hunt,
and unlike past job hunts, found immediate success. In no time at all our
Christmas plans went from simple, to packing up and moving. We landed in
Greenlee County Arizona in a little trailer in an unincorporated community along
the New Mexico border. What surprises life throws us.
Unfortunately, I got to very few of my projects that I enthusiastically proposed
last year. In my wake, I left a constant growth of crazy ideas and
half-implemented works. This is pretty much becoming my annual tradition.
Announce a bunch of fun projects. Put them on my to do list for a few months.
Then scratch them off and go read a book.
The Searchable Lovecraft
An elastic-search powered searcahable index of Lovecraft’s works. Type a query
get back the stories and lines that query was found on. I intended this to be a
meet up demonstration for a talk that I never gave.
A cookbook containing all my favorite recipes and a complete collection of what
I consider my “repertoire” of cooking delights.
The Photography Review
I started the process of going through all of 2015s photographs in Lightroom.
However, after a month of digging through files, I really started to lose a lot
of interest in photography overall. There is just so many photographs being
taken these days and other than tagging them and forgetting about them, I really
was not in the mood for post production at any point in time through the year.
The 30 Year Review
My shelves hold hand written journals going all the way back to grade school.
One crazy idea that I had was to type up the last eighteen years of journals in
to a giant document then typeset and print it out in hardcover. I got through my
first year of college and then lost interest in the pain of data entry.
Sometime in the summer I realized that there was a game store in Rexburg, a
short two hour drive away and lost myself in the daydream of getting back into
playing magic. I picked up my old boxes of cards from home, bought a couple
hundred dollars of the cards from the current sets, went to one Friday-night
magic and lost interest.
Rust went 1.0 this year and yet I haven’t touched Rust since it’s beta. Last
time I tried to compile the Rusty Centipede it broke in maddening ways and I
never was able to get the build to work.
… and NaNoWriMo, The Weird Tale, my blog in general, the Renaissance Man
project, blog re-write, interactive travel-map, link-posting website, and
updating my campaign setting.
2016 In Resolution
Once I really start to look over the year, go from thinking that I really got
nothing done to wow, I really took care of a lot. My only regrets would be that
I abandoned a lot of larger projects and spent very little time knocking out
more of my multi-day hiking trips that I had previously planned out.
So what would I want out of this next year? I would want to settle into Arizona
and truly explore the new countryside. I would want to find some social
connections, find a group to roleplay with, look into the local grotto and make
professional contacts in the local community and in Tuscon. I would want to keep
up the reading, gaming, and film watching.
I already have a reading list prepared and would
add on to it a desire to watch one film a fortnight, two seasons of shows a
quarter, and set aside some serious gaming time in the new house.
- Watch more films (try for once a fortnight)
- Watch more shows (try for two seasons a quarter)
- Complete the reading list
- Play more video games
Get Out More
One of my regrets in Jackson is that I let the community make me very
claustrophobic. The rush of tourists. The brisk attitudes of the locals.
Eventually, I just didn’t want to go out anymore. This time around, I want to
really take advantage of my telecommuting opportunities. Take time to work from
Starbucks or a local restaurant. Maybe commute from camp or a nice picnic
ground. Take a few more times to go out alone and really contemplate the world.
Spend more time out on the trail. Spend more time going to the movies and
exploring nearby communities. Start actually working towards that big
- Work away from home more often
- Quarterly writer’s retreat
- Get out to the theater be it film or stage
- Get out of town once a month
- Attend tech, roleplaying, and caving meet ups in Tuscon
- S24O Bike Tours
- Some trip ideas:
- Puerto Rico
- Train Ride to Durham
Last year, I said I would do 12 blog articles and set out to do that right away.
In the end, I just stopped writing altogether through the spring and most of the
summer. When I returned, I found how much I had missed it! Yet, I never did do
that weird story, write for NaNoWriMo or shuffle through my campaign setting the
way I had said that I would. Somehow, I forgot all about it. This year, I want
to write more. I want to write more blog articles. I want to write more short
Besides just writing. I want to create more. I want to spend more time working
on my drawings. More time playing the fiddle. More time just creating new things
be it cooking, carpentry, or programming. I already have some crazy ideas like
building a camper for the truck and updating my blog.
- Play my fiddle
- Spend more time drawing
- Build a truck camper
- Rewrite TimeKeeper
- Rewrite back end in Rust, Go, and Python
- Rewrite the front end with React
- Add Google account authentication
- Build up my consulting business
- Rewrite my blog as a static website
Waste Less Time
Waste less time, or better put waste time better. One thing that I realized in
Jackson was that I tend to deffer to spending time poorly. Instead of hammering
through work I wander about the house cleaning things that already clean. I
waste hours procrastinating on projects that I don’t have any interest in really
doing and would be better off simply scratching off the list altogether and
moving on to something better. I spend too much time organize the altogether too
much stuff that I own. I spend not early enough time watching the sunrise,
sitting zazen, and really listening to music.
- Less procrastinating on my day job. Less twelve hour days with four hours of
intermitent, unneccessary chores
- Try to see the big picture more at work
- Cut back on caffeine and try to get more energy in the day
- Make the social media fast an annual thing
- Sit zazen and exercise daily
- Simplify all the “stuff” in my life
- Waste less time procrastinating on projects I don’t want to do and more time
working on the projects that I’m passionate about.
- Figure out what the above means.
To match up with the list of books and films read or watched in 2015 is a list
of books that I hope to get to this year. There are a lot of re-reads in here. I
am finding that as I get older I am much more inclined to step back and re-read
a good book then I am to always be searching for the next great thing. I’ve also
grown a lot more choosy on what it is I do start up reading. There just isn’t
enough time in a year to rush though a paperback a week like I did way back in
High School. I also suspect the list will evolve substantially as the year goes
on based upon my seasonal whimsy and discovery of new authors.
There is no way I will be getting to all of these volumes. For a lot of them,
like Pic Iyer’s Falling Off the Map, The Open Road, and The Art of
Stillness – I inclined to only read one. Likewise, a lot of the philosophy
texts, I doubt I will be getting to all of them. And my employer also gives me a
reading list of sorts which I haven’t added to the pile of computing volumes.
Philosphy, Zen & Theology
Roleplaying Game Rulebooks
So folks seem to be doing this: jotting down a list of the books, graphic
novels, and films read or watched in 2015 with a short review of each.
A few surprises hit me in looking through the list. First, I read a lot of
non-fiction. Much more then typical in any given year. Second, I read very few
novels: only three. While I read a great deal of graphic novels. What is not
shown here is the vast number of short stories that I’ve been reading. I
remember a teen being bored with short stories. How were we supposed to really
connect with a character over twenty or thirty pages? These days it seems like
even the novella is just too long. Who has time to read through twenty thousand
words of prose? Hopefully next year will see a return of the novel to my
The other thing I find interesting. I also seem to be paring down my need for
novelty in my reading. I am going back and rereading good books that I had read
as a teenager. In fact, the three novels I did read? I have already read each of
them at least three times already.
So let’s kick this off.
After watching the film, I immediately felt the need to revisit the novel. Now
The Hobbit was one of my favorites as a child and one that I read several
times more then I ever read The Lord of the Rings.
My third pass through Kerouac’s masterpiece. This is one of those novels where
each read leaves me thinking differently. My first read had me completely caught
up in the sense of wanderlust. My latest read really seemed to put me into
thinking about just how disgusting Moriarty is as a human being and yet just how
easy it must have been to want to get caught up in his self destruction.a
Dune by Frank Herbert
A revisit to Dune, an annual read of my teenage years. Upon revisiting this
novel, I’m amazed at just how much my political ideology was shaped by Herbert.
Particularly the message that when you ask others to do for you which you could
do for yourself, you are inviting them in to have power over you.a
Remote by Jason Friend and David Heinemeier Hansson
A text that Research Square gave me upon joining. This is a rather light read,
one that you could probably finish in a single reading. I don’t think it really
said anything that isn’t rather obvious to anyone who has teleworked before.
Another text that Research Square asked me to read before starting. This is a
rather great read, particularly in the sense of how big of an impact the
thinking from this text has hit the tech sector over the last decade.
A collection of Abbey’s essays. Some good. Some bad. It’s rather a mixed bag as
I am one of those rare breeds who prefers Abbey’s novels over his non-fiction.
Really got me thinking about what is teamwork? How we approaching working in
groups is a notion that has started to slowly interest me the last few years.
A huge solid read. This gave me so much insight into how many larger
applications are structured.
A more hands-on look then Domain Driven Design. Although, I felt like it was
starting to get padded out by the end.
Drive by Daniel H. Pink
An examination in the obvious. I’m seriously amazed that it took this long for
business’s to realize that people are motivated by things other then just
gathering up pretty pieces of cotton paper.
It’s Hegal in all of his racist glory.
If you were to go into a used book store and look at the new age section you
will find a copy of this book. Buy it. I always thought it would be a bunch of
rubbish but it’s actually a very solid read and perhaps the best introduction to
Zen that I have found at this point.
A not particularly interesting examination at the steps taken by businesses to
move from being middling to great businesses. Yawn.
Manga Read & Graphic Novels
Total: 10 (If Counting Volumes)
Third pass through this wonderful autobiography by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I randomly
read a handful of his shorter comics as well during the same time. I am always
impressed by his struggles and the wonderful depiction of post-war Japan.
One of my most exciting feats this year was to read the first two volumes of
Galaxy Express 999 in French. I have waited over a decade for Viz to get around
to translating this work into English. It’s been out in French for years! Well,
I figured French is easier than Japanese, so I bought the whole series from
Amazon France and learned French! These comics are just as wonderful as the
Continuing to keep up on The Origin as volumes are released. This year, I
finally caught up with with the publisher’s release cycle and had to start
This is an odd one. I find the story to be extremely dry and slow. The
character’s plod along through very routine life events. Yet it’s drawn so
beautifully that I just have to pick up each new volume.
Star Power by Michael Terracciano and Garth Graham
It’s been years since Dominic Deegan ended. I tried to start reading Star
Power when it first started but found the release too slow to grab my interest.
I gave it a year for the archive to fill up and then plowed through it with
Johnny Wander by Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya
I have a folder where I stick comics to read. Johnny Wander was randomly
selected from that folder. The comic is great, although lately published at a
rather random or slow pacing so I have already lost track of it.
Dumped into the donation bin. It took two tried to read through Anno’s book. The
inside humor probably works for anyone who is really, really into classic anime,
but it just doesn’t work for me.
Total: 14 (*6 in Theaters)
Since I prefer The Hobbit novel to The Lord of the Rings, I found that I
just could not get into this film. The Hobbit novel is a light hearted
children’s adventure. The film, is a serious action-adventure flick. Pass.
A solid biopic on Alan Turing that did a rather good job of portraying the man
in all of his facets.
Terry Gilliam can do no wrong in my book. The Zero Theorem was just a solid
watch and a great summarization of the ideas presented in his other works with
all the same quirkiness that I would expect.
This was on my list of films that I watched, but for the life of me I don’t
recall actually having watched it this year. Ah well, a solid film. I think
satire of the typical horror film really didn’t get in the way of the film being
good in it’s own right.
Saw this showing in the local theater and just had to take Jess. A rather
touching mystery worth a watch as Ian McKellan does a great job at portraying an
aging Mr. Holmes.
The blockbuster of the season. Easily the best film that I saw this year.
Completely lived up to the hype.
Starting off our movie classics for the year was They Live which I just had to
watch after listening to a piece by Zizek where he used the film as a starting
point to launch into a discussion on Western politics.
Saw it twice before it moved on from the theater. The first time, I just
couldn’t get over my critical nostalgia. By the second watching I could just sit
back and enjoy it for what it was worth. The last act had some massive plot
issues, but the characters were interesting and I feel Kylo Ren is going to end
up being just as interesting of a villain Vader.
The first Daniel Craig Bond film that I caught. Made me want to go back and
watch the rest of his Bond films, or even further back to watch them all.
Nothing really new here. Bond is Bond is Bond.
On Halloween we got into a bit of a Vincent Price kick. House of Usher was
definitely an interesting watch. Particularly if you put on your feminism
goggles. It’s amazing how much society has changed.
Part two of our Vincent Price kick. I don’t really find Price frightening. I
find him kind of lovable.
Now this was a good creepy film. Beautifully shot. It was interesting that the
week after watching this film it was announced that someone had succeeded at
performing the horrifying procedure depicted in this film – transplanting a
The good reviews reached my ears regarding The Martian so we ventured out to
the theater and bought our popcorn. A really solid science fiction film that
will probably end up being this decade’s greatest contribution to the “hard”
category of science fiction.
I got to love my grandfather’s love of bad films. I am amazed at just how many
martial arts films came out in the eighties. No wonder kids of that decade grew
up to watch Anime.
Anime / Animation
Total: 11 (Counting Seasons)
Mush-shi is just as beautiful in the second season as the first. The only sad
thing is that it should come to an end. Each atmospheric episode was a wander
and highlight of my week.
Could never quite get into nor drop this series. The fact that Yes is their
soundtrack just made everything awesome.
Caught this series while on a trip to Ohio. Death Billards was a great stand
alone and most of Death Parade was easily on par. The only thing that ruined
Death Parade was a misplaced need by it’s creators to escape from just being
an episodic examination of people’s lives and to try to give it a running plot.
Had it just gone the way of Mush-shi, it would have easily been a perfect ten.
Bobduh over at Wrong Every Time seems to love Gatchaman
Crowds so I gave it a whirl. While I sympathized with it’s message, I thought
it was completely lost in the show’s over-the-top camp. After the first season,
I dropped it.
If you want to get people to listen to Jazz, show them this show. This is
perhaps Watanabe’s second greatest series (after Cowboy Bebop). The characters
just feel so very real.
Bakamonogatari was a visual splendor that I devoured. Since then each
subsequent series seems to end up less and less enticing and yet I feel as
though I will probably end up watching them all.
A good show, not a great show, but a very solid good show.
This show is just plain non-serious fun. Rapidly became my go-to show to watch
while exercising or just needing some low-commitment time to burn.
I saw a few clips from Rick & Morty when season 1 came out and thought it
funny buy never looked it up. Man, I haven’t binge watched a show this hard
since college. The nihilistic ennui. Woo.
South Park was hitting all of the right spot’s this year. Particularly living in
Jackson, WY where the whole gentrification and yuppie take over is in full
swing. This could have been a documentary about my life.
There have been some requests for more information about my recent move. We
found out that Jess had an offer for a new position in the Forest Service in
Arizona near the end of the year. So we packed up our trailers and hit the road
making our way south on 191 to our new home in York valley – roughly the middle
of Greenlee County, one of the least populated counties in Arizona.
Unfortunately, we had no housing immediately lined up. So we ended up living in
a FEMA trailer behind the Forest Service. It’s a nice little place with two
bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom. All of our stuff went into storage, and for
the last month I’ve tried my best to work remotely off a tethered cell phone.
Surprisingly it works. Stands ups on google hang outs consume roughly 0.1MB of
data a day, and my work route averages around 0.5MB per day. So taking off from
computing on the weekends gives us roughly 23-1/3 work days per month or
11-2/3GB of data usage. Strategy use of the local library and Starbucks means I
can pretty much do all of my work on a 12GB ($80/mo) Verizon plan.
After some time exploring the countryside, we found a nice house for rent.
$600/mo for 900 square feet on roughly six acres of land. The wash it sits on
gives us an easy walk to Jess’s work if we go up it, and a nice put in for
fishing an canoeing on the Gila if we go down. We just need to put in a new
floor and tidy it up a bit on the inside. Moving in the first week of March.
Oh, and the best part of all? It has a saguaro cactus in the front yard: