New Year’s Day 2021

I’ve been writing big New Year’s Day posts on this blog every year for the last several years. I might as well do one this year too. Obviously, last year was a doozy, and a lot of stuff has changed, and a lot is still in flux. I’m not even sure where to start. So I’ll start with links to the last few New Year’s posts:

And I guess I’ll follow a format not too different from previous years.

Health, Weight, and Sleep

My weight has been pretty steady at around 135 pounds this year. It dipped a bit in spring & summer, getting down to 130 briefly, but has rebounded back to 135. I dropped some weight at the beginning of the pandemic, probably because I wasn’t eating any take-out food. I’m still logging all of my meals with Lose It, which I’ve been using since 2013.

I’m also still using Sleep Cycle as an alarm clock and to log my sleep. I’ve been having some weird dreams this year, but apparently so has everyone else. My sleep quality has been mixed, I’d say. Some nights I’m fine, and some nights I’m not.

I was pretty good about exercise through the spring and summer. I did a lot of walking. I’ve cut back on the walks now, since it’s been getting colder. If I don’t go out for a morning walk now, I try to do ten minutes on my exercise bike instead. (I’m glad I didn’t get rid of that thing.) I need to be careful about not letting up too much through the rest of the winter.

On the meditation front, I’ve certainly done more meditation this year than I’d usually do. One of the reasons for that is that I’ve been working from home since March, so it’s easy to take a ten minute midday meditation break. Back when I was working in a cubicle, I was too self-conscious to meditate at work. (And, really, the office environment is too noisy for meditation anyway.) I was using Insight Timer for most of this year, but I switched to Calm in December, since I had a deal to get a free year of Calm Premium. I have enough opinions on meditation apps right now that I should probably hold them for another post. But overall, I’d say that meditation helped me get through this crazy year.

I did finally get my hearing checked this year, in March, just before the pandemic lockdown really kicked in. The results were pretty much what I expected: I’ve lost a lot of hearing in my left ear. My right ear is fine. The doctor said that I’m not really at the stage where a hearing aid would make sense. My hearing issues haven’t really much mattered this year, though. If I’m talking to anybody at work, it’s on my computer, and I can just turn up the volume as much as I need. And I’m never in a crowded restaurant with a lot of background noise, so that’s not a problem either.

Work and Professional Development

I’m feeling very lucky to have had a good, steady, job this year, and to be able to work from home. My performance review for 2020 was very good. I didn’t really expect a raise this year, given the general state of the economy, but I got one. So that’s all good. There are going to be a lot of challenges ahead, going into 2021. Again, that’s probably a whole blog post of its own though.

On the professional development front, one nice thing to come out of 2020 was a lot of free virtual conferences. I didn’t participate in as many of those as I would have liked, but I did manage to watch some content from Microsoft Build and Microsoft Ignite. Most of my efforts at learning new stuff this year were centered around SharePoint Framework (SPFx) and Microsoft’s Power Platform stuff. I wasn’t really successful in getting any projects done with any of this new stuff in 2020 though. I have a couple of big projects at work that will really need to get done in 2021. I’m still not even sure if I’ll be using SPFx or Power Platform or something else though.

Looking at last year’s post, I see I was talking about trying to learn maybe Rust or Swift in 2020. I definitely didn’t do that. The one new general thing I tried to learn in 2020 was React. And that was mostly because I needed to learn it for SPFx.


I’m in pretty good shape, financially. Certainly better than most people, given the state of things. I’ve actually seen my checking account balance grow this year, presumably because I didn’t spend any money on travel, or on day trips to NYC, or even on a lot of little things like restaurant meals and gas for my car and Starbucks coffee. I expect 2021 will be similar. Given how little interest I make on my checking account, I really need to shunt some money over into my Merrill account and buy some more shares in an S&P 500 fund. The stock market (after a brief crash back in March) has done surprisingly well this year. And I probably need to sit down with a financial advisor at some point in 2021 and move some money around. There’s some stuff I want to do to simplify my finances a bit, but I can’t do it without figuring out the tax implications.

I opened two new credit card accounts this year, which is pretty unusual for me. I traded in the AmEx Green card I’d had since college for an AmEx EveryDay card. That was done mostly because the fee on the Green card had gone up to $150, so I wanted to replace it with a fee-free card. And I finally gave in and got an Apple Card. I’ve only used the Apple Card to buy my new Apple Watch, in November. I don’t really anticipate using it for anything other than Apple Store purchases.

I’ve also been thinking about getting an Amazon Prime credit card. I spent nearly $2000 at Amazon this year, so the 5% back could be as much as $100 for me. There’s really no reason for me not to get it, other than not wanting to add yet another card to my wallet.


I’m always obsessing over subscriptions. The pandemic has caused me to pull the trigger on a few subscriptions that I’ve been holding out on for years. Partially because I have some extra money to spend (as noted above), and partially because I have some extra time to kill at home. So I might as well spend some money and time on nice stuff that’ll distract me from the horrible state of the world right now.

I finally subscribed to Apple Music. I signed up for a six-month free trial in October, so I don’t need to start paying for it until April. But I will likely keep it going when that happens. After years of trying to resist switching from CDs & MP3s to a subscription service, I’ve finally given in and embraced the new way of doing things.

I’ve also signed up for Disney+ and Hulu. I wanted Disney+ for The Mandalorian and Soul. And Hulu had a Black Friday deal where you could get the ad-supported tier for $2/month for a year, so that seemed worthwhile. I’m still resisting HBO Max, but I might give in on that one too eventually. If Wonder Woman 1984 had gotten better reviews, I’d probably have done it by now.

I might also sign up for the Apple One subscription bundle at some point in 2021. I don’t really need Apple TV+ or Apple Arcade, but if the pandemic keeps going, I’ll probably give in on that.

Books and Comics

According to Goodreads, I read 86 books in 2020. I’d set a goal of 100 books, and I didn’t reach it, but I’m OK with that. Most of those were comics, but (again) I’m fine with that.

For my Great American Read group, I didn’t really get through much, but I did finish Gone With The Wind in March, so that was a big one. I also read White Teeth, Invisible Man, and The Outsiders from the TGAR list. I’m still an admin in that group, and we’re still posting monthly group reads, but I’m not sure why I’m still bothering with that. The other admin is doing about half the work, so that’s good. I feel like we’re going to have to wind that group down in 2021, but I’m not in a hurry to do so.

My favorite comics of the year were probably the Resident Alien collections that I read back in May. And the Locke & Key series was also surprisingly good.

I’m still ordering a few titles from Westfield every month, but I think I’m going to wind that down over the next few months. I haven’t gotten on board with DC’s Future State thing, and I’m not reading any Marvel books. So that just leaves a few books from smaller publishers, and it’s probably best if I just switch to digital and/or trades for those. Also, my Comixology backlog is nearly 200 books (mostly collections, not single issues), so just working through that could take me a few years.


As I mentioned recently, I watched a lot of movies in 2020. Looking at Letterboxd, I see that I watched a total of 73. Probably my favorite film of the year (that actually came out in 2020) was Soul. My second favorite would have been Onward, so the year for me was bookended with solid Pixar films. I did a rewatch of all four Avengers films early in the year, and a rewatch of all the Daniel Craig Bond films just recently. Those were both fun distractions. I also tried to watch a bunch of Kurosawa films, but I only got through four. For 2021, I want to watch some more Kurosawa, and maybe rewatch a bunch of Miyazaki films. (I bought several of them on Blu-ray earlier this year, and haven’t watched any of those discs yet.)


I am kind of proud of myself for getting through 2020 in one piece, not too much worse for wear. I managed to avoid putting on weight, picking up a drinking habit, getting COVID, and losing my job. I think my mental health is reasonably OK, all things considered. I’m trying not to stress about things I didn’t do. I’d like to have spent more time on “enriching” activities and less on pure distraction, but I’m mostly OK with having watched 73 movies and lots of TV, and having read a lot more comics this year than novels or non-fiction books.

I’m expecting the first couple of months of 2021 to be pretty rough. I think the vaccine rollout will be slow. I don’t expect a change in the status quo on mask wearing and social distancing and working from home. Winter will probably still be in full force through to early March, so we’re not going to be able to do much outdoors. I think the current surge of COVID cases will continue through February, and not start to let up until March. I don’t see us all being able to return to anything like normality until very late in 2021, if at all. But, hopefully, by summer, we’ll have enough folks vaccinated and the political situation will have stabilized enough that we’ll start on the road to “normal.”

I’m thinking a lot about short-term strategies for getting through winter. Things like getting my groceries delivered, watching a lot more “comfort” TV, reading a lot of comics, working out on the exercise bike, meditating, blogging, journaling, whatever helps. I’m not making any resolutions for 2021. I’m going to take it day by day, and I think that’s what we’re all going to have to do.


New Year’s Day 2020

It’s almost 8 AM on New Year’s Day, so it’s time for my annual New Year’s self-review post. This has become a tradition for me; here’s a link to last year’s post, which includes links to a few previous years. This year is also the start of a new decade. I had a few thoughts on the past decade that I posted on Christmas, so I won’t rehash all of that here.

Health, Weight, and Sleep

I’ve got a bit of a headache this morning, and I’ve been fighting a cold (or something) since Thanksgiving. So I don’t feel very healthy. I have an appointment with my doctor on Friday, so hopefully he can let me know if I’ve got a big problem or just a stubborn cold. Looking back at last year’s post, I see that very little has changed. My average weight may have gone up by a pound or two. I’m usually coming in at 136 or 137 now, rather than 135, but that’s fine. My doctor would actually like to see me put on a few more pounds.

I’m continuing to track my weight and diet with Lose It every day. And I’m continuing to use my Apple Watch to track my exercise. I manage to fill my exercise ring on most days, and I generally fill my move ring about five days per week, on average. My move goal is currently at 500.

I’m still using Sleep Cycle to track my sleep. I guess I’m doing OK with sleep, but I do have some rough nights. I bought a bottle of melatonin gummies on Amazon a year ago, and I take two before bed occasionally. I think it helps. I don’t use it too often. Taking melatonin is probably safe, in moderation. I thought about getting a new mattress last year, but I’ve held off. I might go ahead with that this year.

I mentioned last year that I’d gotten a prescription for progressive lenses from my eye doctor. I did get that filled and I’ve been wearing those new glasses all year. Honestly, they haven’t helped much. I had my yearly checkup a few weeks back, and he suggested maybe trying computer bifocals, but I didn’t want to have to pay for another pair of glasses so soon, so we decided to wait and maybe try that next year.

I also mentioned last year that I should go get my hearing checked, and I never did that, so that should probably be near the top of my to-do list for this year.

Work and Professional Development

There’s not much to report on this. I’m doing fine at work. I got a very good performance review for 2019. I did a fair bit of work in Azure over the last year, so that was interesting.

Here’s a list of tech books that I read last year, from my Goodreads history:

  • ASP.NET Web API Security Essentials
  • Beginning Azure Functions: Building Scalable and Serverless Apps
  • C# and XML Primer
  • Instant Nancy Web Development
  • Learn Azure in a Month of Lunches
  • Take Control of Catalina
  • Take Control of Photos
  • Take Control of Upgrading to Catalina
  • Take Control of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13
  • The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

That’s a pretty random list, but there were a few good ones in there. I think that I read all of those via my O’Reilly subscription that I get through my ACM membership, so I’m getting some value out of that.

I’m also still paying for a Pluralsight subscription. Checking my history there, it looks like I’m getting some value out of that too. Here’s the list of courses I watched in 2019:

  • IIS Administration Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Azure Developer: Create Serverless Functions
  • Getting Started with OAuth 2.0
  • Implementing and Managing Microsoft Azure Multi-factor Authentication
  • Microsoft Azure Developer: Securing Data
  • Fiddler
  • Microsoft Azure Developer: Implementing Application Logging with Diagnostic Logs
  • Instrument Application with Azure Monitor Application Insights
  • Microsoft Azure Developer: Monitoring Performance
  • Play by Play: Care and Maintenance of Development VMs
  • Beginning PowerShell Scripting for Developers
  • Managing Azure AD
  • Play by Play: Azure Beyond Websites
  • Play By Play: Azure Deployment with Scott Hanselman

Again, kind of a random list, but I learned some stuff.

For 2020, I’d like to learn a new programming language, but I’m not sure about which one. I’ve considered trying to learn Rust, but I’m not too enthusiastic about it. Maybe I should try to learn Swift? I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.


I did a year-end financial review last weekend, and I’m in pretty good shape. I still kind of want to do a one-time sanity check with a good financial advisor, but I didn’t get around to that in 2019, so I should really try again in 2020. I also see in last year’s post that I wanted to read this book last year, and didn’t get around to it. So I should probably do that.


I wrote up a post just a few days ago on my reading plans for 2020, so I won’t rehash that. But I’ll go ahead and post a few book lists that I culled from my Goodreads year in books. I read 115 books this year, according to that. Most of them were comics / graphic novels.

Here’s a list of the stuff I read from The Great American Read list last year:

  • Catch-22
  • Gilead
  • Looking for Alaska
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Help
  • The Intuitionist
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • War and Peace

War and Peace took a lot of time to get through, so that was really my main reading accomplishment for 2019. I only read a few fiction books that weren’t related to my TGAR group:

  • Angels and Visitations
  • Pump Six and Other Stories
  • Zoo City

Of those, only Zoo City is actually a novel. So War and Peace, and the other TGAR books, really swallowed up a lot of my reading time. For non-fiction, I did get around to reading 10% Happier and Search Inside Yourself, both of which I’d mentioned in last year’s post as wanting to read. (I can’t say that I really stuck with my meditation practice in 2019 though. That’s something I may want to try again in 2020.)


I got an iPhone XR about a year ago, along with a new Apple Watch. And my MacBook Air is only about a year and a half old. I bought a pair of AirPods in November, and they’re working fine. So I’m pretty well set for Apple gear. I’m not planning on giving Apple any more money in 2020, at least for hardware.

And I talked myself into buying an Xbox One back in May. At this point, I’m mostly just using it as a DVD and Blu-ray player. When I bought it, I kind of knew that I was going to be playing games on it for a couple of months, then lose interest, and that’s pretty much what happened. But it’s a decent Blu-ray player, so it’s not like it’s just gathering dust; it’s getting some use.

A friend bought me a new TV for Christmas, so I now have a new 43″ LG TV. That spurred a couple of related purchases, including a stand and a DAC so that I can route the digital audio output to my old analog receiver. It might spur one more purchase: a 4K Apple TV box. My current Apple TV box is the older one, that only outputs 1080p. (It looks like they still sell that one, as the Apple TV HD.) So maybe my earlier statement about not giving Apple any more money for hardware this year isn’t quite correct.


I have a bunch more stuff I’m thinking about, and that I could include here, but it’s now almost 10 AM. So I should wrap this up and maybe go out for a walk and get a cappuccino and a croissant from Starbucks or something like that.


iPhone XR day four

I didn’t talk about my new iPhone XR in my New Year’s Day post, since I knew it would set me off on a tangent and add another 2000 words to the post, so here’s a separate follow up to my previous iPhone XR post.

I’m still struggling with the headphone jack thing. I bought these urBeats3 Earphones at the Apple Store the day after I bought my iPhone, then returned them today. They plug into the Lightning port, just like the Apple earbuds, so I thought that would simplify things. My thought was to use them as my main headphones at work. These were the first in-ear earphones I ever tried though, and it turns out they don’t work well for me. They include tips in four different sizes, but none of them fit my ears well. And microphonics turned out to be a big problem for me. I tried the trick of looping the cord behind my ear, and that helped, but also made the tips even more likely to fall out. I also thought about trying some Comply tips, but I don’t know if those would actually help, and I didn’t want to spend another $20 just to make a pair of already-overpriced $60 earphones work better. So, in a nutshell, I think I need to avoid in-ear earphones.

I picked up a second $9 Lightning headphone jack adapter when I returned the Beats. So my plan for now is:

  • Keep the Belkin Rockstar adapter in the car, so I can charge and connect to the car stereo at the same time.
  • Keep one headphone jack adapter at work, and keep using my good old comfortable Sony earbuds. (I won’t be able to charge and listen at the same time, but that’s probably fine.)
  • Keep the other headphone jack adapter at home, and use it with my Sennheiser headphones, when I want to listen to something at home, and don’t want to pipe it through my Sonos speaker.
  • Try to remember to toss that second adapter in my backpack when I travel, so i can use it with the Urbanears headphones that I keep in my backpack.
  • Consider giving AirPods a try at some point in 2019.

So that’s more complicated than it needs to be, but is probably workable.

I do still have a couple of minor annoyances with Face ID. Sleep Cycle works a bit differently with this phone than it did on the old phone, and I’m finding that I need to unlock the phone to stop the alarm every morning. And Face ID isn’t working for me first thing in the morning, so I have to type in my passcode. So that’s a bit irksome. In theory, Face ID should work in the dark, but, well, it’s not working for me. It’s probably that I’m not picking up the phone at the right angle for it to work. But it’s 6am, and I just want to shut the alarm off, and I’m not thinking about lining up my phone with my face properly. Maybe I’ll get that figured out over the next week or so. Overall, Face ID is working fine for me, but honestly it’s at least slightly less convenient than Touch ID.

I’m still finding the phone to be a bit unwieldy. I might pick up a silicone case at some point to make it a bit harder to fumble.

That’s about all for now. I briefly thought about returning the phone, and getting an iPhone 8 instead, so I could at least go back to Touch ID and a slightly smaller form factor. But that would be a lot of hassle, and probably a bad decision long-term. I think I’ll get used to the XR, and will probably start liking it more over time, as I get used to it.

New Year’s Day 2019

It’s 7am on New Year’s Day, and I don’t have anything big planned today, so I might as well get started on my traditional New Year’s Day blog post. I’ve been doing this for several years now. Here are some links to the last few posts:

Weight, Sleep, and General Health

My general health was been OK this year. I had blood work done a few weeks ago, and it looks very similar to 2017’s blood work.

My weight has been pretty steady for the last few months. I was 140 on New Year’s Day last year, and I’m 135 now. I’ve been steady at 135 for a while now, +/-2. Last year, I wrote “I can’t see myself dropping to 135, but we’ll see.” Well, I did drop to 135. This year, I’ll say that I can’t see myself dropping to 130. If I do, then that might actually indicate a problem. My doctor this year actually asked me if I wanted to put on a little weight, or if I was OK as-is. I think I’m fine, but if I drop another 5 pounds in 2019, that might be a problem.

I’m still using Lose It every day, and recently paid for a lifetime subscription.

I’ve been doing OK with exercise, relying on the Apple Watch to keep track of things and give me a little nudge now and then. I got a new Series 3 Watch for Christmas, so I’ll likely be sticking with that. My move goal was 440 for a while earlier in the year, but has been adjusted down to 390. I generally hit that goal 5 or 6 days per week.

Sleep is still an occasional problem. I did OK (but not great) last night, and I’ve had a few bad nights recently. I still use Sleep Cycle to track my sleep. I’ve cut back on caffeine a bit, but probably not nearly enough.

I’ve been meditating on and off this year. I had a little streak going back in October, but I stopped again and haven’t started back up. When I do meditate, I’m using Insight Timer. I’ll likely stick with that. I want to get back to meditating regularly. If Bill Gates can find time to meditate for 10 minutes a few times a week, so can I.

My vision is continuing to go downhill, though I haven’t had anything really bad happen yet. (Given my family history, I’m kind of expecting that I’ll be legally blind at some point in my 60s, though maybe I can avoid that.) I went to my eye doctor earlier this month and got a prescription for progressives, so I’ll get that filled at some point this month and see if I can get used to those, and if they help me with computer work and reading. We have a vision plan at work now, starting in 2019, so I can at least get those at a discount.

My hearing is also going downhill. I haven’t seen a hearing doctor yet, though I plan to do that in 2019. I’ve been following advances in hearing aid tech, so I hope that, if I need a hearing aid, I can at least get a good one that works with my iPhone and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I signed up for AARP last year too. I’m hoping I can get some useful information out of that in 2019. I’m trying to be proactive about aging, from both a health and finance standpoint.


I hit the five-year mark at SHI in January 2018. I spent a lot of time this year working on a project related to Microsoft’s Partner Center, so I got to do a good bit of C# programming this year, and got to play with a few things in Azure, so that was good. This year, we should be opening a new warehouse, so that’s going to keep us busy, with related projects.

I, once again, got a very good performance review from my boss this year. I’m not going to get too specific, in case any coworkers stumble across this post, but I’m doing well.

Professional Development

I didn’t do any structured professional development this year, really. I watched a few Pluralsight courses, mostly related to specific stuff I needed to learn for work. Looking at my Goodreads history, I see that I read a handful of programming-related books this year:

Wow, that’s actually a longer list than I thought it was going to be. Some of those aren’t really programming books, like “Hit Refresh,” Satya Nadella’s book, and some are just short ebooks, but it’s still enough that I feel like I put some effort into keeping my skills sharp and staying current.


I did a quick year-end finance review over the weekend, and it’s a bit depressing. Any gains I had for the year were soundly wiped out by the recent stock market plummet. But, ignoring that, I can at least say that I have things in order. I did a little bit of reorganization in 2018, including moving some money from my legacy Merrill CMA account to a new CMA Edge account, where I can do my own trading online. I invested some money there into a couple of Vanguard index funds. I read John Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing in May, and I’ve tried to reorient my finances in a more “Boglehead” direction, though I still have a lot of old-style mutual funds. I also made an attempt to book a session with an independent financial advisor, but failed to find someone who looked good and was willing to take on a new client. I should probably try again in 2019, since I really should have someone else look at things, given my age and the somewhat haphazard state of my portfolio.


According to my Year In Books on Goodreads, I read 106 books this year. A lot of those are actually short stories, short ebooks, and comic books, but I did read a fair number of novels this year too. I participated in a Great American Read group on Goodreads, and read a number of books that were outside my comfort zone. I posted about that in November. I’ve finished a few more TGAR books since then (Lonesome Dove, The Lovely Bones, and Lu), and started To Kill A Mockingbird, which was the winner of the TGAR poll.

I should note that I used my local library system a lot more this year than I have in previous years. I’ve used it for physical books, ebooks, and audiobooks. I’ve visited both my local branch, and the larger Bridgewater branch multiple times. So I’m thankful that we have such a good library system here in Somerset County.

As to comic books, I posted in December about my current indecision about sticking with Westfield for buying new comics, or maybe just giving up on buying new monthly books for awhile. I think I’m probably going to stick with Westfield for a few more months, at least, but I’m not sure. The reading pile is getting too big again. I’m pretty sure that I’ll stop buying monthly comics at some point this year though.

Looking at my Goodreads 2018 list again, I see a lot of Batman and Batman-adjacent stuff this year. Probably my favorite comic book read of the year would be Warren Ellis’ The Wild Storm series.

In terms of general reading goals for 2019, I want to (finally) read a couple of books on meditation that I bought early last year, Search Inside Yourself and 10% Happier. I also want to read this book on “finances after fifty” that I bought last year. I don’t have any specific goals related to fiction reading. I have a bunch of books piled up that I’d like to read, that I didn’t get to last year, including Ready Player One, and several other science fiction novels. I put off some of my genre reading in favor of TGAR books last year. I’m glad I did that, but I’d really like to get back to some SF. My “want to read” list in Goodreads has 308 books on it right now, so I’ve got plenty to choose from.


I’m skipping over a few things I could include here, but it’s now almost 10am, and I have a few things I want to do today, since it’s stopped raining and it’s reasonably warm out. So this post will be a little shorter than last year’s. Maybe I’ll write some follow-up posts over the next few weeks.

New Year’s Day 2018

It’s New Year’s Day morning, and it’s 5 degrees out, with a wind chill making it feel a few degrees colder. So I guess it’s a good morning to stay inside and write my annual year in review / new year’s goals blog post. As I get older, I’m finding these little reviews to be pretty helpful.

Here are links to the last few:

2017 was a challenging year, on many fronts, most of them related (at least tangentially) to Donald Trump. Andy Zaltzman has a great 2017 year in review article up on the Guardian web site, and a very funny 2018 year in review article at iNews. It’s stuff like Zaltzman’s Bugle podcast that has kept me sane though the last year.

Weight and General Heath
Last year, I mentioned that I’d transitioned from losing weight to maintaining my weight. Well, I guess that’s not entirely correct, since I weighed 150 at the start of 2016, 146 at the  start of 2017, and 140 today. So I actually still seem to be losing around five pounds per year. It seems like I’m going to have to level off at some point and I honestly think that 140 is going to be it. I can’t see myself dropping to 135, but we’ll see. I’m still using LoseIt every day, and logging all my meals and snacks.

On the general health front, I had blood work done last month, and everything is looking pretty good. No major health crises in 2017, so that’s something, at least.

In terms of exercise, I’m doing pretty good. I got my Apple Watch in April 2016, and I’ve been wearing it every day. My move goal has been set at 400 calories for probably all of last year, and I’ll hit that 3-5 times a week on average, I think (more often when the weather’s nice, and less often when it’s ridiculously cold, like right now).

As to sleep, that’s been a mixed bag this year. I mentioned last year that I might toss my mattress and get a new one, despite the fact that it’s not really that old. I didn’t do that, but I might do it this year. I had a run going for a while where I would wake up at 2am or 4am every night, for no obvious reason. I think it was due to some noise outside or something like that. I’m still generally waking up at 4am or 5am for no reason, looking at my phone to see what time it is, then rolling over and going back to sleep. I blogged about sleep back in October. I’m still using the Sleep Cycle app.

Blogging and Journaling
I wanted to check and see how many blog posts I’d written this year, but then realized that I can’t figure out how to get that number easily. (It’s probably somewhere in the site stats, but I can’t find it.) So I just counted then up on the 2017 archive page, and it looks like about 128. (I could probably write a SQL query to get that number, but it’s not worth the time.)

I didn’t write a ton of programming-related blog posts in 2017, but I’m trying to correct that with my “12 Days of .NET” series of posts.

As to journaling, I finished a five-year journal in 2016, and used Day One exclusively in 2017. Day One is working out OK for me. From their Mac app, I can see that I’ve written 363 entries in 2017, which is almost one per day. Most entries are very short; I’m keeping track of things like books, comics, and movies that I’ve read/seen in Day One. (I might have more to write on that subject later.)

Professional / Education
I will be hitting my five-year mark at SHI this month. I don’t think that gets me an extra week of vacation in 2018; I think that comes in 2019, when I start the year with more than five years on the job. (I could be wrong though.) I’m a little jealous of my brother in this area: he gets a lot more vacation time than I do. (But I’m sure he gets paid a lot less, since he’s working for a non-profit.)

My year-end performance review was very good. Interestingly, my boss told me that I rated myself lower on my self-review than anyone else in the department. Part of that, I guess, is humility. Part of it is probably imposter syndrome. But most of it is that I rushed through my self-review without thinking about it too much and just hit “3” on a lot of stuff (on a scale of 1-5). I also got a slight promotion in July, so I’m now a “Senior Application Developer.” So overall I’m doing fine at work, from my boss’ point of view.

Near the end of 2017, I started a new project that’s allowed me to do a good amount of .NET programming, using modern tools and techniques (for the most part), so I’m happy about that. I still do a lot of Dynamics AX work, and I’m a little worried about that, since Microsoft has really been pushing people into the cloud version of AX. (Which is annoyingly now called Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Enterprise Edition. Seriously. I wrote a whole essay on how annoyed I am about that name, but didn’t post it. But I digress.) We’re not likely to upgrade our on-premise install of AX anytime soon, so I have a little bit of worry about becoming a “legacy system” programmer. But my boss is aware of that, and has gone out of her way to try to get me involved in general .NET projects, whenever possible.

On the education front, I’m still subscribing to Pluralsight, and watched a handful of courses in 2017. I have a blog post on that scheduled as part of my “12 Days of .NET,” so I won’t say any more here.

Looking at my Goodreads history, I see that I managed to read several programming-related books this past year, including:

So I’ve really got nothing to be ashamed of there. A bunch of these were read via the Safari subscription that I get via ACM. That’s turned out to be a really useful benefit. I have a bunch of books in my queue there, and I hope I’ll be able to read a few of them in 2018.

Organization / Finance
Not much to say here. I’m still using Evernote for nearly all of my personal organizational needs. And I’m still on their premium plan, which should renew in about a week at $70/year. For me, it’s worth it. It’s still my best option for an organizational tool that works well across Windows, Mac, and iOS.

On the Finance front, I did a quick year-end review yesterday, and I’m looking pretty good. The stock market has been crazy this year. I’ve done well, but I’m a little worried about the possibility of a crash in 2018. I haven’t really done much in the way of review this year; I’ve mostly just kept everything where it is and let it ride. I feel like maybe I should move some money out of stocks this year and into bonds.

And I still have to figure out what to do about the fiduciary duty rule. I have a document from Merrill somewhere listing the options I have on my various retirement accounts. But I’m not sure where any of this stuff even stands now, since this is one of many things that Trump and the Republicans want to roll back. There was a lot of talk about it back in February (see here and here), and a little in May (here), but I haven’t heard much lately. The whole thing is giving me a headache.

Comics and Books
I set a fifty-book goal in Goodreads for 2017, and read 115 books total, according to my year in review page. Some of those are short stories, and a lot of them are graphic novels, so that’s a highly-exaggerated number, but I still feel like I got a lot of reading done this past year. Highlights would probably include finishing Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan, re-reading Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.

On the comic book front, I’m still visiting my local comic book store once a week and picking up a handful of new comics. I started doing that in mid-2016, when DC’s Rebirth started. I’m still reading a number of the titles that started up then, though I’ve dropped a few. And I’m not really reading any Marvel books right now, though I picked up Ed Piskor’s X-Men: Grand Design, which looks really amazing. (Marvel has had a pretty bad year, overall.)

I’ll probably keep going into the comic shop every week, if DC keeps publishing a few good books. But if they go off the rails at some point this year, then I’ll probably stop and go back to just reading an occasional trade paperback and random stuff from Comixology.

Art and Entertainment
I’ve gotten a good bit of use out of my Met and MoMA memberships in 2017. But I haven’t been to either in a while, largely due to the cold weather.  I did see the Rodin exhibit at the Met, but I haven’t seen the Hockney, Munch, Michelangelo, or Leonardo to Matisse exhibits. I’d like to go next weekend, but it looks like we’ll have a high of 11 on Saturday and 21 on Sunday, so that’s not looking too good. There’s less going on at MoMA; I’d like to get in and see The Long Run, but that’s going to be there until November, so I’ve got plenty of time.

I got out and saw a few good concerts in 2017, including Paul McCartney in Newark. I went to NYCC. And I went to the Star Trek set tour in Ticonderoga with a couple of friends!

I have a pretty full schedule for 2018 already, including U2, Weird Al, the Harry Potter Cursed Child play, and a repeat visit to the Star Trek tour (with a William Shatner appearance). I’m actually wondering if I’m going to make it to all of these. I hope my health holds up, but I do have a tendency to get sick at the most inopportune times. (I’m still mad that I had to miss the Spinal Tap Unwigged concert back in 2009.)

I started writing this post just after breakfast, and now it’s almost lunch time. And the word count on this post is almost at 2000, which is pretty darn lengthy, for a self-indulgent year-in-review post. But I think these posts are really helpful for me, and if they’re interesting to anybody else, great. (If not, I’m not forcing anybody else to read them.) The temperature outside is crawling upward, and is now at 14 degrees. That’s better than the 5 degree reading when I started writing, but still not warm enough for me to want to go out for a walk or anything like that. (And I’d really like to be able to go out for a walk right now. I may bundle up and force myself to. At least as far as Starbucks and back.)

Twelve Days of .NET: Day 3: Logging

This post is part of my 12 Days of .NET series. This is a (not terribly ambitious) series of posts on .NET topics that came up while I was working on a recent C# Web API project.

On past .NET projects, I’ve generally used log4net to handle logging. I like the rolling file appender and generally use that. For this project, I decided to look at what else was out there. I found Serilog, and decided to give that a try. It worked out really well. I think I’ve found my new default .NET logging library. It has a rolling file sink similar to log4net. And it’s very flexible and configurable.

New Year’s Day 2017

I’ve gotten into the habit of writing a post on New Year’s Day, reviewing some goals and events from the previous year and thinking about goals for the new year. Last year’s post was pretty long, and took quite a while to write. I’m not sure if this year’s post will be quite as long, but, for reference, it’s now 8:05 am. I’ve got the radio on WQXR, a cup of coffee at my side, and nothing else to do this morning. Let’s see what time it is when I finish!

For reference, here are links to my last three New Years Day posts:

Weight and General Heath
I think I’ve successfully transitioned from losing weight to maintaining my weight. I started 2016 at 150 pounds. I’ve stayed between 145 and 150 all year. I’m currently at 146. I’m still using Lose It to track everything I eat, and I’m staying within my budget most of the time. So I’m feeling pretty good about that.

On the fitness front, I’m not really doing much. Since I got my Apple Watch in April, I’ve been wearing it every day, and doing my best to meet the activity goals. So I’m making some effort, and I have the watch to help me keep track of what I’m doing. I was doing a lot of walking when the weather was nicer, but I haven’t been terribly active this winter.

Medically, I haven’t had any huge problems this past year, except for the migraines I started getting back in May. I got an MRI done on my brain, but it didn’t find anything interesting. I’ve also been getting more general headaches than I used to. I’ve been dealing with a generally higher level of pain and fatigue this past year, overall, but I’m not sure I can point to anything specific enough to be actionable. Maybe I’m just getting old.

And I’ve still got the neck and back pain that I’ve been living with for a few years now. I did buy a new mattress in June, as I’d planned, but it hasn’t helped me at all. In fact, I think I might need to toss it and try again this year, maybe with something different, like a Casper mattress or something similar.

Speaking of which, my sleep quality recently hasn’t been too bad, but also hasn’t been too good. I’ve been quite good about getting to bed (and getting out of bed) at a consistent time. I’m generally in bed around 10pm and awake at 6am, on both weekdays and weekends. I think I’m doing a lot of things right, in terms of the usual advice you see about limiting screen time before bed, keeping regular hours, and so on. I’ve occasionally had bouts of insomnia in the past year, but I’ve been OK lately. Being in an apartment building on a busy street, there’s a lot of stuff that’s out of my control. But I’m trying to do my best given the environmental constraints.

Blogging and Journaling
I’ve done a fair bit of blogging here this past year. Looking at my stats, I apparently wrote 193 posts in 2016, so that’s a lot. I’ve tried to work in some useful posts, in between the self-absorbed ones. As to journaling, 2016 was the last year in a five-year diary I started back in 2012. I didn’t actually write much in it in 2016, so I think I’m going to quit that and just stick with Day One. I did a fair bit of writing in Day One over the last year, so I think that’s working out well.

Professional / Education
I’m still at SHI, and will hit the four-year mark this month. Things are pretty stable there. I’m still mostly doing Dynamics AX work, but I had an opportunity to work on some SharePoint stuff too, which allowed me to write some C# code, which was nice. And I did learn a lot about SharePoint this past year, which might not be exactly what I’d have chosen to learn, if I had a choice, but it was fun and interesting nevertheless.

I signed up for a Pluralsight subscription last month. We’ll see whether or not I get my money’s worth out of it this year. So far, I’ve just been using it to work through some SharePoint stuff. I hope to find time to use it to learn some of the newer .NET stuff this year. I haven’t done anything at all on EdX or Coursera lately, and I probably won’t in 2017, since I’ve got the Pluralsight subscription.

Organization / GTD
I feel like I’m really in the groove on this stuff lately. One of my projects for 2016 was switching all of my bills over to paperless (finally). I’ve done that, and I’ve kept up with downloading the PDFs, paying the bills, filing them away in subfolders, and all that exciting stuff. I blogged about going paperless in December 2015, and it feels like I’ve done what I wanted to do there, and kept up with everything.

I’m using Evernote pretty effectively too, I think. Though, looking at it now, there’s a bunch of stuff in my “inbox” notebook that I should really do something with. None of it is really important, but I should make up my mind about what I should consider a project and what I should just file away in the “someday/maybe” category.

It’s now 9:30, so I’ve been working on this for about ninety minutes, which seems like long enough. There’s more I could write, but I’m going to hold off. Looking back through this post, I don’t think I’ve set any really ambitious goals for 2017, but I’m fine with that. I think I mostly want to keep doing a good job at work, keep doing whatever I can on my health, and try to be a good friend and a good citizen. I think 2017 is going to be a challenging year, for everybody, and honestly I’m a little afraid of it. But I’m going to do my best.

Happy New Year 2016

The last couple of years, I’ve been writing year-in-review/goals posts on New Year’s Day, and I’m going to continue with that this year. For reference, here are links to the 2015 and 2014 posts.

Weight & Health
This category is pretty simple, so I’ll start here. I was at 200 pounds on New Year’s Day in 2014, and 165 on 1/1/2015. Today, I’m at 150. I had set a goal at 160, and got there, then everything past that just happened very gradually. I’ve been between 150 and 155 for the last few months, and I’m comfortable with that. So, for 2016, I’m just going to try and maintain my weight, within that range. Using the Lose It app has become enough of a habit now that it would seem weird not to log all my calories and weigh myself (almost) every day, so I’m going to keep doing that.

On the fitness front, I haven’t made much progress, though I’ve kept up with my habit of doing as much walking as I can. I haven’t started doing any other kind of exercise, and any thoughts I had about that were put aside when I had my hernia surgery a few months ago. I think I’ve healed up enough now that I could consider some new exercise ideas, and I might do something about that in 2016, though I’m not sure what.

My neck and back continue to bother me a bit, and I’m still not sure what, if anything, I’m going to do about it. I will likely buy a new mattress in 2016, which should help, since my current mattress is ten years old.

Speaking of mattresses, I’ve started using Sleep Cycle on my iPhone to track my sleep. I’m still not sure if it’s really that helpful, but it’s at least a little better than my old alarm clock, so I’m going to stick with it in 2016. I used to go to bed around 11pm most nights, but I’ve gotten into the habit of going to bed at 10pm lately. I get up at 6am, so that’s giving me eight hours in bed rather than seven, which is probably a bit healthier. And I’ve started setting my alarm on weekends also, so my time in bed is a bit more consistent now, from day to day. I still have trouble sleeping on some nights, and I’m not sure why. I know that afternoon coffee drinking definitely affects me, but I can have trouble sleeping even when I’m not drinking much coffee. So I’m going to keep thinking about this, and see what else I can do to improve my sleep.

Education / Programming
I didn’t do much in this area this year. I did learn a lot about SharePoint development, for a project at work that never really came to fruition. And I spent some time learning Ruby (and Ruby On Rails). I took Michael Uslan’s Rise of Superheroes course on EdX, but didn’t take any programming courses on EdX or Coursera. And I spent some more time on F#, starting a new book, Real World Functional Programming. I haven’t looked at it in a couple of weeks, but I want to pick it back up this month and get through it. Aside from that, I’m not really sure what I want to do in 2016. My day job is still going to be mostly Dynamics AX work, and I don’t have any consulting work coming up. So I’d like to continue with F#, and Ruby, and maybe more iOS development, but I don’t have any concrete projects that I’m working on or particularly interested in right now. So that’s something to think about.

I’ve been at SHI since January 2013, so I’m just coming up on my three-year anniversary. SHI does performance reviews at year-end, so I just had mine recently, and it went well. I’m reasonably content with my day job, and I’ll likely stick with it through 2016. Since I’m only doing Dynamics AX work there, though, I should really try to get involved in some other projects, outside of work. I didn’t do any of that in 2015.

GTD / organization
I did pretty good on this front in 2015. I’ve kept up on my bills and paperwork, for the most part, and have finally switched over my Merrill statements to paperless. (I blogged about this last month.) I’m got things pretty well-organized in OneDrive now, and I’ve making effective use of my Evernote account. I had started consolidating all my personal notes into Evernote back in November 2014, and I’m pretty happy with the way that’s worked out, enough so that I recently paid for another year of Evernote Premium.

Comics and Books
I donated most of my comic book collection to Superheroes for Hospice early last year, and successfully avoided buying them all back. I have been on a bit of a tear with Comixology and Humble Bundle sales recently, but that’s all digital so none of that stuff is cluttering up the apartment the way 25 long boxes of comics did.

For reading, I’d set myself a goal of 50 books in the Goodreads reading challenge for 2015. I came in at 96, so that’s good, but many of those were comic book TPBs, so it’s not as impressive a number as it could be. In fact, I see that the last prose novel I finished was a Dresden Files paperback, in August. So I should probably start reading a new novel soon, just so I don’t forget how to read the darn things. I’ve done a fair bit of non-fiction reading this year too, long form (but not book-length), mostly New Yorker articles that I read either in the printed magazine or that I’d saved in Instapaper. (I kind of wish that Instapaper had a statistics page I could look at to see what I’ve read recently, but if they do, they’ve hidden it well.) And hey, this article on good news from 2015 looks like one I should save and read!

Life-logging, journaling, and blogging
I’m not sure if I’m using the right terms here, but I’ve definitely been doing more and more of this “quantified self” stuff over the last few years. And also more of the “qualitative” stuff via blogging and journaling. It looks like I wrote a little over 100 posts on this blog in 2015. That’s a pretty respectable number, and some of them took a bit of work and thought to put together. Overall, I think blogging has helped me work through problems, set goals, and keep track of them. (And I occasionally write a post that might actually be useful to someone else, though not as often as I’d like.)

Via my iPhone, I’m now tracking everything I eat, my weight, my sleep, and my daily step count, and I’m actually paying attention to all of those things. I’m not sure how much good it’s doing me, except in the weight loss area, where it has definitely made a huge difference over the last few years. So I’m going to keep doing all that in 2016.

In addition to this blog, I’ve also been keeping a five-year journal for the last nine years. (I’m just starting the last year on the second book.) It’s somewhat useful, but there’s not much room to write anything beyond a few lines, and of course it’s old-fashioned paper, so it’s not searchable. I’ll keep up with it this year, but I’m not sure if I’ll start a new one next year.

I bought Day One for iOS about a year ago, when it was on sale for a buck, but didn’t really start using it. I bought the Mac app last month, when it was on sale for $7, and I want to start using it this year, to supplement the stuff that I post publicly on this blog, and the stuff that I scribble in my five-year journal. If using it becomes a habit, I’ll probably drop the five-year journal in 2017. The guys from The Sweet Setup wrote an ebook on Day One that looks interesting. I may pick that up, and see if it gives me any good ideas.

Hardware and Software
I didn’t do too much with major hardware or software purchases in 2015. I didn’t buy a new desktop or laptop computer. I didn’t buy a new iPhone or iPad. I did buy a $35 Kindle Fire, but that’s a pretty minor purchase. My biggest purchase of the year would be the TiVo Bolt, which is working well for me. I replaced a hard drive cable in my MacBook and the speaker in my iPhone, so I could squeeze a bit more life out of those.

I think there’s a good chance I’ll buy an iPhone 6c in 2016, if such a thing is actually released. My iPhone 5s is working fine, except that the battery is clearly on its last legs, so I’m going to need to replace either the battery or the phone before 2016 is over.

I’m almost definitely going to buy a new desktop computer soon. My current machine was purchased in 2010, so it’s about time for a new one. I’d rather just upgrade some parts in it, but it’s old enough that it’s not going to be able to run Windows 10 without replacing the motherboard, and I don’t want to do that. (And I’m not even sure if I can, and don’t want to waste a lot of time trying to figure that out.)

For software, I’m going to keep up my Office 365 subscription. Even though I’m not doing much with Office itself, the subscription is worth it for the OneDrive space. And I’ll keep using a lot of the applications I’ve been using, like Evernote and 1Password.

Well, this has turned into a long post, much like last year’s one. I started writing this around 10am, and it’s now 11:45, so I should really wrap this up and start thinking about lunch. It’s nice to have nothing important to do on New Year’s Day. It’s been quiet outside on Main Street all morning, and pretty quiet here in my apartment building. I’d like to go out for a walk, but it’s a bit cold out there today. Maybe after lunch it’ll be warm enough for a quick walk around the block.

slow progress on my desktop rebuild

I didn’t get too far with my desktop PC rebuild last night. I got as far as getting Windows 8 installed, and I got started on installing the many pending Windows updates. I left the PC on when I went to bed, hoping that maybe the updates would be all installed when I woke up, but that didn’t work out. I had to go through a couple more install/reboot cycles to get everything cleared out, to get to the point where I could do the Windows 8.1 upgrade. At this point, I’ve done that successfully, and did a little work on copying stuff from my backup drive back to my main drive.

But I hit a snag when trying to copy my iTunes library back over. That’s a really big folder, and the copy runs OK for about 45 minutes, but then the USB drive just… disappears… and the copy fails. I can get the USB drive going again by simply unplugging it and plugging it back in, but that’s not a good solution for a copy that would take four hours, if it was running smoothly.

So I did some research, and found this blog post from the Windows USB core team. If the issue described there is indeed my problem, then it’s fixed in a Windows update. So I’m giving up on the file copy stuff for now, and installing all the Windows 8.1 pending updates. Then, we’ll try it again.

If it’s not the issue, then I think I’m going to have to crack open that USB case, remove the drive, and mount it in the PC internally. I’m hoping it won’t come to that. But it would likely allow the copy to run much more quickly.

When I think about all the work that’s required to get a functioning Windows 8.1 machine set up, given a Windows 8 DVD and key, it’s really quite frustrating. It really seems like, with a little effort, Microsoft could shorten the process considerably. There are so many things wrong with the process as it is. Why can’t we go straight from Windows 8 to 8.1 without installing every single Windows 8 update? For that matter, why can’t someone with a Windows 8 key download an 8.1 ISO, and skip Windows 8 entirely? And if you’re going to require that people install 8.1 from the Windows store, why not set things up so that at least that’s done from an updated install image that includes all the 8.1 updates? The current process is basically the worst of all possibilities: Install Windows 8 RTM. Apply all updates. Download & install Windows 8.1 RTM. Apply all updates.

Well, I needed to vent about that. I feel a little better. I’m going to go back to watching Netflix now.

2014 Year in Review and 2015 Goals

By many measures, 2014 was a horrible year for the world. Dave Barry wrote a fairly amusing (and somewhat depressing) year in review article for the Washington Post. And Charlie Booker wrote a similar article, from a UK perspective, for the Guardian. Bill Gates has a fairly upbeat take on 2014 though. All three of those articles are worth reading, if you want to get some perspective on the past year.

Personally, I think I had a pretty good year, though things were pretty static, and I didn’t make as much progress as I would have liked on some fronts. But I did a really good job with my weight loss goals, and with some other stuff.

I wrote a relatively short year in review post last year. This year’s post is going to be pretty long. I’ve had a lot of this stuff banging around in my head for the last few weeks, and I really want to get it down in writing, partly so I have it to refer back to in a year, and partly just so I can organize my thoughts and move forward.

Weight & Health
I started a diet in September 2013, at 230 pounds. I got down to 200 lbs as of January 1, 2014. I hit 165 about a month ago, and have been hovering around there, +/- 3 lbs, since then. So I think I’ve done a generally good job on this front.

For 2015, I’m not sure if I want to just maintain at 165 or set a new goal for 160. I don’t see much point in trying to go any lower than 160. I should probably switch gears in 2015 and try to work a bit harder on fitness. Through most of 2014, until it got cold, I was going out for walks almost every day. I think that really helped get the pounds off. I definitely want to pick up on that, when the weather gets warmer. Until then, I’m not sure what I want to do. But I know I should be doing something. My neck and shoulders have been bothering me a bit recently, so maybe I need to do something about that before I try to do anything new on the exercise front. I tried using my exercise bike a bit in 2014, but I’ve found that my back starts bothering me after about five minutes on the bike. So I probably need to figure that out before I can get any further with the exercise.

Education / Programming
I made an attempt to get through Algorithms I and II on Coursera in 2013. I got most of the way through part one, and never started part two. In 2014, I took another shot at part one, but gave up when I got sick not long after the course started. I never got back to it. I’m still interested in doing something with Coursera and/or EdX in 2015, but I don’t have any particular plans.

On a couple of other fronts, I did manage to learn a bit about WordPress and F# in 2014. I read two books on WordPress, one general and one on plugin development, and I successfully moved my blog from Blogger to a self-hosted WordPress install. So that was an accomplishment. I didn’t actually do any meaningful WordPress development, though, aside from tweaking a few things in my template, and working through some of the examples in the plugin dev book.

On F#, I started reading a few books on the subject, but didn’t finish any of them. I learned enough to solve a few Project Euler problems with F#, but not enough to do anything really useful with the language.

Speaking of Project Euler, I had solved through to problem 25 at the end of 2013, and I’ve now solved through to # 65, so that’s 40 problems solved in 2014. I used C# for all of the problems I solved, and reworked a handful of them with F#. For 2015, I’d like to continue working on Euler problems, using a combination of C# and F#.

I’m not sure if I want to try to learn any new languages in 2015. I think I want to concentrate on C# and F# for now. It might be nice to learn Swift, and get back to doing some Mac and/or iOS development, but I don’t have any particular plans to do so. If possible, I’d like to get back to doing some web development using some of the new stuff around ASP.NET that I really didn’t get a chance to play with in 2014.

I started my job at SHI in January 2013, so I’m now just about to hit the two-year mark. Things were pretty static with SHI in 2014. I worked almost exclusively on Dynamics AX projects, using X++. I did a smattering of C# work, but only to support stuff I was doing in X++. The one big thing that changed, early in 2014, was a reorganization, so I’m now under a different boss than I was in 2013. But the new boss was already my project manager, so there wasn’t really much of a change there.

During my year-end review for 2013, there was some talk about the possibility that I might be getting involved in a SharePoint project, but nothing ever came of that. I did read an introductory SharePoint development book, but I never got as far as even setting up a local environment to play around with. If I learned anything about SharePoint, it was mostly that it’s a mess, and trying to learn it, in a general way, on your own, probably isn’t a great idea. If the SharePoint project resurfaces in 2015, I’ll definitely jump back in, but I’m not going to mess around with SharePoint any more without some specific direction.

I haven’t had my 2014 review yet, so I’m not sure what will come out of that. The boss has talked, in general, about some upcoming changes, but hasn’t gotten into specifics. I’m cautiously optimistic about things at SHI, but we’ll see what comes out of my review, and what kind of changes occur this year.
One specific thing she did mention was that we’ll have a training budget this year, so that might be good. She didn’t mention how much the budget was, or what it might be spent on, so I’m not getting my hopes up about going to any tech conferences on the company dime, but hopefully it’s not just a $500 budget that gets spent some CBT software or something like that.

Consulting and/or Volunteering
I haven’t done any consulting work at all in 2014. I’m OK with that, though it would have been nice to have done at least one independent project.

I signed up for Catchafire in 2014, in the hope of finding a good volunteer programming project to work on. But I never did find anything there that I thought would be a good match for my skills and my interests. I’ll keep an eye on it in 2015, but maybe I should look around for other opportunities.

I also applied for volunteer positions at a few museums in NYC, including the Met, The Morgan, and the Museum of Natural History. The only one I heard back from was the Morgan, but they needed someone who was available on weekdays, so that was out. I’ll keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities in 2015, but I’m not hopeful that I’ll find anything interesting that would actually fit into my schedule.

According to Goodreads, I finished 30 books in 2014, but most of them were comics. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) I read The Strain trilogy at the beginning of the year, then spent the rest of the year slowly working my way through Kate Elliot’s Spirit Gate. So I can’t really say I read any fiction over the past year that wasn’t just escapist fantasy. (Again, not that there’s anything wrong with that!) For non-fiction, I read through two books on WordPress, started (but didn’t finish) a couple of F# books, and recently started David Allen’s Making It All Work. I’ll likely finish the David Allen book this month.

I don’t have any specific reading goals for 2015, though I’d like to read more non-fiction, and I definitely have a lot of comics I’d like to read, when I can find the time. But I’m not setting any real goals.

I moved this blog to WordPress in May, and I’ve been pretty happy about that. I think it worked out well, and I learned a lot about WordPress in the process.

I wrote a little over 100 posts in 2014, including a few that were actually useful enough to attract a few page views, so that’s good. I only had 33 posts in 2013. (I’m still not making any money on AdSense though. I might just remove ads entirely this year, since they don’t seem to be doing me any good.)

I think I want to keep going with WordPress, and I’m happy enough with 1&1 that I think I’ll stick with them as a host. I might mess with the template a bit in 2015, but I don’t think I need to.

I didn’t really do any travel in 2014, aside from several trips into NYC, and one trip to Georgia for a funeral. Most of the trips into NYC were day trips, but I did go to WordCamp NYC over the summer, and stayed in the city for that. I made several visits to the Met and MoMA over the past year, so I’m pretty happy about that. The trip to Georgia was not a happy one; my brother’s best friend passed away.

I didn’t make it to even a single comics convention in 2014, so I’d like to try and get to either San Diego or NYCC this year. Or maybe I should consider WonderCon in Anaheim. I know the chance of getting SDCC tickets is low, but I’ll give it a shot, when they go on sale. And I’m sure I can get NYCC tickets, if I don’t wait until the last minute like I did last year.

I recently swapped out the hard drives in my ThinkPad and MacBook with SSDs. I re-installed Windows 8.1 on the ThinkPad several months ago, and wiped & reinstalled OS X on the MacBook as part of the SSD switch. So both of those machines are clean, speedy, and up to date. I think I’ll keep both of them through 2015.

I am currently in the middle of doing a clean install of Windows 8 on my desktop machine. I’m hoping that works out, but I have some doubts. I don’t really want to have to replace that machine this year, but I might have to. I’ll think about that some more once I’ve got it all set up.

I got a new iPhone 5s in October 2013, so I’m going to stick with that through most of 2015. I might replace it at the end of the year, or I might wait until 2016. And I only just recently picked up an iPad Air, so I shouldn’t need to replace that until 2016, I hope.

Apartment and Car
I think I’m going to renew the lease on my current apartment again this year. I keep thinking about moving, but I can never quite talk myself into it. I’ll need to review my thinking on that this month, since I’ll need to make a decision on the lease in February. I do have a lot of stuff that I want to get cleaned up and/or fixed in the apartment this year, assuming I stay in it. Some of that will require some action from the landlord, which I’m not optimistic about, but I’ll make an effort, and see how far I can get.

And I’m hoping to keep my car through 2015. It’s got about 65,0000 miles on it and it’s running well. I just need to keep up with maintenance on it, and I think I’ll be fine.

Personal Organization
I made a number of changes in my systems for personal organization in 2014, and I’m pretty happy with the direction I’m going in on that. I got all of my passwords moved from KeePass to 1Password. And I consolidated all of my personal notes into Evernote, and canceled my old Backpack account. I’ve been making a concerted effort to reapply myself to following the general principles of GTD, and have managed to get a lot of random stuff done in the last few months.

Well, that was a pretty long post. Probably longer than it needed to be, but I feel like I’ve worked some stuff out and cleared some stuff out of my head. Happy New Year!