2021 in Review
Goals create a conflict between what I want to do at any given moment and what I set out to accomplish over an extended period of time. The assumption is that the long-term goal is the one that will be most important to me in the future, and will enrich my life and hopefully the lives of those around me - family, friends, colleagues, etc.
The flaw in this assumption is that these goals are based on my capacity and interests during the moment of their creation. These goals are a snapshot in time.
Alright, yeah, you've probably already caught on to the fact that this is just a long way of saying: I did not complete most of my goals this year.
Read 15 books (17/15)
In 2021, I read 17 books. I enjoyed all of them. Their paths to me were varied - some were based on podcast recommendations, some were lent to me by friends, many were gifts, and some were a personal interest in learning more about where I live and work.
- Saving Capitalism by Robert B. Reich
- Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Serpents of Eden by Martin Edwards
- This is Chance! by Jon Mooallem
- Word by Word by Kory Stamper
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- Working in Public by Nadia Eghbal
- The Wal-Mart Effect by Charles Fishman
- You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane
- The Crystal Kingdom by The McElroys
- Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
- Wonder Woman: Dead Earth by Daniel Warren Johnson
- Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
- Expressive Design Systems by Yesenia Perez-Cruz
- The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
- The Department of Truth by James Tynion IV
I spent the most time this year with the 900-page tome, Battle Cry of Freedom. In this book, McPherson does an amazing job of explaining all of the factors that lead to the Civil War along with every pivotal moment during it. Growing up, history felt distant. This book combined with recent events including this year's attack on the Capitol brought it all a lot closer.
Battle Cry was a gift from my brother-in-law, a Professor of American History, who has since gifted me an entire book about Reconstruction and another about Frederick Douglass.
I'm looking forward to these books, but I'll admit that I took most of the remaining year off once I had reached my reading goal. I attribute this almost entirely to burnout, which had dire consequences for my remaining goals.
Write 10 blog posts (6/10)
Despite maintaining the necessary pace to complete this goal during the first half of the year, I only wrote one additional post since my mid-year review.
- Auto-Merging Dependabot Pull Requests
- 10x Detective
- Using the Apple Music API with Next.js
- iOS App Settings: A Study
- Memes Aren't User Research
- If I Only Had A Brain
Halfway through 2021, my org at work underwent a major restructuring. I've come to realize that reorgs are a corporate ritual. No matter how well things are working, new management means a reorg is on the way.
I first experienced this at my previous employer. Shortly after we'd hired our first VP of Engineering, we were called into an all-hands meeting to discuss a reorg. The VP displayed a slide with our existing team structure, then flipped to the next slide... which looked exactly the same.
I was confused by this for years, but I now realize that what changed was irrelevant. The ritual must be performed.
And so it goes. My non-work time became dedicated to movies, gaming, and toy projects. I gave myself permission to leave this goal incomplete. Hopefully, I'll feel up to it in the new year.
And so it goes for my remaining goals, as well: Tiny Mystery Club, animations, comics... All were put on pause shortly after my mid-year update.
I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians. - Francis Ford Coppola
I've been making a conscious effort during the pandemic to catch up on films you'd find on such lists as “The Best Films of All Time” and “Must-See Movies Before You Die”. Some highlights:
- In the Mood for Love (2000)
- The Godfather Part II (1974)
- Vertigo (1958)
- Goodfellas (1990)
- Contact (1997)
- Sorcerer (1977)
- Princess Mononoke (1997)
- Catch Me If You Can (2002)
- The Abyss (2009)
- Seven Samurai (1954)
It's strange how watching an older film can feel like homework until you actually start playing it. Sure, Seven Samurai is 67 years old, black and white, and considered one most influential films of all time, but it's also just a lot of fun to watch. It's funny, heartfelt and full of action. It doesn't feel like you're watching an “old” movie. It feels more like you're watching, say, The Avengers.
Two things defined my gaming habits this year: First, the purchase of an Oculus Quest 2. Second, Pokémon Go Battle League.
The Quest still blows my mind every time I put it on. My favorite game on it is Walkabout Mini Golf. The stakes are low, the game is simple, and I'm able to hang out with distant friends in what feels like a dimensional space - unlike hanging in a Zoom call. It's very cool.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Resident Evil 4 was released in October. It's one of my all-time favorites, but actually being in that world is an experience. I love it, but it's a lot.
Pokémon Go Battle League
This is the first year I've participated in any sort of competitive league online. Go Battle League was introduced just last year and added a way to create teams and battle other trainers in Pokémon Go. Similar to chess, you are ranked based on an ELO rating system. I'm proud to say that I managed to battle my way to the second-highest rank during my first season of the league which ended last month.
My doppelganger Twitter bot, @robot_mk, has provided moments of surprise and delight for a while - moments of serendipity where it'd appear to be almost sentient. This used to be entirely chance, randomly tweeting remixes of my own tweets using the Markov chain method. No more. @robot_mk became the first candidate for a brain transplant when I gained access to OpenAI's API.
do you ever feel like you are holding your breath and when you exhale it feels like your first exhale ever - @robot_mk
Other OpenAI projects include It's The Adventure Zone and a series of Yahoo! Answers questions inspired by the podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me.
I've got a few more projects in the works. I started helping out the crew at Hyper with their web interface. I plan on creating more stop-motion video with my son. For now, I'm going to stop writing and take full advantage of my holiday break.
Thanks for reading, Happy New Year!