Irrational Exuberance!

Quick Notes for Starting 2010

January 1, 2010.

It's probably been over a year since I've written a personal post here, mostly because that has never been what this blog is about, but there is a reason why the Life and Code sections have different RSS feeds, and I just wanted to throw together a few dozens wandering thoughts into a quick entry to clear a few things out of my mind.

San Francisco

I moved to San Francisco five months ago as part of moving from a contractor to a full-time employee. One of the side-effects is that I have gone from working at home for a year to having a four hour commute every day. Oops. I guess that was an obviously bad idea. That said, by virtue of the other people riding the same shuttles the commute hasn't been nearly as bad as one might imagine.

S.F. itself is quite nice, although I don't really get to spend that much time here during the week. Not having a car is ace. Being able to walk everyone is great. Living next to Golden Gate Park is fantastic. Walking to dinner and walking home is amazing. Now if only I was spending a bit more time here.

Devil in the White City

Devil in the White City is the best book I read last year (note, not an Amazon's Associate's link, because North Carolina fought the Amazon and won, and in the process, I lost). It's a really excellent book, not just by virtue of the writing (which was good), but because it tells an amazing story using a truly epic amount of research performed by the author.

It was really striking to realize how little I knew of this period of American history (~1890). I am still struck by the image of people writing each other multiple letters per day, and with them being delivered quickly. Just beacuse my emails arrive in a few seconds doesn't mean that anyone reads them anytime soon.

Avatar

I went to see Avatar when I was in Asheville to visit family, and I have to admit, for the first six minutes I thought I was watching another preview (spoiler: I wasn't wearing 3D glasses) Once I realized I was actually watching the movie, I enjoyed it a good bit. I'm a sucker for science fiction: the familiar patterns comfort me, the recurring characters make me smile.

The themes in Avatar were kind of hit or miss for me. It seemed a lot like a rendition of Pocahontas where no one quite dared to break into singing.

52Project

Complete on whim I signed up for Project52 which is a challenge to publish weekly for fifty-two weeks. Generally I publish many more than fifty-two articles per year (well, for the past three years that I've been writing) (out of curiousity I checked just now and have 333 articles published on this blog), but I also am consistent in getting frustrated or busy and failing to publish anything for weeks or months at a time.

In terms of making the challenge meaningful, it's probably best for me to only count articles of at least 500 words. Well, it's a rough estimate, but something along those lines. Each time I try to bring more structure to blogging I have historically failed quietly, so hopefully I'll succeed quietly this time.

2010 Goals

I've been a bit underachieving this past year, not in terms of failing to put the effort in, but really in failing to accomplish important tangible results. I've been amazingly fortunate in the things that have happened over the past few years, and am extremely greatful to the many people who have taken a chance on me and really given me amazing opportunties.

This is perhaps why I am still a bit frustrated: given so many amazing opportunities, I still haven't quite been able to put it together into something wonderful yet. Daniel Burnham (a primary actor in Devil in the White City) is attributed with the quote

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will nott themselves be realized.

That quote has weighed a bit upon me, as I show initiative by rewriting an internal administration tool or improving upon the error monitoring system: I'm likely dreaming too small.

So, my goal for 2010 is to keep that quote in mind in the loud and in the quiet moments of every day.

Kindle

For Christmas I got an [Amazon Kindle][http://www.amazon.com/Kindle], and I've been enjoying it quite a bit. My biggest obstacle to reading this past year has been a lack of a convenient bookstore to go to (meaning, within walking distance of my apartment); the Kindle solves that. Now I can spend money more easily than ever before. Except for Itunes, that is, where I already contribute quite a few dimes.

My favorite part of the Kindle DX is being able to load arbitrary PDFs into it and then read them later on. This is great for loading in computer science papers for consumption when I happen to find some time.

I'm a Kindle fan.

iPhone Development

I'm working on iPhone development again after a far too long hiatus. I really enjoyed when Luke and I were working together closely on TouchDefense and look forward to doing more work with him.

Working on a fairly substantial game like TouchDefense (hey, it isn't that complex in many ways, but it was a substantial amount of work when you consider that last ten percent of work to make something usable by customers in a enjoyable and reliable fashion) is still some of the most interesting and challenging work I have done.

Distributed Programming

I've learned a truly tremendous amount about distributed programing over the past six months, working on a project which at times seems to encompass most every interesting problem in distributed computing. Distributing computation and coordinating asynchronous events is a field I could imagine spending a lifetime working in.

Well, at least a decade or two.

Ahh, and those are my quick thoughts for the time being. I'll be writing some more non-technical stuff as the month goes on, but the technical writing is the butter on my bread, so I imagine it'll continue to receive the majority of my time.