In 2017 I tried a few new things, had a bunch of failures, watched a lot of tv and movies and wrote a lot of blog posts. This post is a review of 2017 and I hope you enjoy reading it!
Analog Photography Sucks
I wanted to be better at taking pictures and tried to get an analog camera to practice technique and slow down. While the initial experience was positive, I quickly found the feedback loop of developing film was too slow to learn at the rate I wanted to. I also found out I’m not an artist (This came as a surprise to me). To the first point, taking a picture and seeing it on your camera has it downsides (Doesn’t teach you discipline and makes it so you take tons of pictures and edit them later), but it has the upside of not taking several days to see them and determine if (or when) there is a problem with your camera, lens or other settings. I think I’ll pick up analog photography again, but I want to focus on getting better at framing pictures. I am also saving my pennies for a drone do some aerial photography.
Nobody Wants to Read My Newsletter
I spent a lot of time writing a newsletter that few people read or found valuable. I think my biggest mistake was creating a newsletter that didn’t have a topic. My newsletter was just a list of things I found interesting from programming to the news I read to even the photography and furniture I liked. Upon detailed inspection, I found my Twitter feed was a better place to share that kind of content. I can post anything on Twitter and I can see the engagement in real time or over time. I would scroll through my newsletter statistics and laugh at how patently bad they were. I did have fun putting the newsletter together and I hope in the future I can find a newsletter that works a bit better for me to grow an audience.
I’ve started and should soon be finishing a book about the distributed computing framework, Apache Spark. It was a bit of a rushed decision, but I’m glad I decided to do it. It’s been a great experience working with my wife on the book, but it’s been extremely stressful as well. My bar for quality and completeness is perhaps too high, especially in a crowded market for Spark books. That being said, the exercise of writing the book has done more for my understanding and grasp for Spark than anything else. Writing a book forces you to slow down and really think about the best way to explain something to someone who is only loosely familiar with the topic. It’s a skill I hope to continue to develop as I write more.
Once this book is done, I’ve already got another book in the pipeline I would like to write. I will take a year off before starting that project, I have a lot of things I want to do before then.
Speaking at Conferences
I spoke at quite a few conferences and meetups around the country and really enjoyed myself and meeting people. I’m excited about this upcoming year and hoping I can continue to meet great people, learn things and share what I learn. Going to conferences takes a lot of energy and coordination, but the preparation and rigor are exactly what I need to learn best.
Unfortunately, none of the conferences have posted videos of my talks, but I linked to slides below and will update with videos once I get them. I gave the same talk at several venues so I just linked to one of them.
Most impactful Technology
I started using Minikube early in the year. It’s by far the most important tech I’ve used this year. It helped me get a good handle on how Kubernetes works and helped me push Kubernetes into my company. I used Minikube in a number of my presentations throughout the year as well. I imagine it will be a big part of my 2018 flow, and if you attend any of my talks It’ll likely make an appearance.
Favorite Connected Home Device
The Logitech Pop gets this honor. For as simple and dumb as these devices seem, they are something we use every day. I think they are one of the most attractive and useful smart home devices that exist. We’ve got a button that helps arm and disarms our DIY home security system. We have another that helps turn on and off and dim the lamp in our 1-year-olds room. It may sound like an over-exuberant thing to say it’s a game changer, but it is a game changer. I typically recommend getting a light switch when moving into smart home stuff. I think this would be the second device I recommend.
Visiting Boston and Connecticut
Visiting my family and close friends in Connecticut and Boston was my favorite traveling experience this year. The Northeast is where I was raised and visiting in the Spring makes you want to stay forever. We got to take our then 7-month-old to the beach, eat some great pizza, donuts, and cream of wheat. We even got as basic as can be walking around Yale and Harvard campuses. We're headed back out to Boston in June and are already counting down the days and planning places to see.
The Best Book I Read
Principles by Ray Dalio is the best book I read in 2017 and it's not really close. Many of my friends observe my life and believe I must have time management, organization and general philosophy about life under control. The truth is, I may be decent at managing time and organizing myself. but I don't really have a thing that is driving me or a guiding principle. I never thought this was a problem, as I have hopped from good opportunity to better opportunity without a true end goal in mind for a long time. When reading this book I discovered that focusing my energy on something I believe in and wanted to achieve was far more rewarding and I would actually do better overall this way. That may sound extremely simple and unenlightened but it's something I really did not know before I read this. The book really changed my perspective and led me to make changes in my life and figure out what I really wanted and plan my life around that. It's been a blessing and I'm grateful I looked past my usual self-development book bias and read it.
I set a goal to read 24 books in 2017 and I made it! If you'd like to check out what I read you can find them here.
Get Out and Blade Runner 2049 are my favorite movies of 2017. They are very different movies and I like them for different reasons.
I love that Get Out has stuck with me all year long and that I love to talk to people about it and to think about it. When I think back on the previews and my expectations that it would be a horror movie, I have to laugh at myself. It's such an intellectually enriching movie. As you peel back the layers and think deeper about it, it just keeps getting more rewarding. Not everyone "gets it" and it can be frustrating, but the artistry and creativity of that film will stick with me forever.
Blade Runner 2049 is such an elegantly crafted movie that I find myself thinking about it often, too. I don't think about it the same way I think about Get Out, but I think about it just as often. It is a story told so slowly that I would usually lose interest, but it is a setting crafted so well that I can't stop paying attention.
Top 3 Television Shows
I haven’t watched all the programs on television exhaustively (Not even close), but I have watched A LOT of TV and I think Better Call Saul is the best program on TV right now. It does everything perfectly without being overstated or coming on too strong. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s relatable, it’s smart and it’s just good. When I think back on all the programs I watched this year (too many to count) this is the only show that comes to mind without fail. If you haven’t watched it, please give it a try!
Manhunt: Unabomber is not a perfect, but it is so easy to consume for such an uncomfortable topic. There are tons of compelling characters and thoughtful interactions in the short 8 episodes. I can't really spoil this story, but I won't say anymore and encourage you to watch it instead.
I love this show more than any of my TV snob friends. Most of them think it's "Ok" to "not good." Every time I watch it I feel like I can relate to the emotions, the manipulation and the motivation that everyone is displaying. I feel like it is a plot crafted so perfectly to the world I work in of working in technology. This year was the last season of the show and I will certainly miss it. It is one of the few shows that kept my attention and excitement throughout its entire run.
2017 was a year of some hard lessons but a lot of new and rewarding experiences. I didn't have time to talk about grad school or work, but those are going well and there isn't much to say. I didn't say much about personal family stuff because I like to keep that private when I can. I think 2018 will be a great year for me to focus on becoming healthier, more efficient and more thoughtful and deliberate. Where ever you are when reading this, I hope the same for you. Thank you.
2017 Misc Statistics
Blogs Published: 34 (Including this one)
Talks Given: 10
Missed Layover Flights: 0
All Nighters for School: 5
Books Read: 24
Trips to the park with my daughter: 20