2017 In Review

December 25, 2017

Narrative

2017 kicked itself off with a hangover and a heartache. My girlfriend and I had broken up four hours earlier -- a fact which probably contributed to the hangover. Somehow during the evening I had accumulated a new office chair, and massive (1392 page) copy of "Molecular Biology of The Cell." I kept the chair, but tossed the book.

While dating, I had neglected my friends more than I should have, and so now that I was once again single, my compaƱeros and I reacquainted. Unfortunately, combined with the heartbreak, this manifest itself as lots of "want to grab a beer?" and subsequent high-functioning alcoholism.

The woman and I got back together unofficially a few months later. The relationship, without any labels or implicit expectations, worked significantly better than it ever had before. So well, in fact, that I now consider it to have been my best relationship ever.

My big goal for 2017 was to leave San Francisco: a city I didn't love and in which I wasn't happy. I didn't know where I was going, but I knew I needed to get out sooner than later. With a characteristic lack of foresight and planning, I decided to move to Denver in May, despite knowing nothing about it or anyone in it. In retrospect it wasn't a fantastic move, but neither was it necessarily a bad one.

Denver, as it happens, is a city full of people who are excited about smoking weed and hiking mountains. Despite my hairstyle, I'm not a fan of either activity, which has lead to its fair share of difficulties in integrating. It's by no means insurmountable, but it also cannot be denied that cities have their own culture in aggregate.

Immediately upon arriving in Denver, I gave two public talks in 2017: one at BayHac and one at LambdaConf. In my opinion, they're both fantastic and you should go watch them.

Having moved to Denver, I quickly made some very good friends, and life proceeded without notable incident (note to self: ensure this doesn't happen in 2018!) until July when I decided to get off my butt and start doing productive things. I started a "Math Paper Review Club" where I'd read academic papers and understand them well enough to be able to write a review of each. Nobody joined my club, but I think it was a worthwhile endeavor on its own.

In August I decided that I needed to take up some social hobbies. I joined an improv class -- something I'd tried in San Francisco, but hadn't jived with -- and absolutely loved it. It made me funnier, quicker thinking, and I found myself having more interesting conversations in everyday life after a few classes. I'd strongly recommend it to everyone looking for a challenge.

In October, feeling good about improv, I decided to branch out into more social activities. I started taking swing dancing classes, and (very temporarily) joined the choir of a woman I met dancing. The swing persists, but I joined the choir very late, and the stakes were higher than I was comfortable with. I expect to join one in 2018 though.

For completeness' sake, if significantly less stellar: during October I was also falsely accused of having raped a woman. The accuser was not the alleged victim, but someone who had never met her or anyone she knows. I feel silly defending myself here, but given the political climate we live in, I'd to stress that the woman in question is a good friend, and that we laugh about the purported incident often. That being said, the accusations weighed heavily on my mind for a few weeks.

On to happier things. In November I decided to take a step down the technological ladder of progress, and I got rid of my smartphone. It was a good decision. I also attempted a novel for NaNoWriMo, but gave up on it after about ten days.

In December, I took a month off of work to backpack across Thailand. The stories and insights from the trip are too numerous to recount here, but I intend to dedicate a post entirely to them in the upcoming days. Stay tuned and watch this space.

Retrospective

I had a few goals for 2017. The first, as mentioned, was to escape San Francisco. Accomplished; no problem.

The second was to consistently budget throughout the year. After having been appalled at how much money I spent in 2016, I decided to keep track on a day-to-day basis of where my money was actually going. I did it for about three months, and just by the act of observing my spending habits, I managed to save on average $500/mo.

In April, however, I fell victim to a stupid bias. I missed a few days worth of budgeting, and thought to myself "there's no point in doing more, since I don't remember the numbers and without it the totals will be inaccurate." This is clearly a fallacy, since the value in budgeting is not in the accounting, but in the mindfulness of "is this really worth spending money on?"

This bias probably cost me around $4500, which is not cheap, but certainly low-hanging fruit to improve in 2018.

As a silly project, I decided to take a photo of myself every day. I missed a few days, but somehow didn't fall into the same trap as I did with budgeting. Brains: go figure them out. Unfortunately, this project died when I got rid of my smart phone, but I now have a digi-cam and once again have the technological means to continue.

Analytics

Time for some meaningless numbers. In 2017:

I published roughly 26,000 words, and committed 1500 atomic changes to programming projects I care about (600 if you exclude things I did for work.) I put together (and subsequently gave) four talks.

Before taxes, I made roughly $142,500 this year, but unfortunately don't have an easy means of estimating how much I spent. About half of it went to the US government, and another $21,640 went towards rent. All in all, I'd estimate about $30,000 in net profits made its way into my bank account.

I went on dates with five people, had three sex partners, and kissed roughly ten different people. Fewer people saw me naked than in 2014.

In 2017, I took 20 legs of flights, totally a whopping 58,000km distance traveled. For comparison, that's 1.43x of the way around the entire planet.

Recommendations

Books

I read 14 books in 2017, which wasn't enough, but is also nothing to shake a stick at. The best ones I read were:

Richard Rhodes - Making of the Atomic Bomb: Not just the best book I read in 2017, but perhaps ever. It's a book told in three parts: tableaux of scientific discoveries throughout time which culminated in atomic physics; the engineering and politics behind actually getting the thing built; and the eventual dropping and aftermath of the bomb. Stop reading this blog post and go pick up this book instead.

Eliezer Yudkowsky - Inadequate Equilibria: This book, in true Yudkowskian fashion, makes up for its lackluster writing by being interesting as fuck. It's chocked full of cognitive tools for analyzing why the world is so shitty, and niches in which we might be able to improve the status quo. The second half is about "don't be so damn modest", and it's advice I (and, I suspect, many of my peers) desperately needed.

Charles Bukowski - Women: I accidentally fell into a bit of a Bukowski hole this year. Women stands out as his best work that I've read, but it's not for the faint of heart. The book is mainly about an old, disgusting man's torrid love affairs with women half his age, but for some reason it's one hell of a page-turner. It's a fascinating look inside the head of one fucked-up dude, and if you can compartmentalize the narrative from how you feel in real life, you'll probably be into it.

Music

Lots of dope music dropped in 2017. Here's some of my favorites, roughly in order of how strongly I'd recommend them:

And here's some older music that was nevertheless on ridiculously high rotation this year:

Movies

Fuck movies.

Conclusion

Subjectively, 2017 felt a lot like "being on hold" -- waiting ineffectively for something different to happen. Of course, life doesn't work that way; if you want something to change, you need to make it change.

I guess that means I've broken my streak of having subsequently better years. That's something to be mindful of as I go through 2018, because I'd really like to ONLY BE GOING UP. That'd be dope. Next year.