December 2017 Review

At the beginning of December I wrote a short little post that looked at the rising popularity of monthly reviews as a way for people to set and — hopefully — reach realistic short-term goals. At the bottom of the post were a few of my own goals, and so now it's time to see how well I did against my own objectives.

ToDo List

Under "Creativity & Hobbies", I laid out the following objectives:

  • write 10 blog posts
  • publish 5 podcasts (probably Doubtfully Daily Matigo shows)
  • read 2 technical books and 1 fiction novel

By the end of the month I had written 11 blog posts, published zero podcasts, finished one technical book and made it through about 80% of another plus a recently published Star Trek novel. Not great, but not bad, either. With regards to the podcasts, that's something that I've actually started to do since January 1, and the daily publication of episodes is going swimmingly thus far.

With family, I had the following goals:

  • spend 8 days this month "computer free"
  • get Christmas stuff sent to family in Canada by the 6th

The 8 days without using the computer was easy, as there were 11 days last month where my notebook was left in the work bag. Sending stuff to Canada by the 6th was a bit too optimistic, but stuff was sent last month and should have been received in Southern Ontario by now.

For work, there were two LMS-related items:

  • finish development of v4.2 updates
  • begin work on documentation of v4.2

I received the last of the data I needed from a couple of departments on December 30th and, with this data, I can now begin the 8-day process of building the necessary functionality. Suffice it to day, I have not yet completed the 4.2 updates and am quite a bit overdue. As for documentation, I have begun work on it. The process will take several weeks, so it's not even close to being complete.

So there we go. Not a particularly successful month despite everything that was done. With this in mind, January's goals will be much less ambitious.

Creativity & Hobbies

  • write 10 blog posts
  • publish an episode of DDM every day this month
  • read 1 technical book and 1 fiction novel

Family

  • spend 4 days this month "computer free"
  • bake something new

Work

  • complete the core 4.2 updates
  • prepare the 4.3 "Portal" demo to knock some socks off in Tokyo on the 16th

This shouldn't be too hard to meet. The challenge will be the 4 computer-free days, as there's a lot to get done.

Doubtful Returns

It's been over a year since I last appeared on a published English podcast, and it's high time that changed. Doubtfully Daily Matigo has been relaunched, complete with it's dedicated site and RSS feed for people who haven't already grown sick of my voice. The show is still a bit too new to appear in the Apple podcast directory, but you can expect to find it there at some point in the near future, too.

2018 is going to be the year I take back some of my time and actually work on creative projects that benefit me, rather than a corporation that is suffering from a severe case of middle-management-itis1. Hopefully this will also encourage me to start a technical podcast as well, where I discuss either MySQL specifically — as I can't find any MySQL podcasts online — or databases in general.


  1. Silly political games and fiefdoms amongst middle managers who are where they are because there's nowhere else to go but out, and they know it.

S Town from the Rear View Mirror

Note: This post does not contain any spoilers for the S Town podcast.

Earlier today I finished the seventh and final instalment of S Town, season three of the This American Life's Serial project. Having been disappointed with the second season, I wasn't sure if this was a show that I'd find interesting. The first season of Serial revolved around the story of Hae Min Lee's murder and how the man convicted of the crime, Adnan Syed, may not have been the one to end the young woman's life. The story was incredibly well told, with me impatiently waiting a week for the next episode. I'd sometimes listen to the shows twice in an attempt to glean extra information that may have slipped past. I'd make notes and consider options and alternatives. Did Adnan really kill the girl in a fit of rage? Did Jay do it and pin the blame on his friend? Was it someone else who took advantage of the situation? The story was masterfully told, and the show received justified rave reviews from a lot of people. The second season was nothing like this. I was confused and bored during the first episode. I skipped through the last 15 minutes of the second episode. I unsubscribed halfway through the third. The story was no doubt interesting for a lot of people, but not me. This third season with it's family-friendly rendition of a place called Shit Town by the primary protagonist could have gone either way.

TL;DR: It's an incredibly well-told story. Go and listen if you're into serial radio programs.

John despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.

— Brian Reed on S Town

Listening to this program, I was often reminded of my childhood and the people around me at various times. There were a number of similar members of the community. Similar habits. Similar traits. The familiarity of it all sometimes shocking me as one wouldn't expect the rural corners of Southern Ontario to resemble Alabama. In many ways they are very different. In some ways they are the same. The last few episodes really drove home just how similar the two places are, and how perspective can play a very important role in how we perceive ourselves and others.

I knew a man similar to John who had the same name. He taught me a lot about what it means to slow down and think decisions through, and how to examine a situation from multiple angles before making a judgement call. He also encouraged me to do the things I loved which, at the time, consisted of sketching, architecture, and programming. He provided temporary access to the tools for me to explore these creative pursuits and, in exchange, I'd help him on his farm on weekends. This man, like John, also encouraged people to become better with each passing day. Not just better skilled, but better people. He strongly encouraged me to leave the rural corners of the country and head to Toronto, Montreal, or San Francisco where I could put my unbridled passion and creativity to use. He also had one heck of a temper and a growing disgust with the state of the world.

This is what I saw in John, the centre figure in the podcast. Despite his strong language. Despite his distaste with society. Despite his acerbic opinions. He was a man who wanted to help others however he could. Calling either John "smart" would be selling these people short. The John in S Town was a horologist with a unique insight into anything mechanical. The John I grew up knowing was a master in a woodshop, able to make just about anything without ever once reaching for a ruler or a pencil. He could build an entire kitchen set with six fashionable, matching chairs by sight alone. I watched him do it one weekend.

The world is full of incredibly gifted, uniquely special people. Just like the rest of us they carry their secrets and inner demons. Friendships with these people can be incredibly intimate. Not in a sexual way, but in a manner where — regardless of what secrets or bad deeds you share — they will never judge you. They will never turn away from you. They'll be answer the phone the next time you call and ask you how you're doing. How the family is doing. How the dogs are doing. And all they ask in return is the same … and a little patience when they go off on a rant about the state of the world.

I haven't thought about John very often in the last two decades. He's got to be in his 80s by now. I should give him a call … so long as there's still time.

I Was Going to Write a Blog Post

I was going to write a blog post … but I forgot what subject I wanted to tackle. Was it about how the local news in Hamilton, Ontario has barely changed in the last 25 years? I don't think so. Was it about the recent difficulties I've had effectively communicating ideas in a coherent manner at work? I don't think so. Was it about a recent desire to start a new hobby, one that doesn't involve electronic devices at all? No … I don't think that was it, either.

What the heck did I want to write about? Maybe the new podcast Jeremy Cherfas and I have together?

Why Can't We?

A few weeks ago the very first episode of Why Can't We … ? was quietly released and it's managed to build a growing audience. We're just three episodes in, but we've asked questions about finding cars in crowded places, data backup processes, and even the difficulties in building a decent podcast recommendation engine. If you've ever wondered why, given the incredible number of really intelligent people we have on the planet, certain everyday problems haven't been solved yet, this might be the show for you.

You can subscribe in iTunes and wherever great podcasts are found.

Podcast Pilot: Doubtfully Daily Matigo

Nozomi and I took a walk to the park after lunch today. Along the way, I decided to try out my new Audio Technica AT9913iS Shotgun Microphone. After a number of test recordings followed by a few soliloquies recorded into Auphonic, I'm willing to admit that I'm quite impressed with how well the device captures sound. For this show, my phone was sitting on a table next to a park bench about 50cm from my face. Nice weather, a slight breeze, and regular noises one might hear when living in a mid-sized city are all captured in this five minute recording.

Here are some pictures we took along the way:

The Pathway

The Pathway

En Route to the Park from Nozomi's Perspective

En Route to the Park from Nozomi's Perspective

Sitting Next to the Ball Diamond

Next to the Ball Diamond

Download This Episode (58.66 MB)

I'm thinking about trying a Daily Podcast recording every day in January of 2015. I'd be using this microphone and Auphonic on my iDevice to make it happen. What do you think? A worthwhile venture?