2008 Retrospective, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Don’t have any nuggets of wisdom no sweeping panoramas of life as we know it from this year called 2008. It was a roller coaster ride for certain. From my privy knowledge so far, 2009 will be even more of a roller coaster ride.


New Career, New Disappointments


It’s been quite a rocky reboot of my career since re-entering the work force. What on earth I was thinking to become a programmer with no prior experience, no formal education in the field, and well on years I will never know but it was the only career I could think of having spent the past couple of years playing with the web. Alas, work and play are rarely the same thing.


The new job was an eye-opening experience in more ways than one. The dynamics of a large (at least for a web company) and established corporate machine was something that I understood in principle but had to see first hand. If you could imagine a slave colony of typists writing complex, esoteric commands into a terminal while crackers cracked their whips while laughing with a beer in their other hand, you pretty much got my impression of what it’s like to work in a corporation. I’m being totally unfair and prejudiced but still.


One thing I realized is how I totally suck at programming. The bugs and slow spells were really killing me career-wise. Still, I lost total motivation to do anything about it. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and in the end I had to throw in the towel.


Re-discovering Productivity


As a result of my career woes I did re-discover the importance of productivity. Being away from the work force made me too soft and lazy. That’s one thing that working in an office full of people is good for. You get to see people that are good at their game first hand, working it and making a difference. It forces you to run. You get put in front of a train, get a 5 minute head start and then you run like hell or get run over. I’ve taken a renewed interest in GTD and thanks to the iphone and tools like remember the milk, I’m much more productive but I still have a long ways to go.


Lately, my focus is not so much on the process itself, I think I’ve got a decent flow now. Putting tasks into the task lists, getting them done, prioritizing them, re-organizing tasks and ultimately letting go of things that you just can’t do or are taking too much energy.


Buying an iPhone


I was actually waiting in line the day the iPhone 3G started selling in Japan. It was a crazy roller coaster ride of anticipation and frustration with Japanese language input, crashing, and ultra-long backups. Most of the issues seem fixed but even at firmware 2.2, the iPhone has a lot of features that just aren’t quite there whether it’s lack of copy and paste, no horizontal mode for email input, regression to manual syncing of video, and a lot of other minor niggly stuff. They did improve a lot though, just wish the iPhone debuted the 3G with 2.2 and not the half-finished beta they forced on early adopters.


However, the iPhone helped turn my under-used phone into a powerful productivity tool and portable communication device. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of mobile computing and gaming. As a result, I’ve been able to juggle a lot more with a lot less. Really answering emails on the go, managing contacts, social calendars, task lists, and other media. Coming from the ipod touch I completely stopped watching videos though.




Hard Drive Crash


My hard drive crashed twice in 2008. First time I had no backup of my media stuff but my flickr account, ipod, and code repositories saved the day. Still, I didn’t want to go through the ordeal of putting the humpty dumpty pieces together so I bought a Time Capsule. True to form, I actually did have to use the Time Capsule to restore my mac. After all the Time Capsule-induced kernel panics and other nastiness, I can finally say that this is one investment that repaid itself. Wish I did it sooner. Oh, and both hard drives were aftermarket Hitachis, I’ll never buy their hard drives again.


Welcome Back to the Social


This summer I finally got back into the social swing of things. I pretty much stayed away from socializing for a year and a half or so. My career demands were calming down in twisted equilibrium I finally established after coming to terms with the current situation. A friend’s chance homecoming to Japan renewed my motivation to re-connect with the friends I’ve neglected for so long. As a result, my social calendar exploded and my social group was resurrected from a long coma. I plunged into FaceBook into a big way and was amazed through and through by how much of a viable platform it is for socializing. It’s been slew of parties since and the promotion of parties thereof. I must say that my thirst for socializing is more than quenched but for 2009 I’ll try to redefine the experience for myself and others to see if I can take it to the next level.


New Styles


Experimented with a radical new “style” so to speak. Went from long hair to buzz cut and back on the road to long hair again. Some people look good with a shaved head some don’t. For 2009 I’m going to go posh. I’ve forsaken fashion for economy much too long. I’ll also be wearing glasses. My eye sight has gotten so bad that I was developing a really serious case of cross-eye. People didn’t know which way I was looking and I didn’t know which way I was looking. Too much time in front of a computer does that to you so I’m wearing glasses now. Things are much better and kinda like the Harry Potter look though I doubt the ladies will appreciate it as much (at least the kind of ladies I appreciate).


Books and More Books


The latter half of 2008 was defined by reconnection with the things I loved to do or used to love. One of those was reading books. I haven’t read books seriously in years really. Too much blogs and email. Sitting still and reading a work of prose or fiction from cover to cover, forming an intellectual panorama of thoughts and scenes spanning hundreds of pages is still an exquisite experience and even more so having seen the alternative of institutionalized ADHD. Re-discovering books meant reconnecting with my intellectual past and unlocking the dark chambers of my mind that lay dormant for so long. It’s amazing how the senses and scenes of past intellectual pursuits come back. The other day I checked out a book I read years ago and passages I read came back so vividly that I knew that I had read it before. The beauty of reading is that the intellectual capital stays with you for so long. I look forward to reading more and building on it for years to come. This time, I wont be wandering from the path.


Current Affairs


I’ve also taken a more serious interest in current affairs. I read the newspaper every day or read every day’s newspaper (if I’m busy). The world is a fast changing place and being in IT you tend to be aloof to current affairs. This is an unfortunate trend plaguing society as a whole and not just IT professionals. Too many people don’t know what’s going on unless it hits Digg or gets twittered to death or posted to FaceBook. It’s too bad that people are becoming oblivious to the history they are living. Newspapers may be a dying breed but I’ll be subscribing to print for some time to come as long as someone keeps printing. That’s not to say I don’t find digital media attractive. I heavily use the Bloomberg app and AP Mobile News. Those apps are some of the most used apps on my iphone. Watching the subprime loan crisis unfold in real-time through Bloomberg was an experience I’ll never forget.


Games!


I own a Nintendo DS Lite that I haven’t touched in months. I bought a couple games on the iPhone like Monkey Ball that I haven’t played along with an assortment of racing games. The games I find myself playing regularly are puzzles like Tangram Puzzle Pro, Sudoku Unlimited, Parking Lot, and Tetsuki. All these games are either puzzles or strategy games. The games are tiring in a way but rewarding in only the way that intellectual challenges are. It’s all part of my drive for self-improvement while having a little bit of fun mixed in. Not denying the entertainment and even benefits of action-packed gaming but as you get older you look for different kicks. Puzzles are an entirely different kind of reward.


Tetsuki is really in a league of its own in the roster. A couple years back I took up playing igo. I played pretty hard and often. Improved quite quickly but far from mastering it on any level. This ancient Chinese game of strategy is so simple yet so complex. You start with 5 basic rules that can be mastered in a sitting. Stones are equal in strength and power, there is no memorization of arbitrary move patterns like Chess. The game unfolds in a way that requires both science and art where you can break down strategy into both logical moves and more pattern heavy strategy. I guess you just have to play it to understand.


Igo is going to be an integral part of my recreation in 2009. Nothing like intellectual competition over a board game to both have fun and exercise your mind.


So What’s in Store for 2009?


Concentration


The year 2009 will be the year I focus on concentration. You can tweak the process so much but in the end it’s the amount of intensity you can deliver and sustain in order to really get anything done. The problem is you can be TOO intense that you crash and burn. I’ve already been there once and don’t intend to go back. I’ve been sort of playing with the idea and testing the limits but in 2009, I really can’t afford not to go all out in order to do something meaningful with my life. So far, there are a couple developments on the horizon that hold a lot of promise for 2009. We’ll see how it all unfolds soon enough.