Much like Nicholas Felton's totally awesome and inspiring Annual Report, I've always wanted to write up a personal year-end summary of the things that I did, consumed, and accomplished that year. Below is my first attempt, which summarizes 2018. Hopefully I keep up this tradition and, 60 years from now, my kids have many of these to read.
I saw 52 films this year. That’s a far cry from my pre-kiddo life when an average year busted into triple digits. Alas, I’ll take 50+ as a solid win.
Below is a breakdown of the film ratings that I doled out in 2018:
Of the films that I saw this year, below were my top 10 (in order of preference).
In 2018 I saw one or more seasons of 17 television shows, about half of which were based on documentary-ish shows (i.e., mostly-non-scripted, based on a true events).
Each show that I watched in 2018 is listed below (in order of preference):
According to Spotify, I listened to 16,190 minutes of tunes this year (though, as I write this, there are still some days left in 2018).
My most listened to artist was Drake at 28 hours, followed by SZA, Hayden James, Kacey Musgraves (who liked one my tweets!), and Dawn Golden.
My most listened to individual songs were (in order):
Below are my favorite newly discovered artists from 2019 (in order of preference):
If you’re into this sort of thing, dig into this Spotify playlist which is comprised of the tunes I listened to most in 2019.
We are probably living through the golden age of the podcast -- there's so much great, and incredibly targeted, content to choose from. Of all the different mediums listed above, I probably consumed the most content from podcasts this year.
Below are the weekly/monthly-produced podcasts that I frequented the most in 2019 (in order of preference):
In addition, below are the season-based/single-run podcasts that I completed this year (in order of preference):
I had an epicly awesome year on the scale! On January 1st I weighed in at 184 pounds -- oof. On December 31st: 164 pounds. I lost 20 pounds exactly in 2019!
How did I do it? I ate less food. Like, a lot less.
Losing the first 10-12 pounds was not terribly hard. I aimed to eat 1,200 calories per day, and usually 90% of those calories came from one large meal (almost ways dinner). Other than coffee in the morning, I mostly fasted all day until dinner, skipping breakfast and lunch. The weight came off quickly.
Once I got to 170 or so pounds, I stalled big time -- eating less no longer resulted in pounds lost. That’s when I started doing full or multi-day fasts. I wrote about my longest fast (three days) in this blog post. Through out the year I completed a few fasts, each between one and three days long. This approach got me down to 164 pounds.
My goal for next year is to get down to 157 pounds. That’s only seven more pounds, but losing any additional weight at this point is incredibly hard. The obvious next move is to start exercising (yuck!), which I’ll probably end up resorting to in 2019 to hit my goal weight.
I traveled to 13 places in 2018. Most of them work-related (I do a lot of onsite trainings for Onit clients all over the world) -- a few were family trips.
Below are all of the places that I traveled this year (listed in no particular order):
Far and away my favorite trip was to Disneyland with Jeannie and Brighton. The DL is one of my favorite places on Earth (I've gone by myself before, as a grown ass man); seeing it through my two-year-old daughter's eyes was amazing.
Below are a few other interesting stats and events from this year:
And that's it! A great year -- here's to an even better 2019!
Up until this vacation, the Powers Family had been on the run, basically driving in the sun, looking out for ourselves (that's number one!). But then, we made a decision, to head back to California, right back where we started from.
And it was epic. We did two days in Anaheim at Disneyland and then a week in Laguna Beach at the Ritz! Here are some of the more choice moments.
Three days. No food. Only water. Whoa. This was the adventure that I embarked on from August 18, 2018 until August 21.
But why, you ask? Primarily to lose a few stubborn final pounds. At that point I had lost about 19 pounds in 2018, but I still had seven pounds to go to hit my goal. I had been stalled for a couple of months and I was looking for something new to get me across the finish line.
I never would have tried a three day water fast unless I had heard about it on Kevin Rose's podcast. The idea of fasting always seemed attractive to me, but not eating anything for three days seemed pretty dangerous. After I heard Kevin introduce it as a thing that people did though, that lead me to do some research, and finally convinced me to go for it. In addition to the weight loss possibilities, I was also attracted by the concept of autophagy (which seems valid, but then again, what do I know).
Below is a hodgepodge of thoughts from my experience.
A few years back I dabbled in trying to learn Ruby on Rails, but I made the mistake of trying to teach myself both the language and the framework at the same time. That led to mostly confusion and frustration. I've heard many different opinions on this subject, but I now strongly believe that you should have a firm grasp of the language before trying to learn one of its frameworks.
For the past year or so I've been focusing solely on Ruby, primarily by consuming Team Treehouse's Learn Ruby track. It's a 20-hour course in all and I'm stoked to have finally completed it! Next up: Rails!
While moving through the Ruby course I took copious notes. I thought it would be helpful to share those notes here. Enjoy!
All notes below were written by, based on the Team Treehouse course mentioned above. Red text indicates a key concept.
my_string = <<-HERE
I am a string
that is defined across
I finished Netflix's revival of The Staircase and it was excellent. What struck me throughout was how unsentimental, unstylized, and overwhelmingly grounded the series was. It felt less like a long documentary series and more like I was an invisible member of the Peterson family, silently going through the events with them. There's tons of minutiae and detail -- the series isn't afraid to show you long and mostly uncut courtroom scenes or legal strategizing scences, or even just scenes of the family hanging out in silence, anxiously day-dreaming.
After I finished the series I came across The Owl Theory, covered many places on the Internets, including in this Wired article and in the YouTube video below:
Much like Making a Murderer, I don't claim to have an informed opinion on whether the series' subject is innocent or not. I do, however, feel strongly that Peterson is not guilty. And not guilty and innocent are two very different classifications -- a point that I've only recently come to appreciate.
It only took me about 20 years to discover this Fiona Apple music video covering The Beatle's "Across the Universe." It was directed by her then boyfriend P.T. Anderson.
My god those eyes. She's haunting.
I enjoyed a GQ article from 2009 about the day-to-day life of an air traffic controller. It's a high-stress job that pays poorly, requires overtime, and has really shitty tech.
"These airplanes are headed toward each other on intersecting runways. Too fast. Too soon. Here it comes. The MD-80 is not over the threshold.… Fuck. “Go around!” Cali says into his headset, instructing the RJ to abort its landing. It’s too close to the MD-80. It’s too close… The plane swoops down, then up abruptly, like a gull with a fresh kill." […] "LaGuardia has thousands of go-arounds a year. At an airport like this, everything is a close call, everything is dependent on split-second decisions, snap judgments, jets constantly barreling toward each other. It’s people, just people, with nerves of steel and uncommon courage, keeping the planes from bashing into each other. Just people."
I always assumed the whole operation was mostly automated. It's terrifying to learn how manual and error-prone it all is, plus how unhappy most of the controllers are.
How to Rob is a 1999 song from 50 Cent (that I just discovered). It's apparently what initially put 50 on everyone's radar.
Aside from being a great track, its approach is interesting: 50 envisions himself robbing the world's biggest hip hop and R&B artists (at the time), one by one. The song's Wikipedia page even lists out each artist that 50 targets (in the order in which they are mentioned):
- Lil' Kim
- P Diddy
- Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston
- Brian McKnight
- Keith Sweat
- Harlem World
- Ol' Dirty Bastard
- Foxy Brown and Kurupt
- Slick Rick
- Stevie J
- Big Pun
- Master P
- Silkk The Shocker
- Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith
- Timbaland and Missy Elliott
- Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat
- DJ Clue
- Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and RZA
- Sticky Fingaz
- Fredro Starr
- Heavy D
- R. Kelly (though not by name, is referenced within the lyrics)
- Boyz II Men and Michael Bivins
- Mike Tyson and Robin Givens
- Mister Cee
- Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad
- Kirk Franklin
My favorite two lines turn out to both be fat jokes (which I normally don't condone). On Big Pun:
I'll rob Pun without a gun, snatch his piece then run
This n____ weigh 400 pounds, how he gonna catch me, son?
And on Missy Elliott:
Run up on Timbaland and Missy with the pound
Like, "You, give me the cash; you, put the hot dog down"
The song apparently won 50 both a bunch of admirers and a slew of enemies, which is not surprising. All of the lyrics are on Genius.
It's hard not to love this Spike Jonze-directed advertisement for Apple's new HomePod.
I'm torn on the HomePod. It looks like a beautiful piece of hardware (from the best design shop on the planet) -- but I'm skeptical that Siri can be as helpful as Alexa, especially considering Alexa plugs into the Amazon's rich shopping eco-system.
I'm not quite half-way through Open Culture's five-part, meticulously crafted series on Paul Thomas Anderson. Part 1 is below, the rest are here. Good stuff.
Having Rubocop tell me that my Ruby code is stylistically flawless makes me feel very good. No, really.
Below is a good example of someone brand new to Ruby (me!) and someone with Ruby experience (not me!) solving the exact same problem. These two methods have the same goal: accept a string, reverse and return it.
def solution(sentence) sentence_as_array = sentence.split(" ").reverse! reversed_string = "" sentence_as_array.each do |x| reversed_string = reversed_string + x + " " end return reversed_string.chop end def better_solution(sentence) sentence.split(" ").reverse.join(" ") end
It's crazy how much more elegant the second method is.
I enjoyed the Chef's Table episode on Christina Tosi and her Momofuku Milk Bar. Her menu is fun to look over, especially Cereal Milk Soft Serve, which is, "Made with milk, cornflakes, brown sugar and a pinch of salt, it tastes just like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of cornflakes!"
Reverend Carlton Pearson was a popular and traditional Evangelical leader; a mentee of Oral Roberts. And then one day, he realized that he no longer believed in hell. He now believed that God saves all, through universal reconciliation.
When my little girl, who'll be nine next month, was an infant, I was watching the evening news. The Hutus and Tutsis were returning from Rwanda to Uganda. And Peter Jennings was doing a piece on it. Now, Majesty was in my lap, my little girl. I'm eating the meal, and I'm watching these little kids with swollen bellies. And it looks like their skin is stretched across their little skeletal remains. Their hair is kind of red from malnutrition. The babies, they've got flies in the corners of their eyes and in their mouths. And they reach for their mother's breast. And the mother's breast looks like a little pencil hanging there. I mean the baby's reaching for the breast. There's no milk. And I, with my little fat-faced baby, and a plate of food, and a big screen television -- and I said, God, I don't know how you could call yourself a loving, sovereign God, and allow these people to suffer this way, and just suck them right into hell, which is what was my assumption. And I heard a voice say within me, so that's what you think we're doing? And I remember I didn't say yes or no. I said, that's what I've been taught. We're sucking them into hell? I said yes. And what would change that? Well, they need to get saved. And how would that happen? Well, somebody needs to preach the gospel to them and get them saved. So if you think that's the only way they're going to get saved is for somebody to preach the gospel to them and that we're sucking them into hell, why don't you put your little baby down, turn your big screen television off, push your plate away, get on the first thing smoking, and go get them saved? And I remember I broke into tears. I was very upset. I remember thinking, God, don't put that guilt on me. I've given you the best 40 years of my life. Besides, I can't save the whole world. I'm doing the best I can. I can't save this whole world. And that's where I remember -- and I believe it was God saying, precisely, you can't save this world. That's what we did.
This realization eventually sent his career into a death spiral.
This American Life covered this story in 2005, but re-ran it again recently in promotion of their upcoming Netflix series "Come Sunday."
I haven't watched the show yet, but the podcast was moving. I found myself rooting for and sympathizing with Pearson. He seems like a genuine and brave man that is following his heart despite the costs.
I'm constantly re-using the same exact code snippets, for which I never remember the exact syntax. Today I found the free and awesome Snippet Bar, which lives in my macOS menu bar and will prevent me from having to re-look up each code snippet's syntax every time that I need to use it. Win!
I've been listening to a lot of Dawn Golden lately.
I tend to gravitate (not exclusively) towards music that feels apathetic and effortless. Golden certainly meets that criteria. His music reminds me of Bob Moses.
Whenever I get a new laptop, I go through the same set up sequence of installing a series of "can't live without" programs and tools -- things that are absolutely essential to my everyday workflow, things that I have trouble functioning without. I figured it would be helpful if I threw all of these into a blog post for everyone to see.
Note that the list below is ultra macOS oritiented (sorry Windows/Linux folks). Also, I left off the really obvious stuff (like Chrome).
Deck of Cards API is a series of public and authentication-less endpoints that simulate a deck of cards. Commands include shuffle and draw. I sometimes need a dummy API that I can test against -- this one is definitely more fun than the others I've used.
I'm immediately interested in Effortless. I've found that if I don't define a goal before starting to work on something, I lose focus. This simple menu bar-based app seems like it will allow me to easily define a goal, with a time box. I plan to give it a shot this week.
What’s better than a Drake song? An awesomely executed Drake cover from an unexpected source. I’ve come across a many a Drake cover on the YouTubes -- below are my three favorites.
Notion is a super interesting tool. I built out a set of pages for my team and am considering rolling it out to them soon. (To my wife's "delight", I also built us a family Notion workspace.)
Progress Bar OSX is an adorable menu bar app that lives in your toolbar and tells you how much of your day, month, and year you have remaining.
At first glance I thought this was charming and useful. After thinking about it more though, I could see myself forgetting about this app within minutes of installing it. I really want to like it, for some reason.
I finally found a calorie counting iOS app that I like. It's called CalorieCalc.
It's crazy dead simple, which is what I prefer. Don't give me a giant food database to pull from, don't try to track my exercise, and don't ask me to care about micro-nutrients. Just let me tell you my calorie limit for the day and then allow me to burn down from that limit by manually entering calories for each meal/snack.
I suspect that I'm in the vast minority in wanting such a limited calorie counting app.
I just discovered "Sleep" by Max Richter, an 8 hour and 24 minute album described by the artist as "an eight-hour lullaby...a piece that is meant to be listened to at night." I have trouble mixing sleep with anything but the sound of a fan, but this sounds like excellent music to work to. I plan to give it a shot this week.
You can listen to the album on Amazon and Spotify (amongst other places).
I have no topical reason for posting three The National videos today -- it's just something that I feel compelled to do. I find myself returning to these videos over and over -- this band is devastating.
Of note: The first video (above) features Sufjan Stevens singing backup. Also related to that same video: I was convinced for a few minutes that Eric Clapton was playing the weird harmonica/piano-hybrid thing.
Fortune has a solid piece on Mark Karpelès, the former owner of Mt. Gox. If you haven't heard of Mt. Gox, it was once the world's largest bitcoin exchange, which flamed out in epic fashion after mysteriously losing 850,000 of its customer's bitcoins. But wait, the plots thickens.
It wasn't until his lawyers had gone home for the day that Karpelès could retreat to his computer, and that's when he noticed the shocking number on his screen. Following his company's collapse, he'd spent days methodically double-checking Mt. Gox's old digital wallets, where the secret alphanumeric keys for accessing Bitcoins are stored. One after another -- a dozen so far -- the wallets had come up empty. But this time, when the blockchain-scanning program finished running after six hours, it had silently served up an unexpected result: He'd found 200,000 Bitcoins, stashed away in an archived file in the cloud -- apparently forgotten and untouched for three years.
So great, you're thinking: he found 200,000 of the 850,000 missing bitcoins. Yes, but also, by that time the price of a single bitcoin had sky-rocketed. This meant that the 200,000 re-discovered bitcoins were worth ~10x more than lost bitcoins. Now what?
Without any context at all, below are both endings. Both are gutting.
A buddy of mine did some UX work for Hornet, the gay social network. Having no idea that such a network existed, I checked out their website and became immediately fascinated with their documented guidelines around images uploaded to the platform. The specificity here is unreal.
- A partial nude ass shot (full nude ass shot is a serious violation).
- Photos that aren't you (celebs, your ex, that guy you hate, your mother-in-law etc).
- Genitals covered up by a towel, hat, tea cup, thimble, bed sheet, emoji, your hand, etc.
- Grabbing/holding or touching genitals or genital area. That includes through your shorts.
- Erection or outline of genitals through clothing. This is a subjective one. We allow a 'genital bulge'. But, if the outline shows the shape of the penis and testicles, then it will be rejected. This can be affected by how tight the clothing is and/or how big a boy you are.
- Sex toys or props.
- Pubic hair or the area of the groin where pubic hair normally grows.
- Photos with underpants visible.
- Photos of any obscene gestures and/or lewd behavior. (Flippin' the bird, the finger etc)
- Illegal drug use or drug paraphernalia (if it looks dodgy, it's a no-no, such as a 'roll-up' cigarette). Also includes drug use in a State or Country where it may be legal.
- Depictions of underage drinking (as we aren't Interpol and don't know the legal age for drinking in each country, anyone who looks young will have the photo rejected).
- Drawings, painting, cartoons, artwork or overly stylized photographs
- Image used to advertise services, goods, events, websites or apps (your profile may be suspended for being commercial).
- Copyrighted or photographer marked images or illustrations
- No profanity or curse words on a photo. Includes holding up paper with curse words written on it.
- Photo of just the crotch: front, side, back, pixelated, clothed, whatever. This would include a photo taken from the waist down. Just because your legs are in it does not mean it isn't a crotch shot. If the main focus is of the crotch, it's not allowed. As a general guide, if your head is not in the photo, then it is more likely to be considered a crotch shot.
- Extreme close-up photos, photos where it is unclear what the photo is of. This includes single color photos.
- Photos with only, or mainly, text. As a general rule, one word or one line of text superimposed on a photo is acceptable (unless the font is large and dominates the photo). 2 or 3 lines of text will likely result in a photo being rejected.
- Photos which are gross, disgusting, nasty, yucky, terrible, abhorrent, repugnant. For example, a person vomiting, or a photo of vomit.
What I would give to be a fly-on-the-wall in the internal meetings that it inevitably took to document these rules.
Childish Gambino's new music video This is America is something special, to say the least.
Provocative, disturbing, and dense...while somehow still catchy. Donald Glover continues to surprise me.
Parkinson's Law claims that:
I'm scared to admit that this is very likely true, especially with things that I work on. When I'm sometimes forced to push something out with very little time and under pressure, I'm often surprised (and secretly bummed) that no one notices. Time boxing and forcing mechanisms are probably good things, in many cases.
Nerdwriter covers the psychological tricks of UX design. These include an app that adds a simulated speck of dust to the screen, hoping that you'll click a button in trying to remove the e-dust (that one would definitely work on me). Also interesting is just how difficult it is to close your Amazon account.
I did some iPhone house cleaning today, and I'm surprised by how refreshed it makes me feel.
I changed my "lock screen" image:
Best of all, by categorizing all of my apps I forced everything onto a single page.
It's the little things...
Yesterday I rewatched The End of the Tour for probably the fourth time. It's fast becoming one of my favorite films. Interestingly, I've never read a David Foster Wallace book. Like so many people, I've started and abandoned Infinite Jest numerous times (I also once tried to read The Broom of the System but didn't succeed). Nonetheless I love the idea of DFW. I particularly love listening to him being interviewed, and also hearing other people talk about him. Both are endless interesting to me.
Below are two of my favorite DFW videos. The first is of a New Yorker panel where DFW is the topic. The second is a fascinating interview DFW did with Charlie Rose in the 90s. I have probably watched both of these videos five times each.
I quickly surged through the entire Heaven's Gate podcast. I had obviously heard of the group before, but I only knew the big broad strokes. Below are three new things that I learned from the podcast:
Applewhite and other members underwent the procedure to help ensure they remained celibate. Applewhite, who had been fired as a music professor at the University of St. Thomas in 1970 after administrators learned he had sex with a male student, sought cures for his homosexual urges. He wanted to find a way to have "platonic relationship where he could develop his full potential without sexual entanglements," said one reporter who infiltrated the group in 1975. Castration, Applewhite believed, could make that easier. Ultimately, the group instituted a strict "no sex, no human-level relationships, no socializing" rule.
Though decisions like this were always left up to the members, eight followers were castrated voluntarily, including Applewhite. "They couldn't stop smiling and giggling," former member DiAngelo told Newsweek. "They were excited about it."
Below is a trailer for the podcast. I recommend it.
Today I finished the Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty podcast. I enjoyed it.
If you're not familiar with Lighty, he was a "500 pound Gorilla"-level manager of major hip hop artists. When I started the podcast, I didn't think I had heard of him, but it didn't take me long to recognise him as A Tribe Called Quest's manager that is a talking head in Michael Rapaport's outstanding documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (I vividly remember Lighty from that documentary, because he used the term "esoteric" in his interview in referring to Q-Tip, and I remember that was the first time I had heard that word used before). Lighty's was a true rags-to-riches story, which ends in a tragic suicide.
Aside from being a well-produced, thoughtful deep dive into an interesting subject, I was struck throughout the podcast by how wonderful it is that someone would take the time to tell this story. Lighty isn't a big enough name to carry a film documentary, and that's where the podcast medium really shines. It allows you to do deep dives into subjects that have (seemingly) small audiences, but using a richer medium than long-form written journalism.
Below is a trailer of the podcast.