Three years ago I wrote a “year in review” post which capped off the end of a pretty intense year. I had “blown up my life” in 2014 to move to California - sold my house in Virginia, got a new job (writing React at Tilt, then a payments startup), all to hopefully build a new life there. 2018 was really the first year where I realized I wasn’t happy with the life I had built - I was seriously burned out after putting myself through some intense work stress for the last three years - and I started to claim my life back to be the life that I really wanted.

So here I am in 2021. I moved back to the east coast this year, got married in the middle of the pandemic, and just bought another house. My wife Maureen and I are expecting a daughter who will be born in May - name still unknown.

On one level I find it hard to believe that this has happened, but on the other it feels very normal. We moved in early March, after deciding to move September of 2020. Being locked in the house during the coronavirus pandemic and then dealing with an abnormally bad wildfire season convinced us that it was better to be closer to family than it was to be our own little outpost in California.

Durham doesn’t feel too different from Oakland. By the time I left California I was more of a homebody. Before the pandemic I thought I would miss the office and go crazy being home all the time, but this really hasn’t happened. I love having time back in the morning and evenings where I don’t have to commute, and it’s much easier to step out in the middle of the day to exercise. I’ve kept up the running - at least twice a week, though I had to take a break in the middle of the Durham summers. I got hit pretty badly by allergy season so I’ve resumed allergy shots. Hopefully next spring will be better.

At work, Atlassian has acquired Chartio, so most of the year has been spent integrating the Chartio codebase into the Atlassian ecosystem. I won’t lie and say this is my favorite type of work (I find API integration kind of a slog and most of my time has been in planning the work vs executing on it), but Atlassian has plenty of challenges that need my help and it’s a great place for me to spend the next few years. Still doing Java, still doing Python, still doing a little bit of JavaScript.

I haven’t had much time or energy for personal programming. I got back into video games during the pandemic so my spare time has been Celeste, Hades, Bayonetta, some Magic Arena, and a lot of YouTube. Last Christmas I spent some time working through Set 8 of Cryptopals - basically Elliptic Curve Cryptography. I still have a few unsolved problems from that which I may revisit this holiday break. (Already I’ve had to implement LLL lattice reduction and Cantor-Zassenhaus factorization, two “gold standards” of algorithmic number theory implementation.)

In this year’s reading I tried to incorporate more fiction. Mostly, I read a lot of books “in two”:

  • Too Like the Lightning / The Seven Surrenders - futuristic science fiction about a utopian society in the future where war has been abolished, and how war comes back to it again. Incredibly unique. I didn’t really “believe” this world and the characters in it as documenting the struggles of real human beings, but maybe this was part of the point. I’m glad I read through these even if they left me kind of cold at the end.
  • The Way of Kings / Words of Radiance - very enjoyable fantasy novels. I’d get sucked into them and just read hundreds of pages at a time like I was back in high school. Great emotional payoffs for all the characters.
  • Master and Commander / Post Captain - Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin sail the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars. I was familiar with the characters from the Russell Crowe movie and the books were quite enjoyable. Rather than treat the books as a plot with a beginning, middle, and end, it felt more productive to view them as a series of chapters with loose themes connecting them.
  • I Capture The Castle / We Have Always Lived In The Castle - two books about sisters living a disconnected from the rest of the world, with two pretty different tones. I loved both of these books.
  • The Invisible Bridge / Reaganland - Rick Perlstein concludes his dissection of the conservative movement with two books about Ronald Reagan. Perlstein is the inheritor of Richard Ben Cramer (What it Takes) and Hunter S Thompson (Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72) in how we gets you inside a particular place in time, walks through some major players in the political landscape, and gives you a real sense of “being there”.

After hitting so many life events in 2021 (and more to come in 2022), it seems hard to know what to expect. All my friends who are fathers tell me that you really don’t know what it is until it happens, so I am trying to embrace the fact. Sometime next year my life will be overcome by a singularity and I’ll just have to see who it is that comes out on the other side. Hope everyone has been healthy and stay safe out there.