A year ago I blogged a short review; while I imagine its audience was rather limited, I found the exercise useful enough in itself that I set a reminder to repeat it, about now.

Most significant events

The highlight of 2014 is much the same as of 2013:

What? I have to wake up? What a hilarious notion!

What? I have to wake up? What a hilarious notion!

In fact, we’re so satisfied with the parenting experience that we just might have another go at it this coming year: no promises, but watch this space…

The year as a whole was less gleeful than this picture would suggest, however. In particular, we lost two musical friends: Takis Sideris in January, to pancreatic cancer, and Panagiotis Koulelis in June to a stroke. Takis was a huge influence on our musical lives in Amsterdam. He gave me my first opportunity to play Greek music in public, and we clocked up many hours playing together. I was far from the only person he had such an influence on; Hugo Strötbaum has written a tribute to his life, in Dutch, with many photographs. Panagiotis’s death was even closer to home: he lives about 20 minutes drive from our home in Thessaloniki, and we had just started meeting regularly so he could teach me how to build an oud. He is an old friend of Olga’s from her university years in Patras: that circle meets several times a year (to celebrate the wine harvest, for a children’s festival, and similar events), and each time we meet I half-expect to see Panagiotis with his downturned mouth and his “Come on, let’s play something shall we?”

A much happier event was our January trip to New Zealand, to introduce Manu to his grandparents and the rest of the Kiwi side of the family. We skipped seven weeks of winter: I worked for about four, and we took some real holiday time and toured the country a bit as well. I’m not eager to repeat the experiment of working at a 12-hour offset from the home office, but it was certainly worth it to get such an extended family visit.

The last standout event of 2014 was that after more than four years with Buzzcapture I moved on: in October I started with Minddistrict. More about this below.

How did those plans work out then?

Depending on how strictly you want to take things, I managed either abysmally or slightly sub-par in fulfilling the plans I wrote a year ago. Strictly speaking I did none of them (except coming back and writing this, of course); on the other hand, I made significant progress on two of the three other targets. I did not “learn to drive”, but just a few weeks ago I passed my driving theory test, and I have only a few lessons to go before I take the practical: if all goes as planned, I should have a license by February. And as for releasing an iOS app, I did make something that I could use myself, but it stalled a few months back: it needs a lot of polish if I’m to put it out into the world, and in the meantime I’ve learned enough to make The Complete Rewrite dangerously tempting (mainly because at Minddistrict I’m learning iOS development to complement my python). I also have a new —and less ambitious— app idea that might just make it into release before the first one gets that rewrite.

I made no progress at all at learning either ney or makam theory.

What I worry about

Last year I worried about my media consumption. I’m pleased to say that this is no longer a serious worry; some of my habits have changed, and some of my attitudes to them have shifted. That worry has been replaced by several others though.

  • Instead of worrying that I am using my leisure time poorly, I’m now worried that I am giving myself too much personal leisure time: I’m not worried about the relative time spend on reading blogs vs personal programming projects, but that I spend too much time on myself and not enough with my family and 20-month-old son. I’m having to fight some introverted and selfish tendencies that aren’t very pleasant to look at up close. With Olga’s help, though, I’m making progress.
  • Our financial situation was not particularly robust in 2013. It should be better in 2014 (mainly because my new job came with a pay rise), but we’ve expended quite a lot of time and worry in first pinning down just what the situation was, and then figuring out how we can improve it.
  • The more I learn about the wider political and economic climate I live in (and the climate climate, for that matter) the less I like it. My usual approach to this problem is to avoid learning too much; in 2013 I stumbled into following a lot of people on Twitter who made that difficult for me. I have to call this a good thing, but it’s not a pleasant good thing.

Work (and semi-work)

The move away from Buzzcapture was long overdue, in retrospect. In theory I’ve learned from the experience; in practise I will probably go through the same overlong process of convincing myself that it really is time to move on, when it comes time to leave Minddistrict. It’s far too early to tell how soon that will be, but the first indications are very positive: the new work I’m doing is challenging in interesting ways, the team I’m working with is very sharp, and it seems like how I want to work is aligning closely enough with what is needed to make the match comfortable.

As part of the energy-rush of starting the new job, I’ve rediscovered the joy of programming. It turns out that for me, that joy is quite tightly linked to feeling like I am doing a good job: neat and tidy, tested, properly packaged, tagged and released. I have high hopes for raising the level of professionalism of my personal projects in the coming year as well.

2014 was the first full year I spent working on a Macbook; I don’t think I can ever go back. I’ve become completely dependent on Alfred, and I’ve even (slowly and with quite some pain) managed to retrain myself into expecting multiple app windows to share the same menu bar, alt-tabbing to not show individual windows, etc etc. More importantly, I’ve gotten hooked on the attention to detail in the UX of major Mac apps; when I was setting up my old eee pc as a home media center, running an Ubuntu-derived distro, I was surprised and annoyed to find that connecting to wifi required me to enter the SSID of the router instead of choosing it from a list. I expect this trend to continue: convenience and speed feels more and more important to me as I invest more time in achieving it (knowing this is probably driven by cognitive dissonance doesn’t necessarily make me able to ignore it, or even make me want to).

Oh yes: still working standing. Still happy I am.

Plans for 2015

  • Finishing things: learning to drive, releasing an iOS app.
  • Staying home. We spent a lot of 2014 travelling, and only really started getting to know Thessaloniki quite late in the year. We’d both like to spend more time in our own place this year. Visitors will be very welcome!
  • Financial stability. We spent too much time in 2014 worrying about money. We’re not going to be rich in 2015, but I aim to tweak both our earning and our spending profiles so that we aren’t worried every month or two. We’re well along the way already, but I think we’re not quite there yet. (As part of this effort, I need to overcome some mental blocks regarding things like salary negotiations, career paths, and similar.)
  • I would still like to pick up some makam theory. Lavta might be more practical than ney, we’ll see.