🎵 The song for this post is Despacito, by Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee. 🎵
Another year gone. Of all the years I've lived through, this was definitely one of them. The world continues to be shit: we've elected fascist leaders in Brazil and Britain, China is murdering muslims, India is fucking shit up in Kashmir, Lebanon has violence in the streets, Republicans lie with impunity while pardoning war criminals and Democrats are spineless toads, both parties reflecting the anxieties of a racist, anxious, mostly-White Boomer populace who just can't graciously fade away; they can't really help it because their attentions and fears are juiced by media platforms that exploit them for ads. And, obviously from the preceding paragraph, me as well!
But! We continue with our lives (maybe to our eventual demise!). Personally, I feel like this was a pretty successful year. A few efforts bore fruit, and I feel like I've grown in a lot of the ways I wanted to. Maybe that's all you can reasonably hope for.
Left Lyft, joined an early-stage startup
These tend to start with my job. I left Lyft in May, and joined Ramp as one of the first full-time hires. This deserves its own post (or a few), but I'll say a few things now:
My time at Lyft was absolutely fabulous, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for that kind of gig. Easily the best "established company" job I've ever had, on many fronts; I learned a ton and worked with incredible people.
It required something special to get me to look elsewhere, and that's what Ramp is: the founders previously founded Paribus, where Karen was one of the first hires. I've had a lot opportunities to see the company and its people over her shoulder and at social events and feel thrilled to be a foundational part of what comes next.
If you'd like to chat about working with us, reach out! It might be a good fit 😄
Continued body work…
Content note for eating, food, dieting, weight loss.
About a year and a half ago I wrote about a body shaping initiative I'd taken with some success, I ended that cut in October 2018 and lost about 55 pounds. I'll write another post in February or so, but the 2019 story is that I kept at it, with a lot more weight lifting: I started my first bulk cycle in 2018 and did a few bulk/cut cycles this year.
There are a million disclaimers about all of this; I put a bunch of them in the first post and will put more in the follow-up. Diet culture is bullshit, fat shaming is bullshit, and what I'm doing isn't "getting healthy," the focus is aesthetics and health is not something you can understand by looking at someone's body. I'm having a great time taking agency on this, weight lifting is tremendous fun, and getting into my body has been a great way to get out of my head.
…with a lot less meat and alcohol
Starting around my birthday in late August, I stopped eating meat, and stopped drinking alcohol.
Well, not entirely, but almost. I don't cook with or order meat. If my partner has leftovers I know she won't eat, and I'm hungry, I'll eat them. I'm not extremely strict about it: I had turkey on Thanksgiving, and ate everything Karen's family made when I visited them in late December. But aside from the holidays, I've had meat a single-digit number of times since August. The catalyst was the burning Amazon, after Bolsonaro got elected.
I've kept up at it pretty well. I don't take the "any meat means you've failed" mentality, more of a "even if you slip, it's still a massive improvement from where you were." I love this article by Charlotte Shane and this quote in particular:
I wonder which dietary choices would be more attainable if we replaced the idea of willpower with external support and encouragement; if we replaced the pressure of conversion with the commitment of a standing invitation. Eating is already so emotional, it’s hard to believe that applying panic and absolutism can help.
With that in mind, I don't judge anybody for eating whatever they do. If you're curious to try this, or ask why I'm doing it in more detail, let's talk. If you think I'm full of crap, let's talk. I've wanted to do this for years but the habit sticks more now that I removed a bit of pressure from it.
Stopping alcohol has been less grounded in anything concrete, to be honest. I sincerely love being tipsy or drunk as much as the next person, but I suspected I might like how it felt to remove the up/down cycles of drinking, even casually. Just like regular exercise feels pretty miserable for the first few weeks but later gets great, I wanted to see how things like mood, attention, and sleep regulation (all pretty critical for my continued happiness) changed if my liver and brain weren't getting gummed up as often. It dawned on me a few times last year that, without trying, I had a drink or a two at least 2-4 times a week. In the context of other drug use (yes, alcohol is a drug), it seemed excessive.
It's been… fun! I mean, I miss booze. I like the way alcohol tastes. But I also come back from parties or social events feeling exactly like myself. I sleep better. I can work out the next morning. I think I'll keep doing this.
Bought a house
I wrote about it here. This was Karen's achievement a lot more than mine. She did 90% of the research, legwork, mortgage negotiation, and paperwork. Both our finances contributed to making this happen, but my role was smaller in that too. She was bench pressing while I spotted.
I had a co-worker ask "how do you get started on this process? How should I plan for it?" and the first thing I said was "have a bomb-ass partner." I mention it here because it was a big part of 2019, and has a large impact on me personally. But in a post where I'm reflecting on the things I did, I want to make it very clear: I'm having a ride on these here coattails!
I got 200 berries in Celeste. This means having beaten each level without dying, in a game where deaths are common. This… is very hard. I didn't know I could or would do it. They've added some DLC which means I'm now one extremely hard berry short of full completion, but I'm still super satisfied that I got the others. I hope to get a tattoo this year (I've said this for years…), thinking it'll have some Celeste imagery in it.
In 2018 I made an effort to blog more, and I did! In 2019 I continued (and improved my blogging software to boot). I'm happy with most of what I put here, but here are some favorites (chronological order):
High-level thoughts about Machine Learning hype, and where I think it's overblown.
I got back on the "making creative things" train. I'm pretty proud of the D&D adventure I wrote, as well as the rejected ideas for it, and various characters and sketches. I also enjoyed doing sound art for the event I went to.
There was also a performance component to that event: I played the "reverse Hamburglar": I went around and offered people hamburgers from a sack.
Lesser-known was the "condiment utility belt." The original conception was to have fancy condiments, like saffron aoili, whole grain mustard, or Sir Kensington's ketchup. Turns out they don't make condiment packets for these things, and it'd be expensive and labor-intensive to make them.
While almost all my effort has been on everything else in this page, I finally launched a side project. It barely works! The UI is terrible! But it's up, and the last two years have taught me that incremental progress, no matter how slow it feels, is the way to make things happen. So if you'd like, check out Amado (and please let me know if you do; I'd love feedback and to guide you through using it if you intend to).
What is Amado? It was a gift I made Karen for her birthday in 2018, and probably the best gift I've ever given. I reached out to all her friends I've met through dating her (old high school friends from the weddings we've gone to, family from holidays, college friends, former co-workers) and asked them to chip in responses to questions like:
- "When I think of Karen, I think of…"
- "My first impression of Karen is…"
- "I trust Karen to be the person to…"
I then put them in a database, and wrote Amado to send her those messages at random times for the next year. So the site Amado lets you input those messages, and sends them to the person you'd like.
There's a lot of UI to clean up, and features to build (gathering those messages is challenging, and requires something of a CRM). And I know no idea where I'll find the time to tinker with it. But it's possible right now to build one of these gift campaigns; my best friend in Singapore has one running for his partner right now.
As with the last two years, first and foremost, make it stick. If I do nothing new but keep adding to the efforts I've got going on, I think I'd be pretty happy.
These are some holdovers from last year, which I still have hopes for:
Learn me some practical Machine Learning, as before. I've done MNIST and a few other tutorials, but still don't feel like I can take an arbitrary problem and apply ML to it with confidence.
Music, as before. I loved playing with Sonic Pi, and still get jealous of people who feel empowered enough to just make music.
The Dogs, as before. They've been a major challenge to live with, and I'd like to invest in solutions to this so it's easier.
Some new ones:
Cooking more. Frankly, I eat out way too much, and I don't think it's good for my wallet or my health. Especially since I cut out meat (and if I choose to try full vegan next year), things get a bit easier if you can make your own.
Financial prudence. I don't consider myself irresponsible and don't take debt, but I think I can minimize my costs with a bit of correctly-paid attention. I was looking at software like beancount for things like this, or the resources in Plain Text Accounting.
More self-hosting and indie web. I like the little Pablo Extended Universe (added RSS with a Miniflux instance at rss.morepablo.com!), but would still like to get code hosting up, and who knows what else. Calendar software? Fitness data? Budget tracking? A media server? Put it all in a Docker image for anyone to run? Who knows?!
Here's to 2020 🥂
Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄