PK 2011 year end review

I am writing my 2011 year end review in January 2012. A little bit of catching up eh? It was quite a year.

January - Get Healthy

I tried this one year ago but gave up. This time I stuck with it -- Couch to 5K.  What helped? An iPhone app of course. I started in mid January. Done in end of march. Thanks to Nike+ shoes with sensor, I also have a complete history of the progress. I am not a jock. Running is really a fight against determination. At this level no skill is required. Just determination. What kept me from doing this before was the time commitment. As someone who micro manage my own time to squeeze productive time from myself in minutes increment, taking time "off" from the work day, one and a half hour at a time seems unthinkable, before. Now? I am still not 100% committed, but when I run, I do feel the benefits. I slacked off towards the end of the year. As I am writing this In January, I have restarted running regularly again. Mind you, at my last time I am doing a little Short of 5K in 30 minutes. But I will Keep it going.

By the way, Adam Lisagor made a very cool video for this app. Check it out. He also did a video for the book Being Geek. Both are worth watching.

Community Service

This year I have double, tripled or quadrupled  my community work. There is the park across the street, and the local library. Being on the board of both friend's group kept me pretty busy, but it is great to work with a bunch of people who really care about the neighborhood. For the park, I help organized several events. One of them, a community gardening day co-sponsored by the Boston Park's department and Mrs Myers (the organic soap people) got my kids pictures in the local paper. That was not my intend, but they were mighty proud, especially as it was on fathers day. The unfortunate side effect is this fuel M's natural fame seeking tendencies. Now when we go to any of these events she'll ask whether we will end up in the Newspaper again!

A lot of the library's work is about fund raising. We did a paper mailing campaign this year. I do not remember the last time I labeled and stamped so many envelopes. You would think a paper mailing campaign would not work in 2011? It did. We raised quite a bit of money from that. Now you can argue that the public library crowd are more paper centric then most. Perhaps that is true.

Esplanade Playspace

A group of parents, event more determined than me, managed to build a brand new playground on the esplanade. This is no small feat. It says a lot about the calibre of families involved. For the non Boston reader, this is next to the hatch shell where the famous annual Boston Pops fourth of July music and fireworks is held each year. As the key organizers are parents from my kids' school, I offered to help with all the web and online communications. On a relative scale my contribution is small, but it did take a lot of time over the year. The playground opened just before it turned cold. Now the kids go there for recess most days. If you have a chance, go visit it. It really is am amazing playground, I'd say, objectively speaking, the best in Boston to date. M and G rightfully are pretty proud of our involvement also.

Civic Duty

Ask me how I spent my birthday... I spent it with fifteen new friends in a locked room: A Jury room to be exact. I got called and selected as a Jury on a very involved criminal case downtown. It took almost three weeks: 8:30 to 4:30 every weekday. While I don't want to talk too much the case, it was an eye opener. I learnt that:

  • it is possible for my clients to have me take a 3 weeks mini vacation (although I spend a lot of late nights catching up)
  • the police and state prosecution's work is very hard
  • the jury system works (at least in this case)
  • and I now know a lot about guns, anatomy with respect to wounds, and urban crime issues.
  • what happen in a CSI type TV shows, which I dislike strongly to start, take place in more like 1 year in real live

City Politics

I have never been very interested in Politics. When I don't like something somewhere, I tend to just move. Perhaps it is getting older. Perhaps it is having more responsibilities in general. Perhaps it is having children. I now care a great deal about the local politics, especially the politics in the City of Boston. This is where I live, where I work, and were my children go to school. Almost by chanced, I met Suzanne Lee over the summer. I ended up working on her team on her bid for a City Council seat. We lost by 87 votes. It was that close. And that is why local politics matter. I am ready for the next election in two years. I do not like to loose.

Steve Jobs

Spending my birthday in jury room is nothing compare to the sad news that Mr. Jobs has passed away. Having your hero died on a major birthday of yours is a wake up call. I has been a big fan of his before it was chic to like him. I attended his NeXt unveiling at the Boston Symphony hall October 1988, about 23 years ago. They gave out a wide format poster of the NeXt system that I kept, in it's tube, for many years. In fact I may still have it in storage. I do not remember. I thought of trying to get it autographed at the event but decided against it. I wish I did. I also purchased "Steve Jobs: The Journey Is the Reward", an early autobiography of him way back then. Even then I had to purchased it used because, well I guess he wasn't that famous. But I really agree with his style and ideal, his understanding of design and connections, his uncompromising desire to make a dent in the world.

I have a lot to say about Steve Jobs and I won't do it here. I selected these two pictures of him from many that I think it's fitting to remember him by.

Work Life

Given that much going on you may think that I have retired. On the contrary, this year has been a great year for work also. We really have gain a lot of momentum with our development framework and processes. We worked on a few larger projects and hope to do more next year. This year the Django world definitely have matured a lot and have gain popularity in the start-up world. While Rails may still have more perceived used, the Django population is gaining grounds. What get's thrown in the mix of course is iOS. By next year we may have to get into iOS work whether we like it or not. The latest iOS, XCode and objective-C changes did make iOS development a bit easier.

We also moved office, again! The move was unplanned. The old building and landlord decided to up the rent drastically, and at the same time we didn't really need that much space. As luck would have it, a space that I know of became available. We did loose our Table Tennis table, but I cut my commute down to 45 seconds. Seriously 45 seconds between the two buildings. The new office is also much nicer in quality. Less industrial loft, more glass walls.

Family Life

I have a feeling that I am going to say the same thing every year from this point on. This year, both G and M grown a lot in every way. M particularly has finally gotten a lot more independent. She is even sleeping in her own bed now. It does seem ridiculous that it took so long to get this done, especially comparing to G. But the end result is stunningly good. Towards the end of the year, she has even decided to get rid of the "I am a boy" look. Now she is equally comfortable in the tom boy look and the pink sporty look. While princess dresses are still out, we are at a good balance. G's thinking process has continue to grow. Because of the Scratch club I get to see him interact in school a lot with other students and teachers. He is still on the timid side but he is getting a little better. He has taken up with Chess and he is getting good at it. For the first time, I found him a library book about chess and he actually read through the book and learnt a few things from it.

Looking at both of them with books, it really reaffirms the importance of reading for children. Every so often I remind them -- do you remember a few years ago you cannot read? Think of all this fun you are having now! Partly because public libraries has started to lend Kindle e-books, I got them their own Kindles for Christmas. Now they will have books available to them all the time.

I knew of this great Maker run Summer camp for awhile, but only this year they are (barely) old enough to attend. They had a ball! Geo caching, fishing, making things with LED's and PVC pipes, cooking and soldering. While I taught G soldering just earlier in the year, now they both can do it after I gave M some additional instruction after the camp. Someone said soldering is the gateway skill to engineering. I completely agree. I do not remember whether I started building circuitry only because I see my Dad doing it, or my Dad encouraged me to start. Either way I think I started a little later than M and G. Not much, but a little later.


2011 has been a very eventful year. There are more things then what I can fit into this already long post. Happy 2012 to everyone!