2014 in review

How is it the end of the year already? It only feels like yesterday that I was sat writing last year’s review, yet here I am writing another one before we finally hit 2015.

Personal

As always, I’ll start off with the personal stuff. This was an interesting year, as it kicked off just like last year ended. Working hard, commuting back and forth to Fleetwood to see Lally and trying to fit everything else in between. The end of the year isn’t at all what I imagined, but I’m very happy with how things have turned out.

The biggest thing that happened this year is that Lally and I broke up. It was her idea, and at the time I considered moving back to the north, thinking that it was the distance. Thankfully, she didn’t let me and made it clear that it was done. Unfortunately, we’d already booked a holiday to San Francisco so we ended up going together. It wasn’t too bad – we still enjoyed each other’s company and we were there as friends, just not a couple. Since landing at the airport on the way back, I don’t think we’ve exchanged more than a few sentences via text/email. I thought I’d be more saddended about it than I am, but I suddenly realised that I wasn’t as happy as I could have been due to the commute back and forth.

I signed up to OK Cupid pretty much as soon as I got back home. I wasn’t actively looking, but I was very aware that I didn’t get many opportunities to meet people that weren’t white male programmers aged 18-35. I ended up going on a few dates which were ok. I wasn’t too sure at one point if I liked the girl, or if she was just attractive enough and I wanted the company. As it turns out, she was actually pretty racist (as I’d discovered by the third date) and I didn’t see her again.

Then, I met Chantelle. She messaged me, which is lucky as I remember her profile was empty so I’d just have skipped over it, but I decided to say hello as I was at the airport waiting for a flight home from Amsterdam (more on that later) and I’m so, so glad that I did. I won’t say too many nice things in case she reads this at some point in the future, but she’s kind of alright. Very different to me, but that’s good. It means I’m out of my comfort zone a lot, which I’m enjoying.

Wow… that was quite a lot about relationships really, wasn’t it?

My DayZero project ended on the 13th of December this year, and if I’m honest, I did a terrible job of it. My last blog post for it was back in March, and I didn’t get into the swing of it at all, despite having so much more free time. However, looking through it now I’m glad that I did a lot of things that I did, and there’s some things on there that I wouldn’t put on a list if I were making it now. I think it’s probably time for round two of the list soon.

In previous years, I’ve posted about becoming more like an adult. This year, I’m pleased to say that I’m less like an adult. I mean, I still go to work, I still have a pension, I still have a credit card and a car, but I’m starting to enjoy myself again. I’m doing things for fun, not just because I should. For example, a few weeks ago we walked 20 miles around London finding the Paddington Bear statues. I’d never have done that on my own, but with others it was really good fun.

What else happened this year? Natalie moved to the south to live with Chris. She lives about 30 minutes drive away from me now, but I still don’t see her enough. I should change that next year.

I also started taking the gym seriously in the latter part of the year – maybe September onwards. I really wanted to get to the point where I could run 5k without many issues. I plateaued at around 3km, but I went for a 5k road run with Chantelle and realised that I was just getting bored at 3k rather than getting tired. I even went for a run with my Dad when I was back for Christmas! Again, 5k, and he had to slow down a little for me but I didn’t hold him back too much. That was what I was aiming for as part of Day Zero, so now I can cross it off my list! As well as running, I started lifting weights a little. To start with, 3kg bicep curls (dumbells) and just the bar for bench presses (20kg). Slowly, I’ve worked my way up and I recently progressed to 7kg for curls and I managed a set of 35kg bench presses. I had to step back down to 32.5kg to finish the rest of my sets as I don’t have a spotter yet, but I was happy with myself that I managed to get to 35kg.

Finally, I crashed my car – No other cars involved and I was fine. It wasn’t an impact, I just clipped a curb and spun. It was on a dark B road driving back to Reading after Christmas at home. However, my poor car needs two new wheels and a new radiator. Rubbish, ey?

Holidays

So, holidays! The year started off with an impromptu trip to Mexico. There was a really cheap deal for flights on HotUKDeals so we booked it and flew out a week later. We stayed at the Oasis Viva, Blvrd Kukulcan which was lovely. It had a private beach and free wifi (which reached onto the beach from the hotel). I spent the entire week reading on my kindle, reading on my ipad (wifi is awesome) and eating/drinking. After going to Tunisia a few years back, Mexico was like heaven. It was just as warm, but everything felt cleaner, and the food was much nicer. As it’s mainly American tourists, the food was aimed at them, and as I love american food I felt right at home. Whilst we were there, we left the hotel only once – to go and see Chichen Itza. It was pretty impressive, if I’m honest. As a piece of architecture it looks pretty plain, but when you learn about all the calculations they did and how it casts certain shadows on certain days of the year it’s amazing.

In April, I was lucky enough to head to San Francisco with work. I flew out at the weekend and spent the first week out there working from our SF office. I had a few meeting with people about the design of a new billing system, but it was mainly about meeting people over there and seeing how the other half of the company works. I decided to add a week’s holiday to the end of my week there and spend a week exploring San Francisco. I enjoyed it, though not as much as I enjoyed New York. There’s lots of good places to eat, I cycled across the Golden Gate bridge and went the Google HQ. There’s a more detailed writeup over on my DayZero blog.

My final trip on a plane of the year was to Amsterdam in September for EndpointCon. Again, it was a trip more for work than pleasure but I managed to get another day after the conference to explore the city. This was a strange one, as I was there on my own. This meant that I didn’t go and have a sit down meal anywhere, instead opting to grab food on the go and see as much as I could. I must’ve walked 15 miles on the saturday around the city, just looking around. For me, the highlight of the trip was going on the canal tour and just taking in the city. On the way back, I finally got to use my

Work

I’m still really enjoying work. As of this month, it’s officially the longest I’ve ever been in a single job. I’m working across lots of different teams and projects as we have some quite big projects going on, which is interesting as I get to see a lot of the platform but next year I’d like to get my teeth stuck into one larger project.

The work social life is still as hectic as ever. We’ve started playing football on a Monday evening, which is something I didn’t really expect there to be much interest in. We have to turn people away every week though, and it’s always really good fun. Everyone’s getting much fitter! Tuesday is now Pathfinder, Thursdays are games night and Friday is (sometimes) pub night. We ended up freeing up Wednesdays so that people can have a life outside of work. I usually make it to Monday/Tuesday/Thursday, having Wednesday/Friday to myself. It’s a balance that works for me.

Conferences / Barcamps / Usergroups

This was a rubbish year for barcamps, but a decent one for conferences and usergroups.

It started back in February when I was at PHPUK as an attendee (Stuart H was speaking). Then, over the next few months I visited PHP Dorset, PHP Hampshire and Brighton PHP to give a talk. Dorset and Brighton went well, Hampshire was a new talk that I wasn’t entirely happy with, but I enjoyed it nontheless. Suddenly, it was August and I was at Redevelop.io as a backup speaker – fortunately I wasn’t needed, but it was good to catch up with a few people including Ross Tuck, who I saw again shortly afterwards when I was in Amsterdam speaking at EndpointCon (which is the most beautiful venue I’ve ever been to, the Tuschinski Theatre). Rounding off the year as always, was PHPNW. I’ve been to most of them either as an attendee or a speaker, and it’s always a really good weekend. My talk this year was the same one that I gave at PHP Hampshire – the same title at least. The content was all new, and it received mixed reviews. The general feedback is that the content was good, but not what was advertised in the abstract – something I agree with. I think I’ll retire that talk as I’ve tried to give it twice now and I wasn’t happy with it either time.

Gigs + Events

Ooh, a new section! Whilst making a list, I realised that I’ve actually done more this year than I thought I had.

I saw Sonic Boom Six in Manchester in February who were excellent. Laila sounds the same on stage as she does on a CD, which is always impressive!

I went to see Amaranthe on my own in April – it was my first gig on my own and I didn’t know what to expect. It was great – Amaranthe were entertaining and I met a few people there that I got chatting to.

I went to see Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Royal Albert Hall, but I didn’t have the best seat and I wasn’t feeling great so I left at half time. They’re good, but when they break into solo half way through every song, it just got to be a bit much.

Finally, Lindsey Stirling. I found Lindsey on Youtube a few years ago, and she’s my go-to work music. When I saw she was playing in London I emailed out to see if anyone wanted to go with me, but there was no interest so I booked my own ticket. Then a few months later I showed Nick (who showed Zafia and Chris) who then bought tickets and mentioned to Stuart D at work that we were going. As luck would have it, I still ended up on my own as I was the only person with downstairs tickets, but it was a fantastic gig. I’ll definitely go and see her again.

Other than gigs, I also did a few things of note:

After flying to Germany in February to watch League of Legends, I couldn’t not go and see them when they came to London. So, off to Wembley Arena I went for a weekend. The atmosphere was electric, it could have been a football match. I was there on my own on the Saturday (and somehow ended up with Youngbuck, the Copenhagen Wolves’ top laner’s dad and brother on the tube) and Adam came along on Sunday. It was a good weekend

I went to “The Art of the Brick”, a Lego exhibition on Brick Lane in London as one of Chantelle and I’s dates. It’s really cool, worth seeing. My favourite installation is definitely the solar system made out of Lego.

A few weeks after that, DataSift hired a box at Madejski stadium to go and see Reading play football. It was a good afternoon – a couple of drinks and a bit of food and a football game. As luck would have it, going to a football game was on my DayZero list, so that was another one checked off!

Finally, the Paddington Bears. We initially planned to do them all (all 57 of them) in one day, but as luck would have it we had two days. We needed them as well. To get all the bears, it was a 7 hour day on Saturday and a 12 hour day on Sunday. I’d budgeted 14 hours (8am-10pm), but had neglected the fact that it goes dark at 3/4pm. We did it on the shortest day of the year too, which didn’t help! Anyway, we got them all, and got a selfie with them all so: Achievement unlocked!

That was 2014

So, that was 2014. Let’s break down what I said last year:

After two years barely attending any events, I think 2014 is going to be the year that I attempt to do more public speaking. I’ll submit to all the conferences that I normally do, as well as others that are new to me. I’ll also be submitting ideas to user groups across the country to get a bit of practice in.

Yep! As mentinoed above I spoke at 2 conferences, 3 user groups, was a backup for another conf and attended one more.

As with every year, I want to ship more side projects. This year I had a bit of an epiphany that side projects don’t need to be beautiful, they just have to work. Hopefully that will help. As goals should be quantifiable, I’m going to launch 5 projects in 2014 (including the one I built this year).

Failed this one miserably. I didn’t even ship the one that was already built.

Less technically, I’m going to try and experience more. I’ve got a list of places to visit, a list of events to go to. I’m going to see Sonic Boom Six in February, and hope to add a lot more gigs to that list (whether I have to go alone or not!). I’m gonna go on a whisky tasting day, and a murder mystery weekend, and to see a London show. Basically, I’m going to do as much as I can, whilst I still can. I still have a long way to go on my Day Zero project, and I’m looking forward to crossing a lot of it off in 2014.

I went to see Sonic Boom Six (and more!). I went on a whisky tasting evening. No murder mystery weekend, but I did finally get to see a show (Wicked). Thinking about it, I crossed off a lot of my Day Zero list in 2014 – just not enough.

On top of that, I completed some items on there again, such as getting published (another PHP Architect article and a NetMag invited expert), I spoke at Endpoint and PHPNW. I also started work on a video series for Packt Publishing, which is interesting (though I won’t ever do another one).

I didn’t read enough books, but I also didn’t watch that much TV, or play that many games. I honestly have no idea where all my time went. I really do miss reading, maybe that’s one for 2015. All I need to do is start a book and I’m hooked. It’s just that first hour or two that I struggle to find.

So, 2015?

What do I want to do in 2015? Well, I’m fortunate that we’ve already got one holiday booked (Spain) and we’re booking a trip to Iceland in the next few days (Iceland is so nice).

I’m going to commit to 12 books next year. I don’t know when I’ll read, but I’ll find the time. Maybe instead of driving to work I’ll walk and read at the same time like I used to. It’s less than half an hour’s walk and I could probably go to the gym on the way.

Speaking of the gym, I’m definitely going to get to 10k this year. Chantelle ran a half marathon last year, so we’ve agreed that we’ll do a 10k this year. It’s looking like April, so I had better get training!

I’m going to go through my DayZero list and start another one. Some things I definitely want to do, which will carry over to my new list. Other things aren’t as important to me as I thought they were, and they’ll get dropped. I’m a little sad I didn’t finish it, but I’m very happy that I started it.

Really, though, I’m just going to see what the year brings. I’m happy at work, I’m happy in my personal life and I’m getting fitter. I’m enjoying where I’m living (which is more than I could say for this time last year) and I’m saving for a house deposit (slowly). Fingers crossed that this time next year things are going just as well.

Michael is a polyglot software engineer, committed to reducing complexity in systems and making them more predictable. Working with a variety of languages and tools, he shares his technical expertise to audiences all around the world at user groups and conferences. You can follow @mheap on Twitter

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