So last Thursday I turned 34. Fall always feels like a better time for reflection and re-assessment to me than New Years. This may have something to do with my birthday as well as Burning Man, and the lingering influence of the start of a new school year. So to that end, here are some reflections on my life at the moment.
Basically, my life currently revolves around a small number of areas of interest:
- Software development and the world of technology
- Music and saxophone
- Aerials fitness
- Lifestyle design: frugality, simplicity, efficiency
In the world of software development, it's an interesting time for me. I've had to do a lot more self-reflection and self-direction since quitting the cushy- but-rewarding corporate gig at HP back in January of 2011. I feel like I'm now enjoying my immersion into the world of web development and enjoying working across that full stack. I haven't quite found the right position yet, though. Working at Dojo4 was enjoyable, but it wasn't my favorite technology stack. When I took the Sococo job, it was explicitly being hired to work on node.js, which is my current obsession, but the reality turned out to be different, so after 7 months trying to finish and ship a PHP/backbone.js side project, I decided it was too long to spend on the wrong stack and I threw in the towel last week. I start a new job on Monday working in node.js, and I'm excited about it. It's a very small company so far, so there are a lot of unknowns.
In retrospect, I probably should have stuck to my freelance consulting guns a bit longer. There are some things about that working arrangement that seem very appealing to me, and I would like to at some point get a more thorough first-hand experience at freelancing for a while. The Dojo4 work was technically freelance, but since I was just subcontracting for an agency that did all of the work for me, it felt essentially like a full-time gig. However, most startups don't seem interested in using contracts for the most part, and most established companies don't use the bleeding-edge technologies I like. It's a bit of a challenge, but I think with more hustle I could convince startups to hire me on a contracting basis. Sococo actually brought another developer onto my team as a contractor, and two of their key desktop application developers are contractors from a third party agency that have been working at Sococo for over three years exclusively.
But starting Monday, it's back to full-time startup work for me, and I'm really excited about that. So the freelance thing will have to wait for now. Check my professional blog in the next few weeks for some posts about the new gig.
Now in terms of my own professional development, I feel like I'm becoming more self-aware of my own style and where I fall on the software political axis (as defined in Steve Yegge's epic Google Plus post). There is a mix of calm acceptance, confidence, and humility that comes with this, I feel.
Overall, I still feel strongly motivated to advance as a programmer. I work toward this by working on my functional programming, studying the works of my programming heroes, and gradually ticking off bullet items that move me in the right direction. I got some pull requests accepted into good projects this summer, which felt nice. They were all tiny and largely trivial, but it's a good start.
My music projects are still in a "keep calm and carry on" mode. I thought The Afronauts might split up earlier in the summer when the whining got particularly loud, but we seem to be past that now. I think I did good work there by scheduling one-on-one phone calls with every member of the band and listening to everyone's thoughts and feelings about the situation. In terms of concrete progress, there have been a few improvements, but overall we're still pretty much in the same boat. At least now I think people feel like they are being listened to and we're all motivated and aligned toward a single set of goals.
I've taken on more responsibilities with The Afronauts as the founder has declared he is no longer able to handle booking/promotion/etc. We'll see how things progress this fall after a fairly slow summer. I also wrote an original tune for The Afronauts on Tuesday, which I'm feeling good about. We tried it out at rehearsal and I think it will work. Hopefully, we can premier it at our Laughing Goat gig on October 20.
I've been playing with Jasmine and Andrea a bit in a post-Apogaea incarnation of the Gypsy Wranglers. I learned to play the piano part of the Morelenbaum/Sakamoto arrangement of Sabiá. That took many hours of woodshedding, but it's really fun to play. I've recently been transposing some Bach Two-Part inventions for Jasmine and I to play as sax/cello duets. Ultimately I think I'll end up in some kind of performance art arrangement in the style of Blue Man Group. I recently worked on a new composition by M. Zachary Johnson for solo alto saxophone, made a recording, and sent it in for an informal competition the composer is running. That should be announced sometime next week. I'm worried that reviewers on the web are going to unleash their hate on me, but we'll see. The experience has me leaning toward performance situations where your energy isn't spent perfecting microscopic details, like it is when recording concert music. Thus something like March Fourth Marching Band is more appealing to me these days. Incidentally, M4 is playing Boulder/Denver again at the end of October, hurray!
I'm enjoying aerials. I usually practice on my own 2-3 sessions a week. I've been working on the same 3 drops for a few months now, though, and I'm about ready to take some more classes. One of the nice perks of the new job is a $150/month health & wellness stipend. I'm actually pretty excited about that because that is enough to get a dual membership to Boulder Rock Club & The Spot as well as a few aerials classes and open workouts. It's more than I will have time and energy to do. I've also been researching local gym options as the long bike ride to Boulder is starting to become less enjoyable. The best deal around still seems to be the Louisville Rec Center, which has a great pool and adequate free weights. The only problem is their hours are fairly limited and their free weight section is poorly laid out. I would like to do more BRC group fitness classes, so we'll see how my schedule works out with the new job. While I do mostly enjoy my long bike rides between Louisville and Boulder, the 12 miles to the Boulder Circus Center in extreme north Boulder is definitely losing its charm, and I'd like to perhaps try to not do so many commutes to Boulder or perhaps find a place to crash in Boulder.
I'd like to put together a solo aerial act over the next few months and maybe perform it at the AirCat student show in December. I'll need to get some choreography help.
After my go-nuts-no-rules vacation for 10 days in early August where I packed on 7 lbs, I'm back to my weekly cycle of pretty strict dieting during the week getting down to 135 lbs and then loosening things up on the weekends and hitting 138 lbs or so. I'd like to not have any more "binge days" where I put on 2-3 lbs in a single day, but rather would like to be able to enjoy a dessert or a beer at will throughout the weekend, and also a bit more snacking during the week. I'd like to bring apples and bananas back into my diet as well. But in general, I feel like I've found the lowest body fat I can reasonably hit at 135 lbs. Even if I eat strictly slow carbs, my body will start bouncing up above 135 right away unless I do substantial exercise.
Mostly, my obsession with Mr. Money Mustache continues. I have a new roommate signed up starting in October helping to pay my mortgage. I think in general I've curtailed my spending significantly, but it's more challenging than one might think to really understand and visualize it. I've started building some custom-tailored software to help me do this, and I'm thinking about eventually building a site with a bunch of tools to help people understand their personal finances. Definitely my restaurant budget has gone way way down, but I also haven't been doing that much dating this summer, with the exception of a handful of dates, most of which ended up being on the expensive side.
I'm in the process of moving my checking and savings accounts from Chase to ING Direct so I can keep lower balances and thus move more money into investments at Vanguard. I hope to have that finalized by November 1 and get the Chase accounts closed out, but it's a slow process with a lot of things to be reconfigured online as all my bills are fully automated. The one drawback is I won't have convenient access to ATMs except for a few specific locations. One of those locations is my local Super Target though, so if I just take out a bunch of cash periodically when I'm there shopping, it shouldn't be a problem as I don't use cash that much.
So I guess my thoughts aren't quite as clear as I had thought, but that's where I am now. I feel like I should be stepping up my game at a good clip these days, but we'll see how the fall plays out.