Looking back, looking forward

2018 was a monumental year for me, and I’m hoping 2019 will keep up the momentum.

I don’t have any big overall lessons or revelations, but I thought it would be helpful to list some of my 2018 highlights.

Life events:

  • The birth of my third child Monya who shares a birthday with Harry Potter. During the birth, her head was stuck and a vacuum was used to get her out. Due to fluid in her lungs for a bit longer than normal and a bad reaction to the vitamin K shot, we ended up in the NICU for over a week, then home for three days, and in the Children’s Hospital for nearly a month. It was a bit of a harrowing time for our family, but thank God and the excellent staff at GHS that we made it through safe and sound and we’ve now had our little lady at home with us for four months. She’s small, at five months, she’s almost 11 pounds, so she’s still not up to the 11-lb, 9-oz birth weight of her older sister yet.img_3862img_3864
  • After three years in the same position at my company, I earned a nice promotion into a role within the Engineering division’s Business Intelligence group. My title is Internal Process Champion, and I spend a lot of my day figuring out ways to reduce meetings, cut out most email, and embrace modern collaboration platforms. It’s a great gig, and I’m thankful for it.
  • I completed the first year of my return to college. I dropped out of college near the end of my freshman year in 1998, tried again briefly for a semester, but I took the path of failure and dropped out. I should probably tell that story someday. In 2017 I enrolled at the University of London in an online B.A. program in English Literature and Philosophy. I completed the year with very decent grades (first classes and second class, upper levels). I’m taking a year’s break for the moment due to the chaos of the new baby and job, but I’m looking forward to years two and three of my degree program.
  • I found an emerging writing critique group in my city created by my friend Evelina Everest. Joining that group and having my fiction writing critiqued has been a wonderful experience. Go read her blog post on how she formed the group!

Notable books read:

  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler – This book is an excellent guide to different types of reading from quick skimming for relevant content to intense consumption of technical volumes with pencil or pen in hand to mark up the work. I’m going to include this book along with any other high school graduation gift I give in the future. It’s wonderful.
  • The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim – This is a business book about how to adopt a DevOps approach in a company that is written in a novelized form. It’s a great primer to DevOps, which basically is a way to get engineers and IT working together in an agile paradigm. I’ve been working to implement a DevOps-style collaboration with our IT department for a while, and I credit this book for leading me to that path.
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain – This is one of those books that’s been on my Kindle for years without cracking the book. This was a couple of months after Bourdain killed himself and that dead man’s joie de vivre helped get me through my daughter’s stay in the hospital. If you like the culinary world you must read Kitchen Confidential.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – This was one of the books in my UoL program that greatly resonated with me. I’m not the orphaned adopted son of a blacksmith who gets brought up to society in London, but having come from a rural past of deprivation and abuse I felt very close to young Phillip Pirrip.
  • Emma by Jane Austen – I’ve never read Austen before and Emma both confirmed some of the tropes I expected in regency novels (matchmaking, a strict class divide) but also delivered wonderful surprises and the character of George Knightley that I admired a great deal. I loved Austen’s prose and will need to seek out her other works.
  • Hamlet: Poem Unlimited by Howard Bloom – this was my first introduction to Bloom’s critical works. This thin volume has a number of amazing revelations on the play I had never considered. If you are a fan of the melancholy Dane, I highly recommend reading it.
  • Anatomy of Criticism by Northrup Frye – this work was my favorite read of the twenty or so books I read for my Critical Theory class. I really connected with Frye’s methods and goals as a critic.
  • Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky – Make Time is kind of a cookbook of various productivity tactics. The overall core of their message is that you focus on your daily highlight (one major task you need to get done to make the day’s work a success), figure out ways to increase focus and energy, and then review at the end of each day how well yo- I ur tactics worked. If they did, great–do them again. If not, find others. I really like this approach and the a la carte aspect of their method.
  • 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson – this is likely the most controversial of my picks, so I kind of buried the lede. Peterson has come under a lot of political criticism from both the left and the right, but none of that detracts from the wealth of knowledge imparted by this longtime clinician and university professor. If by some chance you haven’t heard of this book or this author, I’d direct you toward this somewhat-critical review by Slate Star Codex which is appropriate given that the author of that blog is also a psychologist and complex political commentator who is more of a classic liberal than a left-winger or right-winger.

Looking forward to 2019

There is a lot of possibility in the year ahead, both personal and professional. I’m loathed to make predictions or New Year’s Resolutions, but here’s what I have cooking at the moment and what I hope will happen this year:

  • Finishing The Clarinet and the Axe – my manuscript is moving along in infrequent bursts – I generally get 10k words written a month. The critiques I get back from my writing group are pretty positive, and I’m looking forward to wrapping up the book this year.
  • Getting a bit more svelte – I’ve lost more than 100 lbs over the past five years, but I have another 100 to go before I get to where I need to be. After my on-again, off-again love affair with keto, my wife and I are embracing the Slow Carb Diet created by productivity guru Tim Ferriss. It’s not too different than any other low-carb diet except that you cut out dairy, add in beans, and have a weekly cheat day. I think the cheat day will help keep us focused. We’ll just have to see how it turns out. It’s essentially just lean meats, legumes, and veggies, lots of veggies. Here are the basics.
  • Time tracking – I need to get better at daily routines, daily discipline, and using my time for what is important rather than just what is expedient. As such, I want to employ analog time tracking using my Jibun Techo planner. If you’re more of a digital-only kind of person, this excellent post on time tracking apps on Asian Efficiency may be more up your alley.
  • Continuing my Morning Pages writing discipline. I can’t promise I’ll get this every day–having a baby that is determined to wreck my sleeping schedule can throw a monkey wrench in my carefully-laid plans–but I’ll do my best. I’m a better writer and a better person when I start my day with coffee and Morning Pages.
  • At least one or two blog posts a week. I’d like to commit to daily posts, but with everything else going on in my life right now, I don’t see that happening.

What were your favorite books read in 2018? Do you have a list of your plans for 2019? Post the link in the comments, I’d love to read it.

2 thoughts on “Looking back, looking forward

  1. Great Expectations is a favorite of mine. One of those books I was required to read in high school that I actually enjoyed. I’m not sure what my favorite read of 2018 was. I read a lot of good books, but I’m not sure if any of them are the kind of books I’ll remember five years from now as GREAT reads. You’ve already read my plans for ’19. Happy New Year, David. Looking forward to seeing at pub nights.

    Liked by 1 person

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