I remember walking over to my dad after a particularly bad track meet in high school, head down, angry, and looking up at him with a proud smile on his face. “I cannot believe how fast you looked on that runway!” Pole-vaulting is a mental and physical Rube Goldberg machine. Each phase is a crucial state initializer to the next, and worthless in isolation.

He followed me around to all my meets, rooting for me, encouraging me, even regularly making the 5 hour trek up to Ann Arbor when his body was starting to fail him when I was competing in college. As far as Big Ten pole-vaulters go I was pretty middle of the pack, firmly in the “Athletes Who Go Pro in Something Other Than Sports” category. Eventually though Dad got more sick, classes got harder, things more complicated. It takes a bit of mental gymnastics to start sprinting towards a metal hole in the ground holding the end of a 15 foot pole convincing yourself that this is going to end well. It was tough to keep the machine running as consistent as I wanted, so I had to turn it off.

2015 felt kind of like jumping 13 feet at Sectionals. Good speed, high plant, long trail leg, but I can’t really say it went like I’d hoped. I’m not sure I can summarize 2015 any better, which is probably why it’s mid-February and I’m just now trying. There were plenty of pieces to be proud of but I feel like I spun my wheels a bit.

I’m trying to look at this year like my dad would though. I see flaming out just after opening height, but I’m trying to look for the parts that made it meaningful. Here are some highlights:

Shan and I bought a condo. It was a long process and continues to be a huge sink of time and energy, but it was the right call for us and we’ve had a lot of fun with it.

We did a fair amount of traveling, most notably two weeks exploring Switzerland and Northern Italy with another couple. This trip was split between hiking and exploring popular Italian cities. I could probably be given honorary Italian citizenship based on my hobbies these days, but I think the mountains unexpectedly stole the show. I mean, Switzerland:


And the Dolomites:

The Dolomites

Believers made in these hills.

I learned a ton this year. I didn’t sleep enough. I still spend most evenings working on side-projects, prototyping ideas, trying to stay fresh. I’ve done more web stuff this year which is a change. I read a book on Java 8 since apart from Android dev I don’t get to use Java and I wanted to see what’s new.

I started Project Euler, which is a series of math/programming challenges. I made it through Problem 38 before starting to lose interest. Some of the problems began to feel a bit repetitive, too often involving tricks for efficiently generating primes, factorizations, etc. Once I had libraries built up for this stuff a lot of these problems came quickly. They continue to get harder as I go though, so I may still see how far I can make it. As a side note, I wrote my solutions in Ruby to learn Ruby and kill two birds with one stone. My solutions are open-sourced here.

I started playing around with writing smart contracts for Ethereum. An entirely decentralized Internet is still really exciting to me, and Ethereum appears to be leading us there. Relatedly, I’m still not really excited about Bitcoin. I’m certainly no sage, but I wrote two years ago that Bitcoin is Broken. It seemed obvious at the time. I certainly wasn’t the only one with that opinion, but a consensus slowly seems to be forming here. This consensus of course largely excludes those holding gobs of Bitcoin insisting there’s nothing to see here. Former Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn’s take is hotter than mine and worth reading. My critique mostly consisted of centralization of state consensus, which could be fixed. Mike’s includes centralization of the definition of the protocol itself, which is possibly even worse.

I fell hard down the Espresso rabbit hole, even going to barista school at Intelligentsia. My latte art is still pretty marginal, but I’m pulling good shots with increased consistency. There’s a lot more to say about this so I should probably save it for another post.

I actually made some good progress in my Charcuterie Project, but you’d never know it because my backlog of write-ups is growing. I should probably fix this.

I wrote a bit about my origin story last year and still stand by it. I’m realizing a bit more though as I battle through my own imposter syndrome that I tend to canonize people I look up to, set apart as untouchable titans uniquely gifted in ways the rest of us mortals can only marvel at. I still know a few people who might qualify. More commonly though, brilliance gets confused for passion. Genius, for time. Accomplishments, for persistence. Better to be a normal who cares than a disengaged genius. And the more people I’ve met, the more I’ve seen behind the curtain, the more I realize it’s less equations on the library window than effort aligning with passion. Long nights, frustration and failures, but deeply caring about the version of the future being worked towards. And the fleeting epiphany.

That’s great news for us.

This post started more pessimistic than what followed but I think that last thought is why. My biggest frustration in 2015 was the amount of time I spent where passion and effort were out of alignment. Too many things pulling at my attention, too much wringing out effort instead of plugged-in losing time.

So no goals for 2016. Just a concerted effort to decrease the time I spend towards languid obligations, and an increase in the amount of time I spend caring in earnest.

4 Responses to “2015”

  1. Pam says:

    I love to read your writings! I am so proud! Your dad would be too! Love you!

  2. Nate says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I certainly feel the same way wrt effort and passions sometimes. It would be great to spend a weekend together and catch each other up on blockchain contracts and artificial pancreases.

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