2008 – My Year In Review

In some weird ways, I have a love/hate relationship with ‘Top 10 lists’, which we see a lot off at the end of the year. Most of the time they seem to be nothing more but a way to get more traffic to your site, but I still fall for it and what to see (and compare) my lists! One thing I do like doing at the end of the year is looking back at what happened. While your not any different on 12/31/08 11:59 than you will be on 1/1/09 12:01, the new year obviously gives a fresh new look on life.

While 2008 for me wasn’t as busy as 2006 (got married) and 2007 (new job, new house, promotion), it was still a great year:

There were some accomplishments this year that I’m pretty happy about (though didn’t plan):

  • I dramatically grew my professional and personal connections, which has so many different possibilities for the future. Many people I met professionally are also great friends, and great resources as well. In the last year, I managed to meet and know many great people.
  • I learned a ton of new topics and web technologies. I think the single largest topic that really sparked my interest was SEO. Id love to do something like that professionally (or consult with those that need help).
  • I gained confidence in my ability to do stuff around the house without burning it down or destroying it (too much).
  • I gained confidence in sharing my knowledge with others and knowing that they may rely on this for business decisions. And then I became very happy seeing that my sharing of knowledge not only made them more profitable, but built up my confidence for being able to answer questions others may have and knowing I’m right.
  • My site almost doubled in traffic last year! This is mostly thanks to my READERS! This sparked my interest in moving my site to my own hosting platform in the possibility to monetize my efforts. This also lit the fire under my other passion, Photography, and wanting to expand my other blog.

All in all, a lot of the year was a blur to me with everything going on at work especially. But after seeing the results of last year’s haphazard blur (without any planning), I want to set certain goals/plans:

  • Actually finish another (or couple more) projects around the house
  • Learn Cocoa/Obj-C, and write my first Mac app in a LONG time.
  • Produce at least one meaningful app for distribution, either for Windows, Mac OS, or the iPhone. I would also like to create at least one plug-in for an already existing platform, like WordPress.
  • Get a better handle on our finances and investments.
  • Start getting healthy. Loose weight, eat better, feel better.
  • Continue to grow my professional and personal contacts.
  • Further develop and start to promote my side work, including freelance web and app development, hosting, and photography.
  • Learn everything I can.
  • Be an even better husband/son/friend/brother/person.
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A somewhat disconnected and very enjoyable Christmas!

I didn’t get online much over the Christmas break, and for good reason. I was enjoying (as well as cursing at) the joys of home ownership (as well as celebrating the holidays).

Earlier last week, I started taping off most of the office. After we finished our Christmas shopping, we stocked up on supplies we needed for projects over the long weekend. The office is a light blue, and the living room / dining room/ halls will be an off-white color. After everything was prepped, it was time to ‘sign off’ and get to work.

After working half-day on Wednesday, we started moving a few items that were no longer needed from the office to other parts of the house. I was able to put up a coat of primer, mainly to give me a standard surface to paint on rather than the mix of thin lime-green paint over what used to be a pink room (note: this is the one room we did not touch when moving in). That night we went to go visit my dad’s side of the family for Christmas dinner and a gift exchange. We didn’t stay long, but it was nice to catch up with parts of the family, as well as to learn more about my cousins baby (who was born that morning!)

Deborah is still a little kid at heart on Christmas, so we usually get up rather early (that, and we are just so used to getting up at 7AM or earlier now, its hard to sleep in). After relaxing until 8, we exchanged our gifts. My wife (being the awesome one she is) gave me some cool new things:

  • Left4Dead (for the 360) and LittleBigPlannet (for the PS3)
  • Cocoa programing for Mac OS X – what I hear to be one of the best resources for learning Cocoa
  • Strut Tower Brace for my car – helps reduce body-roll in unibody cars. The SE-R’s have them, and her Stratus had one from the factory as well.
  • A Massage gift card – since im an old man (or at least feel like one), I get to relax for an hour and try to feel better!

Afterwords, there was a whirlwind of visits throughout the day, with the hopes of at least getting one coat of paint up. After going to her moms for breakfast, and then visiting my parents, we came home to cut-in and do the first coat of paint. This was able to dry while we went to my moms large Christmas dinner, and see quite a few faces we only see a few times a year. Friday we drove to Suffolk, VA to visit a close friend and her family, as well as do some shopping in Norfolk to just get out of town.

Since part of Saturday was pretty nice, we decided to get outside and start cleaning up the yard. But after the ‘perfect storm of events’ – tall grass, to much wind, and surprisingly little amounts of leaves to actually pick up, I just cut the front yard and called it quits. I usually love yardwork, but leaves are the one thing that really kills me. The weekend was already coming to an end, and I had yet to really get a chance to relax (or to finish the room).

Sunday was that day. I started painting the rest of the office, but ignored the ceiling and touch-ups (they will come when we move everything back out in 3 or so weeks). After playing some video games for a while, we put things back together in the office, and I also setup a new wireless router and redid part of our network.

During this entire time, I really never sat on the computer to check my feeds, respond to many emails, or see whats up on Facebook. The only time I actually really used the computer was to stream music while working. Though, I wasn’t fully disconnected, I obviously had my phone on me the entire time. I was able to respond to emails, check prices, chat with friends, and keep in touch like normal. This really attests to the iPhone’s versatility, and how useful a product like it can actually be. In some ways, the simplistic phone interface actually made tasks much easier than it would have been using a computer.

All in all it was  a great holiday. I have the office back to normal (somewhat) and ready to start on the next task (which is, in short, repaiting a large portion of the house, moving everything we own into 2 rooms, and tearing up carpet!).

Blogging more about owning a home

Almost 2 years ago, I started writing quite a few posts about our entire process of home buying in the Richmond, VA area. Some of these posts actually got quite a few hits, helped a few people out doing the same thing, and even helped us make quite a few decisions!

Since then, we have been so busy, with life, work, and more – that we haven’t focused as much on the house as we should. Yes it stays clean and organized, but we have delayed so many projects due in the past due to my busy work schedule or Toby.

Now that we have a bit more time (and more focus), we are starting up some new home projects, even this week durring the Christmas holiday. I started today buy updating our 2 year old ‘to-do list’, marking off complted projects, updating tasks, etc. ( I will post more about this later ). But durring all of this work, I plan to continue blogging about progress under a new merged category, Home Ownership.

Trying to learn Cocoa/Obj-C

So, after messing with it a few times, I’ve decided to really jump in and start learning Mac development (again). As I mentioned in a previous post, the last time I ‘really’ developed for the Mac was in the days of MPW and the classic Mac OS.Well, those days  are long gone (have been for a while), and now there are even new platforms (iPhone) to develop for as well.

I’ve got a few friends that have already started down this path, and just hearing them talk about some of the stuff they can do amazes me. Oddly enough, I think I may the odd one out of the bunch, not really wanting to focus on iPhone development, but actual Mac OS development. Also, i’m coming up with new ideas I could easily hack out in C#, but want to just try on the Mac first.

It’s been such a long time since I learned a new language, its going to be a totally new experience (which is odd…I’ve been a ‘Mac User’ longer than I have been a ‘PC User’). Luckily there are some really good books on the subject, as well as a great local group I get to meet with.

My objective in the end is to feel as comfortable in Cocoa as I do in .Net, and feel more in tune with the systems that I enjoy. I also hope that one day ill have a cool little Mac app that I can share here.  I have a few ideas I have been putting together and outlining, but have yet to sketch out or document. Heck, maybe my first app will be making a native Twitter app that I actually like!

Update on Lumpkin’s Jail

Thanks to the power of Twitter, I was able to get my hands on a press release that was put out yesterday from the City of Richmond about Lumpkin’s Jail. Although I can not find the original PR on their website, information was posted at both SLANTBlog and River District News. Also, thanks to Jonah at Near Westend News that sent me the PR.

I’ve always been very interested in history, and even moreso when the City of Richmond started working on this project. While its hard to trace my families exact relation to this (which I will write about later), its great that they are uncovering a huge part of history. While yes, this is a terriable thing to be related to, the fact that the city is still embracing its herritage is a huge step.

Today at 10am at Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom, The Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission is going to be presenting these new findings to the public. So far they have found parts of the brick foundation, a cobblestone courtyard, and even a kitchen area. They also mention that there are other period artificats that will be presented as well.

Toby is still leaving, but staying close!

Toby was supposed to have a meeting with the Richmond SPCA today for tests, etc. We also were supposed to meet one final person interested in him as well.

But just an hour ago, Deborah’s mom called and told us that she would be taking him in! This means that he is still around when we want to see him, and that he is going to a great home. Hes going to have 2 other dogs to play with, as well as a few cats (which he loves). He has spent a few days at her moms house before, and we are so happy that this opportunity opened up!

We also plan first of next year to donate some money to the Richmond SPCA. They are an amazing group of people, and while we have yet to meet them in person, we are so happy that they were still there in our time of need.

Shots from last nights full moon

I tried to take a few shots last night with the amazing full moon we had. While I wasn’t able to get the best shots of the moon itself (need to try some different metering next time), I was able to take some pretty awesome shots using the moon as my source for light.

A friend of ours gave me a tripod for my birthday earlier this year, and this was the first time I really got to use it. Almost all of these exposures were over 1 second, with a lot of them being more around 20-30 seconds (for example, in one, you can see the light trails over time).

I plan on trying this a bit more often soon, especially with these clear cold nights. While its pretty cold standing around (was about 35 degrees while taking these), the crisp clear sky makes it very easy to take awesome shots!

View the gallery