This year is finally come to a close. After pretty much not blogging ever this year, I considered not even doing a top list. Unlike 2015, I didn’t even write anything for at least half of this year, probably more. 2015 wasn’t much better after April, to be honest.
Either way, I thought I’d go through the list of what I did write this year and come up with a Top 5 list1.
This one was a semi-rant. I had a Fitbit for a while and was frustrated by how incredibly unreliable it had become. This one did pretty well, I’d say, for someone who doesn’t have much of a following. Fun fact: after I eventually completed the firmware upgrade, everything seemed to return to normal. I continued to own a Fitbit until I lost it during my move from California to Washington in October 2016.
This was around the time I decided to set up a live streaming webcam server/relay device thing. The documentation surrounding ffmpeg’s finer yet lesser known abilities was lacking. I don’t think I’ve ever written 4000 words on any topic, ever. Not once. Clearly, I felt like I had a lot to say.
This was a post that ended up becoming a page. The multi-page nature of it wasn’t working out super well in the blog feed and it felt to me more like a static resource that can be called upon at any time. Out of all the sites on this list, I really only ever use Boss Fight, these days.
Apparently, the Internet really wanted to know how to do this, because this was my 3rd post popular post I wrote in 2016. I learned a lot about media streaming through this post and the series of posts surrounding it. The biggest thing I learned… there’s a reason the professional software costs a lot of money.
This is where I finally got a legit live stream set up. It used HLS, told Flash to go die in a fire, and it looked great. The problem was the player choice and making it work with MPEG-DASH. I never quite got that figured out. Turns out, the Internet really wanted to know how to do this, too. It was my most popular post of 2016, by 2.5x over #2.
In the first chapter of this New York Times Bestseller, Manson asks how hard are we trying? There’s something to be said about the more effort and energy you exert in order to please others, make sure we wear the right clothes, have the right car, buy the right things, is nuts!
> You are constantly bombarded with messages to give a fuck about everything, all the time .Give a fuck about a new TV. Give a fuck about having a better vacation than your coworkers. Give a fuck about buying that new lawn ornament. Give a fuck about having the right kind of selfie stick. Why? My guess: because giving a fuck about more stuff is good for business.
Thinking about that for a moment made me realize out of all the times I cared more about something than was healthy or warranted, it was about stuff. I’m guilty of this as much as the next person. I spent my Black Friday this year buying a TV that was both too big and to fancy for my needs, but I wanted it and I felt like I had to have it.
Do I regret the purchase? No. If I cared less about making sure it was exactly nice enough or that it was top of the line, I’d bet that I’d either have not bought it or spent way less money and still have been just as happy in the long run.
I consider myself lucky that I’m not as vanity-oriented as some folks, and I think a lot of that has to do with my upbringing. I never had a lot of things, and was never taught things were a status symbol. This mindset extends into my adult life and I’m happy about that.
Another thing that really sunk in while reading this first chapter in our quest to be happier, we’re actually making ourselves more miserable.
> The desire for more [a] more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
This came up while talking with a friend last night, completely out of band from this book but I think is great to mention here. The fact that we so intensely seek attention and affirmation from those around us only adds weight to the fact that we’re not as happy as we think we are. Any Facebook status, Twitter post, Instagram picture, Snapchat snap that essentially implies *here is a thing I am doing/saying, tell me how cool/fun/exciting/delicious it is!* is really just a single example of this hunt for happiness that people get caught up in.
Be real with yourself. If you’re fishing for compliments, you’ll find two crowds: the first will give you what you want because some people will always, no matter what. The second will just ignore you. In the long run, the latter group is probably the better kind of people to surround yourself with in life, as the former is likely just as willing to hunt for artificial interest as you.
Happy Wednesday. If it’s not a happy day, it really should be. I wanted to take a few moments and plug a new project of mine: Weekly Wine.
If you’re anything close to a wine person, then I’m pretty sure you’ll find this useful. I came up with the idea of starting a wine club last summer. I had this grand idea of having a monthly subscription service, not unlike many of the clothing/makeup/food boxes so many people seem to be signing up for. What kept me from making this is a reality is that, at least in the United States, the private shipping carriers don’t always ship wine and shipping wine to certain states is either difficult to do without a permit or outright illegal.
Since I didn’t want to become a licensed wine seller in these states, I put the project on ince.
Fast forward a few (six) months and I’ve started a much smaller yet more managable version. Weekly Wine is starting out as a once-a-week email with 2-3 wine picks that meet the following criteria:
not too expensive
Beyond that, just about anything is fair game. I’m shying away from Champagne and other bubbly bottles fore the sole reason that when I buy these wines, I’m not planning on drinking the whole bottle at once… I have to be functional the next day. Bubbly wines will go flat long before I have the chance to either finish it or drink enough to form a solid opinion.
Keeping the price fair is a huge deal for me. Sure, I could recommend a $300 bottle from some far away land, but are you going to spend $300 on the recommendation of an Internet stranger? Exactly. Perhaps down the road, once the project grows a bit and the following is sizable. Until then, there are literally hundreds of wines out there that cost way less and taste just as good.
These prices are retail store prices. I don’t get these bottles directly from the wineries (I’m not that good). Restaurants typically charge 2-3x the retail price… crazy right?
Keeping some variety in the mix is key. I suspect, for the first five years, there won’t be a single duplicate. My store of choice is huge and if I had to guess has over a thousand unique bottles of wine. That’s a lot of emails.
It’s easy to think about the typical wine locations as being the prime source for the tasty juice of the gods, but contrary to typical American hubris, there are other countries that make great wine. I want to make sure they’re featured, too.
When I recommend these wines, I’m essentially boiling it all down to answering this simple two-part question:
> Is this wine good enough to buy again and if I had friends over, would I recommend they drink it, too?
If I can answer yes to both parts, it’s going on the list. It’s easy to subscribe to high-class magazines like Wine Spectator or chat up your rich friend who *has a wine cellar full of rare bottles they picked up while in tuscany, spending the summer in their villa and playing polo with the prince of* who gives a crap. Those clowns don’t really know what they’re talking about, anyway. They pay someone to care.
Here, you have someone that cares, and you don’t even need to pay him (me).
Weekly Wine just released its second issue, and the third is on the way. New issues release every Thursday afternoon/evening. I chose Thursday because the following day is Friday and that precedes the weekend. If you’re likely to drink a bottle of wine, I’d bet money these days are more likely to be the days.
I definitely recommend checking out Weekly Wine. It’s killer, the emails are ad-free and not long and rambly, and you’ll thank me.
Getting ready for the New Year looks like a couple different things in my world:
What am I doing now that I should stop doing?
What am I not doing now that I should start doing?
I think I have an idea for #2.
For the latter, a big deal for me is reading more. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about setting goals for yourself rather than having resolutions, a goal I’ve created is to read a book every two weeks. That sounds pretty easy for most and depending on what you enjoy doing with your day, it might be. For me, my attention is in a lot of different places, on purpose.
I find myself much more satisfied with life in general, if I’m dabbling in a bunch of different thing at once, rather than going whole hog on just one idea.
Hence the two-week window, versus one.
To hold myself accountable, I want to start a book club of sorts. If you’re just discovering this blog and this post well after the fact, don’t worry. You don’t have to follow along in real time. All the discussion is asynchronous, mostly with me reflecting and discussing what I’ve read in blog post form. I’ll have them marked with 2017 Book Club as a tag, so they’re easy to sort through and read.
Here’s the idea: every Monday I post about what I’ve read in the calendar week prior (Monday-Sunday). I’m kind of already cheating and have started a book for 2017 that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I’ll share that with the group on January 1st, as it’s Monday, and that’ll start off our 2017 Book Club.
The kinds of books I expect to have are mostly non-fiction, learn-something-from-this type books. This doesn’t mean exclusively self-help books, either, though I might sprinkle some of that in the mix, too.
A lot of knowledge is floating around out there and has yet to be consumed by many of us. Let’s change that.
I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. There’s something about creating a todo list that for some reason can’t start until January 1st nor was it even thought of until someone asked do you have any resolutions for the new year?
I suppose I should clarify. I don’t have a problem with read one book per week in 2017. My beef is with read more books in 2017. The difference there is the latter is vague and lacking substance. That’s no way to live.
The latter is much better and I’d argue it’s not even a resolution at all, but a goal. Resolutions are vague and easy to get out of. Tight goals with small checkpoints along the way to measure progress are where it’s at and where your head should be at, too.
Instead of making resolutions this year, sit down right now, today, and set a couple goals for yourself. A goal of mine is to blog five days a week (Monday-Friday) throughout the new year. It worked incredibly well for me as a part of my morning routine when I seriously started pumping words into this blog January 2015.
Another goal of mine is to read one book every two weeks. Every week sounds better, sure, but I’d argue one week vs two isn’t what’s important. What’s important in that goal is I’m reading more, learning more, and consuming the ideas, thoughts, and teachings of others much more frequently.
What better time to take a look back at what’s happened the last year than with a glass of scotch on Christmas night? All the festivities are over and tomorrow the lights come down to be stored away until next year.
I haven’t written anything substantial in quite a long time. My last journalistic blog post was longer ago than I’m willing to admit and my last post of any kind of substance was in July. I’m not sure lists count for much in the substance category, either.
I wish there was a good reason for it. I could run off a few excuses, but in reality I don’t have much that’s both good and not something I could have worked around.
With my scotch, I sit. When I blogged daily, I killed it. I’m pretty sure I used it as an outlet and a sweet mental release. I don’t really know what I mean by that or where I’m going with that. I tried keeping the train running on schedule when I moved to California, but that wasn’t a huge success.
Let’s give this a try: looking back on all that’s happened over the last calendar year, in hopes of finding solace in all I’ve seen, done, felt, and fought through. Those are some pretty choice words I just used… it’s almost like some stuff actually happened. Stuff… worth writing about.
Plot twist: I don’t live there, anymore. I’m back in my native Washington and while it feels great to be home, it’s bittersweet on several counts. I left Washington to start a new chapter of my life with someone I felt was special. Washington was my home state and I had a lot of years and memories already in place… 25 3/4 years worth, to be exact. It’s never too late to create new memories somewhere else so I welcomed the change with open arms.
I became attached to the state, even though a lot of its quirks could be seen by many as being subpar or less than ideal. Though I made friends–and some of the coolest people I’ve ever met–I’d say the majority of the folks I encountered were not that great. My experiences and measurements are highly annecdotal so please don’t quote me on that. There’s a good handful of people I know that have lived in California much longer than I and enjoy it way more. I suppose the crowd you hang out with has a lot of influence on those experiences.
I will never get over how expensive California is for what you receive. I think most people call that the value. In this case, it’s almost exclusively perceived value, but value nonetheless. Rent was high, traffic was bad, and at least where I was, there was no character.
Out of those three things, though, only the latter didn’t bother me, that much. See, I grew up in the suburbs. I’m used to less-than-large brush strokes of character in a city. I called the East Bay and Silicon Valley my homes for 6 months and a year, respectively. In that 18 months, I feel I formed a good enough opinion about California, and here it is.
Everyone in The Bay Area is looking for something, trying to get somewhere, or accomplish some goal. It’s a miniature Los Angeles, in that regard. Everyone that I encountered that grew up there landed somewhere on the bitter scale between hateful rage and moderately displeased. California changed and what they knew was essentially pulled out from under them by tech.
Tech companies were holding the area together by the time I got there. If just a handful of these big names went up in smoke one day, the market would come crashing down around every single individual that lived there. So many folks moved to the area for those companies, and their livelihoods would be demolished. Chances are, this would be but temporary as another tech company would move in to take its place, but on a larger scale, I think this area could only survive substituions like that for a little while.
Silicon Valley was and is the only place I’ve found one million dollar townhomes running for 6-7x what they cost to build. The market is inflated only because people know there’s someone out there that’ll pay that much… because they have to. It’s a vicious cycle that was created by greedy people looking to capitalize on recent establishements in the area… capitalism is great, isn’t it?
These artifical increases spread to apartments and even those who already owned their houses. These valuations were raising property taxes… as if California needed more money (spoiler alert: it always does… California and money managment are the classic oil and water illustration).
Of everything I saw and experienced while in California, artificially high cost of living was really the only thing that bothered me. I would have stayed past the event I’m about to describe next, had it not been for the fact that I didn’t feel I was getting a good value for what I recieved.
Marriage is Forever… Until it Isn’t.
I pondered whether I wanted to include this in my year in review because going through something like divorce is a highly personal topic and one I haven’t shared with many folks. It’s definitely something I never thought I’d experience. If me from this time last year or hell, me from this time, 2014 knew I would move to California married and move back divorced, I never would have believed it.
This is a highly complex topic, one that I could spend an entire series of posts on–or even a book–and just scratch the surface. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do the latter but at least sitting down and talking about my experiences in detail I’m sure would benefit at least one other man out there. Losing your partner with a stroke of the pen is painful, numbing, overwhelming, depressing, angering, and hysteria-inducing experience. Now try experiencing all those feelings and emotions at once. I did. And that’s why I want to talk to the world about it.
I read a couple books, and they helped, but they helped with a different thing–why I was in that situation, not how to get out of it. I’d argue one book technically fell into the get-out-of category, but for my scenario, it didn’t really apply. A lot of great ideas came out of those books, though, and when that time comes, I’ll be sure to bring them up.
The one huge takeaway I have, above all else, is that the saying time heals all wounds is shit. Time doesn’t do anything but amplify what’s already taking place as it ticks by on the clock. What time does is take what you’re doing right now, what you’re doing next week, and what you’re doing six months later and making those actions, feelings, thoughts, and words and makes them bigger, more powerful, and longer lasting.
If you’re not picking up what I’m putting down, just yet, let me spell it out for you in plain english: give yourself time to grieve, be sad, and experience all those feelings and emotions I mentioned earlier. Once that’s up, get off your ass and start walking foward, again. The only way you’re going to be able to have time on your side is if you’re doing something about your situation.
I could sit here for hours and talk about everything that I felt, said, did, and didn’t do, and I will, but now isn’t the time. We have other things to review.
Whatever You’re Happiest Doing is What you Will Do the Best
It’s an odd sentence and I’m sure some will disagree with me, but I stand by it. Yes, you could show me a hundred examples of people who are absolutely incredible at their jobs but are miserable. If I took that person and made them happy, say with my magic wand, and all of a sudden now they’re that much better at what they were already amazing at, what would you say?
Imagine that person is you, now. What are you doing with your life? Do you enjoy it? When you get up in the morning and think about starting this thing that you do every day, do negative thoughts start entering your mind? Do you start feeling dreadful, bummed out, sad, and don’t really look forward to doing it?
Ten bucks says that if you liked what you did, you’d 1) do it better and 2) do it more effeciently. Not just on a time scale of doing more things in less time with the same quality. Not even that, at all. The scale I’m looking at is the one which reflects your mental state. I have no science to back this up, but I’d bet a task you dislike takes more mental energy. Now compound several tasks you dislike and turn it into a job that you dislike. See where I’m going with this?
You might be able to leave work at work, home at home, but if you don’t like home or work, it’ll bleed over into the other, for sure. I know. I speak from experience.
With everything happening with the divorce, it took a toll on my performance. I was doing a pretty dang good job, but something started feeling a bit off on both my side (internally) and on the other side (externally, observed by others). In my job prior, it had an even larger effect because not only was I not a fan of my job, but there was a lot in limbo and in a chaotic state at home.
Let’s not get too sidetracked, though. Before all the personal chaos occured, I made the realization that I just described and it opened my eyes very quickly to what I wanted to do with my life. I suppose I could do the same thing forever, and be alright with it, but I’d never be all that happy with it. I think it’s worth saying I’m not talking about happiness at work but rather happiness with where I’m at in my career.
Like seeing your child smile for the first time makes you happy, doing what you love should make you happy, too. Yes, there will be times when it sucks, but you’ll still be happy you did it, or were there to experience it. The happiness will never be taken away.
Drawing to a Close
As the year wraps up, just five-ish days left, I think about everything I’ve been through, experienced, done, said, slept on, cried over, threw, threw out, threw up, laughed at, and drank to that I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wouldn’t trade these experiences, memories, and new sets of knowledge for anything.
Sure, getting to this point was incredibly painful, caused a lot of sleepless nights, caused a lot of wasted money and time, but I had a lot of great experiences as well. Like I said earlier, I made a lot of great friends, people I look forward to seeing, again, when I’m in the area (just to visit, California isn’t on my list of places to live, any time soon).
I’d never give any of that up. Doing so would essentially rob me of the man I’ve now become and the man I will continue to evolve into with these peices of life as fuel.
This year was a crazy one but it’s one I won’t forget any time soon. I look forward to sharing it all with you in 2017. If what I have to say helps even just a single person in the slightest bit, I know I’ve done my job in telling my stories to the world…
And that is what I hope will motivate me in the days, weeks, and months to come as I rejuvinate this blog.
For those who have followed me in various forms over the years (I started this blog at the end of 2014… holy cow!), thank you. For those new to the party, welcome. We’ll have a great time together, I can feel it.