A New Year

The last New Year's resolution I made (and the only one I remember keeping) was to never make another New Year's resolution again. Instead, I have tried to do better at setting achievable goals throughout the year and to not beat myself up too harshly if I have failed to achieve them. This year should be no different.

In an attempt to keep myself on track, I thought it would be a positive act if I publicly listed here some of my immediate and longer term goals for the next few months, as well as some general changes I will be making (or trying to make).

1. Write more

I quite enjoy writing and made it a goal late last year to blog once a week, every Monday. I was reasonably successful but somehow slipped since the New Year1. However, just as with my recent slip back into smoking and the ongoing climb back out, I will have to learn from it and forge on.

Clearly, writing more often is not as important as resisting the nicotine siren song, but it is important to me, so I intend to get back on track, posting a blog once a week (perhaps twice, if I can find enough interesting things on which to blog). I would also like to get back into creative writing with some short stories, songs and more.

2. Record more

Two years ago I had grand plans of recording an album. I still have those plans although after initial success with Holding On, I let it slide as a priority. I would like to get back on this and see if I can make Nothing Left To Take before the year is out. This is a big challenge for me as I find the process of recording both exhausting and stressful. Realising that the whole album feels like a lofty goal to me right now, I will settle for at least getting a couple of songs done.

3. Experience more

My wife, Chrissy, and I made a vow last year to prioritise experiences over things. A big part of that has been to travel more. This year I intend to visit my family and friends in England. It has been two years since I was last there and even longer since I saw some of my friends.

Besides England, I would like to see more of the US (some upcoming weddings should help a little with that) and perhaps travel further afield (anyone looking for guests?). I will also be looking to experience new things and challenge my anxieties.

4. Exercise more

My weight and I have a long, arduous relationship. From visiting a dietitian with my mum when I was just 11 or 12, to running in 5Ks, and a lot of good and bad places in between, I have battled the scales. I have recently been losing that battle, especially with the revived hand-to-mouth habit thanks to a brief return to the smokes. With that in mind, I am serious about making exercise a part of my routine and tapping my willpower when pizza comes calling.

5. Read more

Last year I managed to use reading to get myself back into the gym. I discovered that with the help of a decent book, I could zone out and tolerate an hour of exercise. I will continue that trend and look for other opportunities to read. To that end, I have bought myself a Kindle (it arrives today) and will be returning to my childhood ways, losing hours and hours to an entertaining read. Not only will this help me in my creative writing, but I think it will also help in finding new experiences, new conversations, and new friends.

6. Listen more

I talk a lot. It is one of two things that have been said to me more than any other thing that I can recall in my entire life. I am tall and I talk a lot2. Telling me about either changes neither, but I understand why people continue to feel the need to share their observations on these characteristics.

Contrary to what others may perceive, I do try very hard to curb my talking (curbing my height is much more difficult so I don't try), but there is always more to be done. The biggest issue with talking a lot (a side effect of having a mind that never wants to stop) is that I often don't give others the opportunity to talk and share, which means I listen less and learn less. I have made huge strides in this over the years and I will continue to do what I can to get better at this.

7. Appreciate more

Two years ago I started my own gratitude project, posting daily the things for which I was grateful. It started on Twitter and Facebook, migrated to my blog, and then sort of ended as I failed to find the right place to express it. Showing gratitude is important and I want to continue to do so. However, I found that arbitrarily finding things for which to be grateful turned into a burden, especially on days when "coffee" was one of the items.

More recently, I decided that if I was to express gratitude it would be for specific people and their actions, rather than objects and events. Last year as part of this shift in focus, I intended to start a different take on the gratitude project, but I did not follow through with the execution. This year, I will.

8. Contribute more

The flip-side to gratitude (at least for me) is contribution; doing things for others. Whether this is through my efforts at work, in the developer community, or among my family and friends, I want to do more to give to others and contribute to the well-being of others.

And in conlusion…

I am sure I could come up with more things but this feels like a lot to me. I have no idea if I will be able to live up to the ambition, but at least I have a point of focus, a rough outline to guide me as I make mistakes and share success.

Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog. I realise it is not always relevant to you, but I hope that it continues to be interesting. Please share your thoughts in the comments and perhaps share what 2015 has in store for you.

 


  1. I'm writing this on Tuesday, for example 

  2. a third in recent years is that I have an accent – something that I share with everyone else who talks 

Nothing Left To Take, Track 11, Holding On

Some of you may already know from my page on Facebook that I have started recording again. Not only that, but I have finished one song, Holding On, and it is now on SoundCloud for you to hear it. Thanks to my friends and family for the encouragement and support over the years. I am sorry that it has taken me so long to get back into this. It takes a lot of time and effort and I have so much to learn. I hope you enjoy the results.

Holding On is the first song off my current project, an album entitled Nothing Left To Take. Please take a listen and leave your comments on what you do or do not like, perhaps even share it with your friends.

Nothing Left To Take is somewhat of a concept album in that there's a theme to the songs and the order of the songs. As I complete a song, I will add it to the set on SoundCloud so you can see it take shape. The theme will become pretty apparent I think although I am considering the idea of writing a short story to accompany the finished album.

Here is the Nothing Left To Take playlist.

To A Friend

I have acted foolishly in times that demanded wisdom; I have been afraid when I should have been open, been closed when I could have been loved, and been loved when I should have been shunned. I have mistrusted when I should have embraced. I have been a good friend. I have been a bad friend. I have broken promises. I have not always done the right thing. I have made mistakes. I want to be better. I want to be stronger. I do not know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to apologise for those times I failed to help, to be there, to do the right thing. I talk about myself when I should listen to others. I apologise too much. I talk too much. I have cried alone. I have cried in love. I have cried in laughter. I have tried in spite of failure. I have laughed in spite of sadness. I have loved in spite of hate. I have tried harder than I thought I could. I have loved more than I thought I would. I have fallen down. I have got back up. I know I am not the only one but sometimes I have felt like I might be.

And through it all, you have been there. You have inspired me. You have conspired with me. You have given me the benefit of your wisdom. You have given me the benefit of the doubt. You have been an attraction when my heart was full. You have been a distraction when my heart was void. You have been a good friend. You have been a bad friend. You have been exasperating when you have been wrong and more so when you have been right. You have heard what I say, you have known how I feel and you have seen who I am. You have encouraged when I lacked courage. You have discouraged when I lacked wisdom. You have laughed with me, cried with me, walked, run, slipped and climbed with me. You have stood with me in spite of me. You have lifted me up. You have talked me down. You have fought with me. You have fought for me. You have loved me. You are not the only one but sometimes I have felt like you might be.

It is never enough, but thank you. You change my life.

KalamazooX 2013

I struggle to put into words the Kalamazoo X Conference, more commonly known as KalamazooX, a single day, single track non-tech conference for techies. The difficulty is not in describing the talks, the speakers, the venue or the overall experience, describing the conference in such terms is easy; the talks were insightful and inspirational, the speakers were passionate and informative, the venue was accessible and appropriate, and the overall experience was emotionally demanding and entirely worthwhile. To describe what KalamazooX was to me, specifically, to reach deep inside and expose the raw emotions, to be open and honest about me, that is difficult.

It was the simple mantras:

It's not about you.
– Jim Holmes (@aJimHolmes)

Move the elephant. Direct the rider. Shape the path.
– Todd Kaufman (@toddkaufman)

It was the inspirational stories behind Todd Kaufman's talk on enacting change or Mike Wood's (@mikewo) talk on choices of doing the right thing, saving and changing lives, and becoming a better person.

It was the tears that welled in my eyes during Layla Driscoll's (@layladriscoll) talk on being happy, after she encouraged us to sit with our eyes closed and think about who we are. I wrote, "I am sensitive, funny, creative."

It was the encouragement from Leon Gersing (@rubybuddha) and Alan Stevens (@alanstevens) to take time out from time and reality, to meditate, and to find our inner voice.

It was the relief I felt in hearing Alan Stevens say, "you do not require approval from any external source," or Elizabeth Naramore (@ElizabethN) say, "It's okay for it not to be okay."

It was the moment I wrote in my notebook, "I feel less special than others. Is that true? Am I? Or do I need to redress my self image?" I think we both know the answer to that (though some have known a lot longer than others).

It was connecting with others in unexpected, overwhelming and assuring ways.

I do not believe for an instant that I was the only one in attendance that was deeply moved and I suspect that those who were returning attendees already knew about the impact this event can have. What a secret they have kept, hiding the true value of this event behind such dismissive phrases as "My favourite conference of the year!" and "It's a non-tech conference for techies. It's all about soft skills." Such pedestrian phrases pay no due to the experience at all. A more accurate and yet still inadequate phrase was tweeted to me by Michael Letterle (@mletterle) during this years event:

Now, you may think I'm being overly dramatic or reverent and you might be right. I have a tendency toward such things, but rather than assume that be the case, I encourage you to attend next year's KalamazooX and experience it for yourself (or at least look through the #kalx13 tweets). If, having done so, you still feel I have been exaggerating, I will concede and leave you and your cold, black heart to //Build, PyCon or whatever it is that floats your ghost ship (just playing, I'll still love you really).

To close, I thank Michael Eaton (@mjeaton), his team and all the speakers1 for putting on an event so cathartic that even writing about it overwhelms me a little. To uncover a part of oneself is enlightenment, to see that reflected in others is KalamazooX.


  1. Besides those mentioned above Suzan Bond (@suzanbond), Jen Myers (@antiheroine), Brian H Prince (@brianhprince), Jeff Blankenburg (@jeffblankenburg) and Justin Searls (@searls) all gave amazing talks.