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 

Learning Poetry: Exercise 1

This is the first part in a series of posts documenting my efforts learning more about prosody:

If you've been following my blog at all, you may have noticed that I have posted a poem or two. These attempts at prosody are remnants of songwriting attempts – lyrics that never gained a tune. Though I enjoy writing lyrics and, on the odd occasion pretending they're real poems, I've never taken the time to learn about the art of poetry. Because of this, much of what I write lacks the structure and care that would indicate or more learned authorship and I expect to some I may just come across as nothing but a poetaster1.

With that in mind, a couple of years ago I bought a book by Stephen Fry while I was on vacation in San Francisco. It's called The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking The Poet Within. Allowing for the appropriate length of procrastination, I started reading it this weekend on my trip to Chicago for St.Patrick's Day and I've really been enjoying it. Each concept is introduced with examples and analysis before the reader is given an opportunity to put their newly acquired knowledge to work in simple exercises (Fry's view is that we're each capable of poetry if we only try).

I won't recreate the book here, it would be a poor facsimile, but I would like to present my attempts from each exercise. Whatever you think of my poetic prowess (or lack thereof), I hope it will be fun to follow along as I learn and improve my prosody. I'll begin with a brief explanation of the exercise and then provide my attempts2. As I don't intend to explain the terms in detail, you may want a copy of the book or a dictionary in order to understand the exercise.

The Exercise

Write 20 lines of blank3 verse in iambic pentameter4.

The Results

When Mrs. Wilson claimed she was a bitch,
Miss Chrissy said it was not really true.

Tonight, I slept inside an apple core.

The night is young and eager for some fun,
but what to do, I'm bored and losing time.

This exercise is rather dull for me.

The driver stopped to get another fare.

His face was low, without a look of love,
yet some might say he's clearly lost in thought.

I'm learning all about iambic lines.

My friends will all be quite impressed with this,
I know a term or two about the moon.

It burns to think she left me all alone.
Where will I find a girl as bright as her?

Another dog falls foul of Sergeant Crow.
The pound is where he locks them all away.

Tomorrow takes a darker turn for me.
The crows come home to roost and bury me.

A line or two of prosody to write.

I stole a pack of mints from Mrs. Brown.


  1. A word I learned from my new poetry professor, Stephen Fry. It means 'bad poet'. 

  2. Each exercise is actually introduced with some rather detailed instructions in the book that provide additional guidance and challenges than the summary I will provide. 

  3. Non-rhyming 

  4. Verse with the metre 'ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum', also known as the Heroic Line. 

Humble beginnings

I saw friends do it, I saw professionals do it and I wondered, "Why don't I do it?"

Ever since I started taking part in Stack Overflow, I have been frustrated to find that sometimes, there is so much more to write than just a question, an answer or an occasional witty comment (or perhaps, more correctly, occasionally witty). Things the likes of Jon Skeet, Eric Lippert, Jeff Atwood and many other Stack Overflow participants blog about all the time, things born from hours and days spent making mistakes solving problems at home or at work, things NSFF (Not Suitable For Facebook – I like my friends just enough not to geek out in front of them like that).

But wait, there's more1

Not only did I have blog envy, but this year I started attending the Ann Arbor .NET Developers group meetings. Through AADND, not only have I met some fascinating people, but I have also learned about some fascinating things. From the .NET Micro Framework to the Windows Workflow Foundation (did you know version 4 was a complete rewrite? me neither), my mind was awash with ideas, projects and procrastination and while I tinkered with and tweeted about these things, deep down, I harboured a desire to do more and to say more. I could not contain it any longer, so here we are.

I intend to blog about anything and everything from my songwriting and recording to my DIY disasters improvisations, but mostly, I expect I will blog about programming. I hope that I'll provide some useful insight or perhaps just useful instruction so others don't have to repeat my mistakes, but most importantly, I hope that I'll learn a few things along the way.

So far in life I've been a software engineer, a strawberry picker, an ostrich farmer, a barman, a sarcastic git, a singer, a runner, a cook, an ex-pat and a gamer (sometimes several at once). I'm often amazed at the things I don't know and I'm always somewhat abstract. I saw friends do it, I saw professionals do it and I wondered, "Why don't I do it?" So I did.

Thanks for stopping by.

1it would be a short blog if there weren't