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01 January 2016

2016

Twenty-sixteen.  A year that has already been so often talked about, by now it just rolls off the tongue.  You can thank long, drawn out US political campaign cycles for that one.

Actually, because it's a presidential leap year and Election Day isn't until 8 November, there are still 312 days left to go in the US presidential campaign — the longest possible period that can lie ahead of general elections while still technically being in the same year.  Oof.

In a slight, but otherwise unnoticeable break from tradition, this year's doodle was made in Illustrator instead of Photoshop.  It's technically the more correct tool for the job — graphic design and all — and since I happened to have occasion to learn a little of it in the last few months, I figured I'd continue to put that knowledge to good use here.  (Or something like that.)

This evening, I shared a lovely dinner with a good friend who was in town, and as we discussed our lives, he confessed that although he had seen my retrospective blog post from last night, he hadn't read it.  I, in turn, confessed that it didn't really delve into many relevant details — arguably, this blog never has.

To be honest, I think that's more than a bit of a shame.  There have been reasons, to be sure, for most omissions.  But, as 2015 gave me much more clarity and calm about my daily life, perhaps in 2016 I can begin to sort out what bits of my life are best shared here and more intently post about them.  And while I won't (intentionally) dredge up the old stuff — most of which would require years' worth of context to fully cover anyway — I can certainly be more mindful of times when I can share relevant parts of my experience more easily.

Or, maybe, ya know, I'll just get busy again and forget all of this.  Words are cheap… but at least I keep coming back.

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31 December 2015

Moving Forward

Here we are, at the end of yet another calendar year, and this one has just flown by. Some part of that feeling has certainly been the result of the unseasonably warm weather we've been having so far this winter, but I think more of it has been just me keeping busy, building up my life, and having a great time with great friends.

Seriously, though. Whereas last year, I felt there were some areas in which my life wasn't moving forward despite progress in others; this year, I feel very much that I'm improving in almost every respect. The question is not whether I'm doing better, but only by how much.

The year hasn't been without obstacles, of course. In fact, 2015 has thrown a lot of stuff in my way, and it's come at me from just about every angle imaginable, and all throughout the year. But meanwhile, I've been able to continually look at each situation from a couple steps back, to reassess and consciously adjust my priorities as changes of plan have become necessary, and to surround myself with the companionship of amazing friends through thick and thin. And that, more than anything, has helped me through.

Not to understate any previous friendships I've had, but I can't think of any other group of people with whom I've felt so comfortable to share almost anything that's on my mind — whether it's a silly little pun, deep emotional anguish, or anything in between. People who have ceaselessly contributed so much to my life, both tangibly and intangibly, and to whom I would not hesitate to give right back in a moment of need. People around whom I feel most at peace to be, quite simply… me.

That said, most of them are still out-of-town for the holidays (as was I, of course), but I've even managed to keep things pretty balanced without them at my side — I'm in just that significantly better of a place, mentally. Which would have seemed so unattainable a year ago. It just goes to show that it can and does get better.

So it seems a little awkward by comparison that, since my parents are currently traveling, I'm back in Pittsburgh to ring in 2016 at a party in the South Hills hosted by an acquaintance (a bit better than "friend of a friend") with all of their friends. I had to have my New Year's Eve Nachos separate from the rest of the family this year, and I've had to retreat from the party for a short while to write this on my phone, but I'm still having a great time. And I wouldn't change a thing.

Here's to moving forward into 2016!

Random tangent: While writing this, it has been hilarious how some of SwiftKey's predictions have just been regurgitating pieces of individual emails I've written.

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14 May 2015

A Decade of Bloggy!

Ten years ago today, I started this little blog.  What was I thinking?

As usual, I've baked a bloggy cake to mark the occasion, fighting through pages of Google results yielding clip art cakes that either aren't very good or that I've already used.  (Come on, clip artists!)

Much like previous years, it's also an opportune time for reflection.  Graduate school is almost done, but over the past year I've been suffering burnout so severe that, at times, I find myself needing to spend more time simply working myself out of the resulting anxious-depressive cycles than I could possibly devote to my actual studies.  This has, in turn, drawn out the process and left me longing for a change.  Despite that, I successfully taught another group of students and recently received my best set of teaching reviews yet, which truly warmed my heart and made that part of my struggle seem all the more worthwhile.

To help me through the rest, I've found myself spending more time at nearby Carnegie Mellon University, both as a physical and a social escape.  On some days, I simply find a place to peacefully exist and attempt to achieve productivity with a higher-than-usual probability of success.  On others, I've gotten involved in several social groups to keep my spirits active.  In so doing, I've not so much abandoned my original intention to "not try to relive undergrad" as I've been incrementally tweaking it, eventually resulting in something resembling: "Screw that; I need friends."

And insofar as that's a need of mine, I think I can honestly say I have some now.  Increasingly, I find myself actually and actively welcomed in these communities, which — due in part to the magically nerdy weirdness that is CMU and its people — has been inspiring to me in both a personal and an academic sense.  Since I haven't been feeling as connected to many of my colleagues at Pitt in a long while (there are a very few exceptions), this has been an invaluable resource as I work on building a successful transition into the next phase of my life.

For now, though, I'm in the midst of a week-long retreat of sorts (helping my aunt with accounting again), taking a step back and looking at what's coming next.  From this juncture, any way I try to slice it, it's going to be a busy few months.

Enough with the mixed metaphors.  Onward.

Random tangent: The Unix timestamp reached a count of 1,431,655,765 seconds past its 1970 epoch at 22:09:25 EDT today.  This number is significant because, when expressed as a 32-bit binary number, it consists entirely of alternating 0s and 1s.  (In hexadecimal, this is 0x55555555.)  How appropriate that this occasion happened within mere minutes of my blog turning ten at 22:05 EDT. And how equally appropriate that I, a self-proclaimed super nerd who actually gets excited by stuff like this, didn't even know this was happening until it was already a few minutes too late.  Oh, well.

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01 January 2015

2015

Here we are, halfway through the decade of the twenty-teens.  Time flies when you're having fun... or when you're in grad school.

At the outset of last year, I noticed that I've tended to have a more positive outlook going into even-numbered years than odd-numbered ones.  That cyclical trend is definitely continuing.

It's not that I don't have a lot to look forward to this year; I definitely do.  But I'm certainly quite a bit more worn down from 2014 than from previous years.  I've appreciated having the last few days to sort things out and plan various adjustments for the new year.  With everything starting back up again on Monday 5 January, though, I fear I'm not quite going to be in full swing in time.  But are we ever?

I'll get back with it soon enough, I'm sure.  Writing here more may become a part of that, but we all know how that's gone.

In the meantime, my traditional New Year's Day doodle above attempts to encapsulate my positive self-visions for the upcoming year.  I'm up for the challenge!

Random tangent: Mom got a Chromebook for Christmas and has had all week off, so she's been getting totally addicted to Angry Birds, 2048, and Tetris.  And she's been hilarious.

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