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Dec. 31st, 2011 @ 11:00 pm Looking forward to looking back
We're a few short hours away from the end of 2011 here in the GMT-5 zone, and I can say that it's really been quite the year. In 2009 and 2010, I wrote retrospective summaries of the year, so here we go again in much the same vein. Looking at the calendar on here, I've only written five journal entries for the entire year so far. This is of course has been supplemented by Facebook and Twitter to a large degree, but it's still a little sad to see the loss of long-form blogging in my creative output. Ah well, this change and we move on.

First obvious difference here, from my perspective anyway, is that I'm typing this on a Macintosh computer. For those who have known me for a very long time, this should be a shocking development. I used to hate Macs, and once I discovered Unix and started hating Windows, I still hated Macs more. They were always too cute and condescending for me, and daft in all kinds of odd ways. Maybe I'm getting older, maybe Apple's getting smarter, or maybe we've finally met in the middle. However it worked, I never thought I'd drop into the Cult Of Mac, but I have to admit that the MacBook Air is a fantastically capable little ultralight machine. It floats the right balance for me between a netbook and a notebook, and the fact that it's got Unix under the hood means that I already know how to tweak it more than the average Mac head right out of the box. In fact, first thing I did was set up my Terminal environment and unmap a bunch of stupid Apple keyboard settings so that I could use it. Now, we get along nicely, and I'm officially a three-platform computer user. I still have my hulking Win7 box at home for gaming, recording, art, and general stuff, but even that's feeling much less necessary these days. Who knows, we may see more little apples around my life in the future.

Speaking of computers, you may now call me Master. Of Science. Last January, I embarked on a completely insane semester of two simultaneous graduate classes, both of which had a fairly significant course load. One with lots of reading and report writing, the other with a sizeable programming project. This is of course on top of working full time, but more on that in a bit. It was a crazy amount of work, and there were times that I wasn't sure I was actually going to make it out. But somehow, be it luck, grace, or cowardice, I survived to graduate in June with my MS in CS. And oh man did it feel good to be done! Not too long after that, my little sister graduated from law school. Almost no one in my family has a degree, and now we've got two advanced degrees to be proud of. That is a very cool thing.

And then there was work. I rang in my eleventh year at MITRE, a longevity that becomes more rare in my generation each year. I still hold to the thought that if I get bored, I'm going to find something else to do. Thankfully, I've not been lacking for interesting things to do and haven't needed to look somewhere else. I traveled a fair bit this year, ending up in San Francisco three times last year for difference conferences on top of a few trips to other places throughout the year. I'm glad to say that I was better this year about getting out and seeing interesting things on these trips instead of just holing up in my hotel room for the duration. Got to see a lot more of the SF Bay area than ever before, even getting out into the woods a few times. This was especially true of my last trip down to DC. Even though I'm in the area a few times every year, I haven't really ever made it a point to get out and see the city at all, but this last time I made it to the Smithsonian for the first time since I was a kid. I need to make it a point to do that more often in the future.

But work was a lot more than just traveling. I was running my first real project at the start of the year, finally getting to drive the boat in an official fashion. Even though I'd been technical lead a ton of times before, being the actual project leader finally gave me the flexibility to really do things how I saw best. Around March, I ended up taking over the leadership of a second project as well, and running two research projects at the same time was more work than I ever anticipated, especially considering that this all happened in the middle of my crazy last semester of graduate school. I'm really proud of both of the projects and think we accomplished a lot of really great work.

And with all of this going on, and somewhat because of it, about a third of the way through the year I got a promotion! This bumped me up from "senior" staff to "lead" staff, and I still haven't printed up new business cards. I want to come up with something interesting for the title though, more so than "Lead Social Computing Research Scientist" or somesuch dreariness. But I guess this means I'm doing at least something right. Now I just need to make sure that I don't tick off too many important people.

And to the home life: Luc has changed phenomenally in the last twelve months. It's been dumbfounding to watch him grow up before our eyes. This time last year, he was crawling, and only just so, and wasn't talking at all. Now we can't keep him from climbing on everything, and he surprises us with new sentences every day. He understands constructs in language and social structure that we never explicitly taught him, and he really gets it. Kid's a sponge. This terrifies me though, because it's my job to make sure he soaks up all the right stuff in his early life here. I think we're doing well enough so far. It's been a bit of a tough ride, with this year being so busy and my being on the road so much., but I'm thankful for all of the moments that I do get with him. He makes me glad to be a dad and hopeful that I can be a good one.

Even though I began the year with full intentions to get a new Psycliq full length album out in 2011 and didn't make that goal, I've been cranking away at projects throughout the year nonetheless. I made a chiptune soundtrack for Rock Paper Armageddon, a Facebook game that I wrote for school. The entire album was composed in Renoise, and I even put some of it together while sitting on an airplane. That was a pretty cool way to work. I upgraded just about all of the software in my home studio, which gave me some really cool new tools to work with. Wanting to stretch my wings a bit with the new setup, I set off to do a quick cover song with the new stuff. I ended up doing for different remixes of House of the Rising Sun, enough to release it as its own EP. Even tried my hand at doing some mastering on this recording, only to find that I'm really not very good at mastering audio. I'm going to look into professional mixing and mastering services for my next album, which I am still working on in the background here.

I joined up with Magnatune, which has been really good for exposure to a whole new audience set. You can now find Psycliq music on just about every music service out there, and I'm trying to make sure it's included on any new ones that I come across. I also re-launched the Electric Goodies newsletter this fall, and I hope to keep growing the fanbase the future. The band's not huge and I'm not making a living from it, but I'm making music that I like and at least a few other people out there seem to like it as well. That's a very satisfying feeling as an artist.

Oh yeah, in the middle of all of this other stuff going on, I turned 30. We celebrated by going out to see Over The Rhine on my birthday, in boston. It was fantastic. I also managed to get out to see Battles later in the year, which was a fantastic concert. But yeah, I'm old now. I work with some people who were born in the 90's. That's just freaky to me.

We've been trying to eat a lot healthier this past year, getting a lot of our food from the farm share with Farmer Dave's and local farmer's markets. Partially because we're both getting older, partially because of Luc, and partially just because we're smarter about it now than we ever were. It's been an interesting trick to do what we can to eat better food but also stay within a budget that we can afford. I may have gotten a promotion at work, but we're still a one income family living in the greater Boston metro area. Not easy, that.

2011 was a big year for the rest of the world too, from the Arab spring to the Occupy protests, the world map is changing in ways that you won't find in an atlas. It's a fascinating time to be alive, because not only is the whole world being altered as we speak, we can actually hear about it as it happens thanks to the technology that we have today. It makes me proud to work on that very technology every day.

Now we're a bit away from 2012, and I don't really know what's to come.

I'm mostly OK with that. Life is good, with all of its ups and downs. See y'all on the other side.
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