2016 Yearnotes

In 2016 I turned thirty. It was nice to open a new arbitrary chapter in my life.

Work

Maths teachers in Mexico City prototyping educational apps

Maths teachers in Mexico City prototyping educational apps

At the end of 2015 I quit freelancing and started a consultancy with Dan Williams. We had a great year — we’ve been so busy that we are still to write up all the work we did. We facilitated workshops in Mexico City, where maths teachers designed educational apps, prototyped ideas for improving end of life care with Doteveryone, and built a one-off internet-connected radio.

One of the prototypes developed with Doteveryone

One of the prototypes developed with Doteveryone

A one-off internet connected radio

A one-off internet connected radio

Running a small company is more fun than doing contracting on my own, and I am very lucky to have a brilliant co-owner.

Apart from a few Browser Prototyping workshops I taught less in 2016 than in the previous years. It’s been much harder to schedule in teaching given the demands of running the consultancy. For the same reason I gave only one talk. It was about Flyknit.

Reading

I read a bit less than in 2015, mostly because I have other hobbies which take up a lot of my spare time. I finished twenty seven books. Still, my book pile doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller.

Exercise

Dynwich Dynamo 2016, somewhere near Ipswich

Dynwich Dynamo 2016, somewhere near Ipswich

I have been cycling to work and everywhere else for a little over a year and a half. It was about time to up the ante, so I loudly proclaimed I’d do the 120 mile overnight ride in July (Dunwich Dynamo). Lots of my friends have done it, and I wanted to join the exclusive club of people who enjoy pedalling for twelve hours straight.

The Dunwich beach upon my arrival

The Dunwich beach upon my arrival

Back in December 2011 I was very unfit and decided to become someone who likes exercise just for the sake of it. The Dynamo felt like the final milestone. At the same time it was a bit underwhelming. After all, “it really was just a long bike ride through the countryside.”

I took up climbing, which turned out to be a perfect activity for me. It’s intellectually stimulating and counts as strength training. I have started getting bored with my regular gym routine and often went to the climbing gym instead.

In December I started running again. Cycling to work doesn’t raise my heart rate much anymore, and running is by far the easiest, cheapest and the most convenient high-intensity fix. Zombies, Run! makes it just about bearable, otherwise it’s pretty boring.

Knitting and sewing

Computation scarf

Computation scarf

I knitted twelve items, not counting the failed ones I unraveled. I finished the computation scarf, which in the last-year’s yearnote seemed like a project that could never be finished. It took two years.

I learnt more about my knitting preferences, and have fallen in love with stranded colourwork — a knitting technique which lets you build up complex colour patterns by using two colours of yarn at any given time.

A cabled cardigan I knitted

A cabled cardigan I knitted

In the previous note I also mentioned my plan to make a suit. I realised that making a tailored jacket requires a substantial amount of knowledge, so I have been slowly working on a bunch of projects to build up my skills. I made a jacket, a shirt and I am halfway through making a coat. There’s still a lot I need to learn.

Games

The game that made me absolutely obsessed with it was The Witness. I struggled to think of anything else until I finished it.

Uncharted 4 did not disappoint. I love its fast-paced action and the way it makes you feel smart. I wish the studio behind it, Naughty Dog, would make a series of Die Hard games. Imagine! At least they’ve finally revealed that The Last Of Us 2 is actually happening… I cannot wait.

Inside is a great game from the people who made Limbo, but even more gory, grim, terrifying and beautiful, if you can imagine that. Their use of light and shadow to reveal or conceal is really something else.

I got to play a bunch of games on PlayStation VR. The games where the character is in some way stationary (sitting in a car, at a desk, on a rollercoaster, standing still) don’t cause me any nausea. I enjoyed Arkham VR and The London Heist. I also loved party games that use the VR headset to separate one player from the rest. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is one example, where the VR player can see a bomb, but on the TV the other players see only the diffusal instructions. The VR player and the rest of the room have to communicate to figure out how to survive. It sounds easy, but it really isn’t!

The Last Guardian is my current favourite, despite the terrible controls and the camera that keeps getting stuck inside objects. The friendship between the main character and the mythical beast which has a mind of its own is portrayed beautifully, and it brings me a lot of joy.

Food

My personal jam stash

My personal jam stash

What can I say? 2016 was the year of the jam. Trust me when I say that apricot and amaretto is the most amazing flavour combination. I made several batches, and have given up on making any other flavours. Why mess with perfection?

2017

Despite my focus on the positive and the joyful the last twelve months brought their own share of challenges and heartbreaks. Here’s hoping that the next twelve will be spectacularly boring and uneventful.