Bye, 2016

Welcome back

Well it certainly has been a long time, hasn’t it. My last post was over two years ago, and as you can imagine, a lot has happened since then. Let’s make a small list, in no particular order:

  • Dog (yay!)
  • Motorcycle (huh?)
  • Various and sundry mechanical keyboards (also huh?)
  • House! … rental (oh…)
  • Started learning Irish (you what?)
  • Cured of Diabetes (just kidding)

A few weeks ago, I realized that I missed blogging. It’s not that all that many people read my blog, but I enjoy it. Having a place to show off my various personal projects encourages me to do more of them, and writing about my thoughts encourages me to think more deeply. In short, I’ve decided that blogging is good for me.

They say that it takes an average of six attempts to form a new habit (source: a class that I sat in on in college; totally reliable). And I think this is probably attempt number two, in recent memory. So who knows which side of the bell curve this latest blogging revival is on. But we’re going to give it a go.

The Year in Review

Let’s be real for a second: lots of things about 2016 shat. Yes, the latest trend on Facebook right now is to say, “I’m sick of everyone complaining about 2016. Therefore I refuse to do it, because everyone else is doing it. Harumph!” And, honestly, 2016 wasn’t all that bad. But parts of 2016 were an absolute shit-storm, and I think it’s ok to say it out loud: 2016, we’re disappointed in you. 2017, DO BETTER.

But since this is my blog, and since I call the shots here, let’s have a look at my 2016.

2016 started out with a new place to live. I rented a house for the first time, which, because of the absurdities of the Seattle housing market, ended up being cheaper than the apartment I was previously renting, and comes with more amenities… go figure. Plus, I now have a front lawn and a carport. Sweet.

Oh yeah, it snowed here in 2016 also... what? It doesn't snow in Seattle.

It also snowed here in 2016… what? It doesn’t snow in Seattle.

2016 also ushered in the age of the motorcycle for me. I bought a used, 1978 Yamaha XS650 in late 2015, got my license, and then started to ride early on in the new year. Because Seattle is wonderfully temperate, riding year-round is a possibility, and my first few months of riding occurred during the winter. This made summer riding an absolute treat.

Isn't she beautiful?

Isn’t she beautiful?

Since the bike is 38 years old, it needs a lot of love, but the engine runs great. Most of the work it needs is cosmetic, and I’m having a new seat made for it now. Other things it needs are a new tank and side-covers (or to have them repainted), new rims (I’m thinking mags), and to have the entire engine gunked and cleaned off.

In January, 2016, I also fulfilled my lifelong dream of getting an amateur radio license. For those who don’t know, amateur radio is a hobby that dates back to the early days of radio. Certain radio frequencies are reserved for people with a special civilian license, which allows them to transmit radio signals (most people are only allowed to use walkie-talkies on something called the Family Radio Service band). Radio Amateurs (sometimes called Hams) generally use their radios for hobby purposes like trying for the furthest radio contact they can make, building new radio equipment, or chatting with people all over the world. But they also volunteer as emergency and event coordinators, relaying information to make things run more smoothly.

I haven’t done much with my license yet, but I’m planning to get a nice base-station radio and start messing around with it more at some point this year. If there are any hams reading, my call-sign is KG8QEM.

This year I also delved into the world of mechanical keyboards. Yes, I’m one of those guys who make all manner of annoying clattering noise when I type. Trust me: it’s better. Honestly, I don’t really notice that much of a difference in terms of typing speed or comfort while typing, I just like the way it sounds. There’s something satisfying about the clunk of the keys as you hammer out an e-mail or a line of code. It’s nice. And everyone around me has to deal with it. (Actually, plenty of other people at work had mechanical keyboards before me, so it’s fine.)

Another life-long dream that I’ve fulfilled this year is starting to learn Irish. For those of you who are saying, “You mean English?” or “But, don’t they speak English in Ireland?”, let’s take a moment to talk about Ireland. Ireland has its own language called “Irish Gaelic” or, simply, “Irish”. It’s related to Scottish Gaelic and Breton (spoken by some people in northern France), but it is far different from English. Irish is the official language of Ireland, although most Irish people do speak English primarily. Presumably this has something to do with the fact that the British Empire ruled over Ireland for a long time, just like it did the United States, India, Canada, and a variety of other countries. Like most of those countries, Ireland broke off from the British Empire and formed its own Republic, which happened in 1949.

That’s you Irish history lesson for the day. Irish sounds really cool, and for whatever reason, I’ve wanted to learn it for a long time. So I’m doing that now.

Finally, there’s the Diabetes thing. No, I haven’t been cured. Neither, for that matter, has everyone else. My feelings about diabetes have developed a lot in the past year though, and I’m going to save that discussion or discussions for other blog posts. However, I did ride in the annual Tour de Cure for the second time this year, and I plan to ride again in 2017.

With alien-head deely-boppers... because fundraising.

With alien-head deely-boppers… because fundraising.

That’s it, my 2016 year in review. All said and done, 2016 was a good year for me personally, even though the world as a whole lost a lot. I hope 2017 is better for everyone.

Oh yeah, I also got a fish in 2016. His name is Norbert.

Oh yeah, I also got a fish in 2016. His name is Norbert.

The End of a Blog Hiatus, The Start of a Year

It seems that, once a year, I end up taking a break from blogging. Most of the time the reason is that I’m overwhelmed with school work, and that is usually followed by a few weeks of responsibility-shirking that I call “vacation.” Well, this year’s blogging hiatus is now officially over. You can resume sleeping soundly, breathing easily, and eating a steady diet.

So, in the tradition of the blog hiatus, I’ll start off this blog post by telling you what I’ve been up to when I wasn’t blogging.

Toward the end of the semester, I decided to move out in January. I started looking for apartments, I visited a number of apartments in the McGill Ghetto and the Plateau (two areas near McGill where lots of students live,) and found absolutely nothing I liked. Rumors about the McGill Ghetto being largely full of expensive apartments in relative disrepair are all true. Most of the apartments I saw were small, cramped, and got hardly any outside light at all. Of course, on my budget, I knew that finding an apartment with a workable kitchen and plenty of sunlight was a long shot, but if you’re looking for nice apartments, I’d start looking somewhere other than the ghetto. Sunlight, as I’ve discovered recently, is very important to me. If I don’t get enough light, particularly in the morning, my day starts out bad and goes downhill from there. Some people might call it seasonal affective disorder, but I think that’s horse-puckeys, because I love winter and fall. I’d prefer to call it “there’s tons o’ clouds out there; it feels like night ALL THE TIME and it’s making me FRICKIN’ UNHAPPY!” Anyway, a 23 watt CFL bulb on a timer that comes on at 7:30 when I need to get out of bed seems to help. Now I need a poster of the Bahamas or something to put up in my room.

I haven’t been building that many things recently. I had a bit of a panic last semester when I realized that I was completely lost in two of my classes, and that I hadn’t been studying enough for another class. I spent the last two or three weeks of the semester studying like hell, and if I do say so myself, it was totally worth it. I haven’t gotten the grades back, but I’m proud of my effort anyway. For the first time since high school, I actually completed my goal of starting to study two weeks before the exam. I’ve never been one to study very much, but ever since high school my study habits have all but bottomed out. A professor in CEGEP once told me that the further you get in your education, the more you realize that it’s what you did during the semester – not what you did right before the exam – that determines how well you do in the end. Every year since then, when I’m making a valiant effort to stuff too much information into my already over-crowded brain, his words ring in my ears. It’s too late, I hear myself saying, I should have done this before. Well, this year I learned an extension of that lesson: even though what you did during the semester counts more than what you do at the end, you can still work double time and succeed, provided you catch yourself early enough.

Another lesson I learned this semester is that I can’t study at home. I suspect this is true for many people. It’s not that there’s so much going on at home, or that I’m easily distracted at home, but when I’m at home, my mind doesn’t want to do school. School work happens at school, and sleep and projects happen at home; that is how my mind works. So expecting myself to study at home is torture: half of me is frustrated because I won’t study, and the other half just wants to go to sleep. So the solution, it turns out is to study at school. And because I’m lucky enough to work in a lab at McGill, I study in the lab, which affords me a nice, quiet place to work. Coffee helps too. Admittedly it was expensive, but for about two weeks before my last two exams, I bought an OMG WTF sized coffee at Starbucks every day before I started to study, which was my reward and daily caffeination. Say what you want about caffeine: I frickin’ love it*.

In the next few days, I plan to write a New Year post (as is tradition here at Worldgnat’s Blog**,) a post about some project I’m working on (there are many, which haven’t been touched in months,) and a compiler comic. I’ll probably go back to my old schedule (one post on Wednesday, and one some other random day during the week.) I hope you all had a Merry Winter Holiday, that you’ll all have a Happy New Year, and if you don’t believe in holidays or new years, then I hope you didn’t and won’t have either of those, and that their non-existence was and will be merry nonetheless. I leave you with this holiday picture of me sitting in front of a Christmas tree, wearing an apron and a blue Christmas hat with Vulcan ears attached that I made myself (the ears AND the hat. From scratch. Hell yeah.)

"Christmas" is illogical. Nevertheless, live long and prosper.***

*Just so you know, it’s been at least a week and a half since I’ve had a drop of coffee.

**I should give my blog some hip-looking acronym like WBg. People might think that there was some purpose behind the name other than “I need a name to give my blog a name and the handle that I use everywhere on the Internet seems appropriate. Also: consistency FTW.”

***Yes, that is a Questionable Content “Baking is Science for Hungry People” apron. You should go buy one and bake in it.