Saturday, December 31, 2005

My Year In Review

I spent about an hour and a half trying to write my “2005 year in review” and was not very happy with the final result. In a similar style to last years review, I broke the year up into months, and wrote a quick little blurb about what I had been doing. The problem is that though the summer months were quite eventful, I found that January through May and August to December were rather dry, at least from the reader’s perspective. So this will be try number two at creating something readable.

I managed to go on a couple of great vacations this year. I saw New York City and Philadelphia for the first time. Both were experiences that I will never forget.

Salt Lake City is a great place to live, but its night life pails in comparison with that of New York. It was amazing to me that on a weeknight at midnight there were still people all over Time Square, and that the restaurants were still open for business. There was such life, and excitement there. While in New York I managed to catch two Broadway shows, Wicked and Fiddler on the Roof. I also did the touristy things, and had a whirlwind visit of the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art.

Philadelphia was also an awesome experience, though I wasn’t as awed by the culture and sights. The occasion to go to Philadelphia was the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC). My aunt is an administrator with a School District here in Utah, and figuring that I would enjoy the conference because of my major in school, she invited me to attend. Though the conference lifestyle is a bit grueling (read up early and on your feet most of the day), it was highly inspiring and educational. I came home from the trip jazzed about blogging, podcasting, and full with ideas for the future of computing.

This past summer, I committed myself to accomplish a couple of projects.

The first was that I wanted to enroll in an exercise course at the University. My father being on the Staff there gets a discount, so I could take a fitness course with him very inexpensively. We decided on a spinning course, and though my dad would probably say that I wimped out on the thing (6:30 just seemed really early to be up and spinning), I think I had a good time once I got over the original shock that riding a stationary bicycle could actually be difficult. If I could just get myself more dedicated to a solid bed, wake schedule the whole thing would probably be a lot more enjoyable. I have decided that rigorous physical activity is an important part of any desk bound person’s day.

The second was to write a piece of software that wasn’t dictated to me by some class at school. Knowing that when I was in school this would be practically impossible due to my course load, the time to do this was also in the summer. Coming home from NECC, I was really excited about podcasting, so I decided to write my own RSS feed manager for pod casts. As a first attempt at creating a web application using PHP/MYSQL it wasn’t all bad, though it really ended up being more of a proof of concept than something that people would actually use. It was exciting because it was the first piece of software that I had ever written that came entirely from me. I know that most computer science geeks did this sort of thing when they were two years old in basic, but given that I just came to the computer career seriously a year and a half ago, I think I am making great progress.

Speaking of school, it is truly one of the greatest things to have happened to my life in recent years. As I have said several times in the past year, I am so very happy to have found a major that suits me. I don’t think that I would be willing to spend the hours studying for anything else, and with only three semesters left, the end is in sight. The future is hopeful and bright! Academically it was a challenging year as my first as a matriculated computer science major. All of the classes I took this year were upper division courses and they do require a certain intellectual maturity. Just to give you a taste of the various areas my brain has been, here is a list of the technologies/languages I have used in school in the last twelve months. Keep in mind that for me, many of these were being learned and seen for the first time when I had to use them. C, C++, Java, XML, Scheme, MIPS Assembly, IA-32 Assembly, O’Caml, DFA’s, NFA’s, PDA’s, Turing Machines, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. If I had to say where most of the time was spent, it would be in the realm of low level C programs, IA-32 Assembly, Scheme, and C++. Of the most interesting projects I completed for school would be a chat server and client that works over the internet, a simple shell for Linux, and a simulated memory manager for Linux (malloc, realloc, and free). It has been an exciting time to learn and grow.

In August, I celebrated one year of, changed hosting companies, and wrote my own blogger template. I borrowed and learned a lot from those blogs that I admire, but had a great time putting this one together to give it a uniquely ‘me’ look. Given the time next summer, I think I would enjoy changing it again.

In November, I learned that I would get to do a photo show at a local library here in February. Photography has been a hobby for a long time, but in recent months it has been forced to the back burner, as I focused on school. In the last couple of weeks it has been fun to start preparing for the show. I have chosen 10 prints and the frames. I have to choose 10 more, and order the mats. Whether I sell a print or not, I think that the thought of actually hanging my work on the wall of a public place is pretty cool.

Throughout the whole thing, there has been work. Sometimes it is a bittersweet place to be. For the time being, I will just be grateful that I have employment and that is aligned with software development. They have been good to me this year, and I am glad that they are pleased with the work I do for them.

2005 was a big year. Though it wasn’t all roses, the lessons learned were worthwhile. Perhaps that is the real lesson of life. Though the destination has meaning, there is so much value in the journey and the struggle. Three steps forward, one step back. Progress may not always come as quickly as I desire it, but progress is made, and I am learning and growing as a person. Looking back on 2005, I am glad that I was able to do what I did, and am pleased with the progress I made. Here’s to 2005, a good, hard year.

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