Wednesday, December 2, 2015

34 in review.

I've been inspired by Michael Fogus' year in review posts, and though that instead of doing it on the year, I'd do it on or around my birthday to try and get a sense of what I've managed to accomplish (if anything).

Favorite technical books discovered

The first two technical books that have impacted me this year have been related to high quality MOOCs. 

The first is Nisan and Schocken's "The Elements of Computing Systems" (and the associated MOOC on Coursera). This book, and the associated course, was one of the greatest learning experiences I've ever had in computing. Essentially they take you through "building" (viturally) a complete computing system from logic gates through to an operating system. Part 1 takes you through about half of the book, through to building an assembler. I'll be taking Part 2 next year when it's released. 
The MOOC is a really powerful supplement to the book. I can't recommend it highly enough.

The second is the monumental "Concepts, techniques, and models of computer programming" by Van-Roy and Haridi. This was linked to the EdX courses by Van-Roy where he covers about 50% of the text (and, as such, I've only read about half of the book). Still, what I have read has really changed my perspective on programming languages. As much as I dislike actually coding in Oz and the Mozart environment (the entire book is built around the language) I appreciate what it does. I've come away from the two-part series of courses having a much, much deeper appreciation of the ideas regarding (and my relative ignorance of) programming languages.

In terms of philosophy, my favourite read of the year was probably Peter Godfrey-Smith's "Philosophy of Biology".


Favorite fiction


Philip Roth's The Human Stain was, hands down, the best piece of fiction I read this year with Ishiguro's The Buried Giant a distant second. 

I read far too little fiction in the last year. I'll remedy that this year.


Philosophy


This year has been difficult in terms of my philosophical work. My actual work (see below) has been pretty busy, and so working on my thesis has been difficult. However, I managed to make a couple milestones. I wrote and defended my thesis proposal. I wrote up and presented a paper on representation and choice. Finally, the chapter I've been working on is sitting on around 20 000 words at the moment. Including the numerous rewrites I've done, I've written at least twice that (something more around 50-60K words) - so there is progress. 

Next year I'm pivoting to the evolutionary perspective on my work, this will in turn help me focus the sprawl that the first chapter currently is. 

I have read a lot of papers this year and although they're in the service of philosophy, very few of them were actually philosophy papers. We'll track this category a little closer next year.


Work/Programming/Hacking


This year I went out on my own again and co-founded a small consultancy. We're presently focused on professional PHP development and will be for the medium term. 
This has obviously taken up a lot of time. 

Still, I've managed to do a couple of cool things. I went to my first Code Retreat, an experience which was invaluable. I'll most definitely be attending again. 

I also built an InsectBot, which was a bunch of fun, as well as hacked around on my Arduino.

Further, I wrote and deployed my first Laravel app this year. I don't think I've had a better experience learning or working with a framework. Taylor Otwell is a champ.

Writing


I've had two publications this year. 

First, my story "A Darker Utility" appeared in New Contrast
Then, another one of my stories "Islands" appeared at The Kalahari Review

Both are what you might consider as "literary" fiction, and I'm quite proud of both pieces despite their flaws.

My story "After the Reception" also won first prize in the South African Writer's Circle SF competition, which was a nice surprise.

Plans for 35


I have a couple of things I want to achieve, in no particular order.

Firstly, I want to finish chapter 2 of my thesis. This'll get me past half way to my PhD. Totally doable.

Secondly, I'd really like to publish a philosophy paper. I'm working on a co-authored paper with my supervisor that is pretty well developed. So hopefully that'll happen soon.

Thirdly, I want to learn a new programming language. This year I learned Oz (barely) and relearned PHP. I'm thinking that I may want to give Clojure and Ruby a go. We'll see as the year progresses.

Fourthly, I want to write at least 60K words on my current WIP.

Finally, I really, really want to do more work contributing to FOSS. 

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