Year in Review 2017
It’s my third year in review! Let’s go to the tape.
If 2016 was mostly about art, my own projects, and being overscheduled: shows, the Electric Objects series, my thesis, etc., then 2017 was pretty much the opposite— lots of engineering and otherwise relaxing, traveling, hitting up museums. Plus a few talks. I remember thinking it was a slog at the time, but it actually seems like it was pretty good in the end. And I feel cautiously optimistic for 2018, so maybe that’s what I needed.
It was also the year, it seems, when I totally gave up on responding to all my emails — even important ones. So if I missed you this year, be assured: it was definitely not personal.
January started with two weeks off. Instead of being smart and relaxing between the finishing my thesis ➡ family visits out West marathon that finished out 2016 and the (good!) stress of starting my job at Kickstarter, I mostly spent that time organizing the hell out of my electronics stuff.
And then Ididn’t touch it all year. But it sure looked good. Instead, I took a handbuilding clay workshop with Anna for our birthday present, where I made two cute foot planters.
Then, very unrested, I went off to Kickstarter’s front-end team. To get used to having to commute (by which I mean, like, leave the house every day), I started re-reading the Bryant and May mystery series in order.
I finished out the month with two iterations of my diagrams talk, Label Goes Here, at Brooklyn JS and at the Code Driven series.
In February, we got to take a trip to the old City Hall station with the transit museum.
✔Another NYC dream accomplished.
The best part might have been all the conductors of turning 6 trains waving at us. The second best part was getting on an out of service train when everyone else got off.
At the office, I got to enjoy how lovely the courtyards and terraces look in the snow and to organize the first and only front end happy hour.
Continuing my rectangle obsession, I gave a talk about grids, Hip to Be Square, at QueensJS.
March 2017 was actually about fun? And relaxing?
My SF bud Haley came to town and we to Gotham Archery for a lesson and shooting and that was great. My shots are impressive when you ignore the fact we were only about 10' from the target.
Afterwards, Westley and I rescued Caper, our concrete zebra friend, from a studio that was being destroyed. He’s about 2' x 3' and very heavy, and I am lucky Wes indulges my whims like that.
I finished out the month by getting psyched to ride the ferry to swim practice and discovering a cursed LaCroix in the office fridge. (No, I did not risk it.)
I also finished re-reading Bryant and May somewhere around this time.
In April I was back on my bullshit, giving two talks and going to Canada. The first talk, about Smell-o-gram, was at CodeShare. It was a bit different from my usual talks, being more of an artist’s talk than a code talk, which is to say, less about explaining a concept or making an argument and more about explaining just what I was thinking and how I accomplished it.
Of all my works, I do feel as though Smell-o-gram is the least finished — it is still so far from accomplishing what I can imagine for it. Maybe 2018 will be the year I come back and revise and show it again.
However, in 2017, I followed that talk with a trip up to Ottawa to talk up diagrams again at ForwardJS. Then, because the only direct flight back to New York from Ottawa left at the crack of dawn, I decided to take the train to Montreal instead, where Wes and I made a weekend of it.
We walked all over & tried spruce beer (mmmmmm) & ate all the poutine & spent all our money on French comics at Drawn & Quarterly. It ended with my first experience having a flight delayed so long they gave us a hotel and we had to try again the next day. It was extra strange, too, because since you go through customs at the Montreal airport, we basically had to re-enter Canada with a note from the airline explaining what happened.
Fortunately, Wes makes pretty much everything fun—even exploring haunted airport Radisson conference centers and begging to get on a LaGuardia flight when we looked like we were going to be delayed another day. It’s the only time I’ve ever begged to go to LGA, for sure.
Mostly, the month of May was devoted the rewrite of Kickstarter’s payments page in React. I had started on the project in February with some utility functions, and by May, with some team reorgs, I was working on quite a bit of this alone.
I tried to keep some balance in my mind by walking to Greenpoint from the Lorimer L stop instead of switching to the G—which was really pleasant—as well as taking advantage of the office roof deck.
Otherwise, we hit up the Whitney biennial, where I fell for Carrie Moyer, which should surprise absolutely no one; I published an article on productivity and capitalism; and joined Ramsey for a panel at Source, where I spoke about making tools.
I also finally opened the Avant-Garde surprise bag I bought at Bauhaus Dessau and it turned out to be a Suprematist magnet kit, so score!
June still featured lots of payments work at work and goofing off at home.
Wes and I went up to a startup cabin in the Catskills via Getaway, which was not really what I hoped, and was very far from the train, but was still relaxing. Plus, I saw a woodpecker, which I had never actually seen before, and some chipmunks. At the cabin, I made a good dent in Soundings, by Hali Felt. It’s a very compelling and not-super-traditional biography of Marie Tharp, who mapped the ocean floor and just happened to prove plate tectonics was real.
I’ve been pretty much obsessed with the maps since.
The next weekend, I went to the Met with Amy, where I took lots of pics of butts, as is my wont, and admired Adrián Villar Rojas’s The Theater of Disappearance on the roof. The piece is a mashup of works from the museum collection and had just the right combination of weird and classical to make it seem more than just a postmodern riff.
We had brunch in the member’s dining room, which is fancy and kinda stuffy, and therefore delightful.
SFPC took Re-Coded to Sonar+D, which makes my fastest made work also my best shown (though that’s really down to the work of everyone else on the project).
Sadly, June also featured the announcement that Electric Objects was being acquired by Giphy and the hardware side shut down. I really love my EO1, but I would never have known had I not gotten one for the commission. I wish it had been easier to make the case for why an internet connected art frame was not IoT bs but actually very compelling. 💀 R I P 💀
To recover from this great tragedy, I took off two weeks at the start of July for a staycation. My plan was to do a drawing bootcamp, since I really enjoy drawing when I do it, but struggle to make time for it. However—I really hated day 1 and it was my vacation, dammit! so I just quit.
Usually I am not a quitter. (Although, reading last year’s Year in Review, I am reminded I quit one class in 2016 as well.) Usually, I tend to force myself to do things I hate because often I turn out to really love them, but I just wasn’t into it.
Much like last year’s quitting, though, this turned out to be a great choice in terms of time management. I turned to working on the project I would be speaking about at Strangeloop in September (WebGL … which was the class I quit in 2016 😆), and I really needed the time.
I did spend a little of the vacation practicing drawing with the exercises from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The two best results were my anxious self-portrait and my creepy fingers.
Finally, I made it to the last day of the Lygia Pape show at the Met Breuer — and good thing too. She expands the Suprematist tradition so compellingly, plus her drawings from the ’50s remind me of what I love in Agnes Martin. *swoon*
The Pape show also gave me the push I needed to agree to live code visuals for Kate’s music. I had been attending LiveCodeNYC meetings since the beginning of the year, mostly because it was a nice time to hang out with Ramsey and Kate and folks, and yell about compilers and functional programming—some of my favorite things to yell about.
However, I was hesitant to actually live code graphics. Most of the work I had seen before focused on beat detection and live-coding shaders, which I was not super excited to make—even though it’s nice enough to look at.
Pape’s Suprematism (and maybe a touch of the Memphis show the floor below), enabled me to remember what kind of graphics I love—and to envision live-coding these. So I told Kate I would totally build an SVG framework and perform with her, just as soon as I finished the project that dominated my August.
Adventures in the vBuffer was my second Strangeloop talk, and the first I applied for directly. (In 2014, I was promoted from the pre-conf at the last minute.)
I had applied to talk about building a vBuffer for WebGL—basically the vDOM idea in a new context—which I was in the middle of doing. Talk-driven development seemed like a great idea; give myself a deadline, keep working. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out exactly as I hoped (as the talk explains), and in August I was really starting to freak out. So I spent most of the month working and coming up with a plan, and exactly 0 working on a live code framework.
In my spare moments, I read What a Fish Knows, which is the best book about fish there is.
Remember back in March when I got all excited about taking the ferry to swim practice? September featured the test of all that work—my first open water race since 2010 or so.
Anna and I drove up to Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey, where she did the 2-mile, 1-mile, and half-mile, and I just did the last. Despite icy temps thanks to the cool summer, I came in first in my age group (ok, first & last & only) and won a sweet medal.
In the middle of the month, when all the top-level changes at Kickstarter were at their peak and Strangeloop worries were mounting, I innovated in stress reduction by sending myself flowers at work. My PM had the same idea, so I got to work in a bower.
Then it was time to return to St. Louis and my Adventure into the vBuffer. It went very well.
After I knocked out the talk the first day, I got to really enjoy the conference. A number of co-workers came, so I got to chill with them, catch up with Recurse and SFPC folks, and swim in the freezing pool at train station Hilton. My fave talks included Erin McKean on ElasticSearch and Step-by-Step by Evy Kassirer, plus those by my buds Rachel White and Mariko Kosaka.
With that taken care of, October was time for vacation and one more conference.
Wes and I went to Berlin for two weeks, with a long layover in Oslo that let us go into town for a few hours. We mostly went to the art museum to say ’sup to some Munchs, but my favorite part of Oslo was this great honesty turnstile at the Central Station.
In Berlin, it was unseasonably warm, so we mostly rode bikes and ate food. Highlights included the unregulated Thai food park (very un-German, we were told), the Friday market at Akornaplatz, riding around in Humboldthain, and the DDR museum. The latter features the most realistic nude beach diorama I’ve seen, realistic enough I don’t think I can post it here.
We also saw some great works by Emilio Vedova and Lajos d’Enbeth at the Berlinische Galerie and bought a stuffed currywurst.
Then, in one of the more questionable choices I’ve made in my life, I flew from Berlin to NYC, spent one day doing laundry, and then flew to San Francisco for GraphQL summit and to see some of my friends out there.
On arrival, I was pretty sure time no longer existed, so that was really fun and interesting. The next day, I got up at 6:30 to go to an outdoor swim practice and did my top swim of the year, moving from the navy blue sky and magic pre-dawn pool lights through some seriously exhausting sets under a pastel sunrise, and feeling maybe a little reborn as we finished up and it was full day. Much like other people’s dreams or acid trips, this kind of transformation is a little boring to read about, but it was really a peak moment of the year.
Then I went off to GraphQL Summit, which was in a mall and that was weird.
My flight home landed in a storm after three go-rounds and the possibility of being diverted to Boston. Let me tell you, when the flight attendant looks relieved, you really appreciate what a feat getting you home was. So that was a scary end to a month of traveling.
November was all about returning to themes established earlier in the year.
I gave my final box-themed talk—Freedom from the Box—at ManhattanJS, clinching the one-year BoroJS triple crown.
I lived up to my August promise to Kate and Codie performed at our first Algorave, the LiveCodeNYC show at Sunnyvale BK.
As if that weren’t enough, I published Namespacing Actions for Redux on the Kickstarter engineering blog, covering some of more abstract code problems I solved with my team at work this year.
In a less-than-great decision, I signed up for an eight-week pottery class, which made me pretty overbooked into the holiday season. But! I did sculpt a head I totally love, so maybe it was a great idea ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
December is now! I pretty much love this month because it is my birthday and Christmas and wintry out and the lights twinkle and I am just a sucker for it all.
I got pretty sick at the beginning of the month, then, as everyone else left town, I kicked into gear at work. I am going to be switching teams in the new year, so I have one big project to finish. (Sorry to my coworkers for the thousand line PR that coming on Tuesday.)
On my birthday, I published Freedom from the Box, my anti-types talk from ManhattanJS. While I got some condescension, which I expected, I also got some really thoughtful responses, which were a very pleasant surprise. Also, Wes got me some really great presents and Codie stickers came in the mail.
The next day Codie played BrooklynJS and included a fun Jingle Bell troll. (The idea and execution were all Kate. I just added some “snowflakes”.)
And then just this past week, I went into the empty office where I insisted on being cute regardless of whether anyone was there to appreciate it. My first subscription plant came. And then, on Thursday, I said goodbye to the pool at John Jay—a place I practiced for more than ten years, which is in truly terrible shape. For our last day, the water was 75º and the deck was about 50º. Farewell old decrepit pool.
Farewell old decrepit year.