The Best of 2019

Reviewing the great parts about 2019 - the best blog posts, books, games, music, and things worth mentioning. Previous posts include 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014.

Great articles and blog posts

I have much fewer links to things I've read this year. I attribute that to less time spent reading articles and having a higher standard for quality writing. I'm going to call that a win.

Burnout and the Brain
- Burnout isn't just a cause of fatigue and depression-like symptoms. It leads to changes in the structure of the brain that impair personal and social functioning, memory, attention, and leads to difficulties in regulating emotions. This article was a key factor in leading me to take an extended period of time off from work this year.

The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare
- This report from Fast Company describes the strange world of internet reviews and influencers who specialize in online-only mattress stores. Reading it has made me distrustful of all online review websites and made me much more critical of reviews I see online.

The Land and Expand Strategy for Reading
- This post describes an interesting strategy for learning about new fields. Before reading a book about a new field, read a story about the field. Want to learn about computer animation? Read The Pixar Touch, then pick up a technical manual. I've recently discovered the fun of reading an interesting biography and I'm looking forward to trying this technique this year.

Modular boxes used by Extinction Rebellion are "protest architecture"
- I love the idea of adaptable and configurable architecture, and this article from Dezeen highlights some of the work done by architects to support climate change protesters in the UK this past summer.

62.7% of the total system energy in Mobile Devices is spent on data movement
- In order to reduce global energy needs as part of reducing global emissions, experts in their fields are going to need to analyze how technology uses energy and figure out how we redesign important tools like computers for greater efficiency. It turns out that for computers, we're going to need to build systems that are more efficient at accessing and storing information.

Astronaut Scott Kelly on the devastating effects of a year in space
- I originally read this article a few years ago but I've found myself thinking about it regularly this year when talking about the future of human space flight. The human mind and body is the weakest link when it comes to the future of being an interplanetary species.

Favourite books read

The Dichotomy of Leadership
- A sequel to one of my favourite books about leadership, Extreme Ownership, Dichotomy takes a more nuanced look at the trade-offs and difficult decisions leaders need to make, and how sometimes the correct course of action is really the opposite of what you might have thought if you read only the first book.

The Butchering Art
- A biography of Joseph Lister, the pioneer of antiseptic practices in hospitals. A fascinating and frightening look at what medicine was like in the 30 years between the discovery of anaesthetics and antiseptics.

Nonviolent Communication
- Something that struck me about this book was how similar the concepts for effective communication with a colleague or partner are to the best practices for negotiation described in Never Split the Difference. It really seems that if any of us is to have a hope of getting things that we want, we need to be able to show that we understand others' needs and be able to articulate our own effectively.

- Attachment theory seems to be a big trend right now among people who try to understand the dynamics of human relationships. This book certainly gave me a lot to think about, and hopefully some new tools for helping me choose how to spend my limited energy.

- The author, Nir Eyal, is perhaps most famous for writing the book Hooked, a manual for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that outline how to build products that keep their customers addicted. Indistractable is the opposite - a book for the rest of us who now have to fight against a world of products trying to keep us constantly engaged.

Favourite musicians discovered

According to Spotify, this year I listened to 1350 new artists. I couldn't possibly pick the best ones from a list that large, so here are a few memorable artists selected at semi-random

- An industrial artist featuring female vocals, heavy basslines, and interesting textures. Various reviewers have described her as "a female version of NIN" and "the future of industrial music".

Dan Auerbach
- I've been listening to Dan Auerbach for years as part of The Black Keys, but his solo stuff never really clicked with me until this year. While The Black Keys is solidly blues, Auerbach's solo work trends more towards indie, soul, and folk sounds.

Dance with the Dead
- Dance with the Dead is a synthwave artist that hasn't seen as much popularity as acts like Carpenter Brut or Perturbator, but who I really appreciate for their inclusion of some kickass live guitar.

Favourite games played

I played a handful a games this year, but none of them felt particularly exceptional to me, aside from an interesting little unreleased game that I had the honour of playtesting.

Favourite podcasts discovered

Fall of Civilizations
- How is it that entire civilizations rise, create great works of architecture, then disappear into obscurity? Fall of Civilizations takes an already fascinating topic and turns them into suspenseful and educational 2-hour stories.

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy
- A series of fun, 10 minute stories about technologies that underlie modern civilization and yet are easily overlooked.

Programming languages I still haven't tried

State of plans from 2019

Complete 5 projects.
- Done! I completed 4 sewing projects over the year for a few events like Halloween and Nuit Blanche. I also built an art installation for Halloween with a good friend, and taught myself to DJ, and even played a live gig!

Read 3000 pages.
- Actual pages read: 2871. 3000 pages seems to be the right goal for me - it feels like a good balance of reading about things versus doing them.

Develop deeper social connections.
- I'll call this a success. I found a good cadence of meeting up with friends during the week and reached out to some people I hadn't spoken to for years. I won't set this as a goal for next year but I intend to keep practicing this through 2020.

Plans for 2020