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23 Jan 2021 : New Year's Resolutions 2021 - Reckoning and Renewal #
The year 2020 was a strange one, not just for me but for everyone. For me it was also a year full of achievement, and while I'd hate to brag, I really would like to get some of these things down on "paper", so that I can look back at them in the future and appreciate my dedication (to TV and games mostly!).

This was the year of the pandemic of course, and that shaped my life just as it did everyone else's, sometimes in very unexpected ways. Most notably, I spent much more time in Finland than I was expecting, geographically distant from Joanna. My flat is small, but it does have a balcony, a good view, good facilities and a decent Internet connection, all of which I was very thankful for.

Some people think success is about having as much impact on the world as possible. One of the things being in Finland in the midst of a pandemic taught me is that sometimes the opposite is true. Most of the things I've grown to value over the last year have been about having as little impact as possible.
You could say that I've been trying to earn my metaphorical goose feather babiches: learning, as Joel Fleischman did in the closing episodes of Northern Exposure, to go lightly through life. Coincidentally, one of my achievements this year was to finally watch the entirety of Northern Exposure from start to finish, all six series and 110 episodes. I must have watched my first episode back when it aired on Channel 4 in 1990, so that's a 30-year goal completed there. If that isn't exactly something to be proud of, it does at least make me feel fulfilled.

In a similar vein I also completed Shadow of the Tomb Raider. That's been a 17 year journey, although admittedly one with a periodically shifting finish line as new games are released. Finally, I also completed the final instalment of the Syberia adventure game series. I arrived a little late to the series in 2014, but that still mounts up to a pretty long journey. Sadly there was less snow than I was hoping for in the third instalment compared to the second, but it was still a really good feeling reaching the conclusion of the story.
Another thing I put a lot of effort into in 2020 was the development of Contrac, my Linux implementation of Google and Apple's Exposure Notification API. When I released the first version in July I naively thought it would be something I could get done and then put to one side. It didn't turn out that way. The specs have been updated and extended at least three times, and it turns out there's a never-ending potential for improvement. So it's ended up requiring considerably more commitment than I expected. What started as a simple desire to understand the protocol and hold Google and Apple to account turned into something more practical, but also more effortful.

Contrac will, no doubt, continue to eat up a lot of my spare time in 2021.

Finally, 2020 was also a rubbish year for me in a very literal way. Back in 2019 I started collecting data about the amount of waste I produce (recycling, non-recycling returnable and compostable waste). I continued collecting this data throughout 2020, with the aim not just of understanding my waste output, but also of reducing it. I think I had some decent success with this, going from a daily average waste output of 304.18g per day in 2019 to a much improved 153.9g per day in 2020. That's nearly half, and well below the target of less than 300g per day I set myself last January. Here's what my waste output looked like in 2020.
Daily waste data histocurve for 2020

So what of my other new year's resolutions from last year? The repeated lockdowns, social isolation and travel restrictions all counter-intuitively helped me progress with them.

My first target was to rewrite this website from legacy ASP to PHP, so that it could be moved over to a LAMP server. I was hoping to get this done-and-dusted by the end of January and by 19th January this was looking plausible. Ultimately it took a bit longer, with the final switch over happening on 17th March. Looking back, I'm pretty proud of this result. The conversion ended up taking the original 54 files and 4871 lines of bespoke ASP code and re-writing it into 49 files and 5028 lines of PHP code. The resulting website is to all intents and purposes identical to the previous site for the end user, but now running on Linux with a TLS certificate. It was a lot of work, but I'm happy with the (almost completely unchanged) result.

Second, as already mentioned, I aimed to reduce my daily waste output to an average below 300g a day. This seemed like an achievable but still worthwhile goal. Reducing my waste to that level required a lot of work and a complete change in my buying habits. I now eat a lot more leftovers, and have shifted from glass to cardboard and plastic packaging. I forewent peanut butter for almost a year until just recently when I managed to source it in a non-glass container. I really hope I can keep my waste down at a similar level in 2021 as well.

Third I planned to work on Scintillon, my Sailfish OS app for controlling Philips Hue smart lights. This was, unfortunately, one of the victims of the pandemic, or more precisely, of my work on Contrac. While Contrac got 15 released during the year, Scintillon didn't get any.

Fourth I planned to spend 30 minutes each day learning Finnish. This is, sadly, where I failed most miserably. This was partly due to isolation, which left my Finnish classes cancelled and my opportunity to interact with native Finns greatly reduced. But even though there was nothing stopping me progressing with my FinnishPod101 subscription, I even failed with that. Ironically this January I started using the Duolingo app and have been working my way through the Finnish lessons quite steadily. So maybe I'll achieve the goal... just a year later.

So, that's two successes and two failures. Hopefully that's just about enough momentum to propel me into 2021 ready to attack some new resolutions. So, here are my goals for 2021.
  1. Put this website code into a public git repository. Having converted the code to PHP, it's high time I released it as open source. I might even include the old ASP code too, along with all of its hideous flaws. I'm no ASP coder. And no PHP coder either.
  2. Each week by the end of the weekend, spend at least an hour doing something calming that doesn't require a computer. For example it could be solving a maths problem, doing something artistic, reading a book, writing something or just going for a walk. The key thing is that I must keep a record of what I did each week, otherwise I'm going to lose the impetus to continue.
  3.  Complete the bisection analysis that Frajo and I started working on a year ago. We collected all the data and wrote the algorithm; now we just need to apply the algorithm to the data. It's one of those tasks that never seems to reach the top of my priority list, despite the fact it might generate some interesting results.

Plus, I aim to maintain the wins I made in 2020 by continuing with Dulingo, keeping my average waste output down to less than 250g per day, and keeping my carbon footprint to less than 5 tonnes of CO2 during the year.

That's a fair amount to manage, and it may be harder without the pandemic, but it's good to have goals, right?


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