2015 In Review

"Another year over. And a new one just begun."
- Happy Christmas (War Is Over), John Lennon


Blogging

Looking at my blog's post count for this year, I see I for the first time exceeded the post count of the blog's first year. So, hooray! One thing which helped was participating in #RPGaDay back in August, though I also managed to do at least 10 posts every month for the rest of the year. What I did was quietly set up a posting schedule. I knew every other day would probably be too much so I opted for something a little bit unusual - I made sure I had a post for every day which was a prime number. I managed to keep to this schedule, though there were two or three days when I fudged and made a post the next day and set the date for the post to be the day before. I also set up a rough list of subjects to cover for each day, should I not have an idea when it came time to write.

I expanded my subject matter a little bit. I'd originally intended on talking about topics like politics, religion, history, etc. along side more traditional geeky topics. However, it felt a little awkward to do so initially. I'm still finding my voice in doing so but I have managed to write on such matters over the course of this year. I'm unapologetically liberal in my views. In my personal life I get along just fine with people who are  conservatives, libertarians, and most other people of good character. I've reached the point in my life when I've become aware that life experiences will lead people to different conclusions and ways of looking at the world. That doesn't mean I don't believe in what I say or write; rather it means i understand that people can honestly have different views from me without being some sort of horrible person.

Star Wars got the lion's share of later posts this year. That's not incredibly surprising given my gaming group is currently playing Edge of the Empire and there is a new Star Wars movie out there. Go see it. It's fun.

Looking at statistics for my blog, I'm clearly not one of the "top ten" destinations for Star Wars, the Old School Renaissance, or anything else. Moist of my posts garner hit counts in the low hundreds range. Gaming reviews tend to get the highest hit counts and they continue to do so long after the original post - some of my older reviews now have hit counts in the thousands. Political topics tend to get high hit counts as well - I imagine that is due to certain subject matters being searched for. I've decided that at this point in time I'm not looking for a huge hit count - for the most part this blog represents a good way for me to gather my own thoughts and to share them and I'm honored that some people have found what I've written to be interesting.

Gaming

I've been honored with a relatively stable gaming group over the past year. True, many of the members live hundreds or thousands of miles away, but I've grown to really enjoy the virtual company of the group. We finished up some Call of Cthulhu at the start of the year. We ran some Dungeon Crawl Classics which ended in my first ever total party kill (sorry guys). We then ran some Star Wars, followed by a brief D&D 5th edition game and a return to Star Wars. My hope is to keep our Star Wars; Edge of the Empire going a while longer. I'm starting to finally grok the game engine and am finding the setting beginning to spin out its own adventure ideas. I'm sure there will be a detailed review of the game in the future. When it does run its course, I'm really looking forward to some Call of Cthulhu. I'm always ready to play that of course...

Education and Career

I'd long considered going back to school for my Master's degree but I'd never found anything I could be passionate about. In the course of my job, over the past several years I've been doing a lot of statistical analysis and have slowly found myself doing the work of a data scientist (most of my career has been as some form of a software engineer). Learning more about the field of data science, I found myself interested in Brandeis University's Strategic Analytics program. I am now officially a part-time student in that program and have completed my first class. It is part of their Graduate Professional Studies, geared for professionals with full-time jobs. It uses distances learning - though Brandeis is reasonably close to where I live, I can actually complete the program without ever going to the campus should I so choose. So far I've been able to balance home life, work, sneaking in gaming, and keeping up with my classes. I do find myself sneaking off to our town's public library every Saturday morning to get a solid block of work done.

Both my wife and I had a year of constant employment, which was nice after a few bumpy years. My employer, EMC, is in the process of being acquired by Dell. Hopefully, this will go smoothly for me - my group is profitable and does not do anything which duplicates Dell, so at the very least there's none of the danger signs one looks for when gauging how an acquisition will affect you.

Home Life


Somehow my little girls are now ten and thirteen. I love them both. The younger one is a lot like me in terms of her interests - she talks about Star Wars non-stop, builds vast worlds in Minecraft, and tackles massive Lego sets with ease, completing an Ewok Village in under three days. The older one takes after me in terms of her world view - she's incredibly well-informed in matters of politics, social justice, etc. There's also a lot of their mother in both of them. My wife and I reached our 19th anniversary this year - back in college I'd resigned myself to a life of solitude so that fact astounds me. Marriage has had rewards I'd never imagined and challenges I'd never seen coming. With the kids a bit older we're actually able to make it out of the house for dates again. A nice highlight of the year was making it to Disney World for the first time in a decade.

Religion

I'd not normally need to even give this its own section - I'd been a Catholic all my life and had expected that to remain the case. However, I'd found myself questioning a lot over the past several years. Early this year, I'd accepted what had clearly been the case for some time - I'd become one of the godless atheists. I recently listened to Julia Sweeney's Letting Go of God and I found I absolutely understood everything she was saying as she discussed her own journey. You'll not find me mocking people for believing in a "sky daddy" - if for no other reason that my immediate family still consists of believers. As a Catholic, my evangelization was by example and I've not changed in that regard. I have found myself far more aware of how embedded religion, and specifically, Christianity, is in the US government and I have questioned more the privileged status religious institutions have in the United States, such as their tax-exemption. I do have Pope Francis for company, who has indicated that the non-charitable work of churches should not be tax-exempt.

Literature

In my religious (non-religious?) journey, I found myself doing a lot of reading. Unsurprisingly I found myself reading Christopher Hitchens but I also read the works of the former "chaplain" of the Colbert Report, James Martin, S. J. 

As far as fiction goes, I read a bunch by my favorite authors such as Stephen King and George R. R. Martin. I also got around to reading my first Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany's) and my first Paolo Bacigalupi as well. I found Bacigalupi to be both engaging and disturbing, with some very challenging ideas that are consequences of biotechnology. I read Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman - it's a work I found interesting, though I have some strong concerns as to whether she wanted it published. There's much more I read over the course of the year, but these are what came to mind first.

Miscellaneous

  • The Mets made it to the World Series! Yay! They didn't win it. Boo! I did make it to a Mets game this season, for the first time in a few years.
  • The winter was awful, especially in late January and February. Really hoping we've paid our weather dues and will get a mild winter this year. 
  • College students get discounts on lots of stuff. Even part-time graduate students. That proved good to know.
  • Olaf the Corgi might look cute. But if you put him in the room with a book you like, it is going to be chewed into oblivion.


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