Best Things this Year (2016)

What a year. Every week another beloved celebrity passed away and our electoral system gave us a 2.9 million vote loser as president. People I love voted for a guy who bragged about sexually assaulting women, thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax, and wants to build a registry of muslim Americans.

But her email server…

It’s hard to write about the best movies I saw this year in a world there our next president says the US should “expand its nuclear capabilities“.

It’s hard to talk about interesting work projects when a presidential candidate publicly called on the Russians to hack our politicians and then blamed the white house for not stopping it.

It’s seems trivial to tell you which TV shows I thought were interesting when we’re about to have a president who won’t release his tax returns and won’t properly divest his business interests. We can only assume he’ll use his position to benefit himself and his family.

But let’s do it anyway.

Annihilation was the best book I read in 2016

Books
I read fewer books in 2016 than I have in the past few years.
The New Turing Omnibus by Alexander Dewdney
The Little Big Things by Tom Peters
Annihilation by James Vandermeer
Authority by James Vandermeer
The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck
Running: A Love Story by Jen Miller
Martian Time Slip by Philip K Dick
The Castle by Franz Kafka

Work
RJMetrics was acquired last summer by Magento, so I have a new job as the engineering manager for Magento Analytics. It’s essentially the same position I had before, but our team is now improving analytics for the Magento community.

SQL Report Builder
SQL Report Builder

In Q1 of 2016 I worked on a project called the SQL Report Builder, which allows you to build charts directly from SQL queries. I may have built more chart builders than anyone.

Hackathon!
Hackathon!

Alex Kleger and I won the first ever Magento Analytics hackathon in November. We created a feature that allows customers to add new data sources without impacting their update times.

Writing
Against my own rules I did some long form writing on Medium this year. It’s not the most popular, but my favorite was this one about the NJ EZ-Pass website.

Weddings

What do you wear to an 80’s themed wedding?

Last year I spent NYE in Milwaukee at Quinn and Lindsay’s wedding, I rocked a Pac Man suit at Dan and Jesse’s 80’s wedding, and I watched my beautiful sister get married in Orlando.

Owen and I getting ready for Sarah’s wedding

Music
I’ve become obsessed with the Kills

Advance Base at PhilaMoca

I saw Advance Base and Free Cake for Every Creature at PhilaMoca

Austin
I visited Austin, TX three times to visit the Magento offices there. I can’t tell which I love more, the tacos or the BBQ. Need to gather more evidence.

TV
Westworld was good, but season three of Black Mirror was better than anything else on TV.

Stop Motion Movie
Sasha made this awesome stop motion movie for my birthday

Street Art

Street Art
Street Art

I got into capturing cool street art on my Instagram feed.

Data collection

This is the year I got crazy about tracking what I pack my kids for lunch every day.

Previous years
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011

Blogging on Medium

I wrote a few blog posts for work using Medium and they were pretty good.

Use an Updated-At Column in Your MySQL Table (and make it update automatically)

Multidimensional Engineering Management

The latter even included my first published D3 block!

Medium is an interesting blogging tool. Sometimes I love the UI and sometimes I find it frustrating. The sparse UI reduces cognitive load and allows you to focus on writing, which feels great, but there were times when I just wanted to be able to type some html and it fought me on it. I settled for pasting it in from another site.

I don’t think I’ll continue doing it for any personal blogging. I want to own my own long form content and I think it’s important to keep your work in a place that won’t get shut down on a whim when the VC money runs out or if the parent company closes the door.

Announcing Lineage: A Family Tree Data Expression Engine

Lineage screen shot

Last week at the Philly JS Dev meetup, I demoed a new project I’ve been working on called Lineage.

It all started as a way to try and visualize all the research my Aunt Peggy has done over the last 50 years. Using D3, I was able to build a way to search, filter and analyze thousands of family relationships in a network graph. It even lets you start at a given year and watch the family grow and connect as the years tick by.

Links:
See a live demo of Lineage here.
I’ve open sourced it on github.
My slides from the Philly JS Dev Meetup

I wanted the project to be useful, but also stand alone as art, so I kept the user interface as minimal as possible and included an option for music during play mode. If you like the music you can download it on Soundcloud. I’m happy with how it turned out. An enormous amount of gratitude goes out to Peggy Haley for doing this research over the last 50 years.

Note for anyone who is actually in the tree, I have done very little in the way of making sure this data is accurate. If you find anything incorrect, email me and I’ll try and get it fixed in the future.