oddEvan.com

Slightly uneven since 2005.

Here Comes 2015!

Here we go again with another New Year’s Introspection!

  1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year? Attending Grok 2014
  2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened? Learning to deal with the pain of regret and disappointment on a bigger scale than I thought I’d experience.
  3. What was an unexpected joy this past year? Giving my new camera a workout.
  4. What was an unexpected obstacle? See #2.
  5. Pick three words to describe 2014. Finding our equilibrium.
  6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2014 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you). Highs and lows
  7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2014 (again, without asking). Learning and growing
  8. What were the best books you read this year? Pretty much the only books I read were The Fire Within by Chris D’Lacey and Storm Chase by K. M. Carroll (a.k.a. NetRaptor a.k.a. best thing to ever happen to Sonic fan fiction). Anyway, I’m hoping to read more this year.
  9. With whom were your most valuable relationships? My wife, some of my co-workers, and one of my old roommates that’s living in town.
  10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year? I’m writing more.
  11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally? I experienced deep pain and did not die. I despaired, sure, but I lived to tell the tale.
  12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually? Learning—again—that God doesn’t operate on my schedule.
  13. In what way(s) did you grow physically? See, you keep asking this question, and I actually did make it up to a “healthy” BMI this year. And I got the cholesterol to go with it.
  14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others? Learning to have empathy/compassion for jerks and bullies.
  15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)? Getting recognized for accomplishing something worthwhile.
  16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)? Learning to stay focused and where to direct said focus.
  17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? I think sudoku and webcomics are tied.
  18. What was the best way you used your time this past year? Actually completing a challenge and publishing something again.
  19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year? If I want to, I can still be as awesome as I used to be. (But maybe not as awesome as I thought I was. Because I never was.)
  20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2014 for you. Recovering and stabilizing from 2013.

Brittany did this too. Have a great year, everyone!

Justice

I’ve largely been silent on the issue of Ferguson, MO. Most of what I’ve “said” on the topic have been retweets and reblogs of what other people have said. Since I’m not on the ground there, I’ve ceded my voice to those that are. Since this doesn’t feel like my story, I’ve ceded my voice to those who it is.

Though I’ve been developing opinions of my own on the subject, I was waiting for the evidence and the investigation to be made public before saying anything. I feel that I need to be serious with my words; firing off half-baked opinions about a controversial topic based on shaky evidence is not what I want to be known for. I trusted our justice system to conduct a complete investigation and give Officer Wilson a fair trial.

With Monday’s announcement that there would be no trial (at least at the state level), that trust has been shaken. And so I write.

I firmly believe that there is enough doubt around the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death that a trial is deserved. The solution to conflicting reports is to bring them out at trial. The solution to conflicting evidence is to investigate it. There is a lot of noise around this event; we need a real investigation and a real trial to cut through the noise and find the truth.

Many people have bemoaned how the court of public opinion has already found Officer Wilson guilty of murder. The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney could have taken the judgement to an actual court, but chose not to. Perhaps I am being unfair–after all, it was a Grand Jury that chose not to indict Officer Wilson. Yet Attorney McCulloch had a simple job and failed to do it.

These events have shaken my faith in the justice system in my country. I’ve always believed that the system was fair; I see now that it isn’t. I have thought that the disproportionate targeting of African-Americans by police was a factor of wealth or some other circumstance, but now I’m wondering if racism in the police force is a bigger problem than I first believed.

Even if Michael Brown was a thug that deserved to die, Officer Wilson did not have the right to make that decision. The death penalty, even where it exists, can only be given out by a jury, not a single officer. If Michael Brown did not deserve to die, then this is a crime. This needs to be investigated. We need the truth.

The Lines Worth Reading Between

Apple’s latest earnings have an interesting note: their research spending is the highest it’s been since 2006.

Research and development is a fancy business way of saying “doing new things.” When my previous employer entered the great recession of 2008, the plan to weather the storm was to double-down on R&D. By investing in new products when the market was slow, the company would have those products ready when the market was ready to buy. Our part of the company–tasked with entering a new market for the company–was one of the few areas allowed to hire new employees.

The economy’s recovery in general is up for debate, but the advice is sound: research and development is a key investment for any company, particularly product-based companies (which any software company is, SaaS not withstanding). It’s almost too obvious: as annoying as constant calls for Apple to release a new product are, they do have a point. New products and innovations are the lifeblood of these companies. Which is why every company invests in research and development.

To provide some context, simple research is a constant cost. A company sets aside a certain amount every year to pay a certain number of people to spend a certain amount of time exploring new ideas. Google is (or at least was) famous for its “20% time” that allows any engineer in the company to spend time exploring. Microsoft has an entire division devoted to exploration. Apple obviously has its own research and development; they would be unable to update their products annually without it.

When a project is close to completion, things change. Completing a project means investing in quality assurrance and testing. It means finalizing all of the little details that make the difference between a “good” product and a “great” one. What was once a fixed cost suddenly becomes more variable.

Which brings me back to the inital observation: the last time Apple’s R&D spending was this high was in 2006. Apple’s most important product of the last 10 years–the iPhone–was introduced in 2007.

By now there’s too much smoke for there not to be some kind of watch-like device from Apple, most likely to be introduced this Tuesday. And given Apple’s increase in research spending, it’s going to be a big deal.

Personally, I can’t wait. You?

Sad Lyrics Over Uplifting Chords

I like Owl City. This is independent of my appreciation for Owl City. At their best, Owl City has a tendency to take me back to the late nights in my humid converted-attic bedroom the summer before my sophomore year of high school. To sum up a thousand-word essay in a sentence, it was the summer I really started letting my imagination free. Needless to say, it was a very formative ten weeks.

By that measure, Owl City’s new EP Ultraviolet does not disappoint.

The first track, “Beautiful Times,” features Lindsey Stirling on the violin. The music is full, lush, and steady, matching the song’s patiently optimistic lyrics. Lindsey’s violin helps drive home the song’s theme of seeing even a “fight of my life” being “beautiful times.” It’s followed by “Up All Night,” an infectious dance song that seems to be about a missed connection, though anyone that’s had a person (or other thing) on their mind for an extended length of time can relate.

The third track, “This Isn’t the End,” deals with heavy issues including suicide, panic attacks, and abandonment. It was hard for me, personally, to see past those issues enough to judge the song musically, though it does seem to be the weakest song in the set.

The selling point of the EP for me is the last track, “Wolf Bite.” Like Owl City’s first mega-hit “Fireflies,” the song has a bit of a musical dichotomy: while the words seem to belong to a quiet, understated song, the music apparently thinks otherwise. This is something Adam himself lampshaded on his blog:

Spoiler: Owl City is 95% sad lyrics over uplifting chords.

Unlike “Fireflies,” however, I think the dichotomy is warranted on this song. While “Fireflies” is a song about being unable to sleep (and things getting weirder as a result!), “Wolf Bite” is a call for help. Instead of the focus of the song being inward, the focus is outward toward another, calling out to “show me the way.” In other words, if you get one song off this EP, get this one.

Album Rating: B+

You can stream it on Spotify or buy it on iTunes.

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