2012: Chief Oddball's Retrospective

2012: Chief Oddball’s Retrospective

As the final minutes of Gregorian year 2012 prepare to expire here in the U.S. Central time zone, let’s take a look back at the year from Chief Oddball’s vantage point. (That’s me, in case you’re new here.) Was it a year of success or failure? Good times or bad? To borrow a page from the playbook of every cheap political hack, am I better off now than I was when the year began?

Home and Family

It’s hard to imagine family life being more amazing than it is now. In addition to my beautiful wife Apple whom I have loved for every minute of the almost 15 years I’ve known her, our beautiful baby boy — born to us in late 2011 — has begun his hyper-accelerated ascent into toddlerdom. Every day there’s something new and fantastic in store for us, as he learns to say new words (or learns to at least try to say them, which is perhaps even more entertaining), shows clear understanding of concepts we didn’t know he could grasp, and smiles and laughs his way through life with an innocence that most of us can barely recall feeling. He’s the perfect mix of us both — his dad’s fine brown hair, his mother’s almond eyes, and an amalgamation of personality traits from both sides — and he is a miracle.

Keeping up with our son at times has been taxing, and my wife and I — who are both admittedly low-energy introverts who thrive on quiet and solitude — have had to reach for new levels of operating efficiency that we didn’t know we had. It’s rarely easy; in fact perhaps it never is, but it’s always rewarding, and that’s something which can not always be said about life’s other challenges. With parenting there’s something new around every corner, and while it may be among the hardest things you’ve ever done, the payoff is every bit commensurate.

Among more mundane matters, Apple and I have continued to be reminded on occasion that the life of a homeowner is one that’s never far from unexpected expense. This summer our house’s air conditioner condenser fan burned out on what was at the time the hottest day of the year. Last night, our water heater failed spectacularly on one of the coldest nights, going so far as to turn our back hallway into a virtual rainforest for a few minutes as the 50 gallon tank in the attic bled its contents onto the floor above. (Fortunately, most of the water escaped via a drain set up for just such an event.) About the best thing that can be said for such homeowner emergencies is that each one is always a learning experience, but that in and of itself is indeed valuable.

Work

It was perhaps one of our busiest years at work, and I daresay one of our best. We had a massive increase in the number and scope of professional contracts, which is to say, other companies coming to us for custom-developed solutions billed by the hour — always a lucrative thing in IT. The new bonus system this year also ensured that every employee got a share of those rewards each quarter. And all the way up through and including the end-of-year holidays, we’ve been securing additional work that will keep us busy into next year and in some cases beyond.

From a personal standpoint, I continued my tradition of expanding my horizons into more areas, and this year the big one was the Pandora’s Box of programming. I’ve worked in just about every fringe field around custom software development; everything from web design to marketing to technical writing to QA and testing. This summer I finally got my hands into actual .NET development, working directly (and in some cases exclusively) on several contract projects in both C# and VB.NET languages. I discovered that coding is actually really satisfying, more so than most of the other things I’ve done in my career, and my boss and I have already had preliminary discussions about continuing and perhaps expanding this role further as time goes on. Eventually they may even contract out some of the more mundane stuff that I do now (writing press releases, doing email blasts, writing website copy and other such relative minutiae), if it means giving me more time to code on projects.

I received two raises in 2012, and with my next annual review coming up in the near future, I’m hoping that this too is a trend that will continue.

Gaming

As my chief hobby, gaming merits a section of its own in my annual retrospective, and there’s scarcely been a better time for it. 2012 was a banner year for gaming in all respects. Early into the year I started amassing what became a glut of quality Xbox games that I was able to fill my shelves with, many of which I’ve barely touched and all of which I wish I had more hours in the day to experience. Then came my recent foray back into PC gaming, where I got my start in the 1980s, and which culminated in my achieving the “Holiday Sale 2012″ badge on Steam for going absolutely ape buying discount AAA games at ridiculous prices.

Finally, 2012 brought my formal introduction to the world of tabletop games, a world which I re-enter almost every workday over my lunch break with a couple of friends. We’ve played everything from Magic: The Gathering and Android Netrunner to Risk Legacy and the Castle Ravenloft series. Tabletop gaming in the modern era is a world filled with even more creativity and fun than the video game world that I’ve been a denizen of for so long, and even better, these are games which are more social and fun to play with other real people. I’m incredibly excited to start introducing my son to some of these tabletop adventures as he gets older.

As the end of 2012 draws near, I find myself chilling out on New Year’s Eve long after everyone else has gone to bed, enjoying my almost certainly futile attempts to beat FTL on Normal difficulty. With everything from asteroid belts and solar flares to marauding intruders and hull breaches to worry about — all of them generated randomly — I find myself trying to come up with some kind of strategy that will give me the best chance of surviving all this. As a testament to how great FTL is, though, even losing is exciting because it means you get to try again. I worked hard the other night putting together a set of custom sound effects for the game, culled from the Star Trek: TNG universe, and it’s made each mission even more entertaining.

Where We Go From Here

As 2013 begins, honestly I would be happy with more of the same. I’ll even take the lumps with the good, if I can have another banner year like this one. In particular I’m hoping for the chips to fall in their proper places for us to achieve some of our loftier goals, like replacing Apple’s almost nine-year-old car with a Dodge Charger R/T. But the most important goals are the ones to which no price tag can be attached, namely the continued growth, health and progress of our son as he gets older and starts doing even more amazing things.

I’m incredibly fortunate and thankful to have had the kind of year that 2012 has been. As the fireworks explode in the distance, I applaud the outgoing year and look forward to what the next one has in store.