Weeknote Special: 2019

Since it’s the last Sunday of the year, I thought it would be nice to deviate from the usual weeknote template and do a wider review.

Finance

I’ve made some changes to my financial habits and tracking this year, and have at least one more planned for next year:

This year I wanted to cut down on transactions fixing a discrepancy between how much money I actually have and how much money my ledger says I have. Such discrepancies arise if I make a mistake when recording transactions: entering a transaction twice, getting the amount wrong, missing a transaction; that sort of thing. This year I made 6 adjustments:

There’s a bit of an issue with my weekly statement checking, in that it’s good for catching missing or incorrect transactions, but not so good for duplicate ones. I can fix that but it would just be a bit more work. A bigger problem is that I keep my ledger using a slightly weird home-grown system: I log expenses as soon as they’re incurred (which may be before they’re billed), but income only when it’s received. This means the money in my ledger doesn’t necessarily match the money in my bank statement unless I wait a few days for any pending transactions to clear. It’s a good system for personal accounting, because it means I’m always pessimistic about how much money I have, but it’s not what the bank does, so it makes checking awkward as week- or month-end balances in my ledger may be pretty different from my bank statement.

I’ve decided to make one change going forward into 2020: I’m changing how I track cash withdrawals. Once upon a time, I had a category in my budget for “cash to withdraw”, which I would take money from when I withdrew it, and which I’d replenish with money from a more specific category as I actually spent it. So I might withdraw £50 from “money to withdraw” and then spend £25 on food and £25 on books, so I’d move £25 each from my food and discretionary categories back into the “money to withdraw” category. I stopped doing that because I kept losing track of cash (which I still do), and decided to allocate money when I withdrew it: so I wouldn’t withdraw £50 and spend it on food and books, I’d withdraw £25 for food and £25 for books. The idea was that all money in my wallet should have a purpose, making me less likely to lose track of it. Well, that turned out to be much more work, and since I barely use cash these days, I’ll go back to the old system and risk forgetting the occasional thing.

Home

I was living in central London, now I’m not.

I’ve been in my new flat in Rickmansworth for a month now. It’s pretty nice, the commute isn’t so bad (though getting a seat in the mornings is tricky). I’m keeping an eye on the increased cost of travel, though so far it looks like it’ll be cheaper to not buy an annual season ticket, by several hundred pounds. I’m going to work out how much I’m spending a month on average in March, and maybe buy a ticket then if I’m going into London enough, for non-work purposes, to make it worth it.

I did have fibre, now I have worse fibre.

At my old flat I had symmetric gigabit fibre from Hyperoptic. It was great, waiting for downloads was almost a thing of the past. Now I have 350Mb/s down and a tenth of that up, for more money (thanks, Virgin Media)… but it’s the best I can get in the new flat and it’s still pretty good. Another downgrade is that Hyperoptic provided IPv6, Virgin Media don’t.

Open source

It’s been a very slow year.

I released a new super-major version of dejafu, which did a lot of refactoring to make it possible to implement some cool features:

Those may not sound cool, but they are. Trust me.

Reading

This year I’ve read 38 books, which is pretty good but could be better. I picked up the pace towards the end of the year and was around 1 book a week for a while.

I also discovered that the bookdb sqlite file was corrupt, and in fixing it lost all the changes since mid July, so I had to guess and re-enter a bunch of last-read dates based on weeknote entries. That was a pain.

Here’s a list of all the books I read, grouped by author:

I’m currently making my way through two more books: In the Court of the Yellow King, a collection of short stories in the King in Yellow mythos; and Towers of Midnight, the thirteenth (of fourteen) Wheel of Time book.

Tech

I tend to try out new tech stuff pretty regularly, and this year has been no exception. One of the things I did was an incomplete migration away from Google: I still use Calendar and Photos, but I’ve got replacements for Chrome and Mail. Here are all the things I’ve stuck with:

Work

A few big things happened at work this year, the main is that I got promoted to a senior developer in June. The second is that the Elasticsearch upgrade project, which started in late 2018 with me and one other developer migrating from version 2 to 5, finally got us all the way to ES 6, without search results getting worse. That latter part was the hard bit, the actual ES upgrades were tedious but not too confusing. Search result quality tanked though, so we had to put a lot of work into getting that part right.

Miscellaneous

Earlier this year (though it feels much longer ago), I finished and submitted my Ph.D corrections, and passed. I’ve since been disappointed by how many services I find which don’t let you enter “Dr” as your honorific.

I got into fermentation, and I’ve now tried my hand at: kombucha (but I couldn’t make anything tasty), water kefir (which did work), vinegar (but couldn’t get the wine to ferment), and lactofermentation. With lactofermentation I’ve made fermented carrot sticks, hot sauce (peppers, garlic, and onions: fermented together and then blended), and sauerkraut. I want to try sourdough at some point too.

My Call of Cthulhu game, in which I’m running the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, is still going on. The first session was in September 2018! The players have travelled (in game) from Peru, to New York, to England, to China, to Egypt, and now to Kenya. I’ve told them that this chapter could be the conclusion of the campaign but, if they make it through alive, there’s still one more place for them to go.

I got an Oculus Quest, a standalone battery-powered VR headset. It’s really cool, I play a lot of Beat Saber. Despite being stand-alone, the graphics quality is fine. The main problems I’ve found with it are: games which involve moving more than a few meters are a bit clunky, as they usually have teleportation or joystick-controlled movement, which means your viewpoint moves without your feet moving. That’s a bit disconcerting. The other main problem is the lack of tactile feedback. The controllers can buzz, but that’s all the feedback you get. There are really two aspects to the tactile feedback: there’s knowing when you’re touching something (making the controllers able to convey solidity), and making virtual objects feel realistic when you interact with them (making the controllers able to convey resistance). For example, in Vader Immortal you can hold your lightsaber with two hands, but there’s obviously nothing there in reality, so it feels really strange moving both hands around as if they’re connected when they’re not. Maybe VR needs more physical props.