2014 in Review

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2014 has flown past so fast I can hardly believe it is gone. But the journey has been amazing.

My sons continue to do well in college. Timmy is in his sophomore year at Indiana University.  Last semester, he took a software course and he told me he may soon declare Informatics as his major. Nick is nearly done with the Masters program at the University of South Florida and his responsibilities as a Graduate Assistant with the USF basketball increased when the school hired a new coach last year.

In late 2013, I began a new job as a Technical Evangelist for Microsoft. I had pursued this job for years and I leapt into it enthusiastically. It wasn't hard to keep busy - partly because I was excited to learn my new role and to impress my new overlords - and partly because my new department had a lot of turnover, so I was asked to cover 2 regions (7 states) until the team was back at full strength. My basic evangelism activities covered schools, user groups, conferences, and startup incubators from Wisconsin to Tennessee and I made a point to visit each state at least twice. I travelled a lot - mostly by car, but occasionally by plane. At the bottom of this post is a list of the 50 different cities in which I presented or worked an event in 2014.

I also attended team off-sites in Phoenix and in Denver and I attended internal Microsoft conferences in Seattle and Atlanta.

While not directly part of my job, I was invited to speak at a couple other developer conferences: FalafelCon in San Francisco and IT Camp in Romania.

The Romania trip was amazing. My friend Mihai runs a developer conference in Cluj-Napoca, Romania and he invited me to speak there. I arrived three days before the conference and hired a tour guide to show me around Transylvania. After the conference, I drove to Budapest, Hungary and spent three days enjoying that city before heading home. I'm planning to return to IT Camp this May and I'm looking at other places to visit while I'm back in Europe. You can read details about this trip at here. You can view photos at the following links:

Years ago, I established a goal to visit the home stadium of every team in each major professional US leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL). The year, I was able to visit a number of new arenas and stadiums, including the homes of the Phoenix Coyotes, the Atlanta Braves, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Oakland Athletics, the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts, and the St. Louis Rams. Astute readers will note that I have attended Coyotes and Colts games in the past, but those teams have built new stadiums since that time so I had to return.

In late 2014, I moved to Chicago. I rented a studio apartment in the Old Town neighbourhood - in the heart of the city. It's the first time I've lived in a big city (I've spent most of my life in the suburbs) and I'm really enjoying the vibrant energy of city living. I haven't yet sold my house in Michigan so I'm spending a lot of time travelling back and forth, getting it ready to list, which should happen in late January.

My new apartment is much smaller than my old house, so I am in the process of casting off nearly everything I own - furniture, clothing, souvenirs, books, electronics, and anything else that has been cluttering my basement and closets the last 11 years. This process has been liberating. I held onto so many things that I did not need and I feel like I'm freeing myself from these objects as I throw out, donate, or sell each one.

One of the things that stands out to me about 2014 is the number of new people I've got to know. Some I didn't know existed before and some I got to know a lot better. Although I haven't met a lot of people in my new Chicago neighbourhood, I have had a chance to meet many new people around the country and world - primarily through my new job. It has been a pleasure expanding my network like this and I believe I will become closer with at least a few of these new folks in the coming years.

Sometimes, it's a challenge to stay in touch with everyone I want to and to stay close with those who are most important; but I'm putting effort into this. Social media helps. A cell hone helps. Sometimes travel helps and sometimes it hinders these efforts. I was able to extend some work trips over a weekend to visit friends, so I got to stay with the Eagers in Pittsburgh in June; with the Koellers in St. Louis in November, and with my mother and my son Nick in Florida in December. It was also great to catch up with Brent Stineman during a Minnesota trip; with Joe Guadagno while in Phoenix; with Kent Fehribach while in Nashville; with Dan Taylor during an Indianapolis trip, and with Gary and Patricia Desmarais, Mike Amundsen, Jon Hunt, and Mike Wood while in Cincinnati.

I did a lot of reading in 2014. Because of all the driving I'm doing, I settled on a system of getting both the audio and printed version of the same book and alternating between them, depending whether I'm on the road (thank you public library). In 2014, I completed the following books:

  • Windows Store App Development by Pete Brown
  • The Thrawn Trilogy: Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command (all 3 by Timothy Zahn)
  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Real World Windows 8 Development by Samidip Basu
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever: Lord Foul's Bane, The Ilearth War, and The Power That
  • Preserves (all 3 by Stephen R. Donaldson)
  • Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
  • Ringworld by Larry Niven
  • The Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars (all 3 by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Amber Chronicles: Nine Princes in Amber, The Guns of Avalon, Sign of the Unicorn, The Hand of
  • Oberon, The Courts of Chaos, Trumps of Doom, Blood of Amber, Sign of Chaos, Knight of Shadows, and Prince of Chaos (all 10 by Roger Zelazny)
  • That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis

In addition to technical books, I am making an effort to make it through this list. You can read my reviews of many of the books I've read here.

My job as a Technical Evangelist has made it easier to meet my goal of learning something new every day. I've been focused on Azure more than anything else this year and my knowledge of this platform has expanded a great deal.

Technology and Friends – my weekly Internet talk show - continues to be successful. This month, will mark 6 years since I recorded my first interview. In 2014, I published 51 episodes. The list of guests was impressive, including David Chappell, Jon Skeet, and Eric Lawrence. The next episode will be #350.

Not everything was perfect. There were ups and downs during the year and I had my share of disappointments and stress and nights of insufficient sleep. But I believe I did a good job of maintaining a positive outlook, even when things were not going well. It helped that I continued my practice (begun in 2013) of beginning each day by thinking of and sharing something for which I was grateful. I reflected on that practice in this article.

As you can see, I packed a lot into 2014 - maybe as much activity as I've packed into any year of my life. Staying this busy kept me focused and allowed me to accomplish things - for myself and for others. I expect 2015 to be more of the same, which would be fine with me. 

Visited for Work:
Ann Arbor, MI
Appleton, WI
Atlanta, GA
Bloomington, IN
Brentwood, TN
Carmel, IN
Chattanooga, TN
Chicago, IL
Cincinnati, OH
Cluj-Napoca, Romania
College Station, TX
Columbus, OH
Dayton, OH
DeKalb, IL
Denver, CO
Detroit, MI
Eau Claire, WI
Evanston, IL
Findlay, OH
Fishers, IN
Ft Wayne, IN
Grand Rapids, MI
Grayslake, IL
Houston, TX
Indianapolis, IN
Kent, OH
Knoxville, TN
Lansing, MI
Las Vegas, NV
Louisville, KY
Madison, WI
Miami, FL
Minneapolis, MN
Nashville, TN
Okemos, MI
Phoenix, AZ
Pittsburgh, PA
Redmond, WA
Rockford, IL
San Francisco, CA
Sandusky, OH
Schaumburg, IL
Seattle, WA
South Bend, IN
Southfield, MI
St. Charles, MO
St. Louis, MO
Terre Haute, IN
Toledo, OH
West Lafayette, IN
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Ypsilanti, MI

Visited outside work:

San Francisco, CA
Transylvania, Romania
Budapest, Hungary
Tampa, FL