2019 in Review
From a personal standpoint, 2019 was a year filled with challenges and accomplishments. It was the first time I felt truly depressed in over a decade and some moments forced me to open up, be vulnerable, and seek help. I discovered the need to build better habits and learned that without structure, although I'm able to keep myself busy, I don't often gravitate towards doing things that benefit me in the long term. However, 2019 also ended on a high note. I joined a new company and awesome team that has helped me to question a lot of assumptions I've made about enterprise security, I got to see two of my best friends get married, and I got to spend quality time with my family. My personal relationships greatly improved and I learned to really cherish some of my oldest friendships.
Without going into too much detail, I found myself losing interest in nearly all the activities that I had previously enjoyed. I felt negative thoughts compounding in my mind and struggled to keep them in check on a daily basis. Even if I wasn't feeling particularly negative or grumpy, I often noticed intrusive thoughts entering and repeating in my mind like a song you can't get out of your head. This deeply affected my work, personal relationships, and most importantly, my outlook on life. Although it wasn't easy for me, at some point I decided I needed help handling this and needed strategies to deal with how I was feeling. I sought therapy and read all of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. I learned the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy and began to question my emotions and try to better understand them. Most importantly, I learned that not all of my emotions require some sort of response. Although therapy helped, I began reading more about anti-depressants and thought that the issues I was having could warrant giving them a shot. It still feels somewhat embarassing to use anti-depressant medication, but what I immediately noticed was a 2-3 week bump in energy and mood which was followed by a 2-3 week dropoff. After the dropoff, my dosage was increaed slightly and ever since then it's been smooth sailing. The thing I noticed about the medication was that it seemed to nearly eradicate the intrusive negative thoughts that seemed to form in my mind for no apparent reason. This made it easier to replace negative trains of thought with more positive ones, or at least experience less intensity on the negative side. I don't think anyone would admit to feeling proud to use anti-depressants, but I can say my side effects have been non-existant (or at least unnoticable) and the benefits have greatly outweighed any embarrasment I felt.
Working on DetectionLab continues to be a solid source of learning for me, but also makes me question if my time would be better spend building something new. Few things make me feel better than hearing people recommend its usage, or people messaging me telling me how often they use it or how much time it has saved them. In 2020, I hope to tackle some of the wishlist items that I've been putting off for years. I never imagined myself maintaining a GitHub project with over 1,000 stars, so this has been one of the most unexpected positive surprises of the decade for me.
2nd Amendment Activism
California has a reputation for passing quite a bit of firearm related legistation that is hostile to legal gun owners, and I put one element of that legislation to the test this year over the period of 6 months. In essence, each county sherriff has the discretion to decide who gets and doesn't get a license to carry a concealed firearm. Santa Clara County was notoriously horrible about this, so I documented the corruption involved with my application on Medium: Applying for Concealed Carry in Santa Clara County. This article resulted in two separate interviews - one on NBC and one on the Mercury News. Weeks after I wrote my article, the Sheriff's office was hit with a corruption probe. I'm sure that investigation has been in the works for months, but I like to think my article had something to do with it :)
Despite my views on gun rights, I think nearly all the conversation about gun rights have been misplaced. Lately, I find myself questioning the specifics of what an ideal and responsible gun policy is, and more time wondering what it is about our society that makes people so prone to violence. After visiting Singapore and Japan a handful of times, you start to realize the situation in the US is less about laws and more about people and behavior. Certainly keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people is part of the equation, but I certainly don't think it's the entire issue.
Learning a New Language
Before taking our fourth trip to Japan this year, I decided it would be a great personal challenge to try to learn at least a tiny bit of Japanese. I underestimated two aspects of this: the first was how difficult it would be, and the second was how much I would enjoy the process of learning. I found a class that meets once a week for two hours and I really enjoy the process of learning and my teacher. I definitely have concerns about spending so much time learning something that I may only rarely have the opportunity to use, but for now I'm enjoying picking up more and more of conversations and being able to form my thoughts in a different language. My next class (the third) starts later this month! 今年頑張ります！
Books Read/Listened To
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
- I strongly feel all students should read this to better understand how to handle negative thoughts and avoid common mental pitfalls.
- Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers
- Slightly overdone on the metaphors and analogies, but an interesting read that attempts to wrap up the last decade of cyberattacks into a single package.
- Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber
- A surprisingly well sourced introspection into Uber's early years. Definitely worth a read. Definitely brought back memories and made me happy to have left when I did.
- Who Moved My Cheese?
- Cute allegory about dealing with change.
- The Making of Prince of Persia
- Super nostalgic read for me. I grew up playing endless hours of Prince of Persia and it was interesting to read about what life was like in the Bay in the 80's for a programmer.
- Life on Purpose
- The concept this book made me think about most was agency. Personal agency can be thought of over the level of control we have over our lives. Whereas slaves have very little agency, unemployed billionaires like Tony Stark have quite a bit of it. It was interesting for me to consider what a good balance of agency looks like in ones life and how to use it.
- Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America
- This book was a massive divergence from my normal reading choices. However, I found it to be very thought provoking and shined a light on aspects about this country that we'll never hear about on the news. It offers little in the way of suggestions, but leaves the experiences documented in each chapter as anecdotal data. No politics, no fingerpointing, mostly just stories and observations.
I apologize for the lack of technical stuff in this post. Aside from some work on DetectionLab and tinkering with some home networking stuff, I haven't done much notable work in the technology domain over the last year. I'll try to change that in 2020 :)
I wish you all the best and 明けましておめでとうございます！