2018 Year In Review

What were your goals in 2018? How did you do against them?

My goals were to budget and track my time, and budget my discretionary spending. I tracked my time through June, but then stopped. I realized that my goal wasn’t really to budget and track time – rather, the goal was to prioritize certain activities over others. I realized I could do that without forcing myself to literally budget and track my time. I also realized that trying to reach a certain number of hours per week in several creative activities wasn’t very realistic. In fact I found other methods to be more helpful in reaching my actual goals.

For example, I severely reduced the amount of time I spend on social media NOT by limiting my use to 2 hours per day, but rather, by making a conscious decision to not park myself on social media websites all day. Instead of constantly refreshing Twitter to ensure I keep up with my timeline, I just don’t really read Twitter anymore. I put together a Short List of people who I want to keep up with, but I check that only occasionally. I mostly post to Twitter without looking at my timeline, or if I do look at the timeline, it’s only for a page or so. Just not spending the whole day with Twitter open in my browser window has helped a lot. I also unsubscribed from most podcasts and a few YouTube channels. I ultimately managed to free up a lot of time for other activities, though there were still areas where I didn’t do as well as I’d have liked.

We did manage to stick to the “discretionary budget” we set up at the beginning of the year, but we weren’t able to put as much money into savings as I would have liked. We had a few big-ticket purchases this year, as seems to happen every year. But we were able to save a little bit of money, which is better than nothing.

What were some of the big-ticket purchases you made?

My cell phone’s camera stopped working early this year, and my work cell phone was End-of-Lifed, so I had to buy two new phones. The company I work for paid for the work phone, of course, but I still had to get one for myself as well.

Buu’s car died entirely, so we junked it. We decided that we only need one car, so we haven’t purchased another one. But of course, we also had to invest some money into my car. We had to replace the tires, the battery, the fuel pump, and the back window in the convertible top, among other repairs. It still turns out to be far less expensive than buying a new (or even newer-used) car, and I LOVE my car, so I don’t want to replace it if we can avoid doing so.

There were a few other expenses that came out of the blue too. Buu’s computer chair broke, and I knew we needed better chairs since we spend so much time in the office, so we got refurbished Aeron Chairs from eBay. They still weren’t “cheap” but we got a great discount. The treadmill also died, so we replaced it with a heavy duty rowing machine.

We also made some planned (but expensive) purchases, namely we had hurricane shutters installed early this year. Even though we haven’t been damaged much in previous hurricanes, I appreciate the peace of mind that comes with having this kind of protection now.

There were other expenses that we ignored though. The toiled in the garage was leaking or backing up, and pouring water all over the garage floor. We just shut off the valve to the toilet to stop the symptom – but we never had a plumber out to fix the problem. It’s similar to the situation with the car, where having 2 is nice, but it’s only very rarely necessary, and the expense of buying (or repairing) a second one can’t always be justified. Especially because there are a lot of issues with the plumbing out there, and I’m afraid it will turn into a huge, expensive nightmare if we actually try to fix it. It would probably include ripping up parts of the slab, and I just don’t want to deal with that right now.

What did you do well?

I read (or listened to) twelve books. That’s only two more books than last year, but five out of the ten last year were very short, whereas seven of the twelve this year were very long. I also feel that distancing myself from social media a bit has been very helpful.

What would you like to have done better on?

I would have liked to have written more this year. Part of the delay comes from working on the setting – I’ve even been fortunate enough to work with Brit Garner (of SciShow fame) as a consultant on the biology of my world. Even still, it would have been good to get more writing done.

I also didn’t practice drawing as much as I’d have liked. I participated in ArtFight this year, my first time. I had set very unrealistic expectations, hoping to get one image done per day during the whole month-long fight. That was a lot of pressure, and of course, totally impossible. But unrealistic expectations aside, I’d hoped for at least a little more progress this year.

I didn’t take care of my health as much as I probably should have.  My weight isn’t bad, but I did very little exercise this year, and ate too much sugar.

What were some highlights?

Hanging out with Zeke online has been nice. We chat over Discord, and he let me be a guest on his podcast, which was fun. He’s also trying out Warcraft with me. It has been interesting teaching him how to play, because there are so many things that I’ve taken for granted for so long, that I had forgotten several MMO staples are completely absent from all other types of game. It has been both enjoyable and eye-opening.

We got to see Ash and Cryss a few times this year as well. At Ash’s request, I created a website for the Raptor Conservancy org he’s starting. I’m looking forward to investing more time into the site, once thee are any developments. Unfortunately, importing birds from Europe is time consuming, difficult, and expensive.

We started playing D&D again this year, with me as the DM. I ran Ray, Jeff, Evan, and Buu through The Sunless Citadel, and they’re now wrapping up the first level of The Forge of Fury. I created a ferret-folk cleric to NPC with them. It has been work, as DMing always is, but the guys are doing really well. I’m very proud of them, even though it means they’re utterly annihilating everything I throw at them. I just hope I can keep balancing enough challenge to keep them interested, but not so difficult as to be impossible to beat. I love that they’re having so much fun with the game.

I’m now also officially only supporting one executive at work. I started out only supporting one, but it very quickly became two, and then four, and then I spent three months taking care of six executives while a peer was on maternity leave. Then I went back down to two. But this year, one of the people I supported got promoted to a position that can justify a dedicated assistant. It’s been wonderful! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike the other people I’ve supported! They were all good people, and they’ve each taught me things and helped me grow as an admin. But my current exec and I click really well, I feel like she has a deep understanding of me and my needs. I absolutely love working with her, and thankfully she seems just as happy with me.

What were your biggest frustrations?

My computer has been crashing (Blue Screen) and slow. It could be drivers or hardware, too much software bloat, or something else. At one point I tried installing Skyrim for PC via Steam. I couldn’t even make it to the first town; the game kept crashing. I tried a vanilla install, I tried only installing the supposed “fixes everything” addon, I tried installing lots of addons. I spent three hours trying to get to that first town, then gave up. I never did figure out what kept me from playing. I know five years is considered old for a computer, but I feel like my laptop should be able to handle the internet and decade-or-older games. At one point, I suddenly had no hard drive space left. Literally zero. I’m still not sure what happened – I think perhaps Avast accidentally created an enormous quarantine file or something. But during the troubleshooting process I ended up uninstalling Steam and all of my Steam games to free up space.  The diagnostic process continues; I’d much rather fix this problem than have to drop the money for another gaming laptop.

And then of course, there’s the world of politics. We had the midterms this year, and I’m very proud of voter turn-out among democrats. I’m disappointed that Gerrymandering allowed so many republicans keep seats with fewer votes. We were so close to having African American governors in two states! I’m angry at the measures republicans have and are taking to strip the powers of the incoming democrat replacements. I’m disgusted by the behavior of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, and saddened that he was confirmed. I’m outraged that so many of our “Representatives” have spent the year telling us to ‘sit down, shut up, and keep eating our bullshit.’ Every time I think about what’s going on in this country, I just get angry. Especially because there are so many people being negatively impacted by it, but many go right along with it, or even call for more. Self-harm in the name of self-righteousness, I guess? I feel so powerless, like there’s no hope of steering the ship right again.

So, Warcraft? How did that happen?

I never thought I’d be playing World of Warcraft. I tried it when it first launched, but I found it frustrating and utterly not-fun, so I went back to City of Heroes. But City is gone, and Buu and I both became disenfranchised with Neverwinter’s micro-transaction economy and daily grind. We played Hex, Shards of Fate, but that isn’t a cooperative game, and seems to be failing now anyway. So sometime in April or May, Buu started doing research (as he is so excellent at doing) to determine the best MMO available today. We do enjoy dungeon crawlers too, but they’re a lot more grindy than MMOs, far too much for us to play regularly and/or long-term. He looked at class balance, gameplay, content release schedule, stability, community, player satisfaction, business model, and ROI. He eliminated any MMOs only available through Steam, as they tend to be very unstable and laggy. They’re also more likely to be supported by micro-transactions rather than subscriptions. There are also a lot of MMOs that have a huge power-gap between the most powerful class, and the rest of the classes. Blizzard is very concerned with balance, and keeps all the classes within a certain range of each other, and balanced properly against role.

In the end, it was perfect timing. We started playing in May, and this year was the tail-end of the Legion expansion. There were several things about Warcraft that would have bugged me a lot, that were fixed in Legion. If I had tried playing WoW again even only three years ago, I probably would’ve gotten fed up and left again, never to return. The timing was right, and the game was right.

We spend a lot of time playing WoW, and yes I could spend that time being “more productive,” but I’m not upset about it at all. It has been wonderful playing with my husband. We make a really good team.

How are the ferrets?

They seem to be doing much better now that they’re regularly getting Claritin. They still cough, sneeze, and itch a bit, but it’s nowhere near the scale it was last year. They’ve put on a lot of weight since we got them; Opal has turned into quite the loaf. They’re both still within the healthy range, even if Opal is at the top end of it. Their teeth are still very good, thanks to the Healthy Mouth additive we put in their water. No major emergencies or scares with them this year. And of course, they grow more adorable by the day. They both bring us so much joy, it’s an absolute blessing to have them in our lives.

We built them a Dig Box this year, which they enjoy from time to time. Onyx also managed to finally claw through the tarp we had lining the playpen, so we had to replace it. Nothing can stand up to her claws indefinitely! We’ve also started hiding treats so they have to engage in seeking behavior, rather than just being given the treats in their bowl.

Any other notable events?

I have finally outgrown my third nail polish rack, so I’ve purchased a fourth. We’re in the process of moving the racks from my bedroom to the living room, where we have more wall space.

2018 Reading List

  • Firedrake, Richard Knaak (reread)
  • End of an Era, Robert Sawyer
  • Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton (reread)
  • New Spring, Robert Jordan (WoT #0)
  • The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan (WoT #1)
  • The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan (WoT #2)
  • The Dragon Reborn, Robert Jordan (WoT #3)
  • The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan (WoT #4)
  • The Fires of Heaven, Robert Jordan (WoT #5)
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, Hank Green
  • Lord of Chaos, Robert Jordan (WoT #6)
  • A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan (WoT #7)

2018 Top Artwork

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