It’s the end of another year, and it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
I’ve still not caught it.
In fact, I’ve not caught anything this year. No office colds or anything like that: I think the only time I’ve been ill since this all started was when I came down with shingles in September 2020. It turns out that staying at home, avoiding nonessential travel, and wearing a mask when I do go out, is a good way to not get sick.
I’ve not spent this year totally isolated. I’ve visited old friends and met up with new ones, other than working from home, it’s been about as social a year as usual. It’s just that my “usual” is everyone else’s “not much”.
This whole year I’ve been tech leading the accounts team. We’ve gone from only having the Brexit checker live to… only having Notifications live. Well, ok, we also migrated to the proper cross-government auth system and made a bunch of changes to GOV.UK to make it feasible to implement account functionality.
So, while there’s been a lot of changes behind the scenes, it would kind of be nice if we’d launched more features.
I’m still somewhat struggling with being a good tech lead: the team relies on me quite a lot which is good in one way but bad in another, as it means that if I’m off for whatever reason, everything slows down. I’ve been trying to improve my communication and planning so that my head is less essential.
This year I’ve had a couple of pay rises. We moved to a new pay framework back in 2019, which is based on self-reporting how your skills hold up against a standard framework (subject to line manager approval). So of course this just motivates you to go and do things to get evidence for that skill, to get more money, and then to stop doing that thing if it’s not really directly relevant to your day to day work. Once you’ve demonstrated competency in a skill, you always have it.
It’s a slightly flawed system, but a beneficial one.
It’s been another good year financially. Working from home, and not commuting, has saved me hundreds of pounds a month.
With the savings from not commuting, and the additional income from payrises, I’m now investing a sizeable chunk of my take-home pay, and my savings rate over the last few months has been close to 40%. In November I hit the very nice milestone of having two years expenses saved / invested: not quite financial independence, but getting there.
This year I read 63 books, a bit less than last year’s 94. So here’s what I read this year, by category:
- Light Novels + Manga
- Nonfiction / Computer Science, Software Engineering, + Digital Culture
- Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems by Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, Niall Richard Murphy, and Jennifer Petoff
- The Site Reliability Workbook: Practical Ways to Implement SRE by Betsy Beyer, Niall Richard Murphy, Kent Kawahara, David K. Rensin, and Stephen Thorne
- Nonfiction / Politics, Philosophy, Economics, + History
- Nonfiction / RPG / Rulebooks
- Call of Cthulhu: Keeper Rulebook (40th Anniversary)
- Traveller: Core Rulebook
- Traveller: Central Supply Catalogue
- Traveller: High Guard
- Traveller: Traveller Companion
- Traveller: Vehicle Handbook
- Traveller: Aliens of Charted Space (vol. 1)
- Nonfiction / RPG / Miscellaneous
- The Gardens of Ynn by Emmy Allen
- The Monsters Know What They’re Doing by Keith Ammann
- Live to Tell the Tale by Keith Ammann
- Volumes 1 and 2 of Knock!: An Adventure Gaming Bric-a-brac by various authors
- The Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design by Janna Silverstein et al
- The Kobold Guide to Combat by Janna Silverstein et al
- The Kobold Guide to Magic by Ray Vallese et al
- Hamlet’s Hit Points: Unlock the Game-Mastering Power of Three Classic Tales by Robin D. Laws
- Izirion’s Enchiridion of the West Marches by Dom Liotti and Sam Sorensen
- Volume 1 of The Peridot by David McGrogan
- Volumes 1 to 6 of The Journal of the Traveller’s Aid Society by Matthew Sprange et al
- Nonfiction / Miscellaneous
- The Great Indoors by Emily Anthes
- Prose Fiction + Graphic Novels
- Helliconia by Brian Aldiss
- Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
- The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
- The Forge of God by Greg Bear
- The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
- World War Z by Max Brooks
- A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke
- Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany
- Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
- Fall of Light by Steven Erikson
- Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson
- Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
- The Crippled God by Steven Erikson
- Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson
- Count Zero by William Gibson
- Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson
- Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
- Volumes 2 to 6 of Black Wings of Cthulhu by S. T. Joshi et al
- The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
- The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis
- Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock
- Mimes by Marcel Schwob
- Ilium by Dan Simmons
- Olympos by Dan Simmons
- Volume 2 of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
- Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
My top three books read in 2021 are:
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
This book took me years to get through. It’s dense, it’s got problems (e.g. the author brings up, multiple times, the presence of gays in the early Nazi party as evidence of its moral failings), and it takes a while to get to the interesting bits. But when it got there, I immediately forgave the earlier problems.
The author does a good job of expressing what could easily just be a collection of dry facts as an engaging narrative. Scholarly opinion of the book isn’t very high, however, and I’ll likely read something more highly praised (such as Richard Evans’ The Third Reich Trilogy) at some point.
Traveller Core Rulebook
Yes, it’s a bit weird to pick a rulebook as one of my top books of the year. Rulebooks aren’t so fun to read in isolation and, what’s worse, as a piece of technical writing this one isn’t particularly great either. Mongoose Publishing doesn’t have the best editing: so it has typos, inconsistencies, sometimes unclear rules, and no index (which it sorely needs).
But despite its problems, the game is a lot of fun, and I expect the Traveller campaign I started to last for much of 2022.
The Crippled God
The ending to the truly epic-in-scope Malazan Book of the Fallen, and it didn’t let me down. I’ve raved about Malazan enough in other weeknotes so, to not repeat all that, just know that this series is well worth checking out if you like high fantasy and well-developed worldbuilding. There is a prequel trilogy I’ve been reading (the final book isn’t out yet) and a sequel I’ll start some time next year.
Last year I started a second group, and this year I joined a third. At this rate in four more years, I’ll be playing or running a game every single night. So right now my games are:
- Tuesday Group
- Ars Magica
- Saturday Group
- Stars Without Number
- Monster of the Week
- Sunday Group
The D&D 5e, Pulp Cthulhu, Wolves of God, and FAE games from last year have all come to an end. This year I’ve also played or ran short games of Troika!, Genesys, Godbound, and Lady Blackbird.
I’m running the Ars Magica and Traveller games. They’re both going well, though the Ars Magica game is a lot of work and we’re likely going to end it after four or five more sessions.
I got into Traveller by watching Seth Skorkowsky’s review / overview series and first ran a one-shot of it in late 2020. Now we’re doing a full sandbox campaign (set in the Trojan Reach sector) which, so far, has been focussed on trading and doing small jobs, but is potentially heading towards space piracy, which would be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
I also started an RPG blog, Look What the Shoggoth Dragged In, which I’m hoping to write more for in the next year.
In late 2020 I started tracking my time. Well, in late 2021 I stopped. After almost a year I decided that it wasn’t worth the effort and introduced some poor incentives, and so I decided to drop it.