Posted on Mon 01 January 2018

2017 review


2016. 2015.

To sum up 2017, it's ended on a great note after a lot of struggle earlier in the year. The biggest thing to happen this year was quitting my job to work on Hello Code full-time from October 1st. This is something we've been working towards since we started Hello Code ~4 years ago, and has often felt like a goal we'd never reach. To be able to pay both of us a (very low) salary and put all our time and energy into our own company is a great achievement. I'm proud of all the hard work we've put in up until now, and our tenacity to stick it out for years until we got to this point. We're building our company in the way we want to, which often means it's a slower road than it would be if we took another approach, but the final product is something we're proud of and happy to work on.

Apart from that, I dabbled in a few new activities, and spent a lot of time on introspection this year. I'm hoping 2018 will be a year of more clarity, focus, and persistence.

Things I did in 2017

  • Started working part-time at RescueTime
  • Attended 2 rallies in support of closing Australia's detention camps and bringing refugees on-shore
  • Took a tap dancing lesson
  • Passed the McGraw-Hill A1 level French test
  • Took weekly piano lessons for about six months
  • Attended my first ever conference: Playgrounds in Melbourne
  • Spent a few weeks co-hosting Independence, a podcast about being an indie dev
  • Started weekly counselling
  • Released 5 new features in Exist for iOS (Apple Health sleep syncing, custom tag tracking, your mood from this day one year ago, in-app notifications, in-app purchase/ability to sign up from within the app)
  • Left RescueTime to work on Hello Code full-time
  • Took a parkour class
  • Finally settled into a regular habit of working out
  • Gave an interview about Exist on Melbourne radio
  • Lost ~4kgs
  • Read 17 books
  • Wrote 26 posts for my blog
  • Moved to the outer suburbs (to cut our rent in half, so the Hello Code revenue could pay two of us)
  • Hit the 1-year anniversary of The Monthly Review
  • Built a habit of flossing twice daily

2017 goals

✔️ Double Hello Code's revenue

This goal was really about me being able to quit working a day job and start working on Hello Code full-time. Doubling our revenue is what we thought was necessary, but we ended up increasing our revenue somewhat, and finding ways to cut our expenses to make this smaller amount of income able to spread between two very small salaries.

✖️ Find a regular volunteering opportunity

I did find a charity I wanted to work with, but their volunteering opportunities were few and far between, so it didn't work out. Other things took priority after that, and I didn't end up pursuing an alternative.

✖️ Fill up my travel fund

Working on Hello Code full-time meant a big pay cut, and a very tight budget to make it work, so my savings haven't been growing much at all, and I didn't end up with a separate travel fund this year.

✖️ Release Larder for iOS

This was an ambitious goal, because I'm still very slow when working in Swift, and there's quite a bit of work left to do on the Larder iOS app. I hate that it's been "in development" for so long, but Exist takes up so much of my time that I don't have much left for Larder. Now that I'm working full-time on Hello Code, though, I'm hoping to be able to achieve this goal next year.

✖️ Reduce body fat to 28% or lower

I'm sitting at around 28.5-29% at the moment.

Things I want to get better at

✔️ Reducing waste

I was more keen on this early in the year, and need to rekindle my enthusiasm for it somewhat. But I did make several small changes in this area, and my attitude continues to be one of avoiding unnecessary waste wherever possible and recycling whenever I can.

A few small changes I made include switching to stainless steel reusable straws instead of disposable plastic ones, switching to reusable napkins instead of using paper towel at meals, and using washable produce bags when buying groceries instead of the plastic bags provided by supermarkets.

✔️ Buying fewer physical items

Two things really helped with this: my tight budget and small salary since joining Hello Code full-time, and my improved mental health thanks to both joining Hello Code full-time and months of regular counselling. I made this goal/resolution because I was disappointed at how much shopping I did last year and how focused I was on acquiring new material possessions. A lot of that habit came from disappointment and boredom in everyday life, which I no longer feel the need to quell through shopping (or at all, for the most part).

✖️ Being more social

This was a big fail, but it's something I want to work on again next year.

✔️ Wasting less time on social media

This was a bit of a mixed bag, because I do sometimes still spend more time than I'd like browsing Instagram. But I've all but quit Twitter and I've permanently deleted my Facebook account, so I've cut down how much social media I use overall. I've also unfollowed everyone on Instagram and only use the explore tab now. The next step will be increasing my real-life socialising to fill those gaps.

✔️ Spending more time away from digital devices

I've always been fairly good at ignoring my phone or not even having it on me when I'm engaged in something interesting. This is especially true when other people are present, as I'm very big on giving your full attention to others in order to be polite and respectful. When I'm alone and not busy I turn to my phone more often, though, and that's what I've tried to quell this year. I've done a fairly good job overall, largely because there's not much left on my phone that I find interesting enough to spend my time on.

✔️ Eating less and drinking more water

I didn't get heaps better at drinking more water, but I did get better at not snacking and eating smaller meals. Again, a large part of this is due to feeling better about my life and work generally, and not needing to use food to keep me entertained or distracted from negative feelings.

Habits I want to build

✖️ Drawing

This year I was gifted some watercolour pencils, paper, and brushes, so I tried my hand at some watercolour painting and really enjoyed it. I did more drawing throughout the year than I have in the past, too. But I'm counting this as a fail because it's not a habit yet, and I want to make it more habitual and regular.

✔️ Working out

I must have spent about 18 months trying to make this a regular habit. For me, the biggest hurdle in building this habit was the mental battle. I've fought with myself so much over motivation and feeling guilty when I didn't work out, and not wanting to work out because it's uncomfortable. Even the workout itself involves as much mental as physical difficulty, for me. Holding static positions that make my arms and core burn, or trying to push myself to get that one last rep, is mostly a mental battle for me. I've learned that I can do things I thought I couldn't, and that being uncomfortable for a short period is not as terrible as it seems. Learning to feel that discomfort and nor fight against it or run from it is incredibly tough, and a very long process.

Anyway, my point is, I've finally made it to the point where not working out for a while (about a week for me) makes me miss it, and the mental battle to get started on workout days is easier than it used to be, so that the part of me that wants to work out wins almost every time now (whereas the part of me that wanted to stay in bed used to win most times).

✖️ Playing piano

For a few months I would have given this a tick, because I was taking weekly lessons and practising more days than not. But since stopping my lessons (a mixture of saving money so I could join Hello Code full-time and not being enamoured of my teacher's approach) I quickly slowed my practising down until I stopped playing altogether. I'm undecided about pursuing this again next year because I've lost an idea of why I want to learn piano—or any other musical instrument. I feel I'm doing it for the sake of it, or because I think there's something bad about not being able to play any instruments, but that's not enough to motivate me to keep learning (particularly since I found piano very difficult and frustrating).

I read about a psychologist who forced her daughter to learn piano for years, despite the daughter hating it. While this sounds horrible, the parent had an interesting reason for doing so: rather than it being about piano specifically, she simply wanted her daughter to learn the virtue and ability of sticking with something that's very difficult and rarely fun. Since sticking with something that's hard or boring to get to a long-term result is often called for in adult life, this parent wanted their daughter to learn how to do so, and piano just happened to be a means to that end. I do think this is something I'd do well to learn, so perhaps piano will become a means to that end for me. I also have a tendency towards perfectionism, which makes it very difficult for me to enjoy learning new things, which, of course, requires one to make lots of mistakes and be quite terrible for some time. To improve on that tendency would do me well, but I'm unsure whether learning piano would help in that regard.

✔️ Cycling

I bought my bike in early 2016 because I wanted to exercise more and thought cycling would be a fun way to do so. I used it only occasionally, and wanted to do so more in 2017. I don't think I realised what was holding me back from cycling more when I decided to work on this habit, but simply felt guilty for not enjoying and doing cycling more.

My favourite stuff from 2017



The second half of this book wasn't great, and I ended up abandoning it, but the first half was excellent and gave me lots to think about.

Some favourite quotes:

It is impossible to organise an army solely by coercion. At least some of the commanders and soldiers must truly believe in something, be it God, honour, motherland, manhood or money.

Friends giving advice often tell each other, ‘Follow your heart.’ But the heart is a double agent that usually takes its instructions from the dominant myths of the day, and the very recommendation to ‘Follow your heart’ was implanted in our minds by a combination of nineteenth-century Romantic myths and twentieth-century consumerist myths.

Unfortunately, complex human societies seem to require imagined hierarchies and unjust discrimination. Of course not all hierarchies are morally identical, and some societies suffered from more extreme types of discrimination than others, yet scholars know of no large society that has been able to dispense with discrimination altogether.

Throughout history, and in almost all societies, concepts of pollution and purity have played a leading role in enforcing social and political divisions and have been exploited by numerous ruling classes to maintain their privileges. The fear of pollution is not a complete fabrication of priests and princes, however. It probably has its roots in biological survival mechanisms that make humans feel an instinctive revulsion towards potential disease carriers, such as sick persons and dead bodies. If you want to keep any human group isolated – women, Jews, Roma, gays, blacks – the best way to do it is convince everyone that these people are a source of pollution.

Most sociopolitical hierarchies lack a logical or biological basis – they are nothing but the perpetuation of chance events supported by myths.

...from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural. A truly unnatural behaviour, one that goes against the laws of nature, simply cannot exist, so it would need no prohibition.

Christians and Muslims who could not agree on religious beliefs could nevertheless agree on a monetary belief, because whereas religion asks us to believe in something, money asks us to believe that other people believe in something.

Shades of Grey

From my Goodreads review:

I found the ideas in this book fascinating, though there were so many unfamiliar ideas that I sometimes had trouble keeping track of them all. But learning more about this world and its rules as the book went on was fun and kept me interested.

The Brothers K

From my Goodreads review:

I really came to like all the characters in this family, and enjoyed following their stories through to the end. The book did have a lot of baseball, as many others have warned, but it's fairly contained to a chunk of the book, and once you get through that there's very little interspersed throughout the rest of the story. I also found this much funnier than I'd expected, and enjoyed the funny parts the most.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

From my Goodreads review:

The last quarter of the book dragged, but otherwise I found this surprisingly good at holding my interest. Skloot does a good job of explaining the history and science involved, and bouncing back and forth between the family's story and the effect of HeLa cells on medical history made it more interesting than if just one of those stories took up the whole book.

In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist

From my Goodreads review:

The book included some interesting history of Amsterdam, particularly during WWII, and made me more keen to ride my own bike. I can't wait to visit Amsterdam now, and see the city of bikes for myself.

Some favourite quotes:

I’d already suspected that this place was magical. My lefty heart was already warmed by what little I knew about Dutch culture, like governmental toleration of soft-drug usage and legalized gay marriage (both of which were unknown in the United States at the time). But there was something about the sight of a pregnant woman cycling so casually that made me really swoon. In America I’d witnessed motorists verbally attack cyclists who had the temerity to ride with child passengers, calling them bad parents for endangering their children. And maybe those motorists had a point. In fact, I could not imagine allowing a child to roam the streets of an American city by bike the way I did as a kid in the 1970s. But here, children were everywhere on bikes—alone or with their parents. That conveyed to me a lot about this city. And that this society provided streets safe enough to cycle without helmets made a big impression. Yet the icing on the cake was a people who provided an environment secure enough for a pregnant woman to cycle. It seemed to me the pinnacle of a humane culture.

In Amsterdam, it’s illegal to not lock one’s bike.

A Confederacy of Dunces

From my Goodreads review:

Ignatius isn't likeable, but he is hilarious. His valve, his catch-cry of "Oh, my god!", and his railing at everything everyone else does made this book worth reading. Not to mention his favourite bus story.

A favourite quote:

And a vicious fate it was to be: now he was faced with the perversion of having to GO TO WORK.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

I learned a lot from this book, but it dragged at times. Some favourite quotes:

My mom was never a cadaver; no person ever is. You are a person and then you cease to be a person, and a cadaver takes your place.

most crashing airplanes don’t hit the ground from thirty thousand feet. The vast majority crash on takeoff or landing, either on or near the ground. Shanahan says 80 to 85 percent of plane crashes are potentially survivable.

the brain enjoys what is known as “immunological privilege,” and can be kept alive on another body’s blood supply for weeks without rejection. Because it is protected by the blood brain barrier, it isn’t rejected the way other organs and tissues are.

According to the Kind & Knox Web site, other products made with cow-bone-and-pigskin-based gelatin include marshmallows, nougat-type candy bar fillings, liquorice, Gummi Bears, caramels, sports drinks, butter, ice cream, vitamin gel caps, suppositories, and that distasteful whitish peel on the outside of salamis.


The Incredible Human Journey

This series really got me interested in ancient humans and the history of our evolution. I find it frustrating that there are so many questions we still don't have answers to, but I love trying to wrap my mind around the things we do know.

Alone, Season 4

I didn't love the two-person team dynamic this season, but it was an interesting approach. Yet again the long tail of people surviving on next-to-no food in the middle of nowhere was unbelievable. It seems like they last longer every season.


I've enjoyed QI a lot more this year (and not just because of Sandy, since we're also rewatching from season 6 onwards). It's helped to have subtitles for most episodes, I think, since they all talk and laugh over each other so much I used to miss a lot of the jokes. But I've also just enjoyed learning interesting facts more this year, as well as a good lol or two every episode.

Life at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9

I chanced upon this Australian documentary on Netflix recently and devoured it. The series takes 11 babies and their parents who are part of a longitudinal study of ~10,000 Australian babies and follows the kids' development. Every two years, the series has two new episodes, each focusing on a particular aspect of childhood development, such as stress, creativity, and independence.

The series has researchers from the study itself conduct experiments with these 11 children to illustrate how they're developing over time and how their life circumstances are affecting their development. Life at 11 should have aired in 2016 but I've found no mention of it anywhere, so unfortunately the series may have been abandoned. But the episodes that do exist are fascinating for anyone interested in childhood development and parenting.

You Can't Ask That

Another ABC documentary I loved this year was this show that asked misunderstood and stigmatised Australians anonymous questions submitted by the public. It offered a variety of perspectives on every topic, and was often fun as well as eye-opening. My favourite episodes were Centenarians, Blind People, and Children of Same-Sex Parents.


This show is so quiet and nice. Some episodes are just ordinary and quiet. Others are full of silly, fun, clever jokes that make you feel warm and gooey inside. I love that anyone would make a show that's so humble and nice, because it makes me feel nice to watch it.

Love My Way

I was really unsure of how much I'd like this show, and I think it took two or three episodes before I realised I wasn't watching The Secret Life of Us (for some reason I'd mixed them up in my head). But once I warmed up to the characters I really liked this show and enjoyed seeing what they'd get up to.


I, Daniel Blake

One of the movies I keep talking about to this day. I had a good cry after this movie ended, about the injustice and frustration of how we treat people who need help. Highly, highly recommended.


Though it didn't impress me hugely at the time, this movie left a clear impression on me because I still think of it sometimes. It was surprising at nearly every turn, and highly engaging.

The Disaster Artist

I expected this to be fun, but it was also really engaging from beginning to end, and more than a bit bewildering, as well.

Plans for 2018


  • Release Larder for iOS
  • Move house

Things I want to get better at

  • Cooking new recipes
  • Swift
  • Unit testing/functional UI testing/TDD
  • Switching off from work on weekends/days off
  • Socialising more
  • Drawing and painting
  • Saving mementos and taking photos
  • Spending more time outside
  • Self-compassion
  • French
  • Piano??

Happy new year!

P.S. I make some stuff you might like: Exist, a personal analytics app to help you understand your life, and Larder, a bookmarking app for developers.

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