Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012: My Year in Review

For a history of where we have been, see the year reviews from 2009, 2010 and 2011

First some analytics. I don’t often talk about the macro viewing trends of my website. Well 2012 experienced only 15% growth in visits over 2011. In the Internet, growth that low could be understood as dying. (Not really, it is a joke, but 15% is far too low to warrant any investment.) However, for reference my just over 20,000 visits was more than double 2010 and almost four times 2009 viewing, years when in my opinion I was experiencing more interesting stuff. So I’ll take my 20,000 visits and 15% growth. 

I must talk a little about the viewing statistics and analytics because I do have mixed feelings. I like how prominent “Isaiah Janzen” has become. Part of the goal of having a website was to define my online presence in a way that a Facebook or Linkedin bio could not communicate. In other words, I realized years ago that from pictures my friends post of me to race results, the Internet was going to have content about me. Since that information will continue to grow and I am not the one ultimately responsible for how it is portrayed, I wanted to make a place, the top search result, that would be how I want to be viewed. In short, I want to grow the site and get more visits and page views so that I am considered an authority, even if it is only an authority on me and bottom-up meshing in Abaqus. Mission accomplished! The reverse aspect is, I don’t want to lose the personal touch. I talk about my daily life and relationships because I learn from them and also many of my family and friends read this. The articles now are not as candid as some were in the past. I beat around the bush more and give ambiguous examples more often. Perhaps that is just the wisdom of getting older.

So where would I like to head in terms of website analytics? A nice slow growth as I learn more and share more would be nice. The fear is if my statistics diminish, so will my influence over my online presence.

Now let’s get on to the issues. Work before play, as always. Wow, what a blessing was this year! I improved significantly, dare I say tremendously, at finite element analysis. I invented dozens of load cases to match experimental data. I modeled plastics in ways that I have never seen another model plastics. (Thanks to S for setting me up on that!) My understanding of manufacturing improved greatly. A number of the design solutions we developed, while not sexy at all, I am confident will be incredibly robust throughout the entire part life from manufacturing and assembly to a rusted 20,000 machine hours. 

Technically I have gotten better. I am faster and more efficient at finite element analysis. However, I don’t think that has been the most instructional aspect of my career development this past year. First, I relearned to volunteer. Look a a room of little kids, they will all volunteer. However, wait a few years and they will have embarrassing experiences so that no one volunteers anymore. That trend might just continue throughout life. To be honest, I can’t say if others volunteer or not because I chose to volunteer, and I focus on myself and the job to be done. This is a fundamental change, while I may have always offered myself for interesting tasks, now I’m really making an effort to help when someone has a need.

Second, related directly to the previous paragraph, was my trip to Indonesia. I volunteered for the finite element projects related to the Indonesian failures and I certainly volunteered for the trip to Indonesia. Seeing another culture, or another part of the world is always informative. Seeing the forestry industry first hand in the tropics is so directly related to my daily work, yet estranged from my daily observation that it was incredibly informative. Plus, I experienced Singapore and Hong Kong. Seven words in that sentence that took a 15 hours flight one way and hours of traveling on foot and mass transit. I’ll say it differently, I walked, looked, photographed and even ran a little in Singapore and Hong Kong. No, still doesn’t compare to seeing it first hand. That trip was just great! My life is awesome!

My year in running was good. Wait, it was incredible! Only a stepping stone to where I want to go, but one must keep in mind that there are a myriad of maladies that may strike any day and prevent me from the athletic feats I plan to achieve. I broke 16 minutes in the 5k, finally! The 5k is my nemesis event. It never seems to go as well as other events do for me. I also took a whopping 46 seconds off of my 10k to run 32:12 and two seconds off of my 800 to run 2:09 and become a “Two Oh... (inaudible)” guy. However it is not without imperfections. I ran something like 850 miles less than last year (only 2773.9 miles this year) largely due to tendonitis in the summer and did not PR at the half or full marathon, which are my two better events. I did win a half marathon by seven minutes though. That doesn’t happen all the time. Looking forward, because I must in running or I will get lazy and quit, persistence and patience is key. The expectation is that 2013 will be better than 2011 and 2012 combined in terms of significance of personal records. Also, it will probably have awfully hard training. 

Coaching is such a can of worms that I’m not going to say much. Plus, with most of the athletes we are so early in our relationship, which I hope for many might laster longer than simply four years, that it is almost too early to comment on progress. Suffice to say: 1. Stay Motivated 2. Stay Healthy 3. Train Hard and perhaps I should add 4. Be Patient? More thought is needed on that.

In the world of reading I read all three of Chris Anderson’s books this year. They all have merit, but Makers is about me. My choice for 2012 Book of the Year: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson. No I don’t own a 3D printer, but I do have a couple of things that I designed and my friend R “printed” for me in graduate school in 2009. The concept of extremely specific, unique, optimized products delivered in far shorter times, and perhaps for lower cost, than in the past is something that I will surely be a part of in a big way. There are a couple things I want to do, which unfortunately will be expensive, that are far more possible with additive manufacturing than with standard subtractive manufacturing and other standard processes like welding. Disclaimer to anyone who reads any of Chris’s stuff, he is from Silicon Valley so quite often he sounds like he had too much coffee, too much wine, or that people already live on Mars. 

Finally, since some people think I succeed at everything I do and this is a good time to dwell on failures and less-than-total successes. First, a mostly success, the year in rock climbing. I climbed Devil’s Tower and a number of other climbs, but overall, I did not lead anything harder than 5.8. Plus, I climbed so slow that I put our group in a very hairy situation on top of the tower in a thunderstorm. Overall, climbing was a success, but there was so little of it and at such a low difficulty level compared to previous years. Second, there was my ski season. It consisted of two days, once down Loveland Pass for about 20 minutes, and a second time at Sundown here in Dubuque. After a few runs I went down the terrain park and proceeded to go across a slide box. I fell backward and really hit the back of my head, no blackout, but it hurt. Skiing was kind of a failure for the year. Ice climbing? Not a single day in 2012.

Deserving it’s own paragraph, I don’t think I went on a single date in all of 2012 that both parties would consider a date. I’m 26 now, and this is my dating life? I like to imagine I can be patient, but my dating life is throwing me questions I can’t answer. Am I suppose to keep vigilant for the right situation, or am I supposed to look for someone to settle with? I feel that with the right attitude of total commitment and the correct shared values even “settling” could be extremely fulfilling. I have a load of things I would like to accomplish in my life, am I excluding any woman I meet because she doesn’t mesh with those ambitious plans? I am quite confident, and somewhat arrogant, about the things that I do well, does that chase people away? Perhaps, and this is a relatively new thought I have been entertaining, I will remain single my whole life. Wow, that’s the first time I have written it down. It looks so lonely. It’s out there now. Once again, like with unemployment in 2010, I feel I did everything right, I don’t have the baggage of a kid or kids, no AIDS or hepatitis, I have a couple of college degrees, I’m a Christian (which hopefully conveys something about my morals), my parents are happily together after nearly 30 years (hopefully a good indication of my perspective of a long term relationship), and I think I’m at least somewhat pleasant to be around. This is on my mind because I am a planner. Date for some length of time, likely a couple years, hopefully enjoy marriage for a few years before having kids, then have kids, plural meaning at least two, it could easily be eight years from “Hi...” to a second kid. I would also like to stop having kids before I am 40, because frankly I’m not sure that I will be able to keep up with them by then. I realize than 13.5 years is an awfully long time, but every week I am creeping closer to that.

Wow, that paragraph was way too long. That’s why I don’t talk about my love life.

Other failures? I didn’t go visit my family often enough. I visited my only two remaining grandparents only three times. I don’t have a big family and every relative means something to me. This would be an opportunity for improvement in 2013.

I’ve been working on carving a bookshelf out of a beetle kill tree since 2010, and it’s not done. I could probably finish in one Saturday, but I have been so lazy. My motorcycle needs some gaskets replaced, it is something totally within my capabilities. I even cleaned the rust out of the gas tank and took apart the carburetor this year, but it still leaks. All it requires is a full day or two of attention, but once again I let it sit around. My apartment was cleaned by a friend. I am a mess, 4% a hoarder to be specific. I gave myself tendonitis on my foot and on my lower leg by not doing the little things that prevent tendonitis in runners.

People starved to death and I didn’t help. People are sick. People want an education. Yet, I gave only meagerly of my abundance. I am rich, or what would pass for rich in 90% of the world. And, I keep so much of it for myself (and Mt. Everest). It’s a dichotomy, I am thrilled to see the accounts grow bigger and the debts grow smaller, but seeing the undeveloped and developing world wrenches my gut with sadness and guilt that I have it so well. I have it so well because of where I was born and how I was raised. Don't get me wrong, I worked awfully hard to reach the point where I am paid what I am twice a month. In some way this goes back to the relationship issue, because I want to pass on the awesomeness I have to others, and an easier way is probably having kids. It takes years, probably a decade or two to develop awesomeness and simply buying rice for someone is not the same as teaching that person how to “earn” rice. 

I followed the news more this year than perhaps any other year. The exception being that my family always watched the national news while we ate supper and discussed it at the commercials. A few observations from the news this year:
  • Sandyhook Elementary school shooting
  • Aurora theatre shooting
  • Neil Armstrong died. Is the golden age of exploration for our civilization over?
  • Democrats and Republicans seem awfully polarized...
  • Is the tipping point for belief in climate change hurricane Sandy or the summer drought or will it be hurricane Olga in 2013? Can we please believe the science and do something about it?
  • The US is becoming increasingly stratified with the affluent having incredible wealth yet the poor remaining unemployed.
  • The most viewed video, and first over 1 billion views, on YouTube was by a guy from South Korea.
  • The middle east is having some trouble understanding who they are or how to stay happy. Specifically conflicted: Syria, Egypt, Israel/Palestine and Iran.
  • Europe is very wealthy, but they paid for it with debt.
  • The world is not what it used to be. 
I'll leave you with an enticement to be an engineer, because we have fun. 

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