Friday, February 05, 2010

The year in review

I’ve tried for several years to write a review of the previous year just to try and put a little perspective on what’s gone on. I’ve never really gotten round to it (or more correctly I’ve started but never finished). However this time I managed to craft together a “year-in-review” whilst away diving at New Year. It's just taken me a month to get it up here!


Diving seems to be the main theme of the year. The year started with a New Year’s Day with a dive on the Thistlegorm off a day-boat (after not much sleep due to a very rowdy bunch of Russian’s in the hotel from hell) – the only saving grace was that I helped with the tie off dive and was the first person on the boat to touch the wreck in 2009 – I even beat the dive leader down. The end of the year was equally as good with a dive on the Thistlegorm again on New Year’s Eve. Thankfully this time on a live-aboard which is a much more pleasant way to do it.

In between I did an awful lot of diving.

I qualified as a Divemaster with Sunderland Scuba Centre in February and lots of thanks to Steve Gibson and Jonathan Bray who made it enjoyable yet challenging and rewarding all at the same time.

Shortly after that I took a three month sabbatical from work (more on that below!) to do some diving and travelling in South East Asia. Spending two months on Koh Tao diving with Buddha View I decided to complete the instructor course and at the end of April I became an Open Water Scuba Instructor (as well as an EFR Instructor, Enriched Air Instructor, and Emergency Oxygen Provider Instructor). It wasn’t something I planned to do but it was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done. Not only is Koh Tao a fantastic place to dive but Mark Soworko, Darius Moazzami and Gannon Murphy make a very good instructing team. It also helped that I had a great group of people on the IDC as well – John, Marie, Helen, Ewan, Nicola, Rob, Niki, Sascha, and Tom.

The only problem is that I’m (a) not diving enough back in the UK and (b) not teaching!


As well as the time in Koh Tao I also did a month of travelling whilst I was out there. Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were all seen. I also got to spend some time with some university friends - Dom and Becca – in Brunei. They’ve got two kids now that it makes me feel really old.

After spending inordinate amounts of money over the three months I was away I didn’t do much more travelling – a trip to Italy to watch the Newcastle Falcons take on Petrarca Padova and a fleeting jaunt to Belgium for the F1 Grand Prix. Well, not as much as I’d like to. There’s something to be said for those people that spend a lot of time travelling!

Reviewing and Writing

Once I started writing and enjoying it I always planned to do a lot more than I actually have. If you followed this blog you’ll see that I did make a start on a fourth book not so long ago and I’ve briefly toyed with the idea of self-publishing a new book. Well, it’s one of the things that I need to do! There are maybe plans afoot to write more (and not necessarily in technical areas) and once the plans start to firm up then I can make some headway on those.

I’ve also not done as much reviewing as I’d like. If you look at the list of books that I’ve worked on (there’s a published works page on my main website – which reminds me I must update that pretty damn quick) there’s only three books in the last year (well four if you count the C# and VB versions of Professional Silverlight 3 separately). I’ve got a couple of Silverlight 4 technical reviews coming up for Apress which should be fun – I’m also trying to get some Windows Azure reviewing as it’s going to be a big growth area and definitely something that needs to be looked at.


One of the highlights of the year for me is the number of gigs that I managed to get to. I always like to try and get to at least a gig a month and, apart from the three months away, I managed it. From seeing Metallica the day before I flew to Thailand, to Coldplay at Wembley, Bruce Springsteen and Blur in Hyde Park, Oasis at The Stadium of Light, and Papa Roach at the Newcastle Academy it was a very good year!

Work – aka The Things We Have to Do to Make the Other Things Possible

Work is one of those things that no-one wants to do but everyone has to. Last year was a particularly bad year for me work wise and not something that I’d want to repeat. If not for the three month sabbatical that I took I can’t say that I’d still be employed at the same place.

Returning from travelling was even harder. Coming back into the same job that you despised three months earlier – despite repeated promises made before I departed – tends to be a little soul destroying. Being a software developer it takes something to get you to a point where you don’t want to even look at a computer takes an awful lot.

That’s not to say that it was all bad. Well 90% of it was but there’s the 10% that was good. Things did get better towards the end of the year but it’s still the same old place – no matter how people try to change things they always stay the same.

So Where to Next?

So that was the year that was 2009. Onwards into 2010. New ideas, new people, new places.

There are lots of things that I’d like to do in 2010 – some of which are already happening, some of which need a lot more work before they become viable.

Travelling this year is pretty much out – with the Rugby World Cup being in New Zealand next year I need to spend as little as possible for the next year so that I can have three months off again. The current planning is to have two weeks in the Phillipines with Sunderland Scuba Centre, three weeks in Koh Tao, a week in Singapore for the F1 GP, then over to New Zealand for the England v Scotland game (what do you mean there are games before that – there’s only one that matters!). So it’s going to be expensive.

The user group I’m helping run, NEBytes, looks as though it’s going to be good. Over 80 people there for the launch event this month and we’re hoping that we can keep the numbers up around there – the higher the numbers we can get the bigger speakers we can get so here’s hoping.

It also may be time to start looking for another job. I was at BT for four years before I left and since then, other than two 18 month periods where I was self-employed, have worked in two year stints. I’m been in my current job for three years come April and it may be time for a change. Something challenging and worthwhile rather than a mundane 9-5!

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