Today roughly marks the one-year anniversary when my consulting business wrapped up and I joined the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at Northwestern University's medical school. I figured that it was as good time as any to put together a short bloggy retrospective for the past 12 months.

Overall, life's good and going well. I've been enjoying my job immensely and it's given me the opportunity and space to pursue several goals that were becoming increasingly difficult given my consulting obligations from the couple of years before. (For a great description of the freedom/responsibility tradeoff, check out this blog post.) On-the-job, I've been able to resume some work I originally started in graduate school and push my context-sensing research interests further than I managed under Audacious Software. Purple Robot is the logical successor to the Pennyworth system I started and I've been tackling the technological and practical challenges of building context-awareness infrastructure on modern mobile platforms. Off-the-job, the 9-to-5 schedule's allowed me to pursue a variety of side projects – some I'd already begun and some I'd been sitting on waiting for the right window of time and attention to become available. Outside of building things, I've freed up some time to resume some of my hobbies, including getting back into amateur mixology and working on reading 100 books in 2013. I've also missed achieving some major goals, including learning how to cook decent Mexican food, becoming more proficient with a firearm, and generally tending to my own physical fitness. There's only 24 hours in a day and no amount of wishful thinking will create more hours or slow down the clock.

In my 9-to-5 life, I've been very happy with how the year's unfolded. It started with me as becoming a new employee (for a client I'd consulted for) and starting with little institutional infrastructure. In the last 12 months, I've been able to put together some important technologies to support ongoing projects and share that work with other builders working on similar projects. I managed to take a technology I'd built at Audacious Software, open-source that, and use that to provide some new services to new clients. Currently, I'm learning the management ropes while being responsible for a major grant-funded project that could demonstrate an interesting new way to prescribe and deliver psychological treatments to folks suffering from mental ailments. (The project could also not demonstrate any additional benefit – such is research.) Overall, I couldn't have expected a better progression, and much of that credit is due to the folks I work with (you know who you are).

On the side-project front, the last year's 5-to-9 freedom allowed me introduce some new projects and iterate on existing projects. This last summer saw the introduction of The Pnakotic Atlas, an idea I'd been sitting on for a few years after wondering where Castle Rock (from the Stephen King mythology) was located while driving through Maine. Spring 2013 saw the introduction of a vastly improved version of Fresh Comics where the app came into its own and expanded its reach from weekly comic releases to creators and conventions. (On Android – look for the new iOS version in the next month or so.) I haven't found the time to make the promised revisions to Shion, but I've slowly been ramping up for that work with the acquisition of some new home automation technologies to add to the existing platform before I tear the whole thing down and start anew. (Philips Hue and Belkin's WeMo, for the curious.) Over the next month, I'll be helping the folks from the Monster Weekly get their motley crew of friendly scaries on a new technology platform that will support the growth of the Monster Empire beyond the traditional web browser.

2014 will differ from 2013 in that I have no plans to add new projects to the mix. As I figure it, I have three major projects to tend to, and I look forward to refining those projects to the point where they are the best that they can be. The Pnakotic Atlas was the last major big idea in my bucket-list, and I'm in no rush to begin anything else new. I've spent a ton of time building out some solid project infrastructure and I look forward to enjoying it.

Away from the compiler, I'm looking forward spending some time getting out more and enjoying Chicago. As I mentioned above, I've been busy enough that I've neglected my physical fitness – this is a trend that will begin reversing tomorrow. (I found a well-priced gym near work that will fit well with my daily routine.) I've been looking for some non-work-related Meet-ups in the Chicago area – I'll probably attend some when they don't overlap with my weekly horror film schedule. (I've been having folks over on a semi-weekly basis to go through the works of John Carpenter. I may put this on hiatus for the rest of the year when we make it through his final two films.) One thing on my agenda is to find and attend a decent bartending class. I enjoy mixing drinks, but there's probably a ton of things that I can be doing better in terms of technique and offerings.

The overall theme of 2014 is shaping up to be one where I focus on developing better techniques in my daily job and mainly refining and incrementally improving my own side projects instead of the big rewrites and new apps that were a big part of 2013. I feel like life's moving at a good tempo, and I plan to be making many small refinements instead of large pivots.

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