Emils Solmanis

2016 in review: a bag of garlic jelly beans

It's somewhat traditional around the towers for at least some of us to look back on the year past. I did one last year, and I'm sticking with that tradition this year.

To address the Trump in the room, I'm not going to cover either of the two major populist victories. They're scary, and a source of great uncertainty and stress for both me and the people around me, but they've been discussed plenty already, so let's not kick that rather lively, smelly horse.

With that out of the way…

all the small things

… this year saw some things that I'd call "minor in the big picture, but fun anyway".

some pink goggles

The year started out with Oculus launching. I got in the preorders, and was supposed to get mine in the first-ish batches. VR was finally real and shipping.

It turned out, though, that Oculus' customer support was horrible, and they massively overpromised and underdelivered. I put my money where my mouth was, scalped it via some social skills — surprise, surprise, if you massively constrict the supply and have no dev track, the devs tend to hate you and buy every device they can get — and bought myself a Vive. Given further problems with Oculus introducing DRM and the founder's support of a certain nasty individual, good riddance. I look forward to never even considering buying anything Oculus again.

As for the Vive, it's been a fun year. The initial high wears off, you realise what the big problems are, but I still use it a considerable amount, certainly enough to not regret buying it.

sorting my behind

More toward the end of the year, I finally found an artist to do my back tattoo. This was big, because I'd been looking for quite a while, and I've no idea how I'd missed Pawel, but his style is exactly what I was after, and it's progressing nicely.

We're about half-way through, and should be done right in time for beach season. Looking forward to winding up some already too uptight people!

and some other (mostly edible) animals

I also had my first London chilli harvest, which was then turned into many different batches of sauce that the cats have enjoyed during our Foodie Fridays.

I went to Bloodstock again, and it was fabulous. My 2017 tickets arrived just after Christmas, so see you there, let's grab a pint or five together!

Last but not least, I did the unthinkable and bought decaf. As of late 2016, I'm finally tea-free even after 5 pm.

all the big things

This year also saw some things that I'd call pretty darn major, at least for myself.

I no particular order…

2016: personal growth hacking 2.

I haven't strayed much from the path I set out on in 2015

I've done less running, for various reasons, and 2016 has only seen me do 206.6 km, mostly on account of two things.

First, not coping all that well with the results of the Brexit referendum. It's not easy to get me off-balance, but that one definitely did the trick mentally for me. I always knew London was a bubble, that's always the case with big, diverse cities, but the country you live in buying into populism and going openly hostile against you plays some really funny tricks on your mind. On that note, I want to extend my thanks to everyone around me, both in London and elsewhere, who believes in the vibrant and diverse community we have here, and who's expressed support, even if implicitly. It helped get me back up and running (if not quite literally), but it did take a couple of months.

Second, I've started strength training. I get a pretty good share of cardio during the Thursday morning sessions, so running is more of a complementary exercise at this point.

On that subject, getting into strength and functional training was one of my goals for the year, and I can safely say it's the most satisfying one I've hit this year. I started out with running because my overall conditioning was, to put it mildly, non-existent, but the long term goal was to be able to use my body more easily and just get stronger. I can safely say I've found the perfect place for that, as the general philosophy of the people in charge matches mine.

The other major health goals I set for myself for 2016 was fixing my hydration, improve sleep, and completely quitting alcohol.

Drinking sufficient amounts of water turned out to be much easier than I thought. I make a trip to the coffee machine at least twice a day anyway, it ended up being as simple as

  • just grabbing a pint glass of water when I was there
  • not getting a refill of coffee before I finish the water

That's all there was to it, literally. Once the habit was built, it's pretty self-sustaining, so I'm sure I won't drop it.

The sleep thing turned out to be significantly trickier, to the point where I got myself a "fitness tracker". Much as I think the things are for hipsters who consider yoga to be exercise, it does have a nice, annoying haptic feature. Just set yourself a reminder that you need to go to bed at some reasonable hour, and another alarm for waking up. I blat my phone alarms fairly automatically, so this one was about breaking the habit again, and it worked. Over the year, my average sleep has gone from the 4.5-5.5 h range into the 6.5-7 h I need, and the time slots are significantly more consistent as well.

As for going off the happy juice, failed and in progress. I've managed to cut the amount significantly, but England's pub culture is about as bad as Eastern Europe's and not that easy to shake. Getting there.

reading in uk

No, not the town just West of London, but I couldn't pass the opportunity to mess with you. I set myself a goal this year to read up much more on nutrition and figuring out much more in-depth how the average humonkey works as a biochemical system. I've more or less hit that one as well, given I've read a couple of books on it and put together a decent picture about how things work. If you need a recommendation, I think Advanced Sports Nutrition by Dan Bernadot has been the most helpful resource this year, with the caveat that it has a sports focus (obviously). It does a pretty good job of explaining the various processes involved in converting food into muscle (or fat) growth (or decrease) and what path various things take from your cakehole to your muscles, to be utilised as fuel.

I don't believe I'm done here, however. Now that I know the "how", it's somewhat peaked the interest in "why". I might just end up taking a biochem MOOC or something. Given my brother is in med school aiming for chief butcher surgeon, I guess an apple doesn't fall as far from the tree as the apple itself thinks.

going back

2016 also saw me do a thing I didn't think I'd do in the near future — going back to Latvia. Bar outside circumstances, I don't think I ever would have. As is, I had to, and it was refreshing, in a way. Three or four days in, I realised all the reasons I left were absolutely still there, and I started missing my home in London. I have little in common with the popular opinions, and the lack of diversity was just too suffocating. Which is why writing this from a central London office feels so incredibly good right now.

What about you? How's your year been? Let us know in the comments!

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