My 2018 in Review

posted on January 2, 2019

Following My 2017 in review here’s my 2018 one.

I mentioned last year that I should really take notes as the year passes by, but lazily I didn’t do it this year either. Hopefully 2019!

There were two major events that I will remember 2018 for. Here they are in chronological order.

My mom’s kindergarten

My mom has been a kindergarten teacher and principal for the last ~20 years. This year, finally, she moved on from the government one that she has been working at and started her very own private one in Sofia, Bulgaria.

It’s been a massive undertaking for her, but only to some extent to the rest of the family as well (hence I am writing about it).

I know, it’s not my my mom’s year in review, but since that’s something she has wanted to do for ages, it’s become a major part of my life as well.

So my involvement began in April, when I was told I have about a month to come up with some branding and a website for parents to be able to learn about the values, authority and offerings of the kindergarten.

I was quite pissed about the short notice initially, since that meant that for more than a month I would be spending every free hour before and after work cracking on tasks that I wouldn’t necessarily call myself well-versed in.

That being said, I did consider it a fun challenge, as I do have interest in all sorts of design, as well as web development work (although increasingly I’ve been becoming less and less into it, as I consider the modern web development practices less and less privacy aware).

Additionally, that project lead me to read some design books which I really enjoyed reading, but more on that in the book section below.

After that, my parents started renovating the building of the kindergarten which was a massive undertaking on it’s own, but definitely worthwhile, since the parents have been very appreciative of how good looking, warm and spacious the building has become.

To cut the long story short, while the renovation was going my mum was trying to gather her first children in July, and a couple of them started going some time in August.

Since then, the kindergarten has filled it’s capacity of 24 kids, which for the time span of four months, I consider exceptionally good growth.

Even though, my involvement has not been massive by any means, I consider the opening of the kindergarten a really big event in my family, since I know how much my mom has wanted to do it and I am myself very interested in education as it obviously is essential for the further advancement of mankind.

Let’s go on to the much much bigger event in my life in 2018 (possible whole life so far).

Uncle V

Soo, I became an uncle. Woohooo!

I vividly remember the evening my brother and sister-in-law told me and my partner. It was such an emotional experience! I drank wine, danced to balkan music and probably cried a bit.

About 8 months later young Krasimir Shotarov Jr. was born. Lovely, cute little fella!

I am surprised by how quiet he is. He can spend hours just chilling and looking about. The last few days before leaving for London again (my family lives in Bulgaria), he had started following us with his eyes. Stuttering and slow, but soo cute!

I had the chance to spend a lot of time with him the last two weeks of 2018 and I really really enjoyed each second of it.

I cannot wait for him to grow just slightly older, so I can have an excuse to buy and try out all the cool science projects for kids!

Let’s move away from personal life for a bit.

Work

Seems like 2018 has been a bit slower for me than the years before, quite possibly because I got a bit burned out from writing at bindpose.com and maintaining talk.bindpose.com.

Following that, I decided to spend my free time in things at least slightly different from what I do at work, so I did some sculpting, video editing, the web design and branding that I mentioned above and of course a lot of tinkering with different programming tasks.

Programming

I am quite happy a made my first contribution to somebody else’s github project, which was one of my goals for 2018.

Some of the other things I worked on this year are:

  • vsClipboard - A clipboard manager for windows (Reusing Ctrl-V for pasting, where if you press it once it pastes the last copied item, but if you hold it you have a choice from the clipboard history.)
  • PaletteFile - A Sublime Text plugin for creating files and directories through the command palette
  • vim-midi-chlorian - Python autocompletion for vim (utilising jedi).
  • Stardust - A physics engine, which is still very much in progress and I am yet to share it
  • A ton of small scrapers, tools, etc. for a variety of tasks - helping out my partner getting data into spreadsheets, scraping info and offerings from children catering providers for my mom’s kindergarten, etc.

Additionally, I made the switch to primarily using Linux at home, which has been absolutely incredible! The fact that I can customize the whole experience, remove bloat and utilise CLI workflows to the fullest has been really satisfying.

Rigging

Apart from getting promoted to a senior character TD this year and working on some really cool tools and developments, that I am not at liberty to share, I haven’t done much rigging in my spare time.

I mentioned above that I have done some sculpting and I have plans to carry them into animation, but we’ll see how that goes.

I have realized, though, that my personal rigging system at home has become quite outdated, so that might be one of the big undertakings for 2019.

Onto books now.

Reading

As a kid and a teenager I never had interest in books, but in the last few years I have grown incredibly fond of reading.

Apart from the following books I read, I have been constantly going back and forth throughout Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality as I keep finding bits of it incredibly rewarding to reread. Additionally, I have been able to understand more references the more I have read the book itself, which leads to renewed interests in certain moments.

Okay, let’s go through this year’s list. I have read a total of 23 books this year, which is unfortunately less than last year’s total amount, but I did read a lot of papers this year about Physics Simulations, Numerical Optimizations, Calculus, etc., which I also found very rewarding, so I wouldn’t say it’s been a less productive year reading wise.

  • Snow Crash - by Neal Stephenson

    I didn’t find the story very captivating, but the world-building and characters were incredibly well thought out.

  • The Diamond Age - by Neal Stephenson

    Quite similar to Snow Crash, in terms of what I liked and didn’t, but I found the setting a bit less appealing.

  • Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software - by Charles Petzold

    A fascinating read! I’ve always been into computers, but was also too scared to ever read about the very low level architecture. Code was incredibly approachable, though, and a lot of fun to read.

  • The Design of Everyday Things - by Donald A. Norman

    Another fascinating read! It changed my whole outlook in terms of designing not only products, but workflows and systems in a way to minimize errors.

    The biggest takeaway for me was the misconceptions about human error. A lot of people (including me before reading the book) would be satisfied by human error as an explanation to why something has happened. It is way more appropriate, though, to investigate what produced the human error - things like badly designed machines come to mind quickly, but also badly designed work/sleep schedules can indirectly lead to catastrophic results as well.

  • Rework - by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

  • Logo Design Love - David Airey

  • Skin in the game - by Nassim Taleb

    After reading the book, I am surprised by how many people seem to recommend it. I found the author very untrustworthy, as on way too many occasions he would drop a statement with a lot of information which the reader is expected to believe without any justification.

    Additionally, I found the concept of the book quite obvious.

    That being said, I am planning to read The Black Swan and Antifragile, just because of the good recommendations.

  • The non-designer’s design book - by Robin Williams

  • Consider Phlebas - by Iain M. Banks

    A lovely space opera. No massive takeaway, but great storytelling.

  • The vital question - by Nick Lane

    Another fascinating read!

    A lot of the ideas in the book are really hard to be proved, but I found the alternative of the primordial soup really interesting.

  • Factfulness - by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund

    Probably one of the best books I read this year.

    Reading HPMOR and Factfulness I realized I have had a very cynical outlook about the world nowadays, but I found the information and ideas in Facfulness very useful for understanding not only that the world has been changing for the better, but also of common misconceptions regarding politics, economics, educations, etc.

  • Game Physics Engine Development: How to Build a Robust Commercial-Grade Physics Engine for your Game - by Ian Millington

  • Real-time Collision Detection - by Christer Ericson

  • Why we sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams - by Matthew Walker

    Hands down the best book I’ve read in 2018.

    Not only did I find it a lot of fun reading through, but it has definitely had the biggest impact on my life. It radically changed my feelings about sleep and lead me to changing my schedule quite substantially, which has proved to be incredibly rewarding.

  • Mort - by Terry Pratchett

    I feel a bit stupid about only just discovering Terry Pratchett, considering that I find his sense of humour not only hilarious, but incredibly sophisticated. I find a lot of similarities with Douglas Adams’ books, which I have a massive love and appreciation for.

    Mort specifically, I think is an amazing work of fiction. Hilarious, with a great and easy to follow story, and very interesting characters.

  • Small Gods - by Terry Pratchett

    I have very similar feelings about it as I do for Mort.

  • QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter - by Richard Feynman

    Even though a lot goes way over my head, I still found the book very approachable, but of course, you cannot expect anything less of Feynman.

  • Thinking Fast and Slow - by Daniel Kahneman

    Another one of those fascinating reads that I consider life changing.

    I learned about this book from the author of HPMOR and it comes up a lot on Hacker News. Now I understand why.

  • The War of the Worlds - by H. G. Wells

    Really cool to read an older piece of science fiction. I also have a particular weakness for stories set in London.

  • The Invisible Man - by H. G. Wells

    Also really cool book. Not sure how explored the topic of invisibility has been before The Invisible Man, but I found it really interesting knowing it was written in the end of the 19th century.

  • Dune - by Frank Herbert

    Another great story with lovely characters and world-building.

  • Ку-Ку Бенд: Ад и Рай - by Иво Сиромахов

  • Thinking Physics: Understanding Practical Reality - by Lewis Carroll Epstein

    Another book I learned from Harry in HPMOR.

    A super cool way of teaching not only physics laws and methods of computation, but also a way of thinking of solutions to problems, involving first and foremost, making sure you understand the question.

  • Artemis - by Andy Weir

    An absolutely awesome science fiction novel!

    I really enjoyed both watching and reading The Martian, so I was really excited when I saw Andy Weir’s new book poster. I thought it was brilliant! Exactly what I would expect from a modern science fiction author. Highly recommended!

And that’s all the books I read in 2018.

I think I would recommend all books apart from Skin in the Game and of course the subject specific books such as the graphic design and physics engine ones, which are great books in their own right, but would be only of interest if you have an interest in the subject, while all other books I would recommend to all.

Conclusion

All in all, I’ve been really happy throughout 2018, even though I feel like I haven’t created anything massive to be proud of.

Luckily other people have created great things and it seems to me that in my mind 2018 will always be the year Krasimir Shotarov Jr. was born.


My 2017 in Review

posted on January 14, 2018

Sitting here trying to start writing, I am mentally noting to remember to take notes throughout the year if I want to write another year in review.

Naturally, the first things that come to mind are the big ones, so I will start there. In fact, I will tackle the most significant part of 2017 for me.

My brother’s wedding

So, that happened.

Those were my actual thoughts when I went to bed at 4am after spending the day in the company of friends and relatives of both my older brother and my sister-in-law.

Ha! I can actually use the term sister-in-law now, which is cool. What is even cooler is that I have a sister, too, now.

It is funny how in one week I saw two sides of my brother that I had never seen before. Vastly different as well. On one hand there’s the bachelor party and on the other there is my brother saying Yes.

The weekend before the wedding (Wedding day was on Saturday), I flew back for the above mentioned bachelor’s party. To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect.

Partying in the style of a young Bulgarian has never been my strong suit, especially considering that I never got the training of being an university student there.

Of course, I have been out with my brother before, so to say I was a stranger to his embarrassing dance skills would be a lie, but not much more than that.

Mingling with some of my brother’s friends was very interesting, though. Particularly the ones I did not know from before.

I do not expect anything less from my brother, but still, seeing and hearing everyone speaking the world of him is always nice. He is a great fella.

Then there was the club and the music. Long story short, having a glimpse in the life I could have led, I cannot be happier with my choices.

Wedding day

I do not want to go into details of what exactly happened, as there is more than 3h of footage to do that, but I would like to offer my feelings and thoughts as the day progressed.

Knowing it is a big day for both the soon to be newlyweds, it was a great privilege for me to be on my brother’s side throughout it. Putting on our suits, dancing, melting under the blazing heat, it was all there.

I had a great opportunity to meet with a lot of friends and family who I do not see that often, and to also introduce my partner to them. Having all the aunties saying how skinny she is was a good laugh.

A lot of parts of that day and the few ones before it struck my emotional side very strong, but hands down the most memorable feeling was during the ceremony.

I mean, I cried watching Finding Dory, but this was different.

Unfortunately, I cannot really explain it, but the only thing that comes close, was the realization that he is just standing there, getting married.

It was mental.

I remember, I was not very happy when he told me he is about to propose. It kind of felt, that I would be losing my brother to his new family. Funny though, I did not then understand that I was actually about to gain a sister to my family.

I know, so cheesy, but the fact that it really feels that way is really cool.

Bindpose

It is really hard to follow the wedding section, as nothing comes even close to it’s significance to me, but there were other cool and important for me developments throughout the year.

A highlight for me, definitely, is the start of my blog - Bindpose.

I had wanted to start one for quite a while. In fact the first few posts on it, are ones that I had been writing on and off throughout almost an year before publishing them.

I had told myself that I need to have a solid amount of work to publish before starting, so I can keep a bit of a buffer and also not have a completely empty website in the beginning.

I did not have any big ambitions for it, other than just being able to pour my thoughts about rigging ideas that I have had. Since, that’s my job, I spend a lot of time both developing those ideas and thinking about new ones. Hence, the only logical step was to start sharing them.

My initial articles, were way too general and I do not think anyone is getting much benefit from them, but I felt that I want to have some solid ground before getting into it. Even though, they just sit there at the bottom right now, they did help me get into writing more, since I already had planted some seeds.

A few months in, I had an amazing response from the community, with really great comments and quite a lot of readership. That led me to starting a newsletter, which has also been a lot of fun.

Granted, I do not provide much original content in the newsletter other than a bit more thoughts on the topic of the week.

talk.bindpose.com

Writing on bindpose and seeing people finding value in it, I felt like there is no good way for us - riggers - to find each other and communicate online.

There is twitter, of course, but it almost feels as a hack more than as a solutions, as there is so much junk there.

That is why, I wanted to start something, where people can get together and chat specifically and only about rigging and anything related to it.

With a quick landing page and a few posts, I was able to gauge, that other people felt the same way and would really appreciate a place for riggers to talk.

A month later I was almost ready with the development of it. I will talk more about programming in a following section.

Unfortunately, since starting it, I have been swamped in work and have not been able to maintain it as much as I want, as well as add much needed new features, but I hope I can crack on with those in the new year.

Additionally, I have not been writing on the blog in quite a while now, which also does not feel nice at all, so I am really looking forward to getting more of that done, as there always are cool rigging things to talk about.

Programming

I find myself doing a lot of it, and quite possibly 2017 has been the more code-prolific year for me, so far.

Other than the fact that about 70% of my work is writing Python and occasionally C++ for plugins, I also like spending a lot of time working on my, continuously in development, rigging framework at home, as well as a multitude of other little bits and pieces.

As mentioned above I developed the talk.bindpose.com from scratch, which was great fun. It was my first time using Flask and I have to say I really enjoyed using it. The minimal aspect of it and the fact that is very Pythonic help a lot when trying to design a web platform.

The last web app that I had built before that was a thing called GEBY (Gratitude, Exercise, Breakfast, You), based on an idea Noah Kagan wrote about on his blog. That one was my first ever attempt to create a web app from scratch and I had a lot of fun building it, especially since it helped me understand a lot more about how the web works in general.

Other more web-geared developments I have been working on in my free time are a couple of scrapers - one for properties, as me and my partner are looking to rent a decent 1 bed flat in London without having to pay with an arm and leg and another one for flights from London to Sofia, so I can stay on top of things when it comes to going back to see friends and family.

Most recently, I wrote a little REST api for controlling my computer remotely in Flask, which is just hosted locally, so I can only access it on our home wireless network.

So far, I have just added the ability to move the mouse around, make clicks, drags, etc. and also a few buttons for changing the volume and controlling playback as that is what I mostly need the remote for.

And lastly, I have been working on a clipboard manager over the last few days, as I have a very precise interface in mind, which I have not found an available solution for (I have to say I did not look very hard). It is a Python app using PySide and the interface I mentioned is that I want to maintain Ctrl + V’s normal behaviour when tapped, but when it is being held, that is when I want for all the available options to pop out.

Other than that, I have dabbled with small things, and it seems to me the ones I came back to most oftenly are a custom virtual assistant (as I do not feel great about providing all my data to the available solutions) and simple multiplayer game development.

What this means to me is that hopefully in the new year I will explore these areas a lot more.

Reading

Similar to the programming section, I think 2017 has been the best reading year for me so far, too. I think a big helper is the fact that I spend at least about 50 minutes a day on the tube, so I have that time for nothing else but reading.

Occasionally that reading is articles, but mostly I read books on my kindle.

I have read a total of 30 books this year. Here is a complete list in chronological order.

  1. Dirk Gently’s Hollistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
  2. Dirk Gently, The long dark tea time of the soul by Douglas Adams
  3. The salmon of doubt by Douglas Adams
  4. Last chance to see by Douglas Adams
  5. 1984 by George Orwell
  6. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  7. Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
  8. Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  9. Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  10. Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  11. Foundation edge by Isaac Asimov
  12. Foundation and earth by Isaac Asimov
  13. Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  14. I robot by Isaac Asimov
  15. The caves of steel by Isaac Asimov
  16. The naked sun by Isaac Asimov
  17. The robots of dawn by Isaac Asimov
  18. Robots and empire by Isaac Asimov
  19. The stars like dust by Isaac Asimov
  20. The currents of space by Isaac Asimov
  21. Pebble in the sky by Isaac Asimov
  22. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  23. Homo deus by Yuval Noah Harari
  24. The selfish gene by Richard Dawkins
  25. Harry Potter and the methods of rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky
  26. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
  27. Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  28. On Writing by Stephen King
  29. The character of physical law by Richard Feynman
  30. A brief history of time by Stephen Hawking

Looking at these you can easily see the patterns.

I did find out this year that I really really like science fiction. I finalized my last year with the Hitchhiker’s series, and easily fell in love with Douglas Adams’ writing.

Since Isaac Asimov’s name comes up in any respectable science fiction list, I had no choice but to have a read, and obviously from the list I did quite enjoy it, since what followed was a reading spree through his most popular series.

Another huge highlight in this year’s reading list was Harry Potter and the methods of rationality. I found a lot of my own thoughts in the book, so it felt very close to me and also it made me aware of a lot of interesting quirks of the human nature, which we rarely think about, even though they have profound effects on our day-to-day lives. The examples that immediately come to mind are the sunk cost bias and the Stanford prison experiment.

SPOILER ALERT: And come on, Harry casting the true form of the patronus was just brilliant!

All in all, I am very pleased with my choice of books this year, even though, I would have liked to have read a bit more.

The only ones from the list that I would not necessarily recommend to everyone are The Martian Chronicles, Essentialism and Homo Deus.

Conclusion

Even though, I did a lot of things I am fond of during 2017, for me, it will always be the year my brother got married.

With all that, I am going into the new year motivated for exploring a lot more ideas and opportunities!