Michael's Yearly Recommendations (2018)

Michael Fairley

17 Jan 2019

I read, watch, listen to, play, and use a ton of different things. And if you’ve kept up with my blogging, you’ll have noticed that I pick out a few of my favorites to recommend each month. However, there have been some more long term changes that I’ve implemented over the course of last year that deserve their own distinctive shout outs. Thus, the first inaugural Michael’s Yearly Recommendations post! Enjoy.

Salsa dancing
I normally think of my body as a burdensome sack of meat that I have to take care of in order to have some way to interact with a computer. (Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But only slightly.) Bri got me started on salsa dancing last January, and it’s been really interesting and fun to take part in an activity where I actually have to make full use of my body. Figuring out muscle isolations and learning new moves every week is challenging, but it’s a distinct skill that uses a totally separate part of my brain than everything else I do. It’s been a fun date activity, a fun thing to do with friends (and a good way to make new ones), and a nice break from otherwise sitting at my desk all day.

Once again, I’ve been trying to change the way I think about my body (see above). But that doesn’t mean I’m about to go spend 3 hours at the gym every single night. Exercising with kettlebells has been an ultra efficient way to condition, strengthen, and take care of my body in as little amount of time as possible. Even if I’ve had a busy day and only have 5 minutes to spend working out, I still feel like I can get a bunch done just by doing 50 kettlebell swings. The main 2 exercises I do (swings and Turkish get-ups) work out most of the major muscles in the body, and if done properly, they also specifically help correct the posture issues that arise from sitting at a desk all day. Kettlebells are relatively cheap and don’t take up much space, making them perfect for a home gym. (Note: I recommended a kettlebell back in September, but I’ve since updated my recommendation to this one.)

We needed to replace the tires on our car, and while researching options, I found that Costco offers high quality, name brand tires for the lowest price around – even after factoring in the cost of signing up for a Costco membership. So, we signed up for a membership but didn’t particularly plan on buying much else other than the tires. (Some years ago we got a Sam’s Club membership in a similar situation and rarely used it.) But as it turns out, Costco is awesome. Everything in the store is high quality, the prices are very good, the limited selection helps me avoid the paradox of choice, and I prefer buying in bulk anyway.

Linux (on my work computer)
I’ve done almost all of my coding in the past 8 years on Macs, but partway through 2018, I decided to switch back to working on Linux. I get wayyy more bang for my buck in terms of performance, and my desktop that cost half the price of my MacBook is 2-10x faster for many of my daily workloads. I’ve also been able to customize things to get the operating system out of my way at almost all times (there are no animations and no window chrome anywhere; when I’m in my editor, every pixel on my screen is dedicated to my code). And especially for game development, there’s much better tooling available on Linux than there is on a Mac. It was kind of a pain to set up, there’s definitely some things about it that are a little janky, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for non-software development use. (I still use my Macbook for all of my personal computing. In fact, it’s been nice to have my work computer and my goofing off computer be separate, because I can’t get as easily distracted during my work day.)

Smart home
For a long time, I’ve been a bit of a smart home skeptic. Most smart home devices are expensive, buggy, insecure, and overall not worth the hassle. But as of last year, it seems like (at least in many categories), there are relatively mature offerings from reputable brands, and they’re regularly put on sale at significant discount. So, I picked up a few smart home devices that have made my life a little more convenient. See specific recommendations below. (I didn’t pay anything near full price for any of these; definitely wait for a solid deal on anything smart home related.)

Icons by Gan Khoon Lay, Goodfather, Adrien Coquet, Olga, and Omar Cruz.