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2019 in numbers

Reflecting on going there and back again

Last year on this day, I was going to sleep on an uncomfortable hotel bed in Abashiri, Hokkaido. We had just finished an exceptionally mediocre meal at Victoria Station. It was a classic example of Japanese “family restaurants” (ファミレス, famiresu), places that no one is ever excited about but do good enough in a pinch.

Dru and I were completely unprepared for the entire town of Abashiri shutting down on New Year’s Eve. There were no decent restaurants open, and even our hotel had closed their in-house restaurant for the night. The receptionist offered us the choice between KFC, Sukiya, and Victoria Station. So off to Victoria Station we went.

We were there to take the Senmō Line at the crack of dawn on the next day. We had hauled ourselves across Japan to ride this train because the line is endangered, facing possible closure from low ridership. We woke up at 4am and boarded an old snowy train to see the sunrise along the eastern coast of Hokkaido and herald in the new year. The train only had two other riders, both photographers who clustered with me around the train windows. The resulting photo is one of my favorite from our time in Japan:


senmo_sunrise The sunrise along the Senmō Line.


Flash forward to today. The amount of radical change that we underwent in the last 12 months is truly remarkable. Admittedly, the stress and pain from these changes were all mostly self-inflicted. We have successfully coordinated a second international move back to the US, with the dog. Both of us have found new full-time jobs and feel relatively settled back into American life. I’m delighted to have reconnected with old friends, and how we also made several new ones, both here and abroad.

Now on to some numbers!


Books Read

This year, I read 39 books, including three full series:

I’m on Book 7 of the Wheel of Time series, barely 43% of the way done. It is a genre-defining epic fantasy series and the stories have some truly magnificent moments so far, but they can also be rather slow and tedious at certain points. I’m glad my partner and several of my close friends are actively reading the books, which act as great motivation for not falling behind. Send me a note if you start reading them!

41% of those books were nonfiction, 41% were fantasy, and 12.8% science fiction. Only 3 of the books (7.7%) were related to work or productivity.


I had read 38 books in 2018. In keeping with the trend going up and to the right, I’m setting a goal for 40 books in 2020.


Podcasting

I published seven episodes of the San Fransokyo Podcast in 2019. I’m deeply proud of this show I have created, not only as a resource to share our experiences with friends and family, but also as a way for us to remember Japan. Editing the last bonus episode has made me nostalgic and more than a little homesick for our life in Tokyo. I’ve decided that we will record our final episode tomorrow on New Years, reflecting on the transition back to the US and all that we’ve learned from the experience. It will be bittersweet bringing this chapter of our lives to a close.

In total, I spent about 80 hours on the podcast. This breaks down into 6.5 hours of recording, 63 hours of editing, 8.5 hours for the blog posts, and 2 hours of miscellaneous planning. On average, I spent about 18 minutes editing for every minute of recorded podcast audio.


podcast_time Time spent on the podcast by month.


I only added proper podcast analytics in May using Podtrac (Squarespace has very hand-wavey subscriber statistics), after the release of episode 9. I was frankly shocked there were so many unique downloads and how that number has been climbing — episode 11 had 142 unique downloads. Granted these numbers are relatively small compared to typical numbers in podcast land, but it’s still many more than just our close friends and family!


podcast_downloads Unique downloads per episode.


I was also pleasantly surprised to find out about 6% of the downloads come from Australia. I hope these folks have gotten a valuable snapshot of what life in Tokyo is like. I’d be so tickled if I found out one day that our podcast helped convince someone to take the leap and move to Japan.

Unsurprisingly, visits to the podcast website closely mirror the release schedule of episodes.


podcast_visits Unique visits to sanfransokyopodcast.com.


The RSS subscriber numbers provided by Squarespace were pretty unbelievable. My skepticism was verified once I got Podtrac all set up, which had much most reasonable reported numbers.


podcast_rss Apparently I had 931 RSS subscribers to my podcast at one point.


My most successful channels were Direct, Facebook, and Google Search. I can only hope “Direct” means the podcast was spreading by word-of-mouth, rather than the Squarespace dashboard counting dozens of my own visits to the page.


podcast_source Various social channels that visitors to the site came from.


As for Google Search, the search term that got the highest number of impressions for my site was obviously “san fransokyo”. Hilariously, the second-highest search term was “huel referral code”. You can go to 9:43 in Episode 9 if you want to hear the unsponsored Huel advertisement.

The podcast has been a wonderful experience for me, both for learning a new skill and producing an artifact that will outlast our year in Japan. I wrote in the first newsletter about how everyone should consider creating an audio journal or diary to record certain life experiences.


Japanese, apps, writing, and more

For the first five months of the year, I was attending Japanese class part-time from 1:30pm - 5:00pm every day. Just counting the time outside of class, language study took 375.5 hours total, or about 2.5 hours of study every single day. After May, I left school and effectively stopped Japanese study. I had reached enough skill where I could successfully navigate 90% of all casual conversations, and that was acceptable enough for enjoying the rest of our time in Japan. I would like to start studying Japanese in some capacity again in 2020.

I spent 570.5 hours on coding projects from January to October. This works out to 14 hours a week, or 2.8 hours every working day. I released WorldAnimals on iOS and Android, as well as AR Grimoire on iOS. These projects have been on the backburner as I have been job searching for the last few months, but I’m eager to give all my released apps some much-needed attention once again.

I completely revamped the blog in July. I published 4 blog posts totaling 11,910 words, including this one. The most read articles were Simulated Annealing: a life framework and Saving time with React Native. I’m looking forward to investing more time in writing in 2020, especially after the podcast winds down.

In September, we purchased the Eight Sleep bed which has been a complete game-changer. As someone who sleeps cold, I love that the bed is warmed when I get in the covers and how the temperature can be adjusted throughout the night. Legitimately a large portion of my arguments with Dru were around our divergent sleep preferences, and now we barely need to discuss anything anymore. Some stats about my sleep that the bed collected over the last four months:

  • Averaged 7 hours 46 min of sleep per night
  • Tend to go to bed 45 minutes later on weekends than weekdays. I do get the same amount of sleep on weekends as weekdays.
  • Average bedtime is 10:50pm
  • Average wake time is 6:52am
  • Sleep most on Mondays and least on Thursdays

I use an Oura Ring for sleep tracking as well. I’m still getting a sense of my own baselines for metrics like average heart rate variability and body temperature trends.


Looking forward to 2020

I still need to devote some dedicated brain time to thinking about specific goals for the new year (not to mention the decade!), despite laying out some general ideas in the above sections.

I usually pick a theme for each new year, and I have decided that next year’s theme will be recombination. I will better define what recombination means and my personal and professional goals in some future writing.

Happy New Year’s Eve!


This article was last updated on 01/01/2020. v2 is 1,367 words and took 2.13 hours to write and edit. If you any feedback on this post or want to share what you learned in 2019, you can send me a note here.
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