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Welcome to 2016

It’s now a few days since the calendar ticked over to 2016 – a leap year – and (ironically enough), I’ve taken a leap myself.

More of that in a sec, but it’s time to have a quick glance back to 2015 – and the year-that-was.

I like to do a blogpost on NYE, or close enough, here’s some entries from previous years….      

End of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.  

This is my TENTH year doing a end-of-year blog – nice !

This time last year, I’d completed a tough 6-8 months of work (the toughest I’d ever weathered), and had “lost a piece of myself” along the way – and so the start to 2015 began with more of a FAMILY and BICYCLE focus, with WORK plans as secondary.

Cycling – I set myself a goal of “ride 100km a week” (and/or 500km a month) to beat the 5000km a year barrier that I’d narrowly missed in past years.    This meant some ride-to-work commitment, through the tougher winter months, with most weeks riding 3-4 days, only NOT riding on Tuesdays, with commitment to basketball – as a coach of U/12 and then U/10.

A new winter jacket, and a ‘park n ride’ strategy – where I’d drive with my bike to a football club in Burwood, and cycle back roads, and bike paths – around 15km morning and night.   This did me ‘wonders’ for physical and mental condition – and I began to find some clarity.

(In the end, I rode over 6100km for the year – avg. of 117km a week – amazing !)

FVCK CANCER

Not long after I was into the happy vibe for the year (April), we had a family shock – with my sister diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.   She had an operation to remove it, and full hysterectomy, and we all went into ‘support’ mode to help her.   I made sure to phone her every week, and to talk about “fun stuff”, and to send SMS’s such as her chemo days – to make sure she had “chemo cake” (coffee & cake !).

It was a nasty surprise for our kids also – who know of “Auntie Kath” – but it was a new discussion – I had a pamphlet entitled “talking to kids about cancer” and told them that she was ‘sick’, but had an operation, and now some special medicine for 6 months, and then she’ll be all better – by Christmas !

Mr.10 blew me away, he floored me with a comment saying “I’m worried about YOU too Dad, as it’s your sister, and I’d be upset if one of my brothers was sick like that”.  

Such amazing empathy and deep hearted sentiment – he’s a treasure, for sure.

The great news – to close that chapter – is that she is in remission, and finished chemo, and her hair is growing back – and life is starting to get back to normal – although she’s still very TIRED – more than she thought.  

A silver lining, is that I’m closer to her now than I think I’ve ever been – probably since teenage days of living in the same house…

My uncle John is also battling cancer this year – only a few months after my sister was diagnosed – another blow to my FATHER who is supporting his daughter, and wife, and now brother….

MUSIC

To change it up a beat (no pun intended), it’s been a great year for my ears, with some great concerts, and lots of Spotify.

SoundWave is always the biggest festival of the year – and 2015 was a two-day event.   A massive line-up, soooo many bands !

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On the first day, there were some memorable bands – KILLER BE KILLED – with the supergroup line-up – I video’ed their first ever song, for their first ever show – and had the YouTube clip picked up on Kerrang, and many other metal news websites – and over 50,000 views….

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GODSMACK were a band that has never toured Australia – they were brilliant – I’d setup a setlist via Spotify, and knew a lot of the show – and they rocked !    It was my most played band on Spotify for 2015 (!)

On the 2nd day, I got there late, and skipped past STEEL PANTHER (who were in the process of asking girls to raise their hand if they like the taste of cum – classy) – and got to ~10 ppl from the front as FEAR FACTORY started !

Then MINISTRY, SOUNDGARDEN, FAITH NO MORE and LAMB OF GOD – what a great way to close out the weekend….

I usually try to get along to a ‘SideWave’ show as part of the tour, this year it was actually AFTER the two-day event – was a struggle !    Killer Be Killed and Lamb Of God – awesome …!

Aside from SoundWave – I also got to see my favourite metal band MACHINEHEAD – at a crappy venue unfortunately – but I knew every song – great show.

MEGADETH were  dropped from SoundWave last year, and I was pretty disappointed (I’d just finished reading Dave Mustaine’s biography, and had been really keen to see them) – and so I got a ticket to see them at Festival Hall – along with CHILDREN OF BODOM.    A parma, and some beers before the show, with great mates – and an awesome concert.

Another comment to note, is that I’m actually listening to a lot LESS music – and been into the habit of podcasts, after about a dozen failed attempts to made it a routine.   I listen to either the Microsoft CloudShow, or O365Dev podcast while driving to the ParkNRide footy oval – or maybe ThisAmericanLife.   And on some longer country drives, for the VES races – have gotten through quite a few !

FAMILY

It’s been a wonderful year for the O’Connor family (my own party-of-five) – we have some great laughs together, and the boys are growing into amazing little dudes, with unique viewpoints and observations – and some great friendships.

Charlie – started PREP in 2015, and it was a little tough for him initially, he didn’t take to it like a duck-to-water, as we’d expected !    After the first term, he got into the routine, and he then began to really love school.   Lots of good friends, and an awesome teacher, and his reading is amazing…    He’s into grade 1 for 2016.   He’s been doing wonderful at Karate too – very cool to see him in action.

Liam – into grade 2 for 2015, Liam has been a delight for his teacher – he’s a wonderful assistant, and always enthusiastic, and has made lots of friends.   He’s a very popular kid, he just has a natural “nice” way to him.   He’s been continuing with his Karate, and started basketball in U/10 – I’m coaching the team, we haven’t had a win yet – but very enthuiastic bunch of kids !

Cameron – was in grade 4 for 2015, and been suffering some hiccups with friends along the way – he saw a school counsellor after some troubles in and out of the class, and coping with his Aunties cancer, he was just anxious and upset.   Some growing pains, and hormone changes, no doubt !    He’s doing great at school – maths, english and computers – and he just loves his video games (Terraria addict !), and basketball – I coached the team un U/12.    

For 2016 – we’ll hopefully get him an MTB with gears, and he can come to Lysterfield with me – he loved it the one time we went, on his BMX…

Friends – the kids have enabled *US* to make some great friends, with parents of kids’ friends – we’ve had some fun times with the Thompsons, and Lowes – and Luke has become my ‘man-date’ friend for movies – a beer, popcorn, and action flick – Mad Max, Mission Impossible 5, FF7, and a bunch more…   

As well as basketball coaching, and we took our sons to the new Star Wars movie !

Donna – every time I write my NY blog post, I’m amazed at what my darling wife manages within our home – almost all of the cooking, and washing – I seem to be a ‘part time’ help with some dishes and vacuuming – she does the rest !    I’m in awe of her, and love the life we have made for ourselves.

As well as the household, Donna has done some great things for HERSELF – with a new training course commenced – to become a Teacher’s Aide – as well as playing tennis (fill-in + training with her Dad) – and she had a weekend away with some girlfriends – two nights !    They had a great time, we all survived without her, and she enjoyed being a “woman” and not just a “mum” for a weekend.   

We’ve had some date nights together, or lunch + movie (The Martian) and an anniversary dinner at TGIF – and another movie…

Chloe – our aging doggy had an emergency vet trip this year, after we thought she was having a stroke, she couldn’t walk, and was looking all around and panting fast.   She’d had a “geriatric vestibular” condition (seizure) – she’s had TWO now – a month apart.   And getting older day-by-day.   She’s pretty deaf now, and hard to get up off the floor some days – especially during the heat of summer.

I’ve been making sure to give her lots of pats & cuddles, and make her last days with us a joy.   She’s 13.5 – they don’t live forever – but I’m dreading the day that she leaves us – it was hard enough taking her to the vet, with a ‘seizure’.   I broke into tears as I was talking to the vet – sooky la-la…

Let’s not talk about that anymore…

Activities – as a family, we went along to the basketball, thanks to some tickets for Christmas – the NBL was great !   Melbourne United vs Sydney Kings – amazing to see the razz-a-ma-tazz of the big game – and great skills and talent on-court.    (I had to race off from there to day #2 for SoundWave – LOL !)

We had a family day to the zoo (with Empired), and went for a city-walk-tour, and the acquarium, and had some holiday fun too – camping with Lowes at Anglesea (kayakking and market), and a week in Avoca (building bike track, hike in the Grampians, wood chopping, cycling, and some reading)…

The kids had fun preparing for the school concert this year – Donna made 24 ‘lab coats’ for the performance – it was a science theme.   The school is amazing at the way it all came together…

They also did an athletics day – was great to see them running as fast as possible !

And – we did a day out for the Christmas carols at Jells Park – phew !

(So – yes, it has been an awesome year with family)

Other fun through the year, we attended a wedding for Paul & Sara’s, Chris & Flip had a baby in mid-December, and we went for a 25 year anniversary dinner with friends from end-of-high-school days – lots of old photos and great chatter, at a fancy restaurant – it was awesome fun – amazing that we’ve been friends for 25 years.

For this year (2016), the boys are into grade 1, 3 and 5 – we’ll need to look at high schools before long.   We have a family holiday booked for Queensland in September – Gold Coast theme parks, and then resort chill out in Noosa.   

Family will tick along as it always does, I’m hoping for no BAD news like we had in 2015, and need to keep in touch with Mum & Dad, not getting any younger.  

But for me, just keep on Dad’ing – and enjoy our wonderful home – and some great times with my darling Donna.

PERSONAL

As well as getting myself out cycling, and losing some KG’s in the process, I’ve also made sure to take some time to do some reading.   One book in particular was a great influence on me, at the start of the year – entitled “Search Inside Yourself”.   A self-help book of some sorts, about emotional intelligence, by a guy at Google.   Being able to recognize stress feelings, and anxiety was a great help – it changed my outlook on a few things.

Another great discovery was the site/app called “Good Reads” – able to track books and reviews, and “to-read” books – here’s a few that I’ve gotten through this year.

A mix of adventure, fiction and biographies – my main topics of interest :

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Earlier in the year, I had a meetup at Swinburne, with a bunch of people from my IT degree, who I hadn’t seen in 20+ years.   Was great to chat and hear about different life journeys – mostly still in IT – but some had quit to be a teacher, or sold out (one dude helped create the FAST search tool, acquired by Microsoft !    He was always destined for great things, top of our class, etc.)

Also, on the topic of ‘meetups’, the old MSPUG SharePoint User Group was folded into the O365UG in Melbourne – and I’ve been helping to organise meetings, and present some topics – as well as a session at the SharePoint Saturday (O365Sat) in Melbourne.

Cycling – I’d mentioned that I needed my bike as a carthatis/coping – but I also had some great adventures during the year, as well as the fittest I’ve been since high school – and under 80kg for a while – Xmas eating has pushed me up again (LOL!)

Lots of MTB’ing – including a day out at Mt.Buller to ride the EPIC trail – and I raced the series for the Vic Enduro Series.    I missed TWO events – but had a great result at Lysterfield, and Albury – and had a great time with new friends, and repeat chat/ride buddies.

I also joined in the fun of the Lysterfield FFLL Friday races – just a good way to get out riding – bunch rides, with a numberplate, really !

My MTB is out of action at the moment – with a broken chainstay – might be a month or two of no mountain biking – doh.

Road riding – I did a few big rides, including a double-hit of DonnaBuang, while there was a group of female riders doing an Everesting – I managed 2150m – about 1/4 of their tally !     I did a ‘dirty donna’ ride as well – very VERY muddy – bike needed some work after that.

And – there was the BIG bike tour – four days with tents, and sleeping gear, all loaded up – 350km over four days, around Seymour, Eildon, Mansfield.   A great highlight to 2015 – hopefully another #seekandenjoy tour in 2016 !

Over the Xmas break, I did a ride to the Dandenongs, and almost beat my time on 1-in-20, and smashed it on TheWall – and also did a LakeMountain ride with some buddies – good times…

** gotta love some stats – thanks VeloViewer !

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Lastly, I’ve really enjoyed being a basketball coach.   Initially, I was pretty scared how I’d go on my own, at the start of the U/12 season – with some unknown kids – but we had a wonderful team, and they all worked SO hard – and we made the Grand Final !   (I had made a promise to buy them all a Gatorade – and stuck to the promise)

It was a real shame that we got steam rolled in the GF – we deserved a better chance, but the other team had a ring-in A-grader, and he was a one-man team.   Oh well.

I then turned to a junior/beginner team, with Liam’s U/10 team – only 2 of the 8 had ever played before – so it’s back-to-basics – and a main focus on enjoyment.   We haven’t won a game yet !    (and didn’t even score in the last game – doh)

For this year, make sure to retain some time for SELF, with reading, and XBoxOne fun (new TombRaider game), and be OK with ‘less’ riding this year.    New work will mean less opportunity to go cycling – but then again, need to train for the 200km Otway Classic – so better do some practice !

Keep having fun as basketball coach, and do some presentations at the O365UG, and Azure UG – already have a slot assigned for the new DWC conf – the re-branded SharePoint Conf – in April.

WORK

Has been a very interesting year for me with work, after the need to regain my love of IT, and ‘work’ in general.   I did some great project work with a team of dev’s – learning AngularJS and a bunch of Azure development, PowerShell and Office365.

Some wonderfully technologies – I was head-down into it – flying under the radar, while the consolidation of OBS+Empired (and Intergen) was bedded down.

I was pretty excited to see the new branding, with the bright yellow colours, and penguin logo’s, etc.   And from July 1, we’d be all A-OK and a new beginning.

Only, it didn’t quite hold true, and it was around late-August that I realised I wasn’t enjoying the direction of change, and the culture “feel” of what used to be a great company.

I’d realised that I didn’t want to progress my career (‘role’) to a team leader, or practice leader – or change entirely to be a PM, or sales – and it was the opportunity to move to a Seattle based dev team (within Empired) that made me realise I was actually wanting a BIG change.

America would have been a great move, but too big for our family with kids in school, and a very old dog who wouldn’t handle the move very well, and we wouldn’t leave her behind – and Donna didn’t want to leave her Mum – and sister with cancer – so it all just “stopped” (the idea to move to Seattle).

But – I continued looking outside of OBS – I could go work for a similar consulting company, in the same sort of role – or I could ‘work-the-network’ and go out on my own !

So – that’s what transpired – over the course of 2-3 months, I talked to lots of people, and resigned in early November, and established a new company entity.

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I’d been close to resigning before I had my two weeks leave in early October – Donna was suggesting I quit, and could go on holidays with a happy vibe – but it worked out best to ‘see out the year’ – and it turned out that FOUR other people finished up on the same day as me – Dec.18th – as the company closed up for the Christmas break.

For 2016 – I’m excited to see what happens – I don’t KNOW for some of it – which is exciting.   I have my first contract for 3 months, and already have people asking me to work with them beyond that timeframe.

So – hopefully my blog post in 2017 will be full of wonderful memories and great experiences.

For the year ahead, make kachihro my prime focus.   Enjoy the highs and lows, ride them out if necessary, and don’t “second guess” myself.   Back myself and be confident/strong in my opinion of self.

Enjoy some technical learnings, and more PluralSight – and perhaps develop a course as a PluralSight author.   Consider a product/utility to assist my backetball team (club) with managing players – and see if there is the potential to create a product/service – and make sales.

Welcome to 2016

So – there you go !   2015 began with a whimper, had some struggles and heartache, and finished with a bang.

Hopefully YOU had a great year in 2015 – and a wonderful start to 2016 – all the best to you and family – and good luck in whatever may come your way – cheers !

Smile

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