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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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I regret to admit it took me a bit to even remember how to build this site!

When I firmed up my plans to change jobs, L predicted that I would stop posting. Perhaps the bottomless well of narcissism has a bottom after all.

The effect was total: Not just this blog but my beverages blog died this year. The funny thing is I still experimented with beverages. A lot. I have a bunch of pictures, for that matter. 2015 was the year of the tiki cocktail in my book. But nobody would ever know it since I stopped posting just before swapping coasts.

I could resolve to resume these efforts but my heart is not in it. Also I do not make resolutions. That, in fact, is the whole point of this series.

Perhaps the oddest part is that I could not tell you why I stopped posting. The most simple explanation would be “it has been a busy year and I have been distracted.” I do not think this is the whole truth, however. Maybe as another useless approximation “the world is so big and I am so very small?”

There are years of accumulated things I would like to at some point share. I am somewhat confident I experienced enough in the last five to ten years to write several books. One is a humorous series of anecdotes disguised as a memoir. Another is a treatise on middle management guerilla warfare tactics. The final one provides yet another multi-hundred-page position peace on the differences between management and leadership. I will write none of these books.

2015 is in the books.

My immediate goal for 2016 is to remember it is no longer 2015. Before that, however, I want to spend some time thinking out loud about what 2015 was. As I can say every year, “it was a strange year.”

January 2015 was cold. I was living in Connecticut. I was an engineering director for a financial services company. Now I live in California. It is less cold. I am an individual contributor at a tech company. I would love to trivialize the differences. I would love to pretend the changes have been easy. I can do neither.

Independent of anything else, the cost of living in the bay area is worse. My existence was downsized in several dimensions. I think it was worth it.

I spent half a decade as a director. Longer as a manager in various capacities. While the specific titles and what they connote are irrelevant, my mental adjustment is odd and incomplete. It is difficult to approach a problem without assuming the fundamental issue is social and interpersonal in nature. It is a challenge to keep my mouth shut when it is not my place. It is rough learning to trust and be patient again. The origin of my various hangups are not trivial to determine. Some come from difficulty re-learning how to think and act like an individual contributor. Some are, for lack of a better phrase, a result of post-traumatic stress.

A bunch of things have been bouncing around in my head from my days at the investment bank (more than ten years ago): Ownership is the thing. Sometimes different is more important than better. A little bit of slope makes up for a lot of intercept. Better is less better than expected. Loyalty must at some point be repaid. It is important to know one’s market value. Never settle. Allow that the value proposition changes over time. A snake is always a snake. Be selfish. Fix the small stupid irritations. One can never go home again. Breaking up is hard to do. The immediacy of the proportional is real. Keep an eye on the integral. The derivative requires faith. Faith is easily misplaced. Trust nobody. Find somebody to trust. Cultivate a following. Find somebody to follow.

In any event, the new job is good. My coworkers are smart. The policies and leadership seem smart and savvy. There are very few small stupid things to be distracted by. It is of course still a job and work is still work. It is refreshing being responsible only for my personal successes and failures. A little terrifying, too. Everybody I know says I seem happier.

Whether it is the impostor syndrome or a recognition of actual inadequacy, I have many rough days. I do not yet understand what is important. I do not often know what to focus on. I trust that at some point this will become more clear but at the moment is remains uncomfortable.

Enough about work.

There must be something more than work to not talk about.

I mentioned earlier that moving west meant downsizing in many ways. I still have my vinyl collection and turntable but they both collect dust in storage. There simply is not the space to set them up in my apartment. This is sad but not, I hope, permanent. It is, to be certain, a first world problem.

I do love the bay area. The weather is incredible. Many assume we live on beaches and swim in the ocean each morning. That is silly. The whether is actually lovely as we don’t live in southern California. It is not that hot and it is not that cold. And I certainly would not jump in the ocean here without a wetsuit. Ever.

It is my favorite place to live thus far. Maybe it’s just the new shiny. The constant beauty of the place continues to surprise me. The hiking is very different than the east coast yet rather enjoyable. I need to do more of that. There are many parks and trail systems I need to check out. Many cities to visit.

At the same time, there is an undercurrent of awful in the bay area. I hear whispers of the toxicity of the bay area. Muttering about the relationship between the tech industry and the rest of the bay. Of the inequality and conflict within the region. This is not a war zone and my position is relatively fortunate but everything has its degrees. These things are present throughout the nation and world but the bay seems to amplify them. People I trust speak of leaving to escape the bay’s cruel tendrils, whatever those are. I do not know what to make of it all yet. It is not clear if this is the place to settle forever.

Moving meant leaving the majority of our friends and family behind. That remains tough. I was able to work remotely for a bit in December. This allowed me opportunity to try to see as many people as possible. It was not enough time and I did not see enough of them for long enough. There may never be enough anymore. With that said, lots of people have already visited us over the course of the year. That is always nice. Please visit; it is nice here.

I did not make as much progress with health and fitness as I hoped. My previous trainer in Connecticut destroyed my shoulder on the way out and it has not really recovered. I need to get that checked out. Of course that is an excuse like anything. It is not always chest day.

I think I am becoming a better cook again. I am learning to grill. I now appreciate carbon steel pans. I now prefer carbon steel knives. I made fried chicken. Twice. It was good. I made salmon in a non-nonstick pan. It still makes the house smell awful. It is, however, possible. In other ways I have regressed; this year saw my worst creme brulee ever. These things happen.

It was not a bad year for wine but it was a horrible year for me remembering to take notes on wine. Much of my cellar still resides on the east coast. It’s sort of weird. I did finally take the step of procuring (at least in California) offsite storage. It greatly simplifies things with the aforementioned lack of space. I also finally took the plunge and started printing individual bottle barcodes. It too makes multi-homed cellar management easier.

Still, a few wine memories stand out to make a bit of a rickety top ten list:

  1. 2008 Continuum. Opened one right before we left Connecticut. It was perfect.
  2. 2014 Dirty & Rowdy Evangelho Vineyard. Astounding out of the barrel. Astounding out of the bottle.
  3. N.V. Vinedo de Los Vientos Alcyone Tannat. Still my favorite value for dessert wine.
  4. 2011 Littorai The Pivot Pinot Noir. Held up against serious Burgundy.
  5. 2013 Arnot-Roberts Syrah Que Syrah. Wow. Don’t have much left. Need patience.
  6. 1987 Argyle Brut. Dramatically different than a previous bottle. So fresh.
  7. 2013 Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rose. Bought up a bunch in closeout at the local supermarket. Perfect summer wine.
  8. 2013 Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Riesling Sekt Brut. Yeah, I can’t say that either. But it’s delicious.
  9. NV Pascal Lallement Champagne Brut Reserve 1er Cru. Yum.
  10. 2009 Cascina Fontana Barolo. A good reminder that I should drink more Barolo with dinner.

In closing, I am offering unsolicited advice this year.

  • Car service is worth it sometimes.
  • Find a way to trade money for time.
  • Own and use a good knife.
  • The world is so much less black and white than it seems.
  • Master something unrelated to your profession.
  • Be capable of preparing a nice meal.
  • Get something made to measure at least once.
  • If you don’t own a Thermapen, go buy one. Right now. In fact that’s more important than any other advice I offer.
  • Take vacations.
  • Do not sauté stuff in extra virgin olive oil. Take the time to learn about smoke points.