2004 in review

by Michael Alderete on 1/13/2005

2004 was a decent year for us, and as always (at least since I started this weblog), I like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the important things that happened.

For me, the thing that dominated the year was my new “job” as a consultant. I’d done some consulting before, but in 2004 I managed to string together almost an entire year of work. Mostly half-time, so it wasn’t quite the income I would have liked, but I was able to pay the bills, and that’s pretty amazing. Really, all the credit goes to my primary client, Nicely Done Solutions, where the majority of my work comes from. They’ve kept me busy, and I hope to keep doing work through them for some time.

That dominated my day-to-day, but my biggest accomplishment in 2004 was my five year wedding anniversary with Rochelle. We have many more of those in our future, if we can both resist the temptation of butter.

After a frenzy of traveling in 2003, we mostly stayed at home in 2004. A short trip to Boston, where Rochelle was attending a conference and I was eating cannoli, was the furthest we went. We also made our traditional Thanksgiving visit to Rochelle’s family in Texas. And our longest trip was a road trip down to Palm Springs, where we stayed for two weeks in a condo, while Rochelle wrote the culminating papers for her Masters degree. (Which was Rochelle’s biggest accomplishment of 2004, successfully completing her Master’s program. All over but the paperwork. Yippee!) I mostly loafed around and read a couple of books; in fact I think that was the only fiction I read all year long.

I did get a chance to enjoy more fiction than those couple books, though, by finally giving Audible.com a try. Rochelle started her subscription to the service last year, and has really enjoyed listening to the audio books on her player. When I gave her an iPod mini for her birthday, I inherited the Audible.com Otis player she had been using, and started using it while I was driving. While the Otis sucked, the audio books are fantastic, and there is no better way to enjoy them than on a digital player; CDs and tapes are more expensive, and you have to constantly change them to keep going. Not with the iPod, or even the Otis, which can store almost nine hours — or hundreds of hours for the iPod.

We continued to improve our home with a number of projects, including replacing the solid wood back door with a wonderful wood door with glass panels that lets in far more light. In spite of the glass, with the redone (and now straight) door frame and new weather stripping, the kitchen is much warmer now than it was with the solid door we replaced.

Also in the kitchen we added a display shelf along one wall, to better show off the ridiculously large collection of champagne bottles we’ve amassed. I’m sure we’ll have to purge the collection at some point, but for now it’s fun to have them all in a row, and know that we’ve found and enjoyed some really fine wine in the last couple of years. The bottles on the shelf are only from the last two years, but it represents far more champagne than I drank in my entire life before Rochelle.

We painted our bedroom from top to bottom. Rochelle picked out three new colors that matched our antique bed frame, and over the course of a week, we stripped and repaired walls, and painted painted painted. The results are not perfect by a long shot, but it’s still a tremendous improvement for us.

Also in the bedroom we ended up replacing all but the headboard of that bed frame, which lowered the mattress and gave us a much more stable bed. The antique bed frame itself was quite solid, but the queen conversion kit that came with our McRoskey mattress replaced the solid side beams, and made the bed horribly shaky.

The biggest improvement we made was replacing the old, grim gray carpet that Rochelle picked out 10 years ago with new carpet that is warmer-toned, and coincidentally hides cat stains far better. That went into our parlor, office, and bedroom, as well as the hall closet, which we somehow omitted from the hardwood floors project a couple years ago.

In the office, we replaced almost all of our furniture, getting rid of our desks and a chrome shelving unit, and replacing with much bigger desks and some standard shelving from IKEA. They’re not perfect, but they look a lot nicer than what we had before, and work a whole hell of a lot better with the computers, etc., than the old stuff did.

We didn’t eat out as much this year, and so we discovered fewer new restaurants than we usually do. We still found a few, including Saha, where Rochelle’s favorite chef from last year went after he sold and left our favorite find of 2003 (which is no longer particularly special). The cuisine can best be described as Arabic fusion, and combines Middle Eastern spicing (the chef is from Yemen) with French technique. It’s extraordinary, and everyone we’ve taken there has agreed that the prix fixé dinner would be a bargain at twice the $27 it currently costs.

On the topic of food, I took HomeChef’s “essentials” cooking course (4 hours one night a week for 12 weeks), and had a blast. I made a lot of the food at home during the course, but haven’t cooked as much as I’d hoped to after the class ended. Still, I probably cooked more in 2004 than in 2003, which is a trend I’d like to continue in 2005.

We only threw one party in all of 2004, and it was on the last day of 2004 (more on that in another post). Shame on us. Look for that to change in 2005.

On the technology side, I got a new computer, my first laptop, and have really enjoyed the new mobility. Before the current generation of PowerBooks, I always felt that getting a laptop was too big a compromise. There’s still a big performance gap between the PowerBook I got and Apple’s professional desktop systems; and my hard drive size is limited compared to what’s available in full-size systems; and the PowerBook’s screen is quite a bit smaller than what I had before; etc. But with the current laptops, the hardware has advanced so far that what you get is more than good enough, and the trade-off of headroom I don’t need for mobility I want is now possible.

We also switched to a new DSL provider, Speakeasy, which is both saving us money and providing better service. We stuck with our reduced cable plan, which is $14 a month, and we (mostly) don’t miss the channels. At the end of the year, we signed up for Netflix, so we could get the movies back. Minimum cable plus Netflix is less than half what we were spending for our premium cable services, and gets us pretty much everything we want. Except for ESPN

I made roughly 60 posts to this weblog. And I sold zero BeBoxes. Both of these numbers need to go up in 2005.

I gained back much of the weight I lost at the beginning of last year. That number needs to go down in 2005.

The cats all stayed healthy and happy, and we didn’t add any new ones. The number of cats in our house needs to stay the same in 2005.

And that was my 2004.

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