Ben Smithgall

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Interactive News Developer at the New York Times. Previously with Spotify, U.S. Digital Service, and Code for America.





2019 and 2020

January 2, 2020

This is yet another look forward and look back end-of-year post. My 2019 goals didn’t really go as planned; I ended up taking a new job about halfway through the year at the New York Times, where I’ve worked on a number of different things, including some campaign finance stories, work on a large leaked location dataset, elections coverage, and tooling to better connect with Times readers. I also continued writing tiny reviews of all the books I read this past year. My favorites were Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, Nixonland, and Umberto Eco’s tremendous Name of the Rose.

2019 Goals

Write and play more music: Completed

I wrote and released a bit more soundtrack music, but also something ambient and unrelated to the game that I’m pretty proud of.

Improved general fitness: Sort of completed

In the end, I ended up going back to the 5/3/1 split because I couldn’t really figure out anything else to do. I like 5/3/1; it’s simple, and I am still making progress towards higher weights. I spent most of the year working back towards where I was at the end of 2018 since I had taken nearly two months off, but by the end of the year I had set a new PR with a 475lb deadlift.

Work more on my Spanish: Not completed

This was a complete failure this year. At the beginning of the year I had bought translations of a few chapter books (notably, the first two of the Series of Unfortunate Events books translated into Spanish), but I stopped working through them about halfway through the year, right around when I started my new job. I would say that my Spanish proficiency has basically remained the same this year, but I want to try to work on it more. I’m not sure the best way to improve on where I am now.

Read and do the exercises from The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs: Not completed

I didn’t even start this.

2020 Goals

Less TV

I read this criticism towards the end of the year and it really resonated with me, so I’m going to make a concerted effort this year to try to watch less television. Specifically, I want to cut out “filler” TV.

Deadlift 500

I got pretty close by the end of this past year, but I am going to deload 10% at the start of 2020 and work up towards the big 500. I should hit it towards the middle of the year. At that point, I may want to recalibrate and move towards something else.

Survive the primary season

I’m working on covering the election for the Times this year. They say its a marathon, not a sprint!

Play the Mozart Piano Sonata No. 16 in C Major (1st mvmt)

This is a very well-known piece for early intermediate students, and I think I should be able to manage to get through it this year.

Keep reviewing books

I’ve really enjoyed doing that, and it has been nice to watch the big list of books grow over time.