Ben Smithgall

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





Things for me to do in 2017

January 30, 2017

I’ve been sitting on an unpublished draft of this post for awhile. Since the beginning of the month, things have changed pretty dramatically in my country. I still hope to achieve the goals on this list and am writing this as a mechanism for accountability, but they have been supplanted – I am recommitting myself now to a world where all are free from poverty and fear.

1. Program a computer with something relatively modern

I work at the US Digital Service, which means that more often than not the technology that I see in my day-to-day job is a bit behind. The last thing I shipped at work was Visual Basic, and the servers I interact with most run Windows Server 2008.

I am also interested in doing a little bit of personal library tracking. I’ve been accumulating books (after switching back to the physical objects from the Kindle), and I want to keep better track of them. So I’m combining this into a project I’m calling biblio, which combines parts of Trello and parts of Goodreads. I have tried to use Goodreads in the past and I keep falling off the wagon because it’s cumbersome to move books between shelves. I’m going to go for a more drap-and-drop based interface. I’m also spending all of my innovation tokens on technology that I don’t really know/understand all that well. I’m trying to learn with this project, so I’m using Google App Engine to power it, golang on the backend, and react on the frontend. I’m hoping to be able to write a bit about it as I go. The project will live here in the Github.

2. Do a bit more writing

Here is a complete list of things I wrote in 2016:

This year, I’m hoping to do a bit better. I’m aiming for once per month.

3. Learn enough Spanish to have a conversation

I have been off-and-on with learning Spanish over the past few years, and I want to really focus on it this year. I have been using Duolingo, which is fine for beginners but I feel like I’m starting to hit a limit with how much I can really learn using it. The interface doesn’t really scale well towards understanding beyond short snippets or having a conversation. The solution is of course to practice more and have wonderful, patient people who will help me.

4. Break the 1,000 lb barrier

I’ve been doing powerlifting for a little more than two years and I am hoping to finally break the 1,000lb barrier (where the sum total of deadlift, squat, and bench press sum to more than 1,000lbs). I ended the year quite close at ~960, so I think I should get this one pretty early on. I had great success with Strong Lifts 5x5 in the beginning, though I’ve plateaued twice and am now doing a Wendler 5x3x1 program which raises the training max every month instead of every day/week.