2015 Accomplishments: good eats, books, and JavaScript

My most serious goal in 2015: make homemade pasta.  I waited until today, December 31, but I achieved this goal.


I made homemade fettuccini noodles with a puttanesca sauce.  Delicious!  If you’re curious, I used a recipe from Williams-Sonoma’s “Pasta” cook book.

I read numerous books in 2015 – about 25 in the past year, but I’m probably forgetting a few, too.

A few of my favorites from the past twelve months:

  • Becoming Steve Jobs – Brent Schlender & Rick Tetzeli
  • All the Light We Cannot Sea – Anthony Doerr
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne
  • The Effective Executive – Peter Drucker
  • The Martian – Andy Weir
  • Killer Angels – Michael Shaara
  • The Bully Pulpit – Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass
  • Terry Pratchett (a smattering of Discworld novels)

I had several useful career accomplishments in 2015.  I attended conferences like Velocity, organized Amazon’s internal web development conference in Seattle, and presented about web development career paths to international teams. I had a big impact through numerous contributions to our front-end framework (changes which you either have seen or will see).  All-in-all: a good year.

I had a good year in terms of open source development.  While many of my changes were minor documentation improvements, I made a few bug fixes and improvements to tiny libraries, and continue development of my own side projects in the open on GitHub.  The one I’m most excited about is the development of my first iOS app using React Native.  I’m calling it “Well Versed” for now, and I’m hoping to release it early in 2016.  It’s been a great way for me to learn new JavaScript features and skills (ES6 / ES2015, Babel, React Native, flux pattern, codemods), and I’m hoping to have more opportunity to apply these skills in the future.

So what’s my plan for 2016?  More good eats.  More books.  More JavaScript.  Let’s do this.

Abraham Lincoln & Leadership

In November 2014, I finished reading “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The book covers Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet members. Fabulous book! Well written. It develops and shows the personalities, characters, and actions of the men and women closest to Abraham Lincoln, his cabinet, and administration leading up to and through the American Civil War.

This post catalogs leadership principles and character qualities that stood out to me while reading the book.

Leadership Principles & Characteristics


Lincoln forgave men who didn’t deserve it. He conferred positions on men who he had no reason to honor based on their behavior towards him. This served him well; he earned many lifelong friends and trusted allies through this behavior.

During one of his senate races, Lincoln sacrificed himself and his delegates to ensure his party would win the race. The grateful Lyman Trumbull ended up helping with his presidential candidacy later.

He awarded Chase with the Chief Justiceship despite Chase’s presidential ambition and attempts to harm Lincoln’s reputation while seeking the nomination for the Republican Party when Lincoln ran for his 2nd term.

Chase quoted scripture from the Bible, but was blind to his own character flaws and the harm he did his fellow cabinet members and the President.

Lincoln gave Stanton the Secretary of War Department position despite Stanton having insulted him during a patent trial in Cincinnati years earlier.

Do not criticize a servant to his master

In context, Lincoln was telling somebody not to criticize one of his cabinet members and quoted a verse from Proverbs 30. This can be applicable in a modern work context as well. If a manager is pleased with the work if his employee and you have complaints to bring, you may be cursed by the manager.

Push for progress at the right pace and right time

Lincoln constantly gauged the opinions of the people – the common folks, soldiers, politicians. He pushed for progress and moved towards emancipation, but as President he moved slower than the radical Republicans wanted, and faster than conservatives.

Lincoln befriended Frederick Douglass and this friendship helped him to improve his perception and views regarding black men.

Cabinet Balance

He balanced his cabinet geographically and from disparate segments of the Republican Party. He did this to achieve unity and hold the party together. He used these men for their amazing talents.

Montgomery Blair revolutionized the postal service. Gideon Welles modernized the navy. Salmon P. Chase helped fund the war via the Treasury. William Henry Seward negotiated with foreign powers and contributed key insights to Lincoln. Edward Bates fought important legal issues for the administration. Edwin M. Stanton brought together a mighty military force.


Lincoln deferred to the views of his cabinet members when they told him he was wrong and had good reason for it.


Lincoln told stories to make a point. He used the anecdotes to make a point that would otherwise take much more time or resonate less with the hearer.

Humor, poetry, and stories helped Lincoln to relax.

Sum of the Man

Lincoln had many good qualities one can learn about and take as examples for living. I aim to apply these character qualities in my own life and have had opportunities to consider and attempt to implement them since reading the book.

Re-learning to play the piano

I bought a used Krakauer piano in March from a family who was moving and ready to let it go.

Krakauer Piano

I took lessons for a few years in middle-school beginning around sixth grade. In my first year of high school, I told my mom, “I’m way too busy for this” and ceased playing or practicing — much to the regret of my older and wiser self.

For Easter this year, my mom bought me “Alfred’s Basic Adult Piano Course” as it’s a book she’s used with adult learners in the past when she taught piano lessons. I’ve been enjoying it and have gotten through about one quarter of the book so far. So far I’ve re-learned things like timing (4/4 and 3/4), notes (quarter, half, three-quarters, full), and right and left hand starting positions (C & G). I’ve learned things I never knew before like several different chords (C, G, F, C Major).

My goal is to play hymns from the Cantus Christi hymnal we use at my church.

I will learn and play fun songs, too. Today, I ordered piano sheet music from Sound of Music, Super Mario Bros, and Star Wars to help me towards this end.

I’ll let you know how this goes.

How To Learn the Piano as an Adult
* Step 1: Stop Waiting
* Step 2: Get a piano (or keyboard)
* Step 3: Get the piano tuned (if it’s real)
* Step 4: Start Playing