It's been four years since I wrote a recap. I wrote an update about my life two years ago when I left the U.S. and moved back to Turkey. It's a Recap of the years 2019-2020. I would suggest reading that blog post if you haven't yet because some parts of this blog post revisit some of those feelings I had back then.
I'm always writing these blog posts as a trail for myself; however, I've also found them useful for people interested in my thoughts. In this blog post, I want to share some of the most significant changes in my life in the past year. Let's dive in.
I'm grateful for my Family, my in-laws, and the friends who surround me. After coming back from the U.S., I appreciated how great it was to be surrounded by my loved ones. As a parent, I welcomed the support, but it wasn't just me who was relieved; I could see how the daily encounters and conversations with my Parents enlightened my kids. My parents live nearby and occasionally come by, or the kids stay with them for a couple of hours. I can observe how the relationship between my Dad and my son evolved, how they started to become more closed, and how they shared secrets. All these make me very happy.
Being surrounded by my Family makes life easier for them and us. I can help my parents with their daily challenges, be with them if they need me, arrange doctor appointments, or do anything they struggle with themselves sometimes. I don't want to think this is a mutual agreement; it's just something I like to do and that I'm happy I can do.
Looking back, I know it's a privilege that I have experienced, and this privilege might go on again in the future. I can always be somewhere else, live in another country, and experience new challenges. That's what I am, and that's how I thrive. But I always try to ensure that my Family is a top priority.
Owning my own House
After moving back from the U.S. to Turkey, I also finished my ongoing house construction. I bought the land in 2017, and we started building our House around 2019 when we moved to the U.S. My father was looking over it, as he built other houses in the past and knew the in & outs. However, the construction halted for almost two years due to the pandemic, as with everything else. When we returned from the U.S., we started back again as things mostly normalized. In a 6-month short period, we finished almost everything.
Before owning my House, I was on rent living in one of the outer neighborhoods of Ankara. It was at the edge of the autobahn circling Ankara, so it was a very calm place, but it also had cheap rent as most professionals wouldn't want to live there due to the distance to the city center. But for us, it was a great jumping board. We could save money for our own House as I was working from home, and my wife could travel via the subway (she had to drive there). She eventually also started working remotely, so never moved out.
Anyway, now that I own a house, and because I also built the House myself, I could also design it in a way to have a nice office. Our House is a vertical-sized townhouse, and the living area and bedroom are on the upper levels, but my office was on the entry level, which meant it was also totally isolated from the rest of the home. An office for myself was one of my dreams because, before that, I had a small room in our apartment, and with my two kids, it became tough to do meetings in the evening or do my work in deep focus.
While at it, I also ensured my new room had an unobstructed view of the front garden. There is tons of light, which makes it pleasant to work all day long. It's also large enough to contain other things, such as a library with comfortable sofas/chairs and a fully functional coffee bar with an espresso machine and grinder.
It's been almost 1.5 since I worked in this setup, and as you imagine, it's everything I wished for. I'm very grateful for this setup every single day. The spacious area also allows me to invest in my other hobbies, such as playing Piano, reading books, etc. More on these topics later in this blog post.
3D Printing and Design
I love Design. I try to buy highly regarded timeless designs or feel you can use them even after several years. However, what means "timeless"? Or how is the process of designing a piece that you can appreciate? So to enjoy Design, I also wanted to learn "how to" Design. Hence I wrote this tweet in May:
By getting a 3D Printer, I wanted to learn CAD and tinker with small gadgets/industrial design objects. I had some ideas I wanted to tackle, but I first needed a 3D Printer. After some research, I've got Prusa i3 MK3S+.
As with all the things I'm doing, I wrote an extensive blog post about my journey; check it out: https://arslan.io/2022/06/11/how-i-got-into-3d-printing/
After assembling my 3D Printer, I started tackling my first Design project and designing a wireless charger pad for my Car. I bought a new car. However, due to the chip shortage, several things were missing. One of those features was a wireless charging pad. So it was the perfect project to pursue. I wrote another blog post with details on how I Iterated on this project: https://arslan.io/2022/07/04/designing-a-wireless-charging-pad-from-scratch/
Overall, I liked iterating on a project that wasn't Software; that was something I could touch and feel, and it was a very welcoming new experience. I've discovered that it's harder to iterate, and you can't see the result immediately. Printing a medium-sized model takes a minimum of 12 hours, and to understand a model's flaws or benefits, you need to 3D print it. However, holding something in your hands has an evoking feeling.
My problem with the 3D Design was/is the CAD software. There are many, and most are very expensive, and the open-source ones are not as user-friendly as the commercial offering. I think there is a market for hobbyists like me. I was using Shapr3D, but after they bumped the monthly price to around $40, I started looking into Solvespace, a new OSS CAD program that is very promising. I plan to re-design my wireless charging pad with this new Software and share more about it.
I still use my beloved Fuji X100V. It's an excellent camera for my style, and I love to use it for street photography. It creates great photos with minimal fuzz. The best thing about the Fujifilm X100V is that there are dedicated buttons for every Exposure triangle setting, i.e: ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture.
I shoot the Fuji X100V in two different modes. One is in the
M mode, which is short for manual and
S for a single shot. In the
M mode, autofocus is enabled, and I use zone-focusing, change the aperture and focus distance myself. The only automatic setting is the shutter speed. These preferences allow me to compose different situations efficiently and quickly. It's also fun to use in this mode. The
S mode is auto-focus with face detection enabled. It's for use cases where I need to give the camera to my wife or someone else who don't know how to use my camera.
This year, I also experimented with different frame ratios. The 16:9 ratio especially is something I liked a lot; however, it's not suitable for nowadays social media websites, especially Instagram Stories or Twitter. It doesn't bother me, though. I usually optimize for how I like things and want to see things in the future.
Lastly, I've been a Fujifilm user for almost ten years, but I think it's time to move to a different camera system. Not because I don't like to use a Fujifilm but because life is short, and I want to fulfill my dreams of using specific equipment and pushing my boundaries. If I can do it, I'll always try to push my limits. That's how I rouse, and that's my happy ground. I love Photography, and I think it's worth spending my time, investments, and energy on it. More on this later in another blog post.
This year was one of my most productive years in recent years. I always wanted to write at least one post per month, and even though I couldn't keep up the pace, I wrote ten blog posts. It's hard to keep it up because I have limited time, and with that limited time, I try to read books, spend time with my kids, learn Piano, shoot photos, etc. So, it's usually an afterthought, and there is a balance here. Sometimes it skews toward writing a blog post, but sometimes I don't have the energy.
Like in past years, I wrote many lengthy reviews about specific products. My Kinesis Pro blog post was one of my most-read blog posts of the year, even though I just recently released it. I had 130K Total Pageviews and 88.5K Unique Visitors. People visited the most from the United States, and the most visited pages were:
Lastly, I switched from a custom Hugo setup to Ghost. I realized I started writing more because it's effortless to write a blog post with Ghost. I no longer have to fiddle around with markdown files and ensure Hugo is up-to-date. I just hit publish, and Ghost handles everything for me. This allowed me to spend more time writing and less time fiddling around with my blog setup.
Music and learning Piano
This year was the year when I finally started investing in making and learning music. I had a very informal Piano education in Germany when I was there in school. But I forgot almost everything. This was nearly 30 years ago. I was a kid back then, but playing a musical instrument was one of my goals that I never relinquished. In my youth, I did quite a bit of mixing using Software DAWs. When I left Germany and moved to Turkey, we had a yearbook where everyone wrote what they wanted to be in the future. I wrote: A DJ or Computer Engineer.
I never became a D.J. :) But I pursued my love of programming and doing stuff with computers. But music is still something I have always had in me. There are two things I started doing to improve it this year.
First, I purchased some excellent devices from Teenage Engineering. Teenage Engineering is one of my love brands. They create devices that are very well-designed and fun to use. I have several of their Pocket Operators (little synths), and I love to create beats with them. I also purchased an OP-1 Field from them and started using it occasionally. However, I need a better musical education to make the best of them. That's where the second thing comes in.
So, around September (3 months ago), I purchased a digital piano and started taking private tutoring, one hour per week, to learn Piano. My son also started learning Piano, so it was the perfect time for me. Since then, I have exercised for 1-2 hours daily, and I love playing the Piano. I've learned quite a bit and can quickly jump between the second and sixth D (four octaves). It isn't easy to learn Piano, and the dimensionality of how a note can be played still blows my mind.
It's been two years since I joined PlanetScale. For those who don't know PlanetScale, it's a database provider with very advanced technologies packed in one of the most user-friendly UX you can find, and it just works.
Since I joined PlanetScale, I've worked on various projects, starting from our
pscale CLI, our Go API, clients, and then moved to work on other distributed systems challenges, such as read-only regions.
I'm working on the Orchestration team, and our team is responsible for spinning up a PlanetScale Database for the user. Because PlanetScale uses one of the most sophisticated distributed systems DB underneath (see: Vitess), a database is not just a single binary; it's multiple services talking to each other. What happens if the underlying node dies? What happens if one of the services OOMs? How do you take backups? etc... are just some of the issues we're solving.
PlanetScale is fresh air compared to my old job at GitHub. The people I work with are intelligent, emphatic, and just great to work with. Every day I wake up, I open Slack with joy and look forward to solving a customer issue or working on the next big thing. It's rare to be in this situation. The last time I was this happy was when I worked at DigitalOcean. So I'm delighted with how things worked out for me.
My plan for the following years is to continue working at PlanetScale for the foreseeable future. I like what I'm doing, the work is challenging, and I trust the leadership and my co-workers& friends.
Reading books is a core habit, and I love to read new perspectives or fiction that teleport me into a different world. Over the years, I've experienced reading at a different pace. As an example, I don't read a book per week or month. Instead, I have a period, which usually longs for 1/2 month, where I read a book in a brief period, like every 2/3 days. Once that period is finished, I read books very slowly.
This year I read around 25 books, which means one every two weeks. However, half of them I read in a single month. I don't think this is a good reading habit, so I plan to change that.
I discovered the magnificent Ursula Le Guin this year. First with "The Left Hand of Darkness" and then with "The Dispossessed". I can't still forget how she wrote the trek of Genly Ai and Estraven over the northern ice-covered part of the planet Gethen. How she depicts the interactions between the main character and the cold, vast desert is incredible. You can feel the coldness. The Dispossessed is yet another masterpiece. Honestly, I understood I couldn't go wrong with her and started reading the Earthsea series. Even though the writing, in the beginning, wasn't the same as in her other books, it became better once I continued.
There were other books I liked a lot. For example, I've also read Kurt Vonnegut for the first time, and he has an entirely different style, but I still liked it. My favorite non-fiction books were Build by Tony Fadell and Atomic Habits by James Clear, and both were great books with actionable advice.
For the upcoming year, I plan to set a reading goal of 35. My goal for 2022 was 20 books, which I've exceeded by five books. But I can read 35 books if I create a good reading habit and stick to it. This goal also will force me to read books.
2022 was a fully packed year. We finally settled and had our own home, and I continued investing in my hobbies. I also pursued some of my long-term dreams (such as building an excellent musical foundation). I love pushing my boundaries and excelling in everything I try to learn, and I plan to continue being in this thirsty spirit. My Job is challenging, and I love to work there; things are going well. Overall I'm grateful for all that life provides me and looking forward to the following year.