Retrospective: 2012

As inevitably happens, the calendar rolls over to a new year and we’re left to look back and consider the past twelve months. 2012 was quite a year for Jenny and I. As we move forward in 2013, we have some exciting things to look forward to, and hopefully some things we won’t need to do again for quite some time.

World Events

On January 18th, websites across the Internet went “dark” to protest the SOPA bill, which threatened to allow government censoring of the Internet. Fortunately, SOPA was abandoned (for now) and a similar bill, PIPA, also failed to gain traction. I participated in the massive protest, and took my site “dark” as well.

The journey to space received some interesting developments with the announcement of Planetary Resources on April 24th. This new company, backed in part by director James Cameron plans to begin asteroid mining, and re-energize the nascent commercial space industry. Just one month later, on May 25th, SpaceX became the first private company to launch a capsule, and dock with the International Space Station (ISS). For decades, science fiction writers have been imagining a world where we travel into space regularly, where ordinary citizens can experience the weightlessness of space and see the Earth as only a few have been able to. This dream is becoming a reality, with companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and now Planetary Resources committing real resources and finances to make it happen. Though NASA has shown recent success–most recently with the miraculous landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars (August 6th)–they are still struggling with budget cuts, and replacing decades-old technology, while trying to forward the agenda of human spaceflight. On December 4th, they announced more robotic missions to Mars, and hinted at plans to put humans on the red planet by as early as the 2030’s–but those promises have been coming for decades as well–and right now the United States has no manned spacecraft of any kind. Still, I’m excited about the future of space-travel and exploration. Humanity desperately needs to get a foothold on other worlds before it’s too late.

While on the topic of space, on August 25th, the people of Earth lost a hero in Neil Armstrong. Armstrong is, of course, the first man to set foot on the Moon, and one of only eleven others in all of human history to do the same. In over four decades, nobody has returned to the Moon, which also happens to be our closest celestial neighbor. Armstrong’s death isn’t the only tragedy here.

And yet another space-related news event was the September 19th flyover of the Houston area by Space Shuttle Endeavour. I was able to watch from the 17th floor of my office, while it circled downtown Houston, then flew over the Galleria area, and very close to my building. It was a mesmerizing site, and one that everyone who saw it enjoyed. It’s an insult that Houston didn’t receive one of the shuttles for permanent display, but at least we go to see one for the last time in a nice tribute.

July 20th was supposed to be a huge day for the movie industry, as The Dark Knight Rises opened in theaters, but the launch of the film was overshadowed by the tragedy that occurred early in the morning in Aurora, Colorado. A gunman attacked film-goers, killing 12 and wounding 70 others.

November brought about the presidential election for 2012, and I am proud to say that I voted. Barack Obama won re-election fairly soundly, and will serve another four years in office. It’s difficult to say what will happen during the next four years–whether Americans will prosper, and restore jobs and wealth, or spiral further into decline–but good or bad, Obama will be at the head of it.

October 30th brought a huge surprise: Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4 billion, which included the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. They immediately announced plans for a new Star Wars trilogy, composed of episodes VII through IX, with the first being released sometime in 2015. The announcement brought heaps of parody with it across the internet, but in all, I think it’s a good thing. I even blogged about it.

On December 14th, tragedy struck Newtown, Connecticut, a small, peaceful and idyllic town, in a way that’s difficult to describe. A gunman walked into an elementary school, and killed 26 people–20 of them children ages 6 and 7, in a heartless massacre. It’s difficult to find any good in a situation like this. 2012 has seen a large number of mass shootings, and as such, gun control laws have been discussed and debated. Perhaps the Newtown, CT tragedy will help sway the gun control laws in this nation. No, it won’t bring back the lives of those innocent children, or help the grieving parents, but perhaps some good can come of such an awful situation.

Yes, there were countless other major happenings throughout the world, but the events above are those that grabbed my attention the most. I  try to stay away from violent news, though it’s impossible not to see it, hear it, and know something about what’s happening, I’m not interested in the media’s extreme saturation of that type of news.

Vacation

Jenny and I took a much-needed vacation and traveled this year, leaving on April 4th, and returning home on the 11th. We went to Washington state to visit with some of her family, but took the time to do quite a bit of sight-seeing. Destinations included Forks, La Push, Pasco, Seattle, and places in between. It was absolutely gorgeous up there, and we took lots of photos, which I’ve posted here. They’re definitely worth a look.

In July, bracketing the 4th, I took the week off work (Jenny did not), and had a little “stay-cation”. It was nice to get away from the daily grind for a little while, and not add the stress of traveling. I didn’t really do much around the house, but we did have a July 4th barbecue with most of her family.

Our Vehicles

I got a new car! On July 14th, I traded in my Honda Accord for a fully-loaded 2013 Kia Optima SXL. The Accord needed new tires, and rather than put the money into the car, we decided to put it toward a new one. Jenny’s made it clear that I have to keep this one for at least six years, so I got it fully-loaded. I should have no problem holding onto this one for a while.

We also had to put Jenny’s car into the shop for a couple weeks. She was sideswiped on September 19th. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt at all, but the same couldn’t be said for her car. There was damage to both the passenger and driver side, and it was put into the shop on September 26th. Since the other drive was at fault, we didn’t have to pay to get it repaired. Jenny was less than happy with the rental provided, and was absolutely ecstatic to get her car back on October 10th, looking like new again.

Our Home

Most certainly the biggest story of 2012, with two parts.  Jenny and I decided that when our apartment lease was up, we wanted to move into a house. Jenny wasn’t quite ready to buy, so we looked at rental houses. It turned out to be more of a challenge than we expected, as rental houses move very quickly! We prevailed however, and on May 19th, moved into a rental house in Katy. It didn’t take us long to realize how much we preferred the house to an apartment.

In September, Jenny wanted to look at the houses they were building in our rental neighborhood. We toured them, and were pretty immediately impressed by the homes that were available. It wasn’t much longer until Jenny decided she was ready to buy, and on September 15th, we put down our earnest money, and began the home-building process with KB Homes. We picked out a wonderful little corner-lot, and they put a sold sign on the property that day. Since that time, we’ve had lots of exciting developments on the house, and are looking forward to moving in sometime in March. At last, if all goes according to plan, we’ll own our own home.

Sports

I attended a couple of Astros games this year (difficult to turn down free tickets, even to see a horrible team), once on June 2nd, when they lost to the Reds, and again on July 27th, when they lost to the Pirates. They were both interesting games, even if our team lost.

On November 2nd, a friend and I attended the Houston Astros Launch Party, hosted at Minute Maid Park. This was the event where the Astros were announcing their new uniforms, logo, and identity–and their new mascot. In the weeks leading up to the Launch Party, there were numerous leaks, so there weren’t a lot of surprises left, but they returned to the orange-and-blue color scheme, as well as the H-and-Star logo from earlier in the franchise’s history. Personally, I was rather disappointed with the new uniforms, and even blogged about it, but in the end, it’s not my call.

My Writing

2012 was not a completely wasted year when it comes to writing. I did not take part in National Novel Writing Month this year, nor did I do much writing throughout the year. I did however, finish a story that my paternal grandfather began long before I was born. Trying to continue in his style, it was a huge departure for me, but was met with fairly good feedback (though Jenny has yet to read it). Titled Trip to Paradise, it’s available to read here on the website, or as an eBook for Kindle.

Later in the year, I started on another short story, but didn’t get very far. I still hope to continue more writing, and to finish the novel I started in 2010, which is about half written. If only there were more hours in the day.

Technology

As is most always the case, this past year saw all kinds of changes in the technology I use and interact with on a daily basis. Though my spending on gadgets has generally dropped, I did buy several in 2012–ones that should get me through for some time to come.

On March 7th, Apple announced the 3rd-generation iPad with Retina display. I jumped on the bandwagon and preordered one, receiving it on March 16th. I was very happy with it, and Jenny liked it so much she decided she wanted one, too. Just a few short months later, Google announced their Nexus 7 tablet, at a price of $200, which was too good to pass up. I ordered one, and received it on July 18th. I’d been interested in an Android tablet for some time, but wanted a smaller one (the 7-inch turned out to be perfect) and needed the cost to come down before I could make the leap. For $200, I couldn’t resist. Jenny inherited my practically brand-new iPad, which she uses quite frequently. I absolutely love my Nexus 7. I even wrote a review of it.

I found myself very happy with the Android operating system–so much so that on September 26th, I bought a new cellphone–the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. I’d gone Android for my tablet, and now I was going Android for my phone as well. Initially, I was quite happy with the Galaxy Nexus, but within a couple weeks started experiencing some random strangeness with it, and decided to exchange it for the Samsung Galaxy S3, which then was the best available Android phone on the market. Overall, I’m much happier with the Galaxy S3, and am very satisfied with the phone. At first, I thought I was going to miss iOS and my iPhone, but it turns out that I don’t–at all.

Website Changes

In addition to the changes in my everyday technology, 2012 has seen me make some major changes to my website. In early February, I moved my website from him.bradandjennybrown.com back to bradkbrown.com. Shortly afterward, I began moving my book and movie catalogs into their own subdomains, and their own sites. At first, I was very happy with this solution, but by the end of the year, I was ready for something less time-consuming to manage. Now that it’s done, I find I’m ecstatic with the new services, and can’t see myself changing again anytime soon.

 

Keeping a Journal

Since 2007, I’ve kept a daily journal, detailing my activities, moods, and various other information I might find myself interested in in the future. All of those journals are hand-written, and sit on a shelf in my home office. Until now, I’ve also transposed those daily entries into an online journal–in effect doubling the work. I’ve found the online versions immensely useful, since I can search for keywords, and instantly locate whatever I’m looking for. Though fun to hand-write, there are days where my handwriting is poor, and difficult to read, or where I’m in a situation that’s not convenient for writing in a book. On the other hand, I almost always have an electronic device handy–be it my cellphone, tablet, laptop, or access to one of these devices.

Early in the year I decided that 2012 would be my last year for hand-writing my journal entries. For most of 2012, I investigated available options for entering my daily journal via computer. I’ve settled on my solution, and think that in the end, it will work just as well–if not better–than what I’ve used to date. I’ve always been handicapped by the physical journal, as each day only provides a single page; no longer with the digital form–I can write as much (or as little) as I want. My hope is that this will allow me to write more thorough entries.

 

Summary

2012 was one of the better years Jenny and I have had since getting married. We celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, set in place plans to make a permanent home for ourselves, entertained guests and family more times than any year before, and stayed healthy all year long. Life is full of ups and downs sometimes, and 2012 was a year of ups. I don’t look forward to the down years, but I’ve no doubt they’ll come. I just hope that they wait for a while before they do.

Here’s looking to 2013, and the surprises that it will no doubt hold in store for us.