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My 2020 Review

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The year started pretty well. My wife and I managed to get a few dates in, and we spent some time redecorating our flat. After the first lockdown, a couple of friends visited us, and they spent a weekend with us before the second lockdown hit.

I read many books, including No More Plastic, The Four-Hour Work Week, Deep Work, Money – A User’s Guide, Crushing It!, Contagious and Think and Grow Rich. They were all fantastic reads, and I definitely recommend all of them to anyone who might be interested.

I released my first eBook and sold 14 copies. Next year, I will be looking to expand the book, and sell it for more money.

My blog moved away from a static built site into WordPress because WP is a whole lot easier to deal with and allows me to focus on writing.

Top 5 blog posts

Posts worth mentioning

My top 5 doesn’t really show what has actually happened to me this year, so here’s a few that does explain…

Some not-so-good points worth mentioning

Of course, the year has had plenty of bad stuff happen which has affected my family and I.

I haven’t had the chance to see my mum in person for starters and give her a hug that she definitely deserves right now. I’ve had a few family members pass away, and I couldn’t go to their funerals because of COVID.

My wife’s side-hustle has taken a dive this year, but thankfully it’s extra income and hasn’t affected us too much financially.

To conclude

I hope everyone has a lovely New Years and I hope you can still get some enjoyment out of celebrating the year to come. Personally, I will be viewing some live rock/metal event on Facebook and enjoying a few alcoholic beverages. Find some time for yourself, and enjoy the final day of 2020. See you in 2021!

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My Goals for 2021

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Every year from 2018 I go over my goals, and whether or not I managed to complete each one. This year will certainly be no different even though it’s been a very different year.

Last year’s goals

Clear £7k debt

This year gave me time to focus on my debts. My wife and I have only had one holiday this year. This has allowed us to pile on any left over money towards our credit cards and savings. I have now cleared my £7k debt, and we’re now working to clear my wife’s £8k (now £4k) debt.

Technically these debts are shared between us, but each debt is the total from our own credit cards. It has also allowed us to visualise what needs to go where.

Save at least £1,000 for a house

This one is amazing see because we have surpassed this saving. All together, we have £2,878.10 saved in a LISA account for a house. Part of this wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t read the book “Money: A User’s Guide”. That book has been worth every penny and is absolutely priceless.

Gain 100 subs on YouTube and Create at least 12 videos for my YouTube channels

I’ve decided to group these two together since they’re both YouTube related. I also didn’t achieve either of these goals. I know I would have gotten 100 subs easily if I just published some videos. However, I have not been in the right mindset this year. I constantly tried to push myself, but in the end, I couldn’t do it. Maybe next year, but it won’t be a goal.

Have at least 1 “date night” a month

Of course this one failed. We started off really well, and had some lovely date nights. However, due to the pandemic and lockdown we couldn’t see this one through. I would definitely like to try this one again when we’re certain the virus has gone.

Finish my course on Laravel

Another failed goal. I know failure isn’t a bad thing, and I don’t feel bad. However, this would have been really nice if I did succeed. I did rewrite my current posts for the latest major Laravel release, and released another post. Overall, I didn’t come anywhere near finishing and work was my biggest focus for this year.

Next year’s goals

  • Pay of my wife’s debt of £5k
  • Save £10k towards a house
  • Get 500 daily readers on this blog
  • Get 100 email subscribers on my development blog
  • Finish the free part of my development course

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Can anyone believe 2020 has nearly finished?

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Honestly, I can’t. This year has been absolutely insane, and not just for me, but for everyone. We’ve all gone through a pandemic, lockdowns and plenty of protests and riots.

Remote work at it’s worst

From March I have been working from home and I’ve not stepped into the office since. It’s been nice not having to travel or stuck in traffic. However, at times, it has been frustrating. There are times when work would have benefitted from a few more eyes. There are also times where I would love to socialise with others. My wife has still been going into the office as her workplace requires her there. So here I am. Working alone. With my three cats to keep me company.

Protesting and rioting

Then there’s the protests and riots while going through a pandemic. So many countries are rightfully angry at their governments and leaders because they feel they aren’t being treated right. Black men and women have felt let down and betrayed by the very people who are supposed to protect them.

America’s current president

Donald Trump has lost the vote but refuses to leave his post. He acts like a baby when he loses. I think a lot of people will rejoice and cheer the day he moves out of the White House and Biden finally moves in.

Our mental health struggles

Mental health has also been a struggle for many including myself. I’ve had times where I thought the pandemic wasn’t affecting me, and I was moving forward in full force. However, this quickly fell flat, and although I did make some great progress, I also went through many days of doubt and anxiety.

Looking forward to 2021

Hopefully, the holidays and having days of celebration will help us all stay positive. I’m looking forward to tomorrow as it’s the first of December, and the first day I can open my coffee advent calendar.

I hope that anyone reading this finds joy in December, and has many things to look forward to next year. I for one hope we can go back to live gigs and really appreciate live arts once again.

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73 Things About Me

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1. What is your usual Starbucks order?

I normally buy Costa, but I would say seasonal drinks are my goto. Especially ginger or cinnamon lattes. They are amazing.

2. What does your workstation look like right now?

This is what my home desk looks like. I take the red mechanical keyboard to work with me because it’s so good.

3. All time favourite food?

It used to be steak and chips, but since going vegan, I’ve gone for Mousakka Bowls, it’s just so tasty. ?

4. Favourite author?

I don’t read a lot a lot of fictional books and I’ve gotten into reading a lot of self-help books. Tim Ferriss has been great, as well as Dale Carnegie and Anthony Robbins are a few of my faves.

5. What do you think of open relationships?

If that’s what someone wants, and it works, then why not? However, I wouldn’t personally go for something like this, and believe I have found my “one”. We are married (3 years), and I wouldn’t change a thing.

6. What is your favourite video game?

I play so many games. However, my all-time favourite would be the Batman Arkham series. Mainly the first two, but Knight is pretty good. BoTW is also a great game, and it blew my mind. I’m also always jumping onto Destiny 2 whenever there are new updates.

7. Guilty pleasure treat?

Doughnuts, uuuuugggghhh I love doughnuts. I can literally eat a whole pack in one sitting.

8. Favourite movie?

Batman the Dark Knight trilogy (of course). Also, I have to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas and Die Hard during the Christmas period.

9. Favourite book?

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss has so many great golden nuggets. The Chimp Paradox because it helped me understand my mind.

10. Twitter or Instagram?

Twitter, because I’ve made so many great connections. Instagram is still alien to me. I keep going back to it and retrying but quickly get bored.

11. Desktop or laptop?

Desktop, there’s no competition in my mind. Yes, a laptop is portable, but a desktop has MORE POWER!

12. Best advice you’ve ever received?

Believe in yourself.

13. What project are you working on right now?

Moving my blog from VueJS to WordPress (I’m back).

14. Favourite colour?

Green

15. Did you get good grades at school?

Ahahahaha I did not. Most were Ds and Es with one C in ICT. However, I believe I’ve come so far in life, and the grades haven’t had too much of an impact on my life.

16. Dream job?

To get paid and not have to work.

If I do have to work, then I would love to be able to write, film and make websites that are all my own projects, while being funded for them. Anything that can help others, and the environment.

17. Played any sports?

Yes, and I have found so much love for CrossFit. I honestly had no idea what it was until I saw people flipping some tyres, and thinking… “I want to do what they’re doing”. I’m still yet to flip a tyre though.

18. Do you have a degree?

I do not

19. Nationality?

British.

20. What is your favourite kind of blog post to do?

I do like to write very personal and relatable blog posts.

21. What do you like to collect?

Books and Games

22. Describe yourself in three words

Chilled, anxious, and I have so much love to give.

23. If you were a rapper what would your rapper name be?

Screw Loose

24. Who was the last person you DMed?

A friend named Jason, and how he managed to finally get himself a Series X.

25. What’s on the top of your wish list right now?

To save up for a deposit and get my wife and I our first home.

26. Hogwarts house?

If I remember correctly, then I think I am HufflePuff.

27. How many tattoos do you have?

Just one, and it’s a small tattoo on my shoulder. I got it done on third visit to Download Festival. It’s the Download Dog, and it didn’t hurt. Also, I’m very surprised it didn’t get infected as I got it done on the first day.

28. What are you most grateful for this year?

Still being in work when so many people are losing their jobs right now.

29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month?

Ordering food from Tam’s kitchen. Honestly, this month has been very stressful. Especially at work, so I’m really grateful for the little things this month.

30. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?

Having some “me” time with my wife.

31. What’s the best thing ever?

Cuddles with my cat, listening to music and watching endless amounts of TV with my wife.

32. Favourite season?

Summer for swimming weather. Autumn because of the colourful trees and perfect temperatures.

33. Favourite holiday?

What are holidays?

34. Which fictional character do you relate to most?

I want to say Bruce Wayne, but that wouldn’t be 100% true. It would probably be Columbus from ZombieLand. Full of anxiety, but manages find ways to keep surviving.

35. Do you like surprises?

I absolutely love surprises!

36. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had?

My wife surprised me on my birthday with a tandem skydive, and it was honestly the best thing I have ever done. She’s going to have a hard time to beat that to be honest.

37. What’s a surprise that made you cry?

When my mum bought me a goldfish. I was fairly young, and I think my other fish passed away so it was a great surprise.

38. What’s the best surprise you’ve ever given anyone?

I’m not the best at giving surprises, but I remember Valentine’s Day with my wife. This was before we were married, and I hid lots of bits in random places. We then took a trip to the beach with a picnic basket, and sat watching the sunset with some champagne, food and great company.

39. Do you like muffins?

Who doesn’t like muffins?!? They’re amazing, and there’s so many varieties, it would be hard to not like them.

40. Do you cook often?

Almost daily, and on the days I don’t we either microwave some frozen food I’ve cooked beforehand, or grab a takeaway from our favourite vegan restaurants.

41. What’s your favourite dessert?

Apple pie, apple crumble, or apple strudel. Can you tell I like apples?

42. Is there a dessert you don’t like?

I don’t think there is if I’m honest. I am a huge foody.

43. Cake or pie?

Pie, definitely pie.

44. What’s your least favourite food?

Before I went vegan, it would be fish and anything proper fishy. I didn’t mind cod or scampi, but salmon or bass was disgusting. Vegan wise, I don’t think I have a least favourite food, it’s all been amazing so far.

45. What’s your favourite condiment?

Barbecue or tomato sauce.

46. It’s 4am on a Saturday night, what would you eat?

Peanut butter and jam on toast.

47. If you could teach a college class what would it be called?

Hmm… it would be something about self-acceptance and kindness / inclusivity towards ourselves and others.

48. Best animated film?

Up and Lion King (the original) are my faves.

49. What has a guy/girl done or said to impress you?

Been honest with me and consistently being there through the hard times as well as the great times.

50. Best thing to do on a first date?

Anything, I’m very easily pleased.

51. Worst thing to do on a first date?

Being rude and hurtful, or trying to show off.

52. What’s the funniest pick up line a guy could use on a girl?

Hello, do you come here often?

53. Best comic book character?

Batman

54. What are three things that are always in your purse?

Keys, wallet and phone.

55. Favourite drink?

Coffee

56. If you could play a historical character who would it be?

Ragnar Lothbrock

57. Kittens or puppies?

Kittens. I have 3 cats which used to be 5, and I love every single one of them.

58. Favourite sushi roll?

Veggie

59. What kind of lipstick do you use?

Black

60. What kind of foundation do you use?

I do not

61. Blow dry or air dry?

Air dry as it’s more natural, and doesn’t damage your hair.

62. Who is your fashion icon?

I don’t do fashion.

63. Favourite Disney character?

If Disney now own the movie rights to Marvel, can I include a Marvel character? Then I would pick Captain America. Otherwise, I would pick Woody from Toy Story.

64. What are you doing tomorrow?

Working.

65. Movie you laughed the hardest through?

Most recently, I would say Holidate, that was a pretty funny movie.

66. Movie that made you cry?

Our Planet by David Attenborough. Seeing the animals being killed because of deforestation and our destructive behaviour really hit me. I really hope we can turn things around.

67. If you could sing a duet with someone who would it be?

My best buddy Joshua Doidge.

68. If your life was a song what would the title be?

Here’s to us by Halestorm.

69. What’s your favourite animal?

Cheetahs, I absolutely love them and would love to rescue them as my job. Also, red pandas are super cute.

70. Favourite illustrator?

I’ve never really thought about this to be honest.

71. Person you want to have coffee with?

Phil Sturgeon or Eric L Barnes would be two people I’d love to have a coffee with. I’ve known these guys on the internet for years, but never met them which is a shame.

72. What country do you wish to visit?

Sweden and Finland would be two I’d love to visit. Mostly because of the metal music scene there.

73. Best way to decompress?

Playing computer games, and binge watching TV with my wife.

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Dear readers, it’s been a while

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Hello to anyone that visits my blog post, whether it’s your first time or your 100th. You all mean the so much to me, and I appreciate you taking the time to read any of my posts.

What’s happened in the last 5 months?

A lot has happened since my last blog post since it was posted 5 months ago.

We’ve had COVID-19 which is still in progress. We’ve had the black lives matter movement which I’m really in support of. And a lot of personal things have happened too.

What are my personal changes?

It’s now been over a year since I started contracting and my contract with the University of Exeter has been extended multiple times. This has given me a lot of confidence within myself and my coding has improved because of this.

My goal for creating 12 YouTube videos has unfortunately fallen behind as I haven’t created a single video this year. One a month should have been doable, but I’ve had so much on my mind that it’s taken a backseat.

I’ve cleared my £7k of credit card debt and I’m now working on clearing my wife’s £8k. Technically it’s both our debt, it’s just on her cards rather than mine because we’ve been switching between our cards to get 0% balances and now we don’t have an interest rate, we can focus without worry. Our overall debt at the beginning of this year was around £17k so we’ve more than halved it which is a great feeling.

COVID-19 has been a blessing for me and I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Working from home has been going really well and I’m saving a lot on petrol. I hope that when this eases, I’ll be able to work from home on a permanent basis. However, I’m well aware that others are struggling right now, the government has failed us and haven’t been supporting those that need it most which is a huge shame.

What are my thoughts on the rest of the world?

All key workers are struggling mentally and they will need a huge break if and when it’s possible for them. The campaigns to raise money for them has been tremendous and really restored some faith in humanity. However, a lot more needs to be done in order to support them further and the government should be held responsible for making this happen.

Now for the black lives matter campaign, most protests started out peaceful which has been fantastic to hear. That is until the police stepped in and brutally pushed protestors back, sprayed them in the face for no reason and even shot people with rubber bullets. There are times where it seemed necessary, but 99% of the time, it was complete police brutality.

I believe this is what also led to most riots, if we didn’t have this brutality, most people wouldn’t have been pushed to riot. Donald Trump has been a tragic president who still believes he’s some sort of God. He constantly spews the same rhetoric and it’s quite frankly getting boring. I wish he would just step down, but we know this won’t happen, so America needs to vote for change.

Similar things are happening in the UK where Boris is this bumbling idiot that keeps flip-flopping on his plans and his words. He’s a racist which we desperately need to vote out and we need to campaign for change.

Let’s hope that things can change and that we can end 2020 better than when we started. We’re all desperate to see our families and get back to some sort of normality. I believe that change for the better is happening. However, it’s still too slow and we need to speed things up and add pressure where we can.

Closing thoughts

If you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page. I hope to speak to you again soon.

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Changing up how I share with my community

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Having a central place to communicate with my audience

Recently, I started a newsletter (which you can sign up to here). And I didn’t know what to do with it. So I wrote and posted to my blog once a week and released it on a Friday. I would then copy all of the content and post it straight to my newsletter ready for a 12:30 pm (GMT) schedule.

My recent thoughts have been, I would like to ramp up my blog posts and post more frequently. However, I don’t want to post all of my blog posts to my subscribers as this would be annoying. Instead, I will post more frequently to my blog post, and write summaries for each update in my weekly newsletter. Kinda like “This is what I have been up to in the past week”.

It will also have snippets of other things that I find interesting. Which could be a handful of tweets, video content from other creators, drawings and many other things. Hopefully, this will help bring in more people into the spotlight and help to cultivate my audience.


Having many interests can be a blessing and a curse.

I have many hobbies, interests, and things going on in my life, and I would hate to just focus on one thing. If I can somehow find a way to showcase all of these things and box them up into my weekly newsletter, then it would make me and hopefully my audience much happier.

Take, for instance, yesterday; I found out DC are releasing a ton of new movies and a couple of games for next year which I’m super excited about for next year. Also, I think it would be cool if I could share that excitement with my readers, but also have it bundled in with other bits just in case there are some aren’t so bothered.

I love what I do in the web development space, but I’m also a huge movie and gaming nerd. I love music and am quite open to any genre of music, from pop to classic, rock to dubstep. I’m very open to listening to new music. I like to workout and do CrossFit in the mornings, and I know not everyone is into that. However, if I could make it so it can catch someone who might be interested. And those not interested can find something else, then I think I’m onto a winner.

I believe life is one big experiment, and the fact I have a handful of subscribers right now means there is more room for experimentation and making mistakes. As Gary Vaynerchuck would say, you have to eat dirt until you get it right, and that’s what I’m going to do.


Conclusion

I hope you’re ready to join me on this new journey, and you can subscribe to my newsletter here. Which will allow you to like and comment on any of my previous newsletters. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll have more people communicating with each newsletter. To help control the future of what you would like to read.

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2020 – New Year – New Decade – New Goals

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Looking back at 2019

Last year has been yet another big rollercoaster. I wanted to stay working at Lightfoot for another year, but it didn’t quite turn out as well as I had hoped. I started my own business to become a contractor, and my wife is still using pet-sitting as a side hustle.

Lightfoot, unfortunately, had money issues after missing out on sales targets. This left them with the horrible misfortune of letting employees go. I was one of them, but I managed to bounce back almost straight away. I started my own limited company and began contracting with the University of Exeter.

It’s been a scary, but eye-opening jump and I’m glad to be finally giving it a go after all my indecision over the years. I seem to be very much in profit and able to pay my taxes which is definitely a great step in the right direction.

My goals from last year

There were two goals I managed to meet last year and that was Be happier and have 0 panic attacks and Post more on my blog. Despite being made redundant last year, I managed to stay calm and not panic about my impending job loss. I did, however, have a feeling it was going to happen, and I think this is what helped me overcome any anxieties I may have had.

In January of last year, I decided to post every day for the month. I ended up surpassing this and posted for a good 3 – 4 months before slowing down. If I posted just every day in January, then I would have beaten my goal to post more. I won’t be doing the same again this year, but I will try to post as much as I can.

Here’s my list from last year…

  • Clear my £10k credit card debt
  • Go abroad for the first time ever
  • Raise more money for cancer and mental health
  • Stop being last in Crossfit competitions
  • Be happier and have 0 panic attacks
  • Help create an incredible business for my wife
  • Save for a house
  • Post more on my blog

Something unexpected happened

Partway through January, I decided I wanted to try and go vegan for economical reasons. I told my wife and she said she didn’t want to do it which was fine with me. After creating a few vegan meals and sharing some of them with her, she decided that it wasn’t all that bad and she wanted to join me on this journey.

We now cook vegan-based meals and we only ever eat meat/dairy if we go to a place that doesn’t offer any alternatives. I would like to be 100% vegan by the end of this year and that means cutting out all restaurants that don’t offer vegan alternatives.

Goals for this year

This year, I’ve chosen to have more actionable goals by putting a number on everything I do. That way I’ll know when I have achieved and even surpassed my goal. Last year, I wanted to pay off my £10k debt and due to things breaking and losing my job, I didn’t manage to get close. I now have just less than £7k left to clear which down by a decent 30%. I have also set aside £1,000 as an emergency fund in case anything breaks or I need something for work. This way, I won’t be dipping back into my credit cards.

  • Clear £7k debt
  • Save at least £1,000 for a house
  • Gain 100 subs on YouTube
  • Have at least 1 “date night” a month
  • Create at least 12 videos for my YouTube channels
  • Finish my course on Laravel
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A year review 2018

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After reading Tim Ferriss’ year review, I decided to do something similar. I couldn’t go through my calendar as I never use one for events (maybe I should start next year).

You can see below my results below.

It’s shows both positive and negative events for the year. Hopefully I can learn from this for next year.

Positive

  • Created WODemocracy
  • New car
  • Helped Tiff start pet sitting business
  • 2 years at work
  • Met Dmitry and Valery
  • Cut down debt by half
  • More consistent at CrossFit and entered three competitions
  • Twitter/blogging is more consistent
  • Made new connections
  • Got my first passport

Negative

  • Worry about job loss
  • Yogi Bear (cat) passing away
  • 3 panic attacks

Overall, I’ve had more positive events than negative ones, hopefully this carries on for next year.

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ActivityPub Test

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This is a test for the ActivityPub plugin, I’ll write more about this later.

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The future of blogging is Headless and the JAMStack

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I haven’t made a blog post in a while. But as some of you may know, I migrated my website from WordPress to VuePress and moved to host from SiteGround to Netlify. I am super happy with the results and everything just works and won’t break randomly. My site can’t get hacked because everything is completely static and I also get an added benefit of speed.

My site on SiteGround was going so slow. It was in the 20s for mobile and now it’s in the 60s which is incredible. For desktop, it’s around 98 to 100 (Google PageSpeed results can vary). The speed improvements are now down to me to sort out since it’s not the fault of Netlify. This is great because it gives me more control on how to improve my site which I will be working on at some point. Right now I’m looking at moving michaelbrooks.dev and brookspetsitters.com to Netlify. Which will be using Vue (not VuePress) and TailWind CSS as my main assets. Progress is slow due to other work commitments. But it’s going great and I hope to be releasing michaelbrooks.dev very soon.

How I’m adding content

You may be wondering how I’m adding content which is another interesting topic. I could add or edit my posts locally and preview locally before pushing to Git and then deploying to Netlify. However, an easier way is to use NetlifyCMS. You simply add an HTML file into a public admin directory, hook up “Identity” using the Netlify backend. Then create a configuration file which tells Netlify where and how you want your pages to save. Once done, you can then go to /admin and create new pages or posts. Once saved, Netlify will push it up to GitHub which will then automatically trigger a deploy ready for everyone to see.

It’s well and truly amazing, and if you want to know how I got started using VuePress as my blog, you can check out this lovely blog post by Howar31.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. I will try to get back to more of a schedule very soon. Also, I will be constantly updating this site as there are lots of improvements to be made. Such as lazy loading images, a better RSS feed, and possibly a custom VuePress theme.