Stephen Hara

2021 Retrospective

Published on 12/29/2021

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The calendar is turning once again, and it hardly feels like it’s been a year since the last time this happened. Rather than dwell on why that might be, which is likely a combination of things like getting a little bit older, pandemic fatigue, and trying to keep busy, let’s take a look at what’s happened in my life; after all, what is a blog on a personal domain besides a locus for mild narcissism?


I’m no longer living in Osaka! Last year I started working at Woven Planet (Toyota Research Institute of Advanced Development at the time I joined), and one condition for joining at the time was I would eventually move to Tokyo. I finished that up in March, but I probably could have extended that a bit longer. Overall, I’m still not a big fan of Tokyo. It’s too busy, too crowded, shit’s expensive, and it’s too big which makes traveling throughout the city an obnoxious maze of trains, transfers, and tribulations. But the craft beer scene is pretty nice (shout out to Beer-ma near Kanda Station), the office is cool so being able to go in when I decide to is nice, and even if it takes an hour or two to find the right store, most international culinary needs exist somewhere. I do wish there were more good taco and burger spots, though. I definitely give Osaka the advantage there, with another shoutout to Y Tacos, which is run by a friend of mine!


I started a software engineer career-focused YouTube channel! It has a grand total of 4 videos right now, with the last one posted in October. I got rather busy with other things I’ll mention, but I do want to get back into it and have been keeping notes when I have video ideas. I’d really like to continue working on the channel, as video editing and video presence are skills I want to develop more, and it’s actually a lot of fun! I should figure out a better setup for recording, as doing it with my phone (Sony Xperia 5ii) is feasible but not without annoyances.

JLPT and Japanese Study

This month I took the N2 level of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), which is what took up a lot of the later end of my October and most of my November. I have no idea how it went, but hopefully I passed. Shiny certificates are cool, and stuff. I’d like to at least keep up the Anki routine (it has seen some serious neglect since the test) and read some books and such to expand my vocabulary, which is a notable weakness of mine.

Final Fantasy 14

I played a lot of FF14 this year. I’ve played it off and on for a few years now sometime after Heavensward released but hadn’t managed to catch up to current content and decided that had to change after I saw the Endwalker trailer. I caught up about two weeks before the release, and now I have Summoner at 90 as well as Botanist and Miner and four crafting classes (Carpenter, Goldsmith, Leatherworker, Weaver).

I’d like to specially mention that if you’re reading this and you like games and stories, Final Fantasy 14 is an incredible experience of storytelling, and I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s a long journey, since with Endwalker the first overarching story of the game crossing nearly ten years and four expansions is now complete…but it’s so good, and so worth it.

As for me, it is a safe assumption that this is 90% of my free time up to now, but I need to cut it back a bit coming into 2022. This makes me sad.

Career Stuff

I decided this year that I wanted to make staff engineer a current long-term goal of mine and have been doing a lot of reading to that end. This is a big part of why I decided to start the YouTube channel, as a way to document the journey and my particular plan to turn myself into a staff-level engineer, and also as a way to keep myself accountable and consistently progressing. I will absolutely continue this going into 2022, which will most likely be recorded on the channel in some capacity.


I got vaccinated and y’all should too. I don’t think I caught COVID, so that’s cool? If I caught it and was just asymptomatic, I wasn’t doing much outside stuff besides groceries, so hopefully I wasn’t a big exposure vector.


All in all, I’d have to say: not bad! I learned a lot of new things, had some fun, did some cool stuff (in my opinion), and I don’t feel too much was wasted in terms of time and effort. If 2022 was pretty much the same but with less COVID in the world, I think that’d be pretty all right.

It was also cool that Michigan finally beat Ohio State and is in the playoffs. Just like everyone expected this year.

With that, time to write down what I want to do in 2022!

2022 Bucket List

More Career Stuff

This ultimately captures a few things: I want to not only progress my abilities to get closer to staff engineer level; but also capture the journey of doing so in blog posts and the YouTube channel. What’s kinda difficult with the shared aspect of this goal is the most convincing (and therefore most valuable) format is not just the knowledge and hypotheses behind the progression, but the experimental aspect of it, which can only be acquired through doing things, and that takes a lot of time.

One way to speed that along would be leveraging the experience of those who have made this journey before. I might need to add “media interviewing” to my list of skills to work on, so that’s neat and terrifying.

For the most part, though, I think this will be lots of reading books and keeping notes, and I have a pretty long reading list already, so I can put off the interviews for a bit. I’m sure this provides a lot of people much relief.

Side Projects

I have a couple of ideas for side projects that I want to develop a bit and see if there’s a decent market for. A bit of side income would be nice, and they’re projects I can also use for the YouTube videos. Plus I have so many random interests (computational biology, music, astronomy, linguistics, and many many many more) it’s just fun for me to noodle with stuff. Naturally, they’ll all be in Elixir.


I’ve neglected my non-game hobbies for too long, and I really love playing guitar. It’s been really hard to get over the hump of trying to re-learn stuff you used to be able to do in your sleep, though, so every time I pick up the guitar I just jam on some random chords for a few minutes and then put it down for a couple weeks. Even if I did that every day, that’d still be better than I’m doing now, so that’s the plan here.

More Blogging!

Writing is another thing I really enjoy a lot, so much so that I actually really enjoy doing research for design docs and proposals and documentation! But I’d like to do more of it, and more of it on stuff I find fun – Elixir, small projects that have some kind of interesting conclusion, and the non-technical stuff that is too-often missed or overlooked by junior devs and the thought leaders they pay attention to.

But yenno, maybe some fun irrelevant stuff about games or whatever too. Something to look forward to!