Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Recap

With just over 6 hours left of 2011, I thought I'd go back and look at the year we have just finished. A year comprised of many ups and downs, both globally and locally, but one in which we've hopefully ended up better than we started.

Internationally, 2011 was a year of great change, possibly the greatest since the early 90s and the fall of the USSR. The "Arab Spring" as people called it, started in Tunisia and spread across north Africa and the middle east, rocking entrenched dictatorships. Along with Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were successful in overthrowing their dictators. With mostly peaceful protests in Egypt, and 6 months of full on civil war in Libya. And the fighting is still going on in other places, like Syria and Yemen. Will the new order be more friendly to the US? Only time will tell. I can only hope that the pro-democracy movements don't get hijacked by the Islamism sharia law supporters.

On the other side of the world, the pacific and eastern Asia saw extreme natural disasters. Flooding in Thailand, earthquakes in Japan. The death toll was large, and the secondary effects (such as rising prices for tech produced in Asia) still hasn't fully fallen out.

Closer to home, politics began heating up. In response to the tea party movement (the far right), a new movement has arisen. The Occupy movement. Occupy Wallstreet is where is started, but the protests spread across the country, targeting wealthy corporations. Granted, the movement doesn't seem to have much in the way of demands other than, we're unhappy that you have so much money and we don't.

Additionally, Washington politics grew more strained as the year went on. In the 2010 midterm elections, the GOP took control of the House and nearly the Senate. Since then we seem to have jumped from crisis to crisis, including several near government shut downs, and each party tries to blame it on the other in preparation for the larger 2012 presidential election. Overall the Democrats have won though, with Obama's ratings going up significantly, at least in the second half of the year.

The GOP primary race also got kicked off, with a string of widely followed televised debates. Mitt Romney, the assumed forerunner, maintained a steady support in the mid 20s, while others rose and fell. Pawlenty and Bachmann in early summer, Rick Perry in August, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and now there are even a few stirrings for Rick Santorum. Throughout, Gary Johnson was left out of nearly all debates and polls, and finally gave up and switched over to the Libertarian Party. Ron Paul of course was around the entire time, support steadily growing, but still too small to matter.

In a much less depressing area, tech progressed hugely in 2011. The iPad 2 was released early in the year, and the first Android tablets as well. Near summer Android finally had a decent on in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but with no marketing and a string of legal attacks by Apple, it never took off. Amazon went a different route, with a more inexpensive tablet, the Kindle Fire. It didn't seek to compete with the iPad, and has done quite well. Finally more recently, things like the Asus Transformer Prime bring the best of tablets and laptops together. Terribly expensive though, I doubt the price will let it be a huge hit.

Smart phones saw little significant change over the year. Lots of refinement, of course. Faster processors, more memory, better screens. Android 4.0 and iOS 5 can out, bringing improvements to the software side as well. No major breakthroughs though. Even the new iPhone was just an incremental upgrade. Windows Phone 7 did get some nifty improvements, and while nearly everyone who uses it enjoys it, it's got so little market share that expanding in the face of iOS and Android will be almost impossible. Nokia near the end of 2011 finally began releasing WP7 phones though, so 2012 will be the last chance Microsoft's platform has.

Down then to the personal level. Both Spring and Fall semesters were good for me academically. No grades under a B, in fact. I also replaced the F and D+ I'd gotten during the terrible fall of '10 with and A and A, pushing the overall GPA up quite a bit. Non-academically I had a good pretty decent year, though it certainly was better during summer and fall. I stayed at Purdue over the summer, working for ITaP, and teaching myself several web design languages on the side. I'm also dating someone at the moment, which is quite unusual for me, so wish me luck.

This post has gotten quite a bit longer than I originally was anticipating, so I think I'll wrap it up. I hope you all had a good year, and I'm looking forward to 2012. Happy new years!

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