The 2006 List

I feel morally compelled to complete the hat trick of annual lists, as part of a continuing pseudo-tradition of checking off the year just completed. My little life snippets pale in comparison to some of the accomplishments regaled in the pile of holiday cards, paper and electronic, that we received in the past weeks. But that's never stopped me before:

Best Parenting Moment. Several contenders this year, ranging from watching our daughter discover that she loves chemistry to seeing our son volunteer as a junior coach with the NJ Devils Youth special needs hockey program. The best, though, was one of the most difficult -- our daughter decided to withdraw from synchronized skating competition after five years on teams of various levels. This would have been her year to go to the US Figure Skating Nationals, but she was no longer loving the sport enough to make up for the time invested in it. It was a long discussion, and one that had me frequently repeating my mantra about not quitting, but in the end this came down to having her focus her attention on the things she enjoys the most. Sometimes the biggest wins are from not doing something.

Best Sports Moment. Where to start? Rutgers beating Louisville on national TV, while the whole state watched wide-eyed and slack-jawed? Princeton's share of the Ivy League football title, and the first bonfire on campus in 12 years, celebrating wins over Yale and Harvard? Or for that matter, the triple overtime Princeton-Penn football game which came down to a bobbled extra point attempt, and made CNN Headline News as one of the top college sports clips of the year? Even closer to home, the NJ Devils' 11-game winning streak to end the regular season, taking them from 19 points back to an Atlantic Division title on the last day, capped with a come-from-behind win in Marty Brodeur's home town? Like the Oscars, there are so many good contenders, but we have to go with the non-obvious choice: Patrik Elias deciding to sign a new contract with the NJ Devils for 7 more years, for about $2 million a year less than he would have made in New York or Montreal, with a no-trade clause. Our family's sports hero put heart about wallet, team above self, and the local gnocchi place above some world class restaurants.

Best Work Moment. This was another category with a leading contender that got outraced to the post. In February, at the annual Sun Analysts Summit, I spoke to a room full of people about expanding Sun's developer communities to include devotees of scripting and other dynamically typed languages in addition to Java, C, C++ and FORTRAN. I was the spokesperson; the idea came from lots of hard work from Bob Brewin, Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart, Tim Bray, and others. And then we put our money where my mouth was, hiring the JRuby team. And then I switched jobs, rejoining the field organization. The best work moment of the year was our announcement of our first quarter FY2007 financial results, in which we showed growth and performance improvement across the board. The import and impact of this gelled for me while reading Buzz Bissinger's "3 Days In August" over the holiday break, a book in which he talks about professional baseball players who play below their potential, because it's easier and it's sufficient. What I love about Sun's field -- from the sales reps to the systems engineers to the service delivery engineers to the folks who dissect never-seen-before problems in the customer solution centers -- is that nobody phones it in. Everybody plays not just to their full potential, but in many cases, exceeds what they thought was their previous upper bound. Seeing that consistent demand for excellence translated into facts and figures tops the work list for the year. You can't quantify it in a spreadsheet, but you see the results in the spreadsheet's cells.

Best email. Much easier. A few weeks into our youth hockey season, I got an email from one of the new parents on our team, telling me that my son had made her son feel comfortable and welcome on the team as a first-year Pee Wee. Long after the season, nobody remembers the scores of games or what our league standings were, but the kids remember where we ate and who brought donuts, and the parents remember their new extended family.

Best new toy. Easy -- the low-power cell phone repeater I installed so that our cell phones work consistently (well) in the house. Getting a new phone helped as well, it turns out, but solid signal strength should never be taken for granted.

Best reading accomplishment. More of a prelude to reading, I managed to find three books I was sorry I never bought as a teenager, courtesy of eBay and amazon.com: Tretiak's "The Hockey I Love,"; Rick Wakeman's "The Caped Crusader"; and Willie Stargell's "Out of Left Field."

Best shopping experience. Some big wins courtesy of pointers from BoingBoing: a birthday party held at Robot Village in NYC, and a literal tasty mash-up of our favorite treats, sushi engraved and shaped from chocolate.

Best t-shirt. New category -- I used to try to remember the best poker hand of the year, but I didn't play too much poker this past year. However, Bill Bradley, our Global Systems Engineering Business Operations Director, gave me a t-shirt that reads "Eat More Pork Roll." Not exactly words to live by, unless you thrive on additives and sodium, but it has that Jersey je ne sais quois.

One day into the new year, I'm trying to follow advice offered to me by fellow writer, Princeton alum and former Sun employee Kristin L-A, who said "Set simple goals for each day." Mine include blogging more, working on that book regularly, spending more time talking to my friends outside of work, and trying to stay out of the emergency room for another year. Happy 2007 to everyone.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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