December 31, 2022
It’d be interesting to know how many yearly recap posts start with “What a year”… I’m guessing it’s a fairly meaningful number because oh, what a year it has been! My son is continuing his quest to become the eventual leader of this world by letting nothing stand in his way and having every whim be his guide. While I now understand why this particular age is sometimes called the Terrible Twos, I am so damn glad I get to experience his growth as it is truly a marvel to behold.
When last year I described feelings of not having the same amount of potential as him, I am now trying to come into grips with the fragility of life and whether or not I’ve done everything to make sure he grows up to experience life at least to the same level as I have and whether I’ve done enough to ensure that should I depart prematurely that everything is in as close to order as possible to make any transitions less rough. While I think I am constantly doing whatever I can to make sure of the former, there’s quite a few things I can do in regards to the latter and that is going to be my focus for the upcoming year.
I sang high praises of LessWrong in the previous yearly recap post, but truth be told I didn’t actually visit it all that much as I always have a constant barrage of things to read anyway and I got turned off by the sheer number of artificial intelligence adjacent posts. Something that did stick from LessWrong was Zvi Mowshowitz’s Substack, which along with Scott Alexander’s Substack, I always tend to read. I am amazed at the effort he seems to put in with each seemingly inconsequential post.
So, spaced repetition fell by the wayside much like taking notes did. And how my attempts at reviewing books did. I don’t know what it is, but both of those started to feel like chores without any tangible benefit. Maybe if I started to actively learn a language, then maybe spaced repetition would be the key, but even then there’s something artificial-feeling about the process that I just can’t put my finger on.
I’m not gonna lie: each and every one of those attempts do feel like a mark against myself for giving up yet another thing, especially since I am not even putting in the amount of effort some people are. I try to explain it all away somehow in my head, but even then I am still left dejected as it feels as if I’m just lying to myself. The upside1 seems to be that I am trying many different things in the continued quest to lead a more examined life, though it is worth mentioning that I’m not so much examining life itself but rather myself as I’m going through life.
At one point in the year (it must have been around spring) I discovered the absolutely fantastic platform Exercism for learning programming languages and related concepts. At first blush it seemed to be nothing other than a stunning treat for the eyes, but it’s astonishing how much work has gone into the entire premise of learning. There are wonderfully designed learning tracks with clear and concise materials, automated tests, community solutions to problems, and mentors with leagues of experience. Around summer I started learning Go through it and while my own progress has been slow it’s through no fault of theirs. So much so that I’ve started donating to the project on a monthly basis2 as I honestly don’t want it to die off because I have so much more that I want to learn through it!3
Since it seems that the learning of language in Exercism leans towards completing a given language’s track then I suspect that my own tendencies towards not doing things if they start to feel like chores might become a hindrance in continuing to learn Go. I’ve gone through two books and am in the middle of a third one about Go, but I think I want to start getting my feet wet with more real-life-y projects. The best place to do so seems to be Gophercises so far, though I am glad that I may actually have an opportunity to use Go at work as well. The biggest boon to finally learning Python a couple of years ago weren’t my shoddy attempts to write scripts for my personal use, but to actually take on a meaningful project at work where I was forced to learn the correct way to do things.
It may not be immediately evident, but I’ve actually really ramped up my writing this year and it’s becoming something I’m actively looking forward to do doing. I even have a small backlog of topics I want to write about with probably multiple little TILs sprinkled in between as well. Not that I think it matters all that much or that I can act upon them, but I’ve also started recording statistics for this site using the wonderful GoatCounter. Going back to it not mattering I’ve also made the statistics public because why not? Have a look over here.
I try to publish posts as soon as I feel that I’m spending too much time editing the draft and once I do publish I’ll most likely post it on Lobste.rs if it is anything longer that may pertain to that slightly more technical audience than Y Combinator’s Hacker News. To my surprise every post that I’ve on Lobste.rs has also been cross-posted by someone to Hacker News as well, which is endearing on some level and utterly predictable on another as everyone wants those sweet, sweet internet points, and a hope that it goes somewhat viral. I’ve yet to have one of my writings grace the front page of Hacker News, so I guess I still have a long way to go if I want to be relevant
Continuing the trend of not significantly cutting back on listening to great success! I will, however, starting from the new year remove a subset of podcasts4 that I feel no longer provide enough value to me to keep myself plugged in to them. Here’s to hoping 2023 will have even fewer hours!
This year had a slight decrease of 8.5% in terms of the total hours, which is close enough to be identical as far as I’m concerned.
A definite decrease compared to last year as I managed to read 17 books as opposed to 21, but I’m not all that bothered as I never set any concrete number that I have to read. Anything around 10 or over is always fine by me. I wonder though, why do I even feel the need to read any books at all?
This along with “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss & Tahl Raz is one of those books that I feel a lot of people could really benefit from reading. Instead of teaching you how to negotiate better, Oliver Burkeman teaches you how to cope with the fact that you’ll never have enough time to do all of the things you want to do and in lieu of that focus on the things that are more likely to matter. I’m most definitely someone who often has a gnawing sense of not doing enough and I honestly feel that this book helped with that. Though a more difficult read in terms of sentence structure and in a slightly different vein in terms of the content—significantly shorter though at around 120-130 pages—I would also recommend “Midlife: A Philosophical Guide” by Kieran Setiya to anyone already having tackled “Four Thousand Weeks”.
I hardly ever read fiction mostly constraining myself to the better kind of self-help (e.g. learning finance), popular science, and philosophy. Over the past 10 years I’ve only read 15 fiction books compared to the 100+ books that fall squarely outside of that realm. Being a huge fan of the EconTalk podcast I got notified of a new episode back in August with Amor Towles, a name totally unknown to me at the time, as the guest. At the start of the episode Russ Roberts, the host of the podcast, recommended people read the title in question before listening and he seemed absolutely over the moon about Amor’s work. So, I stopped the episode then and there.
Fast-forward a few months and I was knee deep in a work of fiction that I haven’t been that enthralled with in a long, long time. At first I was wary of the length—almost 500 pages—but that soon subsided when I became captivated by the story. When I finished the book I pretty much immediately bought the author’s other titles as well and went ahead and continued listening to the EconTalk episode to glean more. After listening to that I, too, hold Amor’s work in very high regard.
As explained away by myself. ↩
Definitely not not virtue signalling, but if it inspires even one additional happy user then I consider it worth it. ↩
Rust is next after discovering No Boilerplate. Though, if I want to 100% complete the Go track, then Rust feels more like a 2024 endeavour… ↩
Waiting until January 1st rolls around as Podcast Addict will otherwise mess with the current year’s playback statistics by deducting all the time listened to a removed podcast from the total. Who could possibly want their stats ruined?! ↩