I used to do a recap post every year, going all the way back to my early involvement with Livejournal. This seems like a good year to pick up the habit again, given that 2023 was the longest decade ever. Additionally, I’m also going to massively change the format. It used to be that everything was done in a question/answer format, but instead, I’m going to break this down by category and attack it as a normal blog post format.
The biggest news of the year is that Didi and I got married. We’d already scheduled an actual wedding/reception for 2024, but we also wanted to get the insurance and tax benefits, and more importantly, we were super impatient. So on December 15th, just six months after I asked her, we went to the Hennepin County Courthouse and got hitched. We laughed, we cried, and we went to dinner and spent the night in a hotel just to get a break from the pets. It was lovely, and satisfying, and everything about it felt right. Still does, too.
Eddy started middle school this year and it’s been choppy — this is what happens when you mix a whole new style of education and the onset of puberty. We’re working on it. His behavior has been much improved this year, even accounting for the hormone-driven meltdowns and the tween belligerence. He’s been an absolute joy to have around.
Sam is now in fourth grade and it’s been a smooth ride — his grades are good, he has a bunch of friends, and he’s been great. He’s super helpful in getting his chores done, his behavior has massively improved. It’s been a joy watching him start to branch off from Eddy and start pursuing his own interests.
The family grew a bit — we unexpectedly added two cats. We took in Cole from my ex-wife, who couldn’t keep up with the number of pets she had. I’d cat-sat for him for a weekend and he was a great kitten; turns out he’s a great teenager, too. He’s affectionate and sweet, but not overly clingy. We figured he was the last of the additions until a few months later when my mom had to go into a nursing home — she’d previously asked us to take in Lucky if that happened, and we agreed. Part of that agreement was because Lucky has a large mass on his chest, and mom had said that he had some sort of sarcoma on one of his legs. A review of his extensive vet records says nothing about a sarcoma, and a vet did a needle biopsy, and his golf-ball is just a fluid-filled cyst. So now we’ve got a cat who seems like he might last quite a bit longer than the year-ish we had anticipated.
Our family also shrank a bit this year, with Scout passing away just days after his eighteenth birthday. It definitely left a little hole in our hearts and the structure of our family. He’s missed terribly. A couple months later, our family grew again, with the addition of Joey, a three-month old lab/pit mix puppy. More on her in the “New Experiences” section, below.
For those of you keeping score, this is a ridiculous number of animals.
And in November, my friend Clint went off dialysis, into hospice, and passed away not long after. He’s missed. The world lost a genius, a philosopher, and an all-around wise man, who was maybe the greatest polymath I’ve ever known. He was kind and generous to a fault, thoughtful, and hilarious, and I’m going to miss him. 1
The main job went pretty dang well during my first full calendar year. I learned a ton, I made stuff happen, and I’m pretty happy with how it went. During the year, I also managed to get my AZ-900 certification, and start studying for my AZ-104.
My time at the bike shop was also pretty great. It chews up my free Saturdays, and my Wednesday nights, but the management is fantastic, and I really like the people I work with. I had been thinking about quitting before the 2024 season starts, but I think I’m going to stay on for a bit. Maybe through 2026.
Udemy was a great source of learning this year — I used it to prep for my AZ-900 and AZ-104 certifications, and finished courses on Git/GitHub, Grunt, and Tailwind. I’ve currently got courses in Docker/Kubernetes and Python underway, which I expect I’ll finish in Q1 of 2024.
The big news in this section, though, is that I finally finished my undergraduate degree after leaving college 25 years ago. I decided, during the summer, to use my employer’s education benefits and to to my former “alma mater” and see what it would take to finish. As it was, I only needed one class for my minor, so I decided to go for it. The class was entirely remote and it did overlap with my trip to Europe, but I was still able to manage an A grade, which was damned satisfying. And I’m not finishing with just this one degree…2
My first trip of the year was back to New York City, which was a working vacation. Di had a conference for work, and I had the opportunity to tag along with her and work remotely for the week, so we took advantage. I spent the days in the hotel room working, but in the evenings, we got out and saw the city again. Drunk Shakerspeare was the highlight of the trip and as usual, I fell in love with NYC all over again.
The week after NYC, I was in Seattle with work, for Microsoft Build. While I didn’t get out and see much of the city because I was getting my learn on, I did manage to connect with my old college friends Dave and Kristin, who I don’t see nearly often enough. Additionally, I did get to the Museum of Pop Culture, which was super cool. I’d really like to visit again to check out the road and mountain biking scene.
The big trip of the year was our venturing to Europe for almost three weeks — in that time, we managed to see Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Milan, and Rome. It had hiccups, as any long vacation does, but it was definitely the trip of a lifetime. There’s a full write-up here already.
And the last big trip of the year was to Tucson, to ride the Tour de Tucson, which I’ll detail in the “bike” section, below. The road trip there was a cakewalk, spread over three days. The trip home was brutal, and I did it in two. It took more out of me than the ride itself did, but man, the views going through New Mexico were stunning.
My biggest purchase for the year was my Northern, a custom titanium gravel bike, that I built up from scratch. Of all the bikes I’ve ever owned (and that’s a lot of bikes), it’s definitely my favorite. It rides like a dream, it’s comfy, it’s fast as fuck, and the experience of getting it made and assembled was a blast. It’s also the last Northern that’ll ever be made, as Alex is closing up shop.
This year I also decided to retire the Salsa Campeon, permanently. I’m going to part her out and sell her off. Which is sad, because I’ve had it since 2007, and I’ve gotten emotionally attached, like I do with a lot of my bikes. As part of the process, I obviously had to start on a new road bike, and I got a screaming good deal on a BMC Roadmachine FRS frame (carbon). Going to build her up with Force AXS and Zipp 404 Firecrests.
On the “rides” side of thing, I was doing great with regular training this year, until I had a gnarly crash in mid-September, just before we left for Europe. I was riding the Leb intermediate trail with the kids while Di bashed out some laps on the beginner loop. Somewhere on a descent I’ve ridden a hundred times, I managed to launch myself over the bars and land thigh-first on a boulder a bit bigger than my head. I vaguely remember seeing the rock rushing toward me and hoping I didn’t hit it with my ribs, I remember screaming in pain and thinking I’d broken my femur, and a lot of other riders stopping to check on me. Eventually the boys and I limped out to the Galaxie Avenue trailhead, with me in shock (freezing cold, sweating like crazy, trying not to barf), and Didi pulled the CR-V around to pick us up and to drag me to the ER. Nothing broken, but man, the bruising was intense and deep and supplemented with a couple of gnarly hamburgered sections on my left flank. Travel to Europe was a little uncomfortable, but by the time we were home, all that was left was some scabbing.
Two weeks after we got back from Europe, I suffered through the Filthy 50. Did I mention I came back with a nasty case of bronchitis? Well, I did, and it sucked. The course was brutal, almost never flat, and it was a little chilly for my tastes. I was also not as religious about the food intake as I should have been. I suffered mightily and seriously considered bailing at about the 42-mile mark, but I slogged my way to the finish. I will probably return to this in 2024.
By comparison, the Tour de Tucson was the highlight of the year, even if we didn’t finish the full 100 miles. The scenery was beautiful, I felt really strong, I climbed well, I had enough gas in the tank to sprint at the finish line, but my lower back was in rebellion for most of the last 25-30 miles of the ride. Seriously, I cannot wait to get at this ride again in 2024.
All in all, it was a great year on the bike. My training was solid up until the point of the crash, so I wasn’t at my best for the Filthy or Tucson, but man, I’m motivated as hell for 2024, and that’s a great thing.
With the advent of legalized weed in Minnesota, this became the first year I got baked. I used Delta-8 gummies the first few times, and it went…okay. The first time I took one, I got zero noticeable effect, the second time I used 1 1/2 gummies and my head felt a little light. The third time, I took two and got high as fuck. Doing this with Di, while at home, and watching funny movies was the best way to do it. I’m not making a hobby out of it, and I don’t understand how it becomes a lifestyle choice for people, but it was enjoyable, and the idea of limiting it to about four times a year seems about right.
The other completely novel experience for me in 2023 was bringing home a new puppy. I’d never been involved in the selection process before, nor the initial training, but bringing Joey home was hilarious, rewarding, and sleep-depriving all at the same time. We picked out a good one: runt of the litter, probably a lab/pit mix (DNA test results pending), smart as a whip, playful, and she became part of our family immediately. It’s fantastic.
- March 2023
- April 2023
- May 2023
- June 2023
- July 2023
- August 2023
- September 2023
- October 2023
- November 2023
- December 2023 (pending)
This is a subject that’s far less important to me than it has been in years past. I didn’t watch a ton of movies, but I did manage to surpass my goal of 55 books.. Music was more important this year, and I did get to some decent concerts, too So let’s review.
Music-wise, my favorite band discovery of the year was Durry, a local band that’s started to get some national play. They’re a little bit punk, a little bit grunge, and a little bit rock, with some goofy irreverence tossed in for good measure. Their song “Bubble of My Gum” is going on my wedding reception playlist and not just because it contains a Mario Kart reference.
We also got to a few concerts this year, most notably The National and Nathaniel Ratliff and the Night Sweats. Both were great shows. I did buy tickets for a show in 2024 — the Foo Fighters, who Sam has wanted to see since about 2020, maybe earlier. It was painfully expensive, but man, I’m gonna love watching him rock the fuck out.
There’s not a lot to say for the movies section because I didn’t see a ton of them in 2023. I enjoyed The Marvels because it was a goofy fun movie and didn’t force me to think. I’ve been putting off the Barbie movie even though I’m told I shouldn’t, so I’ll probably watch it on New Year’s Eve. We’ll see.
Oh, but the television side of things was fantastic in 2023. Ted Lasso was great once the third season found its feet — the finale broke my heart and was the perfect conclusion to the show. I also really enjoyed Reacher, For All Mankind, Welcome to Wrexham, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and Loki (season 2).
I did blast through a ton of books this year, and while I didn’t finish the book in 2023, Alan Moore’s collection of short stories, Illuminations, has been blowing my hair back and he’s definitely my favorite author discovery of the year.3 The X-Men reboot was also pretty incredible, and X of Swords comprised a big chunk of my 2023 reading.
101 Things in 1001 Days
For some reason I got it in my head to do this again, sometime around mid-November. Probably during the sleep-deprived drive home from Tucson. The more I noodled with the idea, the more I liked it. So, I spent a few weeks coming up with a fairly realistic list of 100 things to do in that timeframe, and I’m already getting after it.
What Could I Have Done Better?
Time management — as usual, I’ve bitten off more than I could chew on a near-monthly basis. See the Productivity section above as evidence. I’ve been trying to do better with that in the past couple of months, and it’s going better.
Plans for 2024
First off, we should talk about resolutions. Usually, my resolution is “be more awesome,” which isn’t really specific or measurable. For 2024, the resolution is going to be “enjoy the ride” — because 2023 was the year where even when things went wrong, my mindset was one of “I am in the right place, at the right time, surrounded by the right people” and it made things amazing.
If we want to revisit the sections above, we can do that, too.
Family & Friends: be a great husband, a great dad, and a do a good job of raising that puppy we got. Spend more time with friends, because life is entirely too short and can be over in a blink.
Career: make a big difference in how things are done at the office, get myself promoted.
Education: get started on a Bachelor of Applied Science in Application Development. Keep crushing the Udemy coursework. Finish my AZ-104 certification, start another one.
Travel: take an awesome honeymoon, go camping, see more of the world, revisit familiar places.
Bike: fucking slay.
New Experiences: embrace them as they come.
Productivity: keep crushing it.
Media: less TV, less movies, more books.
(Featured image created with/by Adobe Firefly 2 Beta. Prompt: hands tearing up a calendar from 2023.)