Reflection on 2023

Another year, another reflection.

Ever since seeing CGP Grey’s video on yearly themes back in 2020 I’ve stuck to the practice, and it has worked pretty well as a mild forcing function.

In 2022 it was ‘Health’ and this year’s it was ‘Growth & Learning’. Where possible I chose opportunities or activities that would allow for one or both.

It would be impossible to list everything I’ve picked up through the various mediums available, and so I won’t even try.

But here are some of the main things just from the top of my head from this year and in no precise order.

Certification Link to heading

I have always liked the idea of getting more formal certification for the technology that I use both professionally and personally, and so decided to try out getting a ‘Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS)’ certification.

The course was great and I would highly recommend it for anyone who uses Linux on a regular basis.

And while I did thoroughly enjoy the course and spent a few days preparing my self for taking the exam it was not enough in the end. Since I delayed starting the certification process, there was no time to utilize the retake option.

Nonetheless I learned a lot about the underlying systems and more knowledge about the tools that make up Linux.

One day I will give the certification another go.

Work Link to heading

Early this year a friend and a former colleague reached out to see if I would be interested in meeting the founders of Prescriby, a newly formed health tech startup that is on a mission to curb the prescription drug epidemic that is sweeping over the western world.

Suffice to say I liked both their pitch and personalities and so decided to join them to help make a difference in this world.

I’m fairly pleased with what has been accomplished in the last half a year since, and really look forward to seeing what the new year holds for us.

Social Media Link to heading

Back in 2019 I left Facebook and have not looked back since.

Like so many others I migrated from Twitter to Mastodon at the end of last year, and thankfully I found a nice new home on the instance along with other Twitter Refugees.

It has been a fantastic year of rediscovering how social interaction online can be friendly and constructive, when the community takes time to cultivate the right social norms in its members.

Reading Link to heading

Looking back over recent years I felt that the quantity I was reading wasn’t as high as it could be, nor that there were enough non-fiction books being explored.

And reading for an hour or so before going to sleep is the perfect way to ease into the night. But only if I read fiction.

So this year I have tried to get around two hours of reading done each and every day (as far as I could), split between morning and evening. In the mornings before work I strictly read non fiction books while the evenings were strictly for fiction.

I kept this pattern up for a few months, but then had to focus on other matters for a bit and never got back into the rhythm. I plan to return to it in the new year.

Fiction Link to heading

Dune Link to heading

Even after having played every Dune video game that has been published as well as watching the movies (and those made for TV) I had never read the original source material.

It is now clear to me why some say this is the best science fiction literature out there.

Wikipedia article

Foundation Series Link to heading

Another great pillar of the science fiction genre that I had not read before this year was Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. The books have not aged particularly well when it comes to tropes and setting, but offer up an interesting glimpse into how it must have been living in the 1940’s - 1960’s looking forwards to what nuclear physics and scientific development in general would bring.

Easily digested and fun for the historical value.

Wikipedia article

The Handmaid’s Tale Link to heading

Margaret Atwood’s name was one I had heard numerous times and her books have been on my reading list for years. And finally I got to reading one of them.

It is a chilling depiction of a reality which, after what has gone on in the world for the last few years, sadly does not seem so far fetched.

Beautifully written dystopian fiction well worth anyone’s time.

Wikipedia article

Culture Series 3 & 4 Link to heading

There are few things I enjoy more than being taken on a journey through the intricately woven tapestry of world building some authors can manage (notable examples would be Peter F. Hamilton or J. Michael Straczynski), and Ian M. Banks now counts as one of my favorites in that regard.

The Culture series, with it’s collection of loosely related stand alone stories, does a great job of painting a picture of a universe teaming with life, where the whole spectrum of possible actions taken by sentient life exists.

Like a friend said, ‘I so envy you to get to experience the Culture for the first time’.

Wikipedia article

Non Fiction Link to heading
Algorithms to Live by Link to heading

Practical non-software world examples of where the algorithms we know, work with or have simply heard off can be utilized to optimize decision making in the chaos which is the real world.

What is there not to love about such an idea.

Author’s webpage

The Grand Chessboard Link to heading

Written by a former US National Security Advisor to US President Jimmy Carter, and counselor to US President Lyndon B. Johnson, this book had come up multiple times in discussions on US foreign policy matters.

While I am in no way a fan of how the US conducts it self on the world stage, I cannot deny that living within the US hegemony (at least as far as it still exists these days) is not the worst of the possibilities available.

In an effort to try to see the world from the 10 thousand feet (3048 meters for those more civilized) view point that those at the top in US governance have, this book worked pretty well.

We who live outside the US have all experienced how almost everything coming out of that country is nearly exclusively focused inwards, be it media, art, news or just the common knowledge of the average person.

After reading this book I think I can better understand how a society that places it self at the center of the chessboard would result in the culture that it now has.

Wikipedia article

Coders at Work Link to heading

One of those books that have lived on my reading list for many years and I had forgotten about.

It is always great to hear and read about perspectives different from your own, and this book is filled with them. From how to explore the craft using the different disciplines available, to office and academic culture and the languages we use.

Highly recommend it, but reading it in chunks as it is a long one.

Wikipedia article

Django For Beginners Link to heading

Since I started looking into using Django for some web development ideas of mine, I thought what better way to get going that an up to date text book.

Hearing about this one in the Django podcast co-hosted by the author them selves, I was not let down.

It is well written and up to date with the current state of Django, and tries to not leave much to discovery by the reader which can sometimes make novices frustrated.

Book’s page

Django for Professionals Link to heading

From the same author of Django for Beginners this book builds on the foundation laid down by the first one, expanding it to encapsulate more use cases for the framework.

A very good read that helped a lot.

Book’s page

The Art of PostgreSQL Link to heading

This one I bought back in 2019 but never got to until this year.

The driver for doing so was setting up and hosting my own PostgreSQL cluster for some side projects.

The book is well structured and comes with all the material needed to get up and running with PostgreSQL.

Book’s page

Kaupthinking Link to heading

Written by the editor-in-chief and founder of news outlet Kjarninn, and now investigative journalism outlet Heimildin, Kaupthinking takes the reader on a journey through the incredible mismanagement and criminal activity that was a standard practice within Kaupthing, one of Iceland’s largest bank that folded back in 2008.

It is clear as day from all of the data gathered through the various court cases that have been prosecuted since, that the heads of the bank fully realized that what they were doing was illegal and heavily in the grey.

If I could have my way, most if not all of the players in the bank’s downfall would still be sitting behind bars, and would be barred from ever sitting in company boards in the country ever again.

The name of the book is a reference to this idiotic promotional video created by the bank in the years before it went bust. Talk about having an Napoleonic complex!

Writing Link to heading

There were a lot of projects that I worked on this year and even more libraries and tools that I got exposed to.

Instead of listing all of theme, here are just some of the biggest. For a full list of all of my projects see the projects section. Link to heading

Back in 2021 I had started playing around with Scrapy a web scraping framework for Python, and built with it a project that pulled product information from every single electronic store in Iceland and stored it in a central database.

The idea was to create a price monitoring web page where user’s could search and filter for electronics based on the capabilities that the devices had (for example show me all TV’s with HDMI 3.1 and at least 2x USB 3 plugs).

This came about when having to try to find products my self using fine grained filtering criteria and in the end becoming frustrated with the state of things.

Turns out that it was a hell of a lot of dirty data on those webpages, and trying to come up with ideas to make sense of it become too much of a hassle.

And so the project went dormant, until in February of this year when unexpectedly I needed to buy a new tire for a family member’s car and had the exact same issue happen as with the electronics.

Believing that tire data would be simpler to clean, sort and make filterable I went about building scrapers for every single web based tire store in the country.

My hopes were shattered though as soon as I started looking through the datasets and realized that there were excessive amounts of short hand codes used and that these were not always consistent nor shared between shops.

And so I gave up the domain (I see it has already been snatched by someone else), archived the code and moved on. Link to heading

This is a project I am currently still building, and hope to have up and running some time in 2024.

It is a product specially made for housing associations in Iceland, based on personal experience being on the board of an housing associations.

After some discussions with others in similar situations, as well as doing a market survey last year, I believe the feature set I have in mind does have product solution fit, and a high likelihood of having a product market fit as well.

For now I’ll just say that it is being built using Django, Celery and PostreSQL, all fully Dockerized and self hosted on Hetzner.

It is amazing what you can do these days with a small VPS, some know-how and elbow grease!

Ansible Link to heading

This year was really the year of automation for me.

It started with configuring my whole workstation in Ansible as I wrote about at the beginning of the year and then extended into every server I run.

Some projects have been made public, and those can be found on Github but some have not yet been made public.

I’m still debating if it is a good idea to showcase how certain production services are configured, as this could be considered a security risk.

For instance I have a Nextcloud project where each component is a separate container as I want to be able to upgrade separate component independently (thus not using the All-In-One container). It uses Docker compose for orchestration and Ansible for system management, and uses fail2ban, ufw and borg to keep the contents safe.

Perhaps next year I will write more about it.

Jetpack Compose Link to heading

Android’s new UI toolkit continues to amaze me and this year I played around using it for various small side projects, since my day job uses Flutter.

None of those projects are in a state where they can be made public, however hopefully early next year I can show of some of the effort that has gone into one or two.

Listening Link to heading

Like previous years I have listened to a lot of podcasts.

According to the stats there were 1291 episodes devoured which came to 21 whole days and 10 hours of listening!

Apparently this was almost identical to the amount listened to in 2021.

In keeping with the year’s theme the additions were mostly software development or history related.

Playing Link to heading

Video games are a fantastic medium that are able to convey stories and action in a way that no other medium can.

With the amount of work that Valve has put into their Proton compatibility layer I have long since stopped having a Windows partition for playing games.

All of these played fantastically on Linux.

The Ascent Link to heading

A great twin stick shooter where the player progresses through an cyberpunk arcology. It is fun, short and beautiful to look at.

I personally loath games that waste the players time through things like grinding, and so was surprised to see such criticism leveraged against the game after I had finished it.

Wikipedia article

Baldur’s Gate 3 Link to heading

The Divinity Original Sin series from Larian Studios are some of my more memorable moments playing video games in the last decade and Baldur’s Gate 3 now sits firmly also near the top of that list.

Sadly I had forgotten that Larian usually needs about 6 months to a year to fully polish up a new release, and so the bugs and issues plaguing the third act of BG3 effectively eroded all the fuzzy feelings I had after playing the previous two acts.

I’m sure though that the next time I roll a new character it will be have been made much smoother by the team.

Wikipedia article

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous Link to heading

Having played Owlcat’s previous Pathfinder game, I found my self drawn to this one earlier in the year.

As is their way, it has bugs and game play issues plenty, and there are plenty of quality of life issues with the interface, map, mechanics and story progression.

But, damn it if it doesn’t scratch a deep seated itch for a proper cRPG with me.

Wikipedia article

Against the Storm Link to heading

In theory I like the concept behind rogue like games.

You play a session and as soon as you enter an end state everything that you did is lost. It is quick.

But in practice these kinds of games almost always seem to be fast paced or have incredibly high skill ceilings, making them frustrating to play rather than fun.

Against the Storm fixes all of that in various ways, and even comes with a pause function.

Wikipedia article

Conclusion Link to heading

Overall I am content with how the year turned out, and the how the theme was followed.

I’ve cultivated some habits that are going to continue being part of my routine and help with knowledge gathering and learning. And the new technology skills that have been added this year will also help with accelerating all of the work that is planned for the coming year.

If nothing else I can at least claim to be one year wiser and one year older.