There is a meme going around on social media (on my feed, anyway) about devoting a year of your life to “disappear” and work on things solely for yourself. While that was not my intention at the start of this year, it is inevitably what I did.
I don’t feel comfortable discussing the specifics of the skills I started learning this year, but I want to acknowledge the beginning of my thirties is when I started them. None of them are illegal, but they are life-changing in a multitude of ways and I would prefer only those close to me to know.
I didn’t skate much in 2023, although I did keep up with ballet, working out with a personal trainer, and off-ice lessons. Most of my free time went into studying and practicing the new skills. Since it often takes more than a year to become proficient at something, it is unlikely I will seriously return to figure skating next year other than the occasional skate.
The other main reason I skated less is because I started having lower back problems. I also might have developed a herniated disc in my spine. The best alleviation I have found for these so far are daily exercises and sleeping with my feet propped up on a pillow. However, I suspect these issues are actually caused by my mattress. I sleep on a Signature Sleep Memory Foam mattress (medium-firm), and I believe it may not be providing enough support for my hips, causing them to sink. This is probably why I wake up with a tight lower back. I have done research online and as of the time of writing, I have ordered a Sleep on Latex Mattress Topper (firm) and will report next year with the results.
Similar to last year, I only have two projects in development. One is my primary focus while the other is only slowly being worked on as a pipe dream. I mentioned last year that I would announce the primary game’s name this year, but the project has been progressing slowly and is not ready yet.
Unnamed Warships Deckbuilding Roguelike
My team spent most of this year working on fine-tuning the animations and art direction in a separate project while developing the mechanics in the actual game project using placeholder assets. Here are some highlights:
My primary focus this year has been the warships deckbuilder above. However, the team I hired to revamp the UI / UX for Zems has still been at work this year. The main change is that we’ve moved from Photoshop to Figma, and I even took an online course on Figma personally since it has now become the modern standard for UI / UX / Wireframing.
The three work items I mentioned last year still stand.
Magic: the Gathering
I only finished one new deck this year, though it is my favorite one yet: Hofri Ghostforge Aristocrats Reanimator.
I also worked on two other deck ideas this year (Vadrok Spellslinger and Rakdos Creature Storm), but ultimately discarded them:
- Vadrok, Apex of Thunder either wins out of nowhere or doesn’t play the game. Polarizing decks are not fun.
- Rakdos, Lord of Riots had inconsistency issues and I did not want to run too many tutors.
I have started another deck that shows promise (Mishra, Eminent One), but I have not finished the testing process yet. A fan also recently asked me to update and make videos for my Sefris Dungeons Midrange Reanimator list, so that is one of my goals next year too.
Health & Fitness
- Ballet private lesson
- Work out with a personal trainer
- Off-ice conditioning with a skating coach
- Dance lessons with my girlfriend (we started with East Coast Swing but now include Rumba and Waltz)
I still sleep on the same pillow and cook my meals using the cast-iron skillet. My girlfriend enjoys eating out, so this year we also tried a number of new restaurants in Austin. My favorite “new discovery” this year is Tokyo Sushi and Ramen.
I am still convinced the massage gun is one of the greatest modern creations. My Ekrin B37S still holds a full charge after two years.
We watched one show this year (Battlestar Galactica) and we didn’t finish it due to the writing of season 4, so I have no favorite this time.
I watched 38 new movies this year:
- The Addams Family
- Addams Family Values
- Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
- Big Fish
- Creed III
- My Neighbor Totoro
- The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
- Over the Moon
- The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die
- Grave of the Fireflies
- A Night at the Opera
- Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
- Kiki’s Delivery Service
- Avatar: The Way of Water
- John Wick 4
- Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind
- Castle in the Sky
- Princess Mononoke
- The Fifth Element
- Porco Rosso
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- The Wind Rises
- Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1
- My Cousin Vinny
- Dallas Buyers Club
- The Pink Panther (2006)
- The Pink Panther 2 (2009)
- Beetlejuice (1988)
- The Black Cauldron
- Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
- Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
- White Christmas
- The Super Mario Bros Movie
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- A Little Princess
- Road to Perdition
I normally don’t choose the first movie in a two-part series, but this movie stands well enough on its own to be my favorite this year:
If you’ve read my blog before, you likely know the first movie was my top choice 4 years ago. This in-between movie deserves equal praise, especially considering good sequels are difficult to produce. Thankfully, Sony is keeping most of the original production team together for this series, so I expect good reception for the next movie as well.
I read 11 books this year, but I will not list them publicly since many of them relate to skills I want to keep private.
My favorite book each year is the one that influenced me the most. This year I have chosen Factfulness. Similar to Thinking, Fast & Slow, which is the best book I have ever read on thinking and mental models, Factfulness challenges us to rethink the ways we view the world in order to have a more data-backed understanding when most of social media seems to focus on emphasizing statistical outliers.
Czechia’s Eurovision 2023 entry, performed by Vesna, blew me away when I first heard it. Featuring four languages throughout the song, it is about promoting peace among European nations.
I played 12 new video games this year:
- Halo Wars: Definitive Edition
- Back 4 Blood
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Remnant: From the Ashes
- Horizon: Zero Dawn
- A Plague Tale: Innocence
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Hollow Knight
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Command & Conquer Red Alert 3: Uprising
- Wasteland 3
It was tough for me to choose between Red Dead Redemption 2 and Wasteland 3, but ultimately I decided the best game for me this year was indeed Wasteland 3:
Similar to board games, I’m a fan of video games that allow me to try new ideas and builds. Whenever I find myself doing research or thinking about a game outside of play, that is a sign to me of a great depth. I like deep games the most, so even though Red Dead Redemption 2 did make me cry, it did not make me think deeply about my decisions in the way Wasteland 3 did.
Other honorable mentions are Ori and the Will of the Wisps for sheer production value (though I still believe the first game was superior) and Roguebook for also having build depth and replayability.
I played 26 new board games this year:
- Mind MGMT
- Dune Imperium: Immortality (expansion)
- Crossing Fates
- The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game
- Mare Nostrum: Empires
- Tyrants of the Underdark
- The Scepter of Zavandor
- Can’t Stop
- Cat in the Box
- Creature Comforts
- Space Base: The Mysteries of Terra Proxima (expansion)
- Nemesis: Lockdown
- Lords of Ragnarok
- Whitechapel 1888
- Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
- Waking Shards
- Kemet: Seth (expansion)
- Hollywood 1947
- Hive Pocket
The best new board game I played this year is Twilight Imperium 4th Edition (TI4):
Board games that leave me thinking of possible new strategies and factions I want to play are the kind I like most. Unfortunately, I did not play TI4 with the right playgroup – they later decided they want to play mainly 4-player games of TI4, whereas the game is best with 6. Usually when this happens, it means the playgroup is not the right target audience for the game. Still, TI4 is the game that has persisted in my mind the longest after my first two plays, and I hope to find a better playgroup (or just play online) next year.
In the difficult-to-find “good 2-player games” realm, my girlfriend and I especially enjoy Kinghill:
Lastly, I want to mention Crossing Fates, a game by a relatively unknown designer in China. While I would not classify the game as great, it does have the most innovative new mechanic that I experienced this year:
Crossing Fates is a deckbuilder where you can play cards on top of each other (in addition to next to each other) to create combos.
We traveled to three main places this year: Laguna Woods (California), Albuquerque (New Mexico), and Houston (Texas). The Houston trip was for a Khalid / Ed Sheeran concert at NRG stadium, and the Albuquerque trip was a last-minute “see the grandparents” before Christmas, so I will only showcase Laguna Woods here.
I didn’t grow up near a beach, so “going to the beach” is not something I feel a lot of excitement for. However, Laguna Beach is the best beach I’ve visited so far.
We also visited Soka University, which has a beautiful campus:
“The things I once imagined would be my greatest achievements were only the first steps toward a future I can only begin to fathom.”—Jace Beleren
In each year of this blog, I’ve talked about the changes I have made to my lifestyle. As a result, my posts have also generally gotten longer over time. This is the first year where some sections are intentionally reduced or outright missing.
I majored in sociology from the university (Berkeley) that was ranked #1 in the world at the time for the field. Did I major in the most useless field, or the most eye-opening?
The values upheld by a society are those that, like a living organism, allow it to thrive and continue to exist. These values are perpetuated by families, communities, religions, and institutions that comprise the structure of the society. The older I get, the more I realize everything I was told to aspire to (like being good at school or at my job) has funneled me in the direction of being a more efficient cog in the machine of a capitalist society. Considering how many “successful” people in my generation have depression, I am convinced that achieving a success you only think you believe in makes you hollow.
This is the first year where I experienced things that are “too good to be true” happen repeatedly in my life. I am intentionally being vague here. If I am able to scale things up next year or in the next few years, maybe I can finally break out of this contraption I find myself in.