This has been a good year for me at work. Because I started at CHOP so close to the end of 2021, I spent most of 2022 learning. In 2023 I’ve taken on significantly more responsibility and started to function as more of a leader on the team. I work on the Arcus team at CHOP, whose primary goal is providing a virtual environment for CHOP researchers to have the software tools and data they need to do their research in one place. One of the main things I was hired to do was build our infrastructure for genomics research projects and midway through the year we achieved a significant milestone: we ran an automated pipeline to go from a data request to deidentified variant call files delivered to the disk in the team’s virtual lab. Although day by day it didn’t always seem like we were making much progress, looking back it is a great accomplishment in a year and a half. There’s still ongoing work in that space and I also have other responsibilities for tools related to research data management and the web apps our researchers use, so there’s plenty to be excited for in the next year.
As usual, I think I have too many hobbies because it never feels like I spend enough time on each of them. It can be frustrating but it’s a nice problem to have.
It has been a great reading year for me. I’ve read 34 books as I’m writing this and I’m still hoping I can finish Children of Dune tomorrow to get to 35 (Update: I finished in time!). I don’t have a set goal for reading, but I like to keep track of what I read. Counting number of books can be and interesting metric. Early in the year I read a bunch of shorter books, so the number kept going up quickly, but then I read some Brandon Sanderson and Dune which really slowed the progress on that count. I wasn’t reading less, but the graph wasn’t as steep. For a large chunk of the year I successfully replaced sitting on my phone before bed with reading, which has been awesome. I’m happier doing that, have less trouble falling asleep, and don’t have issues with eye strain or headaches anywhere near as often (even though I read ebooks on a regular tablet so it’s still lit, I think it has something to do with the flashing watching short form video). Of the 35 books, there were 22 fiction and 13 nonfiction. I think that’s a good split for me. I love reading nonfiction to learn things, but I generally find fiction more relaxing as an activity. I read a bunch of fantasy which has been great along with a smattering of other genres. I’ll probably do a post next week about my favorite books from the year.
I haven’t just been reading books either. I subscribed to Harper’s Magazine, which I had remembered from an assignment in college. I hadn’t subscribed to a magazine since NASCAR Illustrated in middle school. It’s fun getting a new issue in the mail and reading it as a collection instead of reading individual articles online. There are a lot of interesting things to read across a ton of topics so it’s been enjoyable. Online I’ve made a point to try to read more long-form articles rather than short social media posts. I’ve added a bunch of peoples’ sites to my RSS reader and that’s a fun daily check.
I haven’t written as much as I’d like this year, but I’ve written more than in the past so I’m still considering that a victory. I sporadically wrote in a journal and even read two books about writing. This is my 14th post on this site this year, although one was a homework assignment from 2014 and another was a Fediverse post I copied here so it’s questionable whether those really count. I have a few more drafts that are more substantial that I should get around to finishing sometime in January. Even though it was less than I wanted, it has been nice to write more and get in the habit of putting my thoughts into words. It was helpful to abandon the idea that my website had to be polished and focused, instead just letting myself write about what was on my mind. I’d like to keep this up for next year.
A new thing for me this year was writing fiction. Early in the year, I started reading a few writing and publishing subreddits and liked the idea of trying it out. In March and April, I wrote about 8000 words for what was originally intended to become a novel. I stopped working on it because I felt like I hadn’t gotten enough practice turning the ideas I had into words on the page, so it was difficult to make progress. I decided I’d try to practice with smaller projects before attempting a novel. Since then I’ve written one complete short story and started a few others. I may pick up that same project when I decide to work on a novel or I may go with a differnt idea, I’m not sure. It’s been fun and I’d like to keep it up for creative enjoyment even if I never do anything with what I write.
I’ve played trombone a lot more than in recent years because I joined an orchestra in the fall of 2022. It’s a treat to be able to practice and perform with such a talented group of musicians. My two favorite pieces we played this year with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony. I love orchestral music and I’m hoping I can find a similar group wherever we end up (more about that below). Even though I posted about my struggles with practicing a few weeks ago, I was able to practice a decent amount before our winter concert and I played well. I definitely want to build up a practice routine again. I haven’t played much of any other instruments this year, which is disappointing, but not too bad. There’s limited time in the day and I’m generally happy with how I’ve spent my time. At some point I’d like to get back into playing guitar and writing music but that doesn’t need to be right now.
It’s been a great year for my wife and I. In June we finally got to go on our honeymoon to Portugal after it had been rescheduled twice because of the pandemic. We had an amazing time and it was worth the wait. We also travelled to Cape May in the summer and Hawaii in early fall, which were both great trips. A friend’s wedding in Denver in November capped our trips for the year.
My wife is finishing her PhD and has been applying to professor jobs, which means we’re almost definitely moving next summer. Because of that, it’s felt different at home this year. We’ve felt almost in a holding pattern because it doesn’t make sense to do new projects or build new gardens if we’re moving in less than a year. That’s an odd feeling, but it’s also been nice to just enjoy our home and make the best of the time we have left here. We bought this house when she started grad school, so we always knew this would be temporary. We’ve put so much time, effort, and money into this house and it has been good to us, so it’s bittersweet approaching the end of our time here.
I still don’t do new years’ resolutions, but I do like to have some general goals for the future. Many of these are ongoing from my 2021 post.
- Amateur radio: I did get my General class license like I had intended and have done a POTA activation. I haven’t done much since then because I don’t have a permanent radio setup and it’s difficult to operate from our yard. I’d like to do more POTA activations next year
- Cell phone use: I still struggle with this one. I have replaced a lot of my bedtime phone use with books, but it’s still a problem. I was hoping after ditching Reddit after the third-party app fiasco I’d beat the habit, but I mostly replaced Reddit with Instagram which is at best neutral, probably a net negative. I’m working on breaking the habit of always picking up my phone and want to make big progress with that in the next year
- Writing: I’m going to keep posting here and try to be more consistent with my journalling. I want to write a few more short stories next year
- Moving: trying to find a new house and sell this one is going to be chaotic. I’m trying to go through things now and be merciless with what’s kept so we don’t carry over clutter to our new home. My goal is to manage the stress of moving well so we have a seamless transition to our new home.
- Health: I really slacked on regular exercise this year. I’m going to try to get in a routine of regular strength exercises and cycling (both indoor and outdoor). I think having a schedule will make it easier to be consistent because it’s so easy for other things to take priority.
It’s nice to have another year over and I’m happy to have sat down to reflect on the year (especially since I forgot last year). Happy new year everyone.