Sunday, December 31, 2023

Retrospective '23 (not my original title)

Home Designed/3D printed ornament, 4" diameter. Let me know if you want one, free with shipping. 

I've often started my posts with the title only to find that my meandering words betray the initial intent. The title does start as a prompt, a passing thought that I think might be worth a few hundred words. The pivot usually happens a paragraph or two in, perhaps I've exhausted the idea or perhaps I'm already bored with it or think it then worth fewer words. For example, I'm already bored with writing about my blog titling process. I shall speak of it no more.

Instead, it's New Years Eve! In hindsight the year went really fast. It's interesting how our brains perceive time in this manner. The future seems to creep up slowly while the present often feels like a mad rush (thinking navigating a rapids) while the past is further away than it feels it should be. Maybe it's just being in my 40s? Things I swear were a year or two ago are actually a decade passed. Perhaps we fill up on memories as time goes on and our brain's main source of timekeeping is the relative chronology of those memories? What happens if we lose the ability to perform such relative placement? Is this why birthdays and holiday celebrations are actually important on a more biological/neurological level, i.e. they give us more significant social markers and become our way of mutual/social time synchronization? Will our technology's ability to timeline things like photos actually detract from our own ability to mark time? Will that result in more problematic memory issues later in life if we offload this ability to google photos? 

This whole concept has a spatial analog as well. Does our reliance on our maps apps result in poorer geographic aptitude. Could that have an impact on instinctive direction finding and ultimately motor skills like balance? I do think staring at our maps apps does detract from seeing the world. There are a lot of neat things out there along roadsides, etc. that we just miss. Maybe these are opportunities we are also missing?

Anyhow, there's a whole (or at least 3/4ths of a) rabbit hole for you. I'm sure there's a whole body of neuroscience research taking a look at this. I may have to do a little digging of a colloquial nature. In engineering we call these things PNT (position-navigation-timekeeping) and a multitude of technologies are used to allow everything from phones to airplanes to NASA probes to know where they are. I could yammer about inertial systems and atomic clocks but will spare you for the moment.

Instead, I'll digress back to my '23 retrospective. What a fast-paced year! Which is surprising considering it started with a three hour wait for bags at the airport just after midnight on New Year's Day. We were returning from a cousin's wedding in Miami (excellent wedding, by the way) and most of Sun Country's ground crew must have decided to call off. I hope they have a contingency plan in place for this year's lucky red-eyes. 

Much of the year, for me, was settling into the new job. It took a surprisingly long amount of time to embrace my new role/company. I guess nearly 15 years in one role will build up some inertia to career change. Fortunately, I'm finally feeling more at home in my "engineering lead" role and am finding some opportunities to partake in some technical work. I'm also finding some ways to mold what I'm doing to at least follow some of the "contours" of what I professionally enjoy. I was able to give a couple "high level" talks about quantum computing at the University of Minnesota and hope to do some more presenting in the next year. Also, to my delight a small collaboration I had in my previous role yielded a couple of new publications

In '24 I'm hoping to increase some of my professional/academic travel. I have gotten to visit our main R&D center in Colorado several times, but that often just feels like work; sitting in a cube, etc. Still, it is useful travel as there is something often lost in online discussions that being around people. There's more time to let thoughts or ideas mature whereas online meetings often get engrossed in status. I also enjoy getting to know people beyond a voice and a headshot. 

Attending a conference or workshop or two would further fulfill this desire to interact and organically develop ideas. I have to admit, in my magnetics days, I often left conferences feeling motivated and inspired to try new things. I'm missing that.

Candlepin bowling in Cambridge, MA!

Beyond work, there was some fun travel in '23. As I mentioned, the year started with the end of a trip to Miami for a wedding. We were able to also do some skiing at Vail in January, toured around Boston/Cambridge in March, saw scenic Des Moines in October and took a short trip to Washington, DC in November. Summer and fall were tough travel times this year due to fastpitch softball and football training schedules. Still, we also made it up to the cabin a couple of times. 

This year, I'm planning on keeping up the mountain skiing tradition, thinking we'll explore the CO slopes some more. March may be another busy travel month with a golf outing in Myrtle Beach with my coaching buddies and possibly a trip to Vegas for the National Hardware Show (tied to my side gig). I'd also like to get a few more trips up to the cabin in than last year allowed. 

Last for the travel, I am able to work fully remote for the most part. I do like to go into the office a few days a week and "talk to the troops". Again, there is something about in-person interaction that trumps incessant online meetings and DMs. However, it would be fun to put my butt on a plane or drive somewhere to work for a few days. Midweek at the cabin at a minimum. 

Obviously, I'm phrasing this blog as "hopes and aspirations" for '24 while putting '23 in retrospective. Along with some of the '23 "good stuff" a lot of life happened. My ex-father-in-law passed away. He was a kind, family dedicated man who deserves at least as many words as I've written about silly things like travel and work satisfaction. (There have also been other health issues that I hope will be non-issues in the next year.) My son turned 18, finished is senior year of football with "all-district" honors and we're now figuring out what college and the next few years may look like. This includes figuring out what to do for a grad party, etc. My daughter has a boyfriend and will be turning 16 in March, we're in the process of figuring that out. The car that is, the boyfriend is a decent dude.

Speaking of cars, I had two die on me in short order these last couple of months. The beige beast essentially rusted out from the underneath and some welds broke. My replacement, the minivan my then-wife and I bought new in '08 then decided life wasn't worth living anymore and the transmission gave out. A tranny swap will take a little time, so something needed to be done.

After a couple weeks of thinking on what to do (weighing near future college expenses, etc.) I decided to buy a slightly used Nissan Rogue. It's been a tough time to buy a used car. Loan interest rates are obnoxious and inventory is only now starting to catch up (for those that like graphs on this stuff, check this out: Here I need to give a shout out to my folks for being my bank/loan sharks. I'd much rather be paying any interest/etc back to family vs. a dilute number of shareholders at some bank who I've never met.

Going Rogue

The Rogue has just enough bells and whistles to keep me entertained and a powertrain warranty. I sat in the back for a moment to make sure the kids would fit. I have to admit the trunk space is a smidge smaller than ideal, but it's not like I haul things constantly. Maybe a roof caddy for skiing and maybe a hitch for pulling my camper/small trailer/jetski and I'll be all set.

This little bit of life pivoting does have me thinking about what the next few years will be like. Things are by-and-large good but ideas such as "downsizing" are starting to crop up. I think at least the first half of '24 will be taking a hard look at what's next. 

In the nearest term, how's the title?

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