2023 has been a year of extremes. The highs have been very high and the lows have been very low. Professionally, this year has been very challenging. I’ve been on the job market the entire year, along with many other designers in the tech industry, and have not had luck finding a new role. On the other hand, I have had two projects that have been more fulfilling than anything I have done professionally in years, there’s just no income yet. Outside of career concerns, this year has been wonderful. I’ve been able to spend time with my family, cook a lot, and read quite a bit.
I started working on Career Minder during the pandemic on nights and weekends. The idea is to build a tool for grownups who realize they need to start to be proactive in their career by documenting their successes so they are prepared to move to the next promotion or opportunity. My partner in this project has been my dad, a software developer with expertise in React and backend services. It has been so fun planning, designing, and building the front-end for features in the product over the last year. We launched earlier this year, but have not really made traction as of yet. We are seeking users, so if you’d like to get access just get in touch and let me know you read this post.
Shining Path/Church History Book
This year I started a writing project focused on the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Peru from 1980–95 and the effects of the Shining Path uprising on the church and its members. I served my mission in Peru from 2003–05 and heard many stories of the violence and struggles from that period, which have come to mind off and on ever since. I realized recently that there is not much written about these experiences in English and so I began to do research. It has been an immensely fulfilling experience so far. I’ve been busy reading books and papers on Shining Path, Maoism, Peruvian political history, and Church History. In addition I’ve been finding primary sources in the Church History Library, as well as archival materials from Peru. I’ve been able to interview people with firsthand knowledge of the events in question and plan on speaking with many more. I’ve written narrative segments, chapters, background information, and built out a tree of information and narrative in Obsidian. I am very excited about it and am eager for others to read it and give feedback. If this is a topic you’re interested in, please reach out.
This has been a year of returns for me. The book project is a return in a way. I’ve felt a return of interest in typography and am nibbling around the edges of type design. I feel a pull to return to 3D design, which is good timing since there are so many tools now that make it simpler than when I was using Maya and waiting for renders back in school. Two things I’ll elaborate on below are a return of interest in photography and letterpress.
Medium Format Film Photography
I decided to give film photography a go after years of digital and have it found it immensely rewarding. The change of pace has made me slower and more deliberate with composing an image, waiting for the right conditions, and planning the exposure. It feels more meditative in a way. Plus the surprise that comes after waiting for film to be developed helps create a distance and serendipity that I really like. If I have something specific I need for a specific purpose, I am still likely to use a digital camera. However, if what I want is to just take some pictures, let go, and see what comes back then film is the way to go. Why medium format instead of 35mm? Honestly, when I made the decision it was because it just seemed like film, but extra. You can see some of the results on this site’s new Photos page.
I took a letterpress class at a local maker’s studio and absolutely loved it. Like, stupid grinning and almost crying loved it. So I purchased a Provisional Press and am collecting the bits and pieces I need to get started. What I love about it is the tactility and immediacy of it. You have to be precise, but can adjust on the fly and what you get out of it is the finished product. I love designing on the computer, but what you end up with is usually transitional to a final output. Letterpress isn’t ephemeral in the same way.
Read, Listened, Watched, Played
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are things I would recommend to others.
Maoism: A Global History, by Julia Lovell will change the way you see the Cold War and the forces that are still shaping our world today well beyond China’s borders. It will alarm and captivate you.
Study Bibles. If you study scripture regularly a good study Bible can really help you get more out of the experience. Here are a few that I like:
- The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter.
- The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-Day Saints by Thomas Wayment
- The Annotated Book of Mormon. Edited, Introduced, and Annotated by Grant Hardy.
This year I listened to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. The coming year, I’m hoping to do more of the former and pare down the latter. But here are a few podcasts that I recommend:
- Conversations with Tyler. Tyler Cowen is a fantastic interviewer and gets the best out of his guests, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds.
- Tetragrammaton. Rick Rubin interviews a lot of creative people and his enthusiasm really comes through in subtle ways. I find it delightful.
- Team Deakins. Another interview show hosted by Robert and James Deakins. Robert is a renowned cinematographer and his wife James works in film continuity on set. They interview people from the film world, both in front and behind the camera. The conversations get into the nitty gritty of filmmaking. My favorite moments are when you get insights in Robert’s own process.
- Dithering. I skim tech podcasts more than listen to them these days. Things aren’t quite as exciting as the tech commentary sphere has matured. However, Dithering is great for getting good takes on the latest in tech.
- The Prince. This is a great miniseries by the Economist that attempts to tell the murky backstory of Xi Jinping.
Ghosts. What a delightful show. Makes me laugh and it has heart. What’s not to love?
Slow Horses. So good. It is biting, with characters that are so compelling even when they are deeply unpleasant. Plus they film two seasons at a time so you don’t have to wait long for the next story.
Wind Down & Start Up
I’m spending the next few days reflecting on 2023 and thinking about where I really need to focus in 2024. Some of the outcomes will probably be resolution-esque but what I really want to focus on is habits of regular reflection and decision making. Here’s to a lovely 2024.