2019: A Year in Review

4 January 2020

Last year was busy! It absolutely flew by, and the early part of the year seems so far in the past. I did a lot of traveling, got a lot of really great work done, and started to embrace my need for some down-time. In 2020, I’m looking forward to doing a little more of all of it.


  • I got to go on a Zero-G flight to conduct an experiment for work!

    Hands down one of the coolest experiences of my life. Just really, no words to describe this. The feeling of weightlessness is totally incomparable to anything I’ve done before, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  • Spent nearly a month in Arizona across three trips

    Mostly for work, but I also got to see the Roosevelt Dam, and the Grand Canyon

  • Went to Puerto Rico

    This was a family vacation, but it was incredible relaxing and rejuvinative

  • Went to KiCon

    Ran into a lot of folks I know online and met at the 2018 Hackaday Supercon

  • Adopted 3 Adorable Rat boys

Places I went

  • Phoenix, Arizona - 3 Times! March, July, and September

    These were all work trips, working with researches out at ASU. The work we’re doing is really cool, unfortunately these were all greullingly long days. The March trip, we left Louisville at 7am Kentucky time, arrived at 7:30 am Arizona time, and worked until almost 8 o’clock that night in the lab. We did go on a couple side trips, including a drive up a dirt road to see the Roosevelt Dam (The desert was in bloom during this time, and it was breathtakingly gorgeous), along with a trip to the Grand Canyon and the Musical Instrument Museum. The Grand Canyon was amazing, but I had to walk around on a recently-sprained (but mostly healed) ankle, so we didn’t see as much as I would have liked.

  • Chicago, Illinois - KiCon, in April

    Not a work trip at all! This was a really cool event. Got to catch up with some folks I had met at the 2018 Hackaday Supercon. Conferences like this are always weird– I really enjoy the talks, but I can’t seem to get into the swing of “meeting people in the halls”. Maybe it’s a matter of getting more face time with people? I met a bunch of folks that I really admire, but I wasn’t able to really “connect” with a lot of them in a satisfying way.

  • Puerto Rico - Late May

    This was a family vacation, and well-needed. Stayed in a beach house on the southeastern corner of the island (less than 5 miles from where Maria had made landfall, as it happens), visited Ponce, San Juan, and the Arecibo telescope, among other places. All in all, it was very nice. I feel a little weird about visiting so near a disaster that still left its mark, but we tried to spend our tourist dollars on businesses and people that lived there.

  • Baltimore and Washington DC - Late June

    A trip with friends. This was my first time visiting Baltimore, and we tried to see some of the lest touristy spots. Visited Red Emma’s cafe and bookstore, along with a couple markets and museums.

  • New Jersey/NYC - July and December

    Again, trips to visit with friends. Highlights include Smorgasburg in Brooklyn (lots and lots of food in a very concentrated area) and Dim Sum in Chinatown.

Things I Did

In February, I became the father to 3 Rat Boys, gotten from a rescue in Indianapolis. I’d been planning on adopting rats for a while, and these boys happened to come available at the right time. They were sweethearts, although they didn’t take to being held too quickly. I brought them home with all the nerves that a new pet parent would, and named them Copernicus, Tycho, and Kepler. Of them, Copernicus is dumb and trusting, Tycho is dumb and nervous, and Kepler is smart and nervous. They’ve been a delight ever since, although Kepler passed away shortly after Thanksgiving. He was slightly over a year old, and rats are enough of a genetic mess than there are a great number of things that could cause them to die suddenly. The brightest flames burn out quickest 😭.

The Zero G flight in November was a highlight. Not just of the year, but of my life. I was asked to help run an experiment with some folks from work at the last minute. I ended up helping drive the payload down (I will NEVER drive a 26 foot box truck to Florida and back again), and we had a day and a half of setup before the flight.

The experiment ended up needing just 2 people for most of the flight, so I spent most of the parabolas taking video and having fun. The entire experience defies explanation; I was worried that it would feel like falling, with the lurch of a dropping stomach. Instead, it was just a gentle relax of gravity until I wasn’t being held by anything at all. We did 30 parabolas on that flight, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Hobbies I got into

  • Fermentation—I made several batches of Kimchi this year, along with some other similar ferments! It was all surprisingly delicious. I intend to make more this year, and I’m planning on building out a mushroom growing chamber.
  • Camping—I bought a bunch of Hammock Camping gear this year! I was only able to get out once before it got too cold for my meager blanket, unfortunately. A good underquilt is next on my list of stuff to get, but until then, I’ll be a fair-weather camper.
  • Got serious about self-hosting my digital life—At the end of 2018, I bought a very cheap Dell server and set it up with Nextcloud. This past year, I’ve moved more services on to it, including most of my websites (this one, namely) and some things. I’m still using Google and Dropbox, but I hope to free myself completely of them by the end of this year. I also moved my email away from Gmail. For right now, I’m using a combination of ProtonMail and Migadu, but I think I’ll move everything to Migadu by the end of this year (to avoid paying for two services).

Books I Read

  • Exhalation - Ted Chiang A wonderful collection of short stories by the inimitable Ted Chiang. Great, through and through.
  • Make Time - Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky This book is a collection of habits and strategies for making sure what you’re spending your time on lines up with what you want to be spending your time on. Some parts are more useful than others, but I found it a good resource.
  • Anarchism and Other Essays - Emma Goldman A collection of essays from the first decades of the 20th Century, by Emma Goldman, talking about the economic and cultural crises of the time. The writing is clearly dated, but there are a great many mirrors to our current situation, so I’d recommend it without hesitation.
  • The Coming Insurrection and To Our Friends - The Invisible Committee A pair of books from France, detailing the situations we’re dealing with, vis a vis the collapse of late capitalism and the impending climate crisis, and how we can begin to work our way out of them, and built communities of trust.
  • The first 5 books in The Expanse Series - James S. A. Corey Some of the best Sci Fi I’ve read in a long time, this series is thrilling, front to back. The books aren’t particularly deep, but they’re highly entertaining.
  • Radical Suburbs - Amanda Kolson Hurley A book about suburban experiments of the 20th Century, trying to build more sustainable, more integrated communities that alienate us less from our surroundings. This is a fun read for the stories, more than anything. I’d love to hear more about how to bring these strategies into our current era, but the difficulty of acquiring capital seems to make that a non-starter.


Finally, 2019 was the year I seriously admitted to myself that I was depressed and anxious. I’d been going to therapy for these issues for a couple of years at this point, but I hadn’t considered that things were serious enough to investigate medication. It wasn’t that I harbored any stigma against medication, I just figured I could deal without it, and I would be better off for the lack of potential side effects. But by early spring this year, it was clear that my coping mechanisms were working at 100% capacity just to keep me going. This couldn’t continue. I wasn’t suicidal, I wasn’t even showing many outward signs of being depressed, but if I didn’t get help, I was going to fall apart all at once. The only question was time.

So I spoke to my Therapist, and she referred me to a nurse practitioner who started me on some antidepressants, although with some anxiolytics (for accute anxiety, mostly). It took several months to get everything dialed in, but I’ve gotten exactly what I wanted: I’m not undepressed, but I have a little breathing room for my coping mechanisms to get a break. I’m not at 100% every day. And that’s a huge relief.

Looking Forward

I’m looking forward to 2020! Looking forward to focusing on projects, and self-improvement, going lots of places, and seeing lots of people.

I’d love to get over the issues I’ve been having with conferences, and I’d love to convert some twitter and mastodon friends to real-life friends. I want more friends that work in hardware and electronics, and enjoy it!

I’m also looking forward to blogging more, and putting more stuff I’m working on out there. Other people sharing work has been a great way to make friends, meet collaborators, and go even further for so many of the folks I admire, and I’d love to be a part of that.