January 1, 2023
2022 seemed to be the year where things finally started to look up after years of Covid threw everyone's lives through a loop. In last year's recap I listed several things I was looking forward to in the coming year and, much to my surprise, they all happened and then some.
Owen. On May 25, our son Owen was born! We were so blessed to add another healthy baby boy to our family. He's a happy and chill little guy. It's been a lot of fun watching him grow and start to form his personality over the last seven months. It's uncanny how much he looks like Ryan. Some people have even asked how we managed to make two of the same baby.
Ryan. A month shy of four years old, Ryan has really turned into a little person. This year he became obsessed with Mario. I have this Nintendo Game and Watch with the original NES Super Mario Bros on it and he picked it up one day and started playing it. Within a month or so, he was able to beat the first level by himself, and shortly after that, he was using the secret warp pipe in 1-2 to go to different worlds.
He started collecting all things Mario after that and was even Mario for Halloween. He wore the costume for at least an entire month. His previous obsession, Thomas the Train, is still on his radar but he'll now go weeks without even touching a train.
I bought him a Miyoo Mini v2 retro handheld for Christmas and loaded a bunch of Super Nintendo games on it and he's loving it so far. (Allie, not so much.) I thought maybe Super Mario World might be a little more forgiving with more ways to get extra lives and having save states. The original Super Mario Bros is hard! It's like the Dark Souls of platformers.
Joe. My stepson graduated from high school the same week Owen was born, which was wild, and quite emotional for my wife. The last few years were challenging for Joe, but he hung in there and now he's really turned things around. He's going to junior college and made the baseball team there. Things have been calmer around the house and he's been enjoying being a big brother to Ryan and Owen. I'm so proud of him.
We finished the bathroom. This has been on the "looking forward to list" for the last two years and we FINALLY got it finished! It cost a bit more than we budgeted for, but I'm very pleased with the improved water pressure (it's the best shower I've ever had at home), heated tiles, and a Toto bidet toilet with Tornado Flush™ Technology. We also added a pocket door so we could add a large cabinet with some shelf space, which I decided would be the perfect place for a small monitor and my PS5. Allie wasn't having it though.
I finally left Illinois — twice! OMG, it felt so good to finally go more than an hour drive away from my house for the first time in almost three years. In September we went to Florida to visit my in-laws. My dad and stepmom also happened to be vacationing in Florida, so we were able to meet up with them at my cousin's house in Tampa as well. It was the first time I'd seen them since Ryan was six months old. They were very excited to see the boys. I'm not a beach guy, but I did enjoy being away from home. We barely dodged Hurricane Ian on the way out!
In November I attended Clarity Conference in New Orleans. Clarity is a design systems conference I've attended a few times before. The last two years were entirely online but this year was both online and in person, and I couldn't miss an opportunity to visit New Orleans for the first time. It was great connecting with a bunch of folks that work on design systems and I enjoyed all the food and drinks the city had to offer.
We raised $5,650 for Extra Life. For the second year in a row I did a 12-hour stream to celebrate Olivia's birthday in August and it was another success. However, I think splitting the fundraising between her birthday and the official Extra Life game day (first Saturday of November) isn't as effective. This year I raised a little less than last year but I'm proud that over the past nine(!) years we've been able to raise $38,475 for Lurie Children's Hospital in Olivia's name. I'm extremely grateful to Bert for coming over every year and playing the whole 24 hours, and to Jose for helping me power through those late hours with some Call of Duty Spec Ops. Thank you so much to all of you who donated to the cause. We really appreciate your kindness.
We finally got Covid. It was bound to happen eventually, but the timing really sucked. I tested positive the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and my wife tested positive the next day. A week later Owen tested positive, shortly after getting over RSV, and it was compounded by an ear infection. Ryan was seemingly spared, but he had pink eye around the same time, and my wife got it too. And then she got strep! So we were pretty much sick constantly for a month. It was brutal. I still can't shake this upper chest congestion that causes me to cough constantly. Hoping we don't get it again any time soon.
I started mentoring. I joined ADPList as a mentor a few months ago and have been having some great conversations with people trying to grow their careers in both design and engineering. A lot of common themes come up around design systems, so I wrote an article with some design system advice that I've shared with them.
I got a new job. I've been feeling pretty stagnant in my career for awhile now. I've been stuck at Senior Engineer for the past five years or so, despite my work impacting just about every feature that gets shipped. Donnie D'Amato recently wrote a great piece about the challenges of working between design and engineering that really resonated with me.
I had been open to new opportunities, if not actively seeking them, for awhile. In November, Provi announced layoffs and, while I was spared, it only further motivated me to find a new role. Coincidentally, that same day, a former Groupon colleague reached out to ask if I knew anyone who does what I do, to which I replied, "yeah, me!"
My conversations with the team went great, and I'm happy to announce that starting this month, I will be the Principal Design Systems Engineer at Turquoise Health! Turquoise is fully remote but each quarter they get together in a different city. I'm looking forward to meeting the team in Los Angeles in a few weeks!
Things I loved in 2022
I had a really hard time staying awake to watch movies in 2022. This year's Movie a Year Challenge fell by the wayside around the time Owen was born. It was taking me multiple nights to watch a single movie. I ended up taking comfort in old favorites and a lot of the new releases I enjoyed this year were fun, action romps, with a few notable exceptions.
RRR This movie slaps so fucking hard. Wildly entertaining and over-the-top but made with such an endearing earnestness it's impossible not to love. The ultimate action bromance to end all action bromances. When a movie opens with a disclaimer that at least a dozen species of wild animals were not harmed during the making of the film, you know you're in for some shit.
The Batman I can't help but love almost any iteration of Batman. I loved Matt Reeves' grounded take. Great cast, particularly Robert Pattinson as Emo Batman. Some argue The Batman is too self-serious, but I found it to be a refreshing change of pace from all the cynical quipping of Marvel movies and their copycats. If nothing else, this is certainly the horniest Batman movie.
Top Gun: Maverick Who would have guessed a sequel to a 35-year-old movie would be the biggest thrill ride of the summer? Incredible aerial photography sequences made you feel like you were in the jets with the characters. Absolutely exhilarating. And some surprising emotional moments really hit home.
Everything Everywhere All at Once This relatively low-budget film from the creators of Swiss Army Man absolutely blew me away. A fantastic showcase for Michelle Yeoh and, holy cow, Ke Huy Quan — best known for his roles as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies. He's perfect here, effortlessly shifting between milquetoast husband, martial arts expert, and a suave, Tony Leung in a tux vibe.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Another great action bromance. This is maybe the funniest Nicholas Cage has been since Raising Arizona. Pokes fun at the various stages of Cage's prolific career in such a delightful way. Pedro Pascal is perfect in this.
Decision to Leave A fantastically horny noir from director Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden, Oldboy) that's like a cross between Vertigo and In the Mood for Love. This movie continues to haunt me weeks after watching it. So many incredible shots.
Others worth mentioning: I loved seeing Martin McDonagh reunite with his In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in Banshees of Inisherin, a film gorgeously shot on a remote Irish island about two life-long friends who find themselves at odds. The Northman, Robert Eggers follow-up to The Lighthouse, is a wild revenge tale. An incredible vibe with great performances throughout. Prey was an unexpected prequel to The Predator that went straight to Hulu. Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) clearly has love for this franchise and managed to make the best entry in the series since the original. Some truly inventive combat, mixing period weapons with the Predator's futuristic arsenal. Amber Midthunder is phenomenal in the lead role. Nightmare Alley technically came out in 2021, but I saw it early this year and it blew me away. More of a juicy noir than a horror film. The ending is perfect.
You can find the rest of my favorite films of 2022 on Letterboxd.
What a great year for TV. In researching this section, I kept being reminded of more shows I loved. Lots of great new shows as well as some returning shows doing their best work.
Station Eleven (HBO) I was mid-way through Station Eleven when I wrote about it in last year's recap, but it just continued to get better and I found it to be just sublime. Great emotional payoff at the end and a beautiful score by Dan Romer that stayed with me for months.
Severance (Apple TV) Ben Stiller's directorial follow-up to Escape at Dannemora is a high-concept sci-fi show about a group of people whose minds are "severed", living two separate but distinct lives working in a mysterious office and living outside of work. The final episode was an all-time cliffhanger. I can't wait for another season.
The Rehearsal (HBO) Nathan Fielder's (Nathan for You) new show begins with a ridiculous premise — helping people rehearse difficult but mundane conversations by intricately recreating an environment and simulating every possible outcome — and quickly turns into something more surreal. This show had me in tears of laughter just about every episode.
The Bear (FX/Hulu) I loved this show about a world-class chef returning home to Chicago to take over his deceased brother's Italian beef joint. It was at times both incredibly accurate in its portrayal of Chicago and also hit all of the Chicago clichés. A great ensemble cast. The show culminates in a tense, one-shot episode that feels like Uncut Gems in a restaurant. One of the best episodes of television all year.
Peacemaker (HBO) This spinoff of The Suicide Squad (the good one, not the Jared Leto Joker one) stars John Cena as an over-the-top, patriotic assassin working with the government to uncover the mystery of parasitic butterfly-like creatures who are taking over human bodies. Peacemaker really leans into its mature rating and John Cena really commits to the character. This show is hysterical from its incredible opening dance number to the end credits.
Andor (Disney+) I wasn't too thrilled about yet another Star Wars show about some side character from the movies, but Andor kind of blew me away from the start. Created by Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Identity, Michael Clayton), this show isn't precious about the Star Wars universe. There's no force powers, no lightsabers, no Skywalkers. It's gritty! There's a few episodes that are just absolutely thrilling. The Star Wars universe is huge. I want to see more stories like this.
Pachinko (Apple TV) I loved the whole vibe of this series about a Korean family, told across multiple generations. Director Kogonada (Columbus, After Yang) establishes a gorgeous visual style. Another show with a great ensemble cast and a joyous opening credits with the cast dancing.
Better Call Saul (AMC) Breaking Bad is one of my all-time favorite shows but, for whatever reason, I never got into Better Call Saul. I decided this year to finally catch up as everyone was raving about the final season. I enjoyed how the show fleshed out characters like Mike and Saul and introduced new characters, but it never reached the heights of Breaking Bad. An incredible showcase for Second City alum Bob Odenkirk. I absolutely loved Tony Dalton as Lalo, who is at once incredibly menacing and charismatic.
Others worth mentioning: I was reluctant to jump back into the world of Game of Thrones after its disappointing final season, but House of the Dragon (HBO) roped me back in with its smaller scope and family intrigue. Paddy Considine is fantastic. I couldn't tell you a single thing about the first two seasons, but season 3 of Jack Ryan (Amazon) starts off with some great action and gave me some strong 24 vibes. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is like a throwback to the original series. I love its humor and earnestness. Donald Glover continued to do whatever the hell he wanted with the last two seasons of Atlanta, which both aired this year after a long hiatus. Alternating between one-off episodes and episodes with the main cast, Atlanta was one of the most surreal shows ever. Season 3 of Barry was a bit uneven, but at its best it's still one of the best shows on TV. I'm not sure how much longer they can sustain its wild premise.
This year, a couple of new games cemented themselves among my all-time favorites, and some yearly staples added new modes that pulled me back in. I also picked up a Steam Deck and several portable retro handhelds, but since I rarely leave my house these days, I haven't used them that much.
Elden Ring I finally embraced Souls-like games after falling in love with Nioh a few years ago, and this game from the creator of Dark Souls further refines the formula into one of the most accessible entries yet while still remaining incredibly deep and challenging. Elden Ring's open-world nature allows you to explore different areas when you get stuck on a boss and come back to it after you've leveled up your character a bit more. Even around 300 hours into this game, I was still finding entirely new areas I hadn't yet seen. This game is fantastic and its the first Souls game I would wholeheartedly recommend to people who don't like or haven't played them before.
Sifu This game hooked me right away with its gorgeous visual style and kinetic hand-to-hand combat. Sifu takes the 1-vs-many combat of games like the Arkham series and Ghost of Tsushima to a new level. I loved the fluidity of animations and the wide variety of moves at my disposal. This is a brutally hard game but at a certain point it starts to click and you feel like a complete badass, taking on multiple enemies with ease. I wrote a guide for Sifu that many of my friends referred to when they started playing.
Inscryption Much like Hades last year, Inscryption is a game I tried on PC when it came out the previous year and couldn't get into. But when it released this year on PS5 I decided to give it another shot. Once you get past the odd art style and unlock new mechanics, this game reveals itself to be much more than it starts off as. To say any more would spoil it. If you enjoy turn-based strategy and deck building games, this game will blow your mind if you give it a chance.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II The Modern Warfare entries are my favorite of the Call of Duty series and this one is no exception. One of the greatest single-player campaigns culminates with a nighttime helicopter flight over the Chicago River onto a skyscraper where you can enjoy a faithfully rendered view of downtown Chicago.
Modern Warfare II also added a new mode called DMZ which absolutely hooked me. DMZ takes place on the Warzone map but pits you against both human and AI opponents while offering much more to do than just survive. There's a risk/reward element that's extremely satisfying. DMZ is still in beta and it's not without its problems, but when it's not crashing or bombarding you with crackshot AI bots, it's a ton of fun.
I've barely touched Warzone 2.0. After getting an early win in "Unhinged Trios", which allows you to add up to three other players to your squad, I've been reluctant to ruin my win percentage!
NBA 2k23 Every time I think I've gotten this series out of my system, they add a new feature that hooks me. This year it's NBA Eras, a new mode that allows you to start a franchise in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, or today, with mostly period-accurate rosters and draft classes. You can try to relive or re-write NBA history with the benefit of hindsight.
I tried to extend the Bulls dynasty of the 90s, since Michael Jordan never retired to play baseball, and ended up with a god squad that included Steve Nash and Lamar Odom playing along side MJ and Scottie Pippen.
NBA Eras is sorely lacking over half of each draft class, including such greats as Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller, so even a few years in you end up with some pretty unrealistic rosters. Still, I loved playing with the rules and broadcast aesthetic of the different eras.
Marvel's Midnight Suns The latest game from Firaxis, makers of XCOM (my all-time favorite game), had a lot going against it. First, I was disappointed that it wasn't XCOM 3. I'm also suffering from Marvel fatigue with all the shows and movies that have been coming out almost monthly now. But Midnight Suns quickly won me over with its inventive card-based combat and a Road House reference in the first five minutes. Once I let go of my selfish desire for more XCOM, I realized this game is like XCOM and Persona 5 had a baby and I fell in love with it. Sorry I doubted you, Firaxis friends!
Others worth mentioning: I had a blast playing Cult of the Lamb during Olivia's birthday stream in August. Incredible art style and compelling gameplay loop. Stray is a sci-fi cat simulator/puzzle-platformer. It's a relatively short experience but I had a great time with it.
Looking forward to in 2023
Owning my own content. Twitter has experienced a notable downturn since being acquired by Elon Musk. People are leaving in droves and those who stuck around are using the platform a lot less. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.
On one hand, Elon is a narcissistic baby man who is running Twitter into the ground while his alt-right sycophants cheer him on. On the other hand, Twitter has been my most used social media app over the last 14 years. It effectively replaced RSS for me when Google killed Reader. It helped me grow my career and I've made a ton of friends through it. I'm reluctant to just walk away from it. Alternatives like Mastodon have their own issues and lack the critical mass of Twitter.
What this whole debacle has illuminated for me is the need for me to own my own content. In 2023 I'm going to try and write more here on my site. I'm looking at preserving at least some of my Twitter archive with something like Tweetback and maybe adding webmentions to the site to add a layer of social connectivity. Maybe getting off Facebook and Instagram while I'm at it.
Or maybe Elon will get bored and go back to digging holes and sending cars into space. But I'm not counting on it.
Digging deeper into web components. This year, out of necessity, I started getting into the technical side of making components for our design system. Specifically, I started learning Svelte and was surprised to find I really enjoyed it!
Long ago, before I doubled down on CSS, I was a "webmaster" and built lots of stuff with PHP and MySQL. It's been so long since I had to use them that I don't even know how to build similar stuff on a modern stack.
Besides Svelte, I tinkered around with Supabase, Astro, and Storybook. In 2023, I'd like to keep learning and see how I might apply them to my day-to-day work. I'm also super interested in the work that Zach Leatherman is doing with WebC and is-land, which have the potential to really expand how I use Eleventy.
Writing a book? After a talk I proposed called How to Never Write CSS Again was rejected, I had a thought that maybe a talk isn't the right medium for everything I have to say on the topic. I've been kicking around the idea of turning it into a book.
There's a ton of great writing on CSS out there already but most of it is about how to CSS — that is, it shows you techniques for achieving specific results. What there's not a ton of about out there is how to CSS together. How do you CSS when you have a bunch of people committing CSS to your codebase that don't like and/or aren't good at it? How do you write CSS in the context of a design system? And yes, how do you write CSS so that you never have to write it again? That's what I hope to answer with this book.
Traveling more. It felt so good to travel again. Especially to two places I'd never been. I'm looking forward to Turquoise Health's quarterly all-hands meetings in different cities, starting with L.A. in January. I'm also hoping to head to Europe or Asia for the first time and visiting my family in Peru after a 10-year absence.
Being present with my kids. I try really hard to be in the moment with Ryan but sometimes it can be a lot. Now with Owen around, it's made me realize how much I miss Ryan being that age. I want to enjoy this time with them as much as I can before they both grow up to resent me and want nothing to do with me. 😂
Going with the flow. Not trying to have babies, not having house projects looming and no longer worried about what's next in my career, I'm looking forward most of all to just letting things happen and seeing where life takes me. Things tend to happen whether you plan for them or not. Sometimes making big plans only results in disappointment.
One thing I learned at Second City that's applicable outside of improv is the concept of "yes, and..." If you keep yourself open to what is happening instead of trying to control it, you'll be surprised where it can lead. I'm going to keep this in mind in 2023 and encourage you to try to do so as well.
Thanks for reading! I hope your 2023 is happy, healthy and drama-free.