2023 in Review...Here we come 2024

It's been quite the year. By far the biggest in my life. I raised a baby from newborn to toddler, I got a new job with the Forest Service, leaving the BLM and my Dolores office after 15 years, moved from Dolores to Durango, demolished a house, and designed and started building a new house. That is a lot of big things and at times it felt like too many big things. But I'm happy for all of them.

This year was definitely one of personal change and in some ways forced growth, but it didn't feel like personal growth. I'm sure I learned a lot while doing all of these big things, but it really just felt like I was surviving. A lot of days I was proud and focused on getting things done, but some days I was stressed to the max, angry, sad, and/or worn out. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I probably had the most sleepless nights this year that I've ever had. And while I usually sleep really well, so this isn't saying much, I feel it's important to acknowledge that I was fairly stressed out compared to previous years in my life.

Amongst all the big things, I also managed publish a few blog posts and do some cool things with computers. I learned Docker and used it in production. The site is a private Wordpress site that is a journal for my daughter from my wife and I. The docker container runs NGINX as a server, mariadb as the database, and certbot for SSL and renewal. Docker is kind of a beast and so is NGINX. There were a few long nights trying to get things working. All of that is running on a Ubuntu server. I also got a boilerplate R docker setup going. It is really basic. You can find it here.

I also made a model to predict the number of raftable release days for the Dolores River below McPhee. My model worked well at predicting the peak number of raftable days when the snow pack was fairly decided. But it doesn't yet do well handling the uncertainty of the early season, which I would like it to do, but am unsure how to build that in. I built the model using xgboost using data APIs from the NRCS, USGS and the Bureau of reclamation. Another cool technology I used for this project was I used a GitHub Action to run the model every other day to make a prediction. The action also used R to make a plot that I then called from this blog to display the most recent predictions that I have linked above.

I also tried to find time to read more this year. I mostly read historical fiction by Ken Follet and Kristen Hannah. Ken Follet, I have to admit is a little sleazy at times, but all the same it was just what I needed for this year. I like his books because they aren't too challenging. And mostly I needed something that was easy to read, engaging, not hard to follow and fun. Something I could read exhausted and still enjoy. I'm currently reading "The Source" another historical fiction book my James Michner.

Looking back at 2023 Goals

Last year my goals were to keep applying to jobs, share what I do more, say no to more things, and finish reading Ecological Models and Data in R. I was highly succesful at applying for jobs given that I started a new job and almost immediately got a promotion that I applied for. Really knocked this one out of the park. I can't say I shared what I do more but at least I didn't get worse. I said no a lot more. My web development business is down to one client which feels about right. One former client found new developer and one of my best friends I had to tell I was done managing their site. That was hard. It still is but I'm glad I did it. And I don't think I ever picked Ecological Models in R up after I wrote that post. That last one was kind of silly given how I had a one-month-old baby. Making goals you don't always achieve is alright. I did blog about trying to learn bayesian statistics this year which is an OK substitute.

Another thing I accomplished last year is I got a better perspective on who I am. It's an odd thing to say that but I think it is true. I've spent a lot of my life just living, which I completely recommend. But I was doing this with a component of me being a person who suffers from imposter syndrome. I definitely didn't get over that completely this year but I did improve. The new job required it to some extent. While I haven't conquered anything yet, at least I now know I that I suffer from it and that seems like a big first step.

All in all I'm really happy with the year. Even though it was harder at times, I think I came out OK and feel good about most things moving forward.

Goals for 2023

Fewer Cell Phones and Tablets and Maybe Fewer Computers, Attempting to Truly Unplug

One of my big goals for this year is to take a break from technology more. I want to be on my phone less and generally take a break from social media or at least decrease my usage substantially. It just doesn't feel like it is adding enough to my life for all the negativity that it brings. Social media seems to be filled with negativity. I don't know if that is true, but it very much feels that way. It also seems to be sucking my attention away from other things, like my daughter. I'm also very aware of how looking at a phone all the time impacts her. It freaks me out how drawn to cell phones she already is. Lastly, looking at my phone has become something that I have started to do to try and relax. But it feels like it is one of the least restful and rejuvenating activities. In place of looking at my phone or a tablet, I just want to sit and just be. Be with my daughter or be with my wife.

More writing

I'd like to do more writing. I only published eight posts last year and most of them were published before February 8. I'm giving myself a pass for last year because I have a toddler. This year I'm going to shoot for publishing one post a month on average. I also write in a digital journal, I write daily notes at work, and I write a blog to my daughter for when she gets older.

I also want to do a better job of writing. I've always been a little afraid of writing. Part of writing this blog is to get over that fear. I've also kind of taken a "I don't care how good it is" approach to writing so that I don't get too afraid to press publish. I've published a lot and mostly gotten over the fear, so I'd like to start taking it a little more seriously. Not too serious, but I want to have a process. Draft>Edit>Publish.

One more thing on the writing. I'd also like to write more about wildlife. I do a lot of writing that is outside of work. I like it because it isn't serious and in some ways it is relaxing for me. But I'd also like to write more "blog" post type things for my job as a wildlife biologist. Writing really helps me learn and I have so much to learn at my new job that I think writing would help me get things done. One big blocker there is I kind of feel a little muzzled working for the feds. There are so many people watching what we say and do I'm a little intimidated to write something controversial or wrong and it get found by someone who is critical of my office. I guess I can write things like "Views are my own". But it is my opinion that as a public servant you are always representing the federal government. And while that is restrictive I also think it is important. I take being a public servant seriously, and I wouldn't want to do anything that could jeopardize my ability to do my job. But I still want to write about wildlife, so I'll have to figure something out. Maybe I just won't publish it.

Now I do recognize that this goal is somewhat contradicts my last goal given that I do most of my writing on a computer. I've considered getting a paper journal and writing in it for some of my other writing. But I like things to have tags and be searchable. So for now I'm just going to have to live with that contradiction.

More Time With Maddie and More Trips

This year was fairly stressful. A lot happened. Despite all of that I still got to spend quite a bit of time with my daughter. We spend almost every morning together while my wife catches up on sleep after taking the night shift. And I spend a lot of the weekend with her. I feel lucky that my job gives me the flexibility to do this. But because this was such a busy year, it felt overwhelming to take Maddie on trips. We went camping a few times (one of those times it snowed), and went to Grand Junction twice, and we went to St. George, Utah to go climbing, so there were a few trips, but I'd like to do more. There is so much out there to explore, and I think it will enrich my daughters' life to get out as much as possible rather than be stuck at home all the time. I think it will also be good for my wife and I. And this goal is right in line with the unplugging goals.

Find Time For Creativity

I like to do creative things. Photography, web design, and graphic design are my primary outlets for creativity. I'm out of the web design game business for other people for the most part, but I still want to do work in that space for myself. I have a few projects I've been working on and haven't finished. I may try to pick those up again, but they are low priority. On the photography side, I've basically taken a hiatus. That tends to happen with photography. I'll take lots of photos, and then I just stop for a while. I like that I can take brakes from hobbies, so I'm not bummed that I do. And I have a ton of photos. So maybe editing those for now would be an easy way to get back into photography without too much work. There is another reason, though, that I'd like to start taking photos again. My daughter will only grow up once. My wife and I are doing an amazing job documenting our daughters' growth on our phones (trust me), but there is something about a good photo on a good camera that is better.

That's all for this installment of the new year. I thought about doing predictions, but I'm out of time, so we'll leave it there. See you in 2025 (oh man it will be 2025 soon).