Year in Review — 2023
Despite challenges that made time seem like a rubber band — the AI panic of Q1, inflation, economic contractions, new services and staff growing by more than 30%, all of which kept me very busy at work — the year went by quickly. This is because I’m in my forties and all years past thirty-five go by quickly, no matter what is happening. This is not always a bad thing.
Fast years will teach you a reverence for time.
At home, things were as lovely as ever.
We bid farewell to our beloved cat, Calypso, who enjoyed a spectacular seventeen years here on Earth. We miss her, but hers was a life to be celebrated.
We watched our two children thrive, the youngest at a brand new school that couldn’t be better. Two of my brothers married, seven days apart, making official family of two especially wonderful people. Also, I finished many home improvement projects and didn’t mess any of them up!
What follows is a scattered and loosely-strung-together year in review.
Bests of 2023
(Hot takes hiding in Trojan lists.)
Objects, New and Old
- Stillman and Birn Epsilon Sketchbooks are the perfect container for notes, lists, journals, drawings, and scraps. Over the last decade, I have filled nearly twenty of them. My mother-in-law supports my obsession by giving me two of these each Christmas. As familiar as I am with them, opening a new one is a true pleasure.
- 4x6 Blank Index Cards — Last year was so busy that I had to try a few new ways of staying organized. I found using index cards to lay out daily to-do lists and break down longer-term projects was much more helpful to me than any screen-based list app. This year, I’ve taken that system to the next level. Highly recommended.
- KEF R3 Meta speakers — in the living room, connected under the floor to our amplifier and CD player in the den. A personal library of physical media is better than internet streaming. An extravagant purchase made this year. No regrets.
- Fat Gold is the best olive oil. It’s pricey, but most olive oil that is significantly cheaper is also significantly worse. I’m such a believer and want to support Robin and Kathryn’s success so much that I gave subscriptions to all my family, and we gave subscriptions to all our clients at Newfangled.
- It took me over forty years to find the best hat. This Druthers hat is the best hat. I bought it from my neighbor’s store, Indio.
- My twenty-year-old scrap lamp is still casting a warm glow in the office and bringing me good feelings every single day. There are many items worth buying in the world, made by people whose craft exceed my own in every way. But sometimes a pretense-free, hastily assembled solution is the way to go and remains so.
- I still think the Yoto is the best tech object ever made for children. Our children enjoy theirs every single day, as do I.
- I never regret buying Kala soap. Some people think this is weird but I wash my face with soap maybe once a month and my hair even less often. So a Kala bar lasts a good while.
- Mysterious Universe is still the best podcast. I’ve been a listener since 2006 and a Plus subscriber for over a decade. If Ben and Aaron ever stop I will be bereft.
- YouTube Premium is the best value in a streaming service. I should write an entire post defending this, but for now, I’ll just leave that there to provoke you.
- NetNewsWire has been helping me feel hope, interest, and joy from the web again. It’s worth a lot of money, and yet it’s free.
- ClipGrab is an indispensable tool if you care about archiving things that matter to you that you suspect will one day disappear.
- Eyes On Cinema and New Thinking Allowed are a tie for me for the most viewed/most important YouTube channels. They are preserving information that is most likely to be scoffed at today and taken extremely seriously in the future.
These are the albums released in 2023 that excited me most.
- Sit Down for Dinner, Blonde Redhead
- War of Being, Tesseract
- Javelin, Sufjan Stevens
- Jelly Road, Blake Mills
- Radical Romantics, Fever Ray
- Maps, Billy Woods and Kenny Segal
- Everything is Alive, Slowdive
Top Five Most Read Posts on this Site
- The Rhythm of Your Screen
- Designing for Realistic Attention
- How to Adapt Long-Page Designs for Better Scanning
- Creative is 10%. Structure and systems are the rest.
- What I Want From the Internet
Best Decisions I Made This Year
- I hired three fabulous designers. They are a joy to work with and learn from.
- I decided to start disentangling my life from Big Tech. The first thing I did was move my email from Gmail to Proton Mail. It’s been very good. Next stop is moving all my photos off the cloud.
- I decided to stop using and reading Twitter.
- I drastically reduced my gluten intake. I wouldn’t say I’m gluten-free, but I’m probably consuming 80% less than before and I can absolutely feel the difference. I’m convinced that the increase in gluten intolerances and auto-immune disorders is connected to the changing nature of wheat grown in increasingly toxic soil. Call me paranoid, that’s fine.
- Continuing with stuff sure to raise an eyebrow, I revamped my supplement intake. It’s an investment, but as I remember Michael Pollan writing at some point, “infirmity is more expensive than wellness.” I take more than a dozen supplements a day — vitamins, minerals, probiotic — despite maintaining a “healthy and balanced” diet because I am convinced that edible plants — even the organic ones grown by a farm nearby whose CSA we support — are grown in depleted soil.
- I decided to sink a lot of time and work into organizing our home office. It was worth it. Whatever work it takes to optimize your home always is.
OK, that’s it for “bests.” I have a strong feeling that I’ve left out something obvious that will drive me to edit this post several times later.
Making art is an important activity in our household. Anytime I spend making things — and especially with the kiddos — is going to be a highlight of the year.
Here are some of the pieces I made this year that I think turned out best.
These are relatively small (5.5”x8.5”) paper collages with hundreds of increasingly small pieces of brightly-colored cardstock. I love how the depth of them is visible by the shadows cast along the edges of the layers.
I set a goal for myself at the end of 2022 to read more in the next year. I’d had that aspiration before — especially to get back to the ability to focus on longer, more complex ideas and not be so easily distracted by shorter, simpler
So, as an experiment, I put away my e-reader and read only physical, printed books in 2023. Since I mostly read before going to sleep at night, I usually get only about 30 minutes in before dozing off. That makes for slow going in getting through an entire book. And yet somehow, the number of books I read this year increased dramatically from previous years. All I changed was the medium. I thought about this — my theory is that I probably just ended up reading more nights than I had in previous years. Even if I’d only read for 30 minutes half of the evenings of the year, that would add up to over 90 hours of reading. That should be good for the brain!
The goal, of course, wasn’t really about assembling an impressive number of books, but about being a more active and focused reader. I think I achieved that. I have a large stack of things to read in 2024, so I hope I’ve made a habit that sticks.
My Top Five Books of 2023
These aren’t my highest-rated books, but they are ones I’m still thinking about because they’ve challenged me in a meaningful and unexpected way.
- Otherwhere, by Kurt Leland
- Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination, and Life Beyond Death by Robert Moss
- Ecology of Souls: A New Mythology of Death & the Paranormal Vol. 1 & 2, by Joshua Cutchin
- The Future by Naomi Alderman
- Charlie: Trance Communications & Spirit Teachings by Christine Di Nucci and Jack Hunter
Below are all the books I read in 2023.
|The Future by Naomi Alderman is, more than a science fiction novel, an indictment of the culture of Silicon Valley, and a prescription for its opposite to save the world.
|The Extratempestrial Model by Michael P. Masters presents an interesting theory of UFOs as time machines and their inhabitants humans from the distant future. He retraces several well-known encounters to make his case.
|Encounters: Experiences with Nonhuman Intelligences by D.W. Pasulka — An OK entryway for the uninitiated in the UFO phenomenon and its spiritual elements; lacking in a coherent through-line.
|Dreaming Ahead of Time: Experiences with Precognitive Dreams, Synchronicity and Coincidence by Gary Lachman is a rich memoir of dreaming that uses its anecdotes to ask more questions than can be answered, at least on this side of the veil.
|Grey Aliens and the Harvesting of Souls: The Conspiracy to Genetically Tamper with Humanity by Nigel Kerner is an astonishingly incoherent assembly of text that is only about what it says it is about 5% of the time.
|Otherwhere by Kurt Leland carries the mantle of Robert Monroe forward, continuing to explore the confoundingly subjective astral realm and understand its many dimensions.
|R. Buckminster Fuller: Pattern-Thinking by Daniel López-Pérez — Reviews the life and work of Buckminster Fuller to emphasize his consistent interest in conceptual models.
|Beyond the Occult by Colin Wilson — a classic covering various occult ideas and phenomena.
|Other Civilizations — Journey to Another Star System by Rene Erik Olsen is his first-person account of having participated in a 6-month, 500-person “study abroad” program aboard an extraterrestrial starship and on a distant world.
|A New Science of the Afterlife by Daniel Drasin — a brief introduction and survey of evidence for the afterlife. There are much better versions of this.
|The Omega Project by Kenneth Ring is a fascinating study of the connection between the near death experience and UFO encounters.
|Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle is a fun time-travel murder mystery; ideal for beach reading.
|Reincarnation: A New Horizon in Science, Religion, and Society by S.L.Cranston and Carey Williams is a survey of the topic of reincarnation, covering both the cultural and comparative-religion aspects of the topic as well as several case histories.
|Charlie: Trance Communications & Spirit Teachings by Christine Di Nucci and Jack Hunter — covers the channeled communications of a spirit known as “Charlie” recorded during a series of seances at the Bristol Spirit Lodge.
|Encounters with the Past: How Man Can Experience and Relive History by Peter Moss and Joe Keeton — a survey of regression hypnosis, accompanied by some audio recordings of hypnosis sessions.
|Timeless by Bruce Solheim — a memoir of paranormal experiences that don’t amount to much at all.
|Tracing Shamans in Siberia by Vilmos Diószegi is very much of its time — a colonial perspective of foreign ways of life — but also a very detailed and accurate travel-log and ethnography of shamanistic culture in Siberia.
|Cosmic Consciousness of Humanity: Problems of New Cosmogony by V.P. Kaznacheev and A.V. Trofimov was very difficult to follow but as far as I can tell is about how the universe is a mind.
|The Afterlife Unveiled by Stafford Betty is a spiritualist overview of life and what comes afterward.
|Other Lives, Other Selves: A Jungian Psychotherapist Discovers Past Lives by Roger Woolger — a Jungian psychologist’s view on the experience, purpose, and mechanism of reincarnation.
|Design as Art by Bruno Munari — a reread of this wonderful group of essays.
|Time Travelers from Our Future by Bruce Goldberg — recounts the author’s self-hypnosis sessions in order to demonstrate that we can access the future mentally, and how future humans return to the past regularly. Fool me twice.
|Past Lives, Future Lives Revealed by Bruce Goldberg — on hypnotic future progression. I’m not a scoffer, but there are better versions of this. Fool me once.
|Confrontations by Jacques Vallee — the second in a trilogy on alien contact; Vallee looks at 40 cases he feels have not been given the attention they deserve.
|Offline Matters: The Less-Digital Guide to Creative Work by Jess Henderson is a lovely little book about being creative in the digital age while maintaining a disciplined distance from digital technology.
|Psychiatry and the Spirit World by Alan Sanderson is an overview of parapsychological topics — such as hypnotic spirit release therapy, out of body experiences, near-death experiences, mediumship, clairvoyance, and so on — ostensibly to provide entry for the skeptical but lacks detail and rigor to give them anything to merit further study.
|Into the Fringe by Karla Turner is a first-person account of UFO abductions in her family.
|Deep Weird: The Varieties of High Strangeness Experience edited by Jack Hunter — a collection with less variety than the strange has to offer and less depth than anyone primed to read this would expect.
|Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Müller-Brockmann is a must-read-and-re-read for any graphic designer.
|Ecology of Souls: A New Mythology of Death & the Paranormal, Vol. 2
|Ecology of Souls: A New Mythology of Death & the Paranormal, Vol. 1
|They Rode in Space Ships
|Dreamgates: Exploring the Worlds of Soul, Imagination, and Life Beyond Death by Robert Moss
- I kept up with my fitness this year and hit some new goals.
- A very important client referred to the identity I created for them as “the best piece of business artwork I’ve seen in my career” and now I want to change my official title to “Business Artist.”
- My good friends Michael and Sheila published a book this year, Information Design Unbound. It is a truly excellent work and if you have even a passing interest in the subject, it is worth your time and money. This is a good place to wrap up because it is more important to celebrate the successes of others than those of your own.
- My family – my partner, children, siblings, parents, and extended all over — impressed me in many ways this year. It’s so easy to overlook the treasures that surround us, especially so when they are buried in the people we’ve known our entire lives. But I see my family growing and changing, encountering challenges and enduring them, earnestly pursuing the best versions of themselves in so many ways, and that is something I want to always recognize and celebrate. I’m grateful for everyone in my life. Always look for the good in others.
Finally, the End
It was a good year. I learned a lot. How was yours? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me some of your bests. I’d love to hear from you.