2023 - My year in review

2023 was a big year for me. There were challenges in every facet of my life, most of which I sought out. As per usual, some things I failed to give enough focus to (Django Cairn) and others flourished seemingly out of the blue (Djangonaut Space).

This post is largely for future Tim, so don’t feel obligated to read it.



This year marked 12 years of Emily and I being together (6 of those we were married). It’s wild to think that we’ve crossed the mark that we will have been married for the majority of the time that we’ve been together. Emily continues to be the driving force behind my improvements as a human. It’s reassuring to have a person in your corner at all times. She also seems to know exactly when I need to take a break or when we should have a weekend off.

Emily and I in a forest outside of Seattle Emily and I in a forest outside of Seattle

This year we also faced our first significant possibility of moving out of Champaign-Urbana. Granted, it only lasted for five hours. We looked up the demographics and geography of Hanover New Hampshire and quickly realized we would be much less happy there. But that possibility is one of the reasons why I cherish this relationship. She brings a measure of dynamism into the relationship that I wouldn’t have otherwise. She balances my over-cautiousness with fearlessness.


Last year was a challenge and this one even more so. I remain optimistic that things will improve for the better in the long-run, but it’ll be a painful journey. I do worry about whether there’s enough time for things to be resolved.

My brother Steve and I standing above a trail in Colorado My brother Steve and I standing above a trail in Colorado


This category feels like a mixed bag to me. The friendships that I’ve developed and found ways to maintain remotely have flourished. The friendships that solely rely on face-to-face interactions have drifted significantly. Logically, one thing to try would be to shift my face-to-face interactions to have more remote characteristics. However, every person only has so much time and this is an area that I neglected this year in favor of other areas of my life.

Beef and Roland

My phone is literally filled with these two creatures. They are extremely interesting to me. Their personalities and tendencies are so entertaining. I do wish they would leave the breakables alone and avoid pooping on the wall, but hey, you can’t win them all.

Roland letting me know he's hungry Roland letting me know he’s hungry Beef atop my shoulder (1/6) Beef atop my shoulder (1/6) Beef atop my shoulder (2/6) Beef atop my shoulder (2/6) Beef atop my shoulder (3/6) Beef atop my shoulder (3/6) Beef atop my shoulder (4/6) Beef atop my shoulder (4/6) Beef atop my shoulder (5/6) Beef atop my shoulder (5/6) Beef atop my shoulder (6/6) Beef atop my shoulder (6/6)


This was a good year for travel. It started off with a cruise to the caribbean. We made ports in the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic. It was an interesting experience, but it was very hard to turn my brain off to simply relax. I could see myself going on another in the future, but I doubt it will become a regular vacation habit of mine.

A photo of two cruise ships at a dock A photo of two cruise ships at a dock A photo me on a beach in the Bahamas with with our ship in the background A photo me on a beach in the Bahamas with with our ship in the background

Emily and I visited friends in Seattle early this year. The nature surrounding the city is fantanstic and something that would draw me back in the future. I enjoyed taking the train into Seattle, the numerous small coffeeshops and plethora of breweries. Our friends have since moved to Colorado, so it’s unlikely we’ll be going back to Seattle in the near future so I’m glad we got it done when we could.

A photo of the area we were hiking outside Seattle A photo of the area we were hiking outside Seattle

We also visited our friends in Louisville this year. Given they are only a four hour drive away from us, it’s something we do at least once a year. This time we finally toured the Churchill Downs grounds. I found it entertaining, while ignoring the underlying problems of horse-racing and gambling.

A photo of the racetrack at Churchill Downs in bad weather A photo of the racetrack at Churchill Downs in bad weather

I made a trip out to visit my brother who moved to Colorado. That was a lot of fun. He’s on his own, going back to school and creating a life he truly enjoys. I’m very proud of him and look forward to visiting him again this upcoming year.

A photo of the area we were hiking in Colorado A photo of the area we were hiking in Colorado

While it wasn’t a vacation, I did travel to Durham, NC for DjangoCon US. I really enjoyed the city. It was extremely walkable downtown. Peter Grandstaff took me to this amazing cocktail bar that was tucked out of the way on the last day, which was probably a good thing. I had way too much fun there to have it available the entire week.

Then rather than coming home after Durham, I flew into Michigan to spend the weekend with friends at a lake house on Lake Michigan. That was a good way to decompress from the conference and process the week. One friend brought their kids along who were 1, 4 and 8. They were all extremely well-behaved, entertaining and extremely energetic. That was a different experience for me since Emily and I have no plans to have children of our own. Considering half of our friends have kids or are planning to, this is likely to become more normal for us.

Finally, my favorite vacation of the year was Emily’s and my trip to Atlanta. I hadn’t done a ton of research on the city ahead of time, so that’s probably why I was so amazed by the city. I loved the demographics of the city and the feel of it. I thoroughly enjoyed our time there between the various museums, attractions, breweries and restaurants. I could easily see myself living in the city, but I’d struggle with the state.

Emily and I taking a selfie in Atlanta Emily and I taking a selfie in Atlanta


I consider myself extremely lucky with our house situation. We live in a small house in a very cheap city1 and refinanced at the perfect time during COVID. However, it’s an old home and we’re slowly having parts renovated. This year the large project was replacing all the windows. To say it didn’t go well is an understatement. We signed a contract in May 2023. Hopefully it’ll be complete before 2024 arrives. If that happens, I will be content.

This year I made a second attempt at my grow column in the basement. It turned out much better than last year considering I ended up with ~25 usable plants compared to 2 from the year before. This year I plan on starting in early February or January.

The grow column in action! The grow column in action!


It was a good year health wise for the most part. I developed a weird disorder (Patulous Eustachian Tube syndrome) with my one of my ears. The difficulty is that I’ll have autophony for minutes or hours. When it’s bad, it makes it difficult to talk with others. I can’t hear anything over the sound of my breathing or voice. Thankfully there are no other risks to having it and there’s a long-term treatment. It still crops up every day, but rather than sticking around for three hours, it’ll only be 10 minutes.


I have been tracking my mood among other things via the Daylio app. Looking at the trend, it’s been slowly declining which is a bit concerning. I realized recently that I’m paying $99 per year for this app. I had thought it was only a one-time payment. Since this next year’s payment has already been made, my plan is to be more diligent about recording my mood twice a day.

A screenshot of my daylio review, apparently I'm an anxious person A screenshot of my daylio review, apparently I’m an anxious person

While perhaps not strict self-improvement, I did try a new hair-style this year. I’m pretty happy with it. So that’s an improvement!

I also started seeing a therapist to help me work through various challenges. I was able to see improvements and found it very helpful. With some family challenges, I’ve found myself leaning on these sessions to avoid overwhelming my wife.


This year I really relaxed on my local community involvements. I was trying to help with the race relations subcommittee in Champaign-Urbana, but I found it wasn’t what I was looking for. I felt like I invested a lot of time and energy for very little output at the end. To compensate for that reduction, I had applied to be a volunteer at the Urbana Neighborhood Community Center. My plan was to be a tutor for the youth in my community, but the logistics of it didn’t work out.



This year I was added to the Django Events Foundation North America and was elected to the position of Secretary. It’s been a challenge for me. Everything in this role is new to me, but thankfully the rest of the board is very supportive.

I have some ideas for what DEFNA can do to improve the Django community in 2024. The main idea is hosting virtual meetups around past DjangoCon US content. As all good ideas go, I already have the name picked out. Django Contrafact2.

DjangoCon US

This year I was on the organizing committee for DjangoCon US. It was hosted in Durham and I was the Online Chair, COVID-19 Co-Chair, and helped with the volunteer, website and program teams. I was particularly proud of the on-boarding guide I wrote for other organizers to help them get situated. Though looking back at my involvement, I was probably doing too much. I was very overwhelmed the first two days I was in Durham all because of my own decisions. It was a good lesson in knowing when to raise my hand to ask for help. There were a number of things I wish I could have done differently, but ultimately I think things went well.

A photo of myself and friends after DjangoCon US 2023 A photo of myself and friends after DjangoCon US 2023

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference again. Given the additional stresses of organizing last year was clearly more enjoyable, but this year was more productive. I was able to further relationships I had created at the previous DjangoCon US and relationships that are primarily virtual.

Plus! I got to see my AspirEDU teammate Nishant, most of my fellow DEFNA board members, and my Djangonaut Space co-organizers Dawn and Rachell!

Django Debug Toolbar

I enjoy maintaining this library with Matthias. I went through spurts of motivation and time to implement chunks of the async compatibility project, but that is still a ways off. The feature I’m most proud of delivering this year was a Django check for the MIME types issue.

My hope for this is that we’ll finally land the async work. The toolbar is one of the pilot third party projects for Djangonaut Space’s 2024 Session 1 too, so I’m pretty hopeful!

Djangonaut Space

Alright. Djangonaut Space has been my favorite project I’ve been a part of this year. I’ve developed amazing friendships because of it and it’s been a great motivator for me to be a bigger participant in the Django community. I’m extremely excited to be a navigator for the first time in the upcoming session, and only moderately anxious about it.

Djangonaut Space is still new and somewhat amorphous; my goal is to help it become self-sustaining and get it to fly-wheel status. I’m not sure it’ll get there in 2024, but I know we’ll be better off when 2025 rolls around.

My favorite photo from DjangoCon US this year. Dawn and Rachell went with goofy and I went with scared. My favorite photo from DjangoCon US this year. Dawn and Rachell went with goofy and I went with scared.

Django Discord server

In January of last year I agreed to become a moderator on the Django Discord server. It wasn’t an immediate acceptance. I was really worried about the extra responsibility of the role. It’s definitely been a challenge. The biggest change is knowing that when I log on and see someone being unruly, I can’t ignore it. Thankfully though the admins, other mods and staff are great! It’s definitely the most active server I frequent.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the changes that Tom has been making to make the server more personable. The changes to add a DSF role, a helper role, making the offtopic-chat the first channel and the addition of a specific life-family-pets channel have been great.

Underdog Devs

Early in the year I again participated in Project Underdog. After that session finished, I found myself without the availability to continue to volunteer at that program. I would volunteer again and definitely recommend folks to join the community and mentor others. I’m still in touch with most of my mentees and am thrilled to get their updates on their journeys.


Individual Contributor

I really enjoy coding. My favorite part of my work experience is still getting into the flow state and being able to fully solve a problem. This year I had fewer opportunities to do so because of various non-programming initiatives. While it was noticeable, I don’t think it impacted my mood / experience to a significant degree.

I’ve noticed I’m very comfortable with the Django stack and the Django ecosystem. In the last few weeks I found myself quickly dropping into various third-party packages to help contribute in small ways. While it feels easy to me, I know it’s still daunting to newcomers.

I’ve put in another year of semi-regular use of Python Morsels which I find to be the best place for me to learn more on a variety of python topics. I definitely recommend others give the service a go. It’s something you should use on a weekly basis, but you can always start and stop too. We do a weekly learning meeting and I’ll mix it up between books, talks and Python Morsels.


Being a manager is challenging! It’s rewarding, but it’s definitely a difficult thing to do. Attempting to do some management and contribute fully as an individual contributor is hard. This is probably a sign I need to be a bit more gracious with myself. One of the areas I’m looking to improve specifically is finding ways to solicit feedback from my reports.



I did not brew much at all this year. Since stepping down as president of the local brew club, I immediately stopped going to meetings. I still engage with the club via our Discord server, but it’s been months since I’ve attended a meeting.

In total this year I brewed three beers. I don’t really expect that number to change much next year either. I’m definitely recharging my batteries for this hobby.


My relationship with exercise is a step function. Either I’m doing it regularly (30-45 minutes, 4 times a week) or not at all. I’m trying to be better about being okay not exercising as a way to get myself to exercise the next day rather than stopping for a long period of time.

The exercise that I’ve found I enjoy reasonably is rucking. I’ll throw a 25# plate in my backpack, turn on an audiobook and walk around for a while. It’s a great way for me to get outside, move around and learn something!


I wasn’t going to put this on here, but considering I played Halo Infinite an inordinate amount of time I should probably include it here. I’ve gotten decent at the game considering my brother and I have been playing it the past few years. But sheesh, there are some folks who absolutely wipe the floor with me. I find the game a nice way to detach from the day and focus on something different.


This year I narrowed the scope of my gardening to fewer plants but dramatically increased the number of plants. We had 8 tomato plants (two in the ground, six in buckets), three varieties of hot peppers, some lettuce and spurious onions.

A few weeks into the growing season A few weeks into the growing season

This was towards the end of growing season when we were harvesting This was towards the end of growing season when we were harvesting

The grow column seemed to work much better this year. I plan to start that up again much sooner than last year. The plants I was planting in May were very small in comparison to those at the greenhouse. Maybe if I give them an extra month of growth indoors they’ll mature faster.

A photo of the various seedlings from the grow column A photo of the various seedlings from the grow column A harvest in August A harvest in August A harvest in September A harvest in September A harvest in October A harvest in October

I haven’t turned all of the hot pepper harvest into hot sauce quite yet. The first batch though was fantastic. My only wish was that there were more!

The first jar of hot sauce I fermented The first jar of hot sauce I fermented


It was a down year for reading. I spent a lot of time on various open source projects and it removed a lot of my time for reading. I was able to consume a decent amount of audiobooks though.

Here’s my short list of recommends from 2023:


I did really well writing this year. I only missed the months of May and September for having a post published. I had a few posts that I was extremely to publish:

Being a part of a co-writing group has been the biggest factor in my output this year. Matthias Kestenholz, Sarah Abderemane and I meet every other week for an hour. It’s a great way to be held accountable and be cheered on to do something enjoyable.

Welp that’s a wrap on 2023 folks! This year was full of new challenges, getting outside my comfort zone and generally trying to do more.

The nearby beach from my work retreat this summer The nearby beach from my work retreat this summer

  1. My South American friends told me that it’s only small by midwestern American standards. 900 sqft is large probably everywhere else. 

  2. Contrafact is a musical work based on prior work.