Year in review
2023 flew by in a flash. Now that I get some relative peace and quiet… Here’s a quick, not comprehensive recollection of what I was up to this year.
I wrote a book!
It’s my first time writing a full book, Machine Learning Interviews, and it’s published by O’Reilly which has a bunch of amazing reference books and textbooks that I myself learned from in the past. My manuscript had 87,722 words according to Google Docs, but after some editing and proofreading rounds, the exact number might have slightly changed. It took me almost one year exactly from my first words to the printer. It takes a village: there were multiple editors from the publisher side, as well as technical reviewers, and folks that reviewed select chapters (all of which are in the acknowledgements; thank you all).
Overall, I was pretty much exactly on schedule. This was possible because of 1) writing over the years on my blog, so I know how to deal with writer’s block and 2) the story scripts for the video games I’ve released were 70k and 80k words respectively; hardly my first time writing bodies of text in this length.
Overall I’m pretty proud of myself! I barely crunched, and for writing, I’d usually only write up to 2 hours per day, maximum 4 hours a day even when I’m close to the deadline. Slow and steady was my strategy to avoid burning, and to preserve energy for my day job.
I traveled to new places and revisited familiar ones.
I went to Berlin (keynote speaker for PyCon DE & PyData Berlin), and explored the rich history there. I went to the US twice: to Orlando and the Bay Area (compared to the past, I stopped going downtown and mostly enjoyed the nature areas thanks to my friend who drives!) I also went to Taiwan for a few weeks to mourn the passing of a close family member with the rest of my family. Those are weeks I will cherish for the rest of my life, and brought me great closure. Apart from cousins, aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen in a while, I also got the chance to catch up with high school and junior high (middle school) friends. I’ve been based in Canada for a long time, but I actually lived in Taiwan for just over a decade!
Game development went on, but without me
Due to prioritizing full time work and the book, I just let the studio’s project managers manage more of the proceedings. On a weekly basis, I spent at most 1-2 hours a week, on some weeks no time at all. This is possible due to established processes and good hires. The studio launched a Kickstarter (which didn’t succeed unfortunately), published a game, and also developed a short game jam (hackathon) game in a month. We had a co-op student who created and released her very own game. A proud moment: “Quill Studios was the perfect placement for me. They equipped me with all the skills I needed to tackle my future aspirations in game design. I’m so thankful to have been able to contribute to their upcoming project and in turn, have a platform to create my own game.”
To not bore people on my personal blog with work, I’ll just briefly touch on some interesting things: used LLMs for a few projects and wrote about one here, here and was featured here. I also got great performance reviews and raise/refresher for my performance.
What the heck is balance?
Apart from the lofty goal of writing a book, I also had goals to spend a certain amount of time with family, my partner, and friends. I’m glad to say that I achieved all of those: seeing friends and family at least once a week consistently, oftentimes more.
I’m not so sure if what I’ve been doing is truly some sort of balance, but rather I kept it as simple as possible (KISS). Apart from earlier arrangements (such as keynote opportunities that were booked months in advance), say no to basically all non-work, professional things apart from the book.
Say yes to social events, but with a rough max upper limit of 3 a week. My friends have plenty of hangouts, so setting a lower minimum wasn’t a problem. Seeing parents frequently has also worked well; I mentally set aside one day of the weekend for them (if I don’t use that day, then it’s an extra day for me).
Note that these are all loose heuristics; if there is something important that happens to happen in the same week, I can make it work. For example, many of my friends’ birthdays are in November, so I went out more than usual. It’s more just that if I said no or yes to everything, then I might end up going out too much or too little, so setting a simple-as-possible bound worked great.
- Divinity: Original Sin 2 (100 ish hours)*
- Stardew Valley (80 hours)*
- Far Cry 5*
- Watch Dogs 2
- Watch Dogs
Other games I completed (non-exhaustive): Watch Dogs: Legion, Far Cry: New Dawn, Euro Truck Simulator (ongoing), Forspoken, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, etc.
* noted games were played with my partner.
Top artists listened to on Spotify:
- Kylie Minogue
Thanks for reading, and I hope you had a great year too. Also, wishing the best for your 2024!