For many years (2004–2020), I made time each January to post highlights of the prior year. It was a nice habit, and although I mostly did it for myself, I really enjoy reading yearly recaps from others, so maybe some of you do, too.
I lost the habit during the pandemic, but I’m going to pick it back up again. (I did write a catchup post that captures some of what I missed.) I’m also going to use this opportunity to call these recaps rather than highlights, partly to remove the positivity bias. While 2023 did have some highlights, it was a tough year.
Quite by accident, I’m posting this exactly 40 years after the original Macintosh was released. We had one at Webb, and along with the C64, it captured my imagination and contributed heavily to my lifelong passion for computers. Much has changed in the last 40 years, but I’m still using a Mac.
We went to Meow Wolf Convergence Station, which is a little hard to describe. Meow Wolf is like an art gallery, but instead of walking around looking at art, it’s an immersive experience where you’re in it. The kids loved it, and so did I.
We went skiing in Keystone, which boasts the world’s largest snow fort. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be my last time skiing for a while. I haven’t been since.
Although it’s not something I would normally recall, it was around this time that the last two years of playing soccer again started to pay off. It took longer than I expected, but I finally felt like I had my speed, strength, and stamina back. For a brief moment, I felt like my old self. Some of the weekend pickup games were especially fun.
The month ended with some truly heartbreaking news that I decided not to write about.
February began with a memorial service, and Matter, the neuroscience company I co-founded, felt more important than ever. I really poured my heart into it, because I wanted to make a difference.
I found myself stretched too thin, and this continued throughout the rest of the year. Most days consisted of back-to-back meetings all day. My schedule was like a crowded parking lot, with cars circling around ready to snatch any space that opened up. I was trying to do too much. Despite what LinkedIn hustlers might tell you, this is not how you do your best work.
To make time to prepare for my whole team coming to Boulder for a week, I skipped out on a weekend trip to Snow Mountain Ranch with my family. This turned out to be a big mistake.
I played pickup soccer that weekend. For many reasons, I felt like I really needed it. Unfortunately, about an hour in, disaster struck. I got hit from behind when I wasn’t expecting contact, and I hurt my left knee. There’s never a good time pick up an injury, but this was the worst. I went home and iced it. When I woke up the next day, it was clear it was serious.
My injury dominated every moment the week my team was in town. I was swollen and broken and unhappy. It was meant to be a week for us to connect, reflect, and grow as a team, but it wasn’t for me.
I made an appointment with a PT who performed a Lachman test and gave me the worst news: my ACL was completely torn. An MRI later confirmed it and added a bucket handle meniscus tear to my list of woes.
Around this time, Christina volunteered me for a few school things, which was probably something I didn’t appreciate in the moment, but it was good for me. I designed the program for the lip sync show and learned GarageBand well enough to mix some music for it. (I learned iMovie the year before to create the 5th grade slideshow.) I was doing some really good work (if I say so myself) and picking up some new skills along the way.
Christina and I went to Buena Vista to see Brett Dennen. We stayed in an Airbnb that was a short walk from the venue. The show was really great, although standing for hours was not ideal with my swollen knee.
I had knee surgery. It was a trifecta: they repaired my meniscus, harvested my quad (for a new ACL), and replaced my ACL. I had to wear a locking brace, so I couldn’t bend my knee, and I wasn’t allowed to put any weight on my operative leg for 6 weeks. Everything hurt, and I was bedridden.
Four days later, SVB collapsed. All of Matter’s money was there. Most commentary conflated depositors with investors, acting like anyone who banked there deserved to lose their money. It was all very upsetting. After a nail-biting weekend, news came on Monday that depositors would be protected. Disaster averted.
Almost a year after ordering it, my new bike finally arrived. In most ways, it was an upgrade from my Urban Arrow. It would be three months before I could ride it.
We held a pinewood derby workshop at our house. We have a lot of useful tools and knowledge to help kids make their cars fast. Sadly, I was unable to help or even go outside to watch. It did give Killian a chance to step up and help, which he did.
As part of our Christmas gift to the kids, we booked a family trip to Brooklyn for spring break. Except I couldn’t go. Thankfully, Christina’s sister Rose was able to take my place, and they all had a good time. The trip coincided with Kinference, a conference put together by Cameron Koczon. (For those who don’t know, we created Brooklyn Beta together.) Christina dropped by the conference a couple of times and texted me a steady stream of photos with friends, which was really lovely.
We celebrated Christina’s birthday at Southern Sun. It was 6 weeks after my surgery and my first time leaving the house. My brace was set to allow up to 60 degrees of flexion by this point, which I could just about manage, but sitting was pretty difficult.
Christina and the kids went to Vail for closing weekend. I remember hoping I’d be able to join them next time, since it would be several months before we went skiing again. Wishful thinking.
I began having severe, debilitating shoulder pain. It lasted for months, and I was up every night. Despite an MRI and numerous assessments, no one could figure it out.
We had birthday parties for the kids. I was still in a locking brace but able to walk without crutches, so I could participate.
Killian won the regional pinewood derby race, a particularly incredible feat considering he did all the work by himself. (It’s meant to be a collaboration with a parent.)
I started going to the kids’ soccer games again. I was amazed at how much they had progressed since I last saw them (last season). Killian scored a solo goal after receiving the ball in his own half that was particularly impressive.
Tears of the Kingdom was released, and the kids and I jumped right in. We had so much fun together, and it was all they talked about for a while.
On my birthday, Christina and the kids bought me coffee, hot sauce, and chocolate. It was pretty much the perfect gift.
We took a family trip to Snow Mountain Ranch and stayed in a yurt. Each morning, we drove to Simple Coffee in Granby, which became a favorite ritual for the kids. I walked around quite a bit on uneven ground and ended up regretting it later.
I took the kids to Beautifica at Fiske Planetarium. It was interesting, but unworthy of the hype. I remember thinking we should go to the planetarium more.
Christina planned sleepaway camps for all three kids during the same week, so we had our first kid-free week together in over a decade. We rented a tiny cabin and had the best time. We did miss the kids, and they missed us, but it was a pretty wonderful week.
I bought a new car, the first new car I’ve ever owned. I knew I wanted our next car to be an EV, and with three kids (and a dog), there aren’t many options. It’s amazing and fits us perfectly.
The kids started watching Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous, which is the first show I can remember them all really enjoying. I enjoyed it, too, so it gave us something to watch as a family. (The kids don’t yet know that a sequel is coming this year.)
We saw the Indigo Girls at Chautauqua. Christina is really good about getting tickets to concerts, and this show came with a really nice surprise: Garrison Starr was the opener. I used to go to her shows when living and working in Memphis. She’s still great. We chatted for a bit after the show.
I had a first “daddy and me” planned with Tegan to see Avett Brothers at Red Rocks and stay overnight in a nearby hotel after. It didn’t go as planned. We saw the opener, then the show was delayed for lightning for quite a long time. After the second delay, it was already late, so we headed to the car. I think she still enjoyed the trip, but she was a little disappointed. We stopped for lunch in Golden on the way back.
We took a family trip to Manitou Springs, where we stayed in a tiny home. We toured the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, played at the Manitou Springs Penny Arcade, went to the Dinosaur Resource Center, and visited Garden of the Gods on our way back home.
Christina and I saw Tori Amos at Red Rocks. We sat with friends in the general admission section instead of our (closer) seats, which made it better.
The Women’s World Cup began. (It was disorienting to think that 2019 was four years ago.) I don’t know why, but it wasn’t as fun as last time. Maybe it was me, or watching in the middle of the night, or waning superstars. The US loss to Sweden was pretty exciting to watch, even if it ended in disappointment. For those who missed it, the match went to penalties, and the goal that sent the US home was initially saved by Naeher, but the ball rebounded off of her gloves and was spinning back toward the goal, and she had to save it again off the goal line. Goal-line technology confirmed that the ball was over the line, which I believe is true, but I can’t see any space between the ball and the line. Naeher says she will go to her grave claiming she saved it.
I took the kids to the cinema to see Elemental. We biked to Cinebarre in Louisville, which has extra luxurious seats and servers who bring you food and drinks. It’s a splurge, but the kids had such a great time. Biking there made it an adventure. To continue the fun, we walked across the pedestrian bridge after and went to Chuck E. Cheese.
Later that night, Christina and I saw Ira Glass at Chautauqua. It was the first time I had seen Ira since he spoke at Brooklyn Beta (and made a balloon animal for Tegan).
Tegan had a Girl Scout camp at Tomahawak Ranch, and I took the other kids with me to pick her up. We stopped at Crossroads Pub and Grill on the way back.
I took the kids to Cirque du Soleil, which was incredible. Their shows are always so impressive.
We watched in horror as Lahaina burned. We have so many good memories there, and many of the places we loved were burned to the ground.
On August 11, I ran on a treadmill. It wasn’t pretty, or fast, or for very long, but it felt like a massive triumph nonetheless.
The kids started 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades. Killian and Riley walk across the street, and Tegan has a 20-minute bike ride. I’m able to join her for about half of the ride, since it’s on my way to Roost.
Christina and I went to see Swell Season at Levitt Pavilion. It was great. The last time I saw Markéta and Glen together was many years earlier at Radio City Music Hall, shortly after the success of the film Once.
I took a quick trip to NYC for meetings with TLGG and met some new people, including the grandson of Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
Christina ran the Grand Traverse, a race through the mountains from Crested Butte to Aspen.
Rose and her wife Jenna visited to see Sylvan Esso at Red Rocks with us. We took a day trip to Nederland while they were here. The kids love the Carousel of Happiness, Train Cars Cafe, and Crosscut (the best pizza in Colorado).
I went to Brooklyn for a week with my team at Matter. The standout memory for me was finally seeing Sleep No More, and then staying out late at Don’t Tell Mama, a super fun piano bar we used to frequent back when we lived in Manhattan.One of the team-building activities was a puzzle race called Great Gotham Challenge that reminded me of Midnight Madness.
On the last morning, I met up with Kelli to talk through some fun stuff we were working on together. It was raining hard, and I was soaked by the time I got there, despite it only being a few blocks away. While we were busy chatting, I was unaware that it was flooding all around us. By the time I hopped in a cab to head to the airport, getting there was impossible due to all the road closures, and my flight was cancelled. (Even one of the terminals in LaGuardia flooded.) Of course, with so many flights being cancelled, finding another one was really difficult. I did manage to make it home that night, but missed seeing Tig Notaro with Christina as planned.
Oliver came to town for a book tour, so we met up for coffee prior. We chatted about the years since I moved to Boulder and a bit about his new book. He had to leave for the venue quite early, so I decided to eat lunch and meet him there later. While I was eating lunch, he texted to say he had lost his Apple Pencil and needed it for his talk. Thus began a fun but frantic adventure that involved racing to the Apple Store to buy a new one, then racing to the venue in time for his talk. I was 10 minutes late in the end, but it all worked out. And his talk was great.
I had another quick trip to NYC. The night I arrived, I took the train to Prospect Heights and had dinner at Chuko, my favorite ramen place. While there, I heard someone behind me say, “Chris?” It was Lazar, a friend I used to play soccer with every Saturday in Prospect Park.
One night while I was in my hotel room helping Tegan with her math, I mentioned that I couldn’t hear her very well, so she held her mic closer to her mouth and asked if that was better. I laughed so hard, because it was a tiny handheld mic. I took a screenshot for posterity.
The solar eclipse coincided with one of Killian's soccer games, so we arrived early and had plenty of glasses to share. The kids especially loved how shadows were crescent-shaped. It reminded me of the Veritasium video about shadows.
Tegan took a school trip to Canyonlands that she had been planning and looking forward to all year.
The kids were really into Halloween, as always, and they especially loved Halloween mode on the Rivian.
I had an electrodiagnostic and nerve conduction study performed on my shoulder and surrounding areas to try to determine the underlying issue of my prior shoulder pain and continued weakness. The doctor determined that I have nerve damage that will heal on its own in a year or so. He said it was caused by something attacking my nervous system, which also explains why the pain was so severe.
Christina and I saw Patty Griffin at Boulder Theater. I hadn’t seen her since she played at the Gibson Showcase (RIP) in Memphis. Her voice isn’t quite as strong as it used to be (she could really raise the roof), but it was a great show.
Christina had lunch with Gabby Giffords at Walnut Cafe, one of our favorite local spots. (I still need to watch her documentary).
I met up with a group of SoBo dads for beers at Under the Sun, starting a new tradition.
We watched Tegan perform in her school play, 67 Cinderellas. She played one of the Cinderellas.
We hiked up to Royal Arch. This was the most challenging hike since my knee surgery. Going up was easy, but coming down wasn’t. I needed the challenge.
I made broccoli casserole for Thanksgiving. It was a favorite of mine growing up. I predict I’ll be checking this post for the recipe later this year.
I took the kids to Macky Auditorium to see the Nutcracker.
Chris Merritt visited Boulder for a Faculty summit to plan for 2024 and beyond.
We launched a public beta for the Matter app, and I blogged about co-founding a neuroscience company and returning focus back to Faculty (and Roost).
Following in his older sister’s footsteps, Killian is on his school’s Battle of the Books team. (Tegan won the regional competition last year.) I almost fell out of my chair when I saw him reading Jack Cheng’s book, See You in the Cosmos. (Many of you probably know Jack, but you might not know he wrote this amazing, award-winning book.)
I led one of Killian's scout meetings to teach some knots. The knots I taught were prescribed except for a bonus one I included at the end, the Ian Knot. It is the best and coolest way to tie your shoes, and even the parents were eager to learn how to do it.
We had a holiday party at Roost, which was a lot of fun. Sticking with tradition, we held a white elephant gift exchange.
One of the fun local traditions is to climb to meet Santa at Neptune. Santa sits on a ledge at the top of a climbing wall, so kids line up and have to climb up to him. It’s a fun twist.
We sent the first Faculty newsletter since the pandemic, which included some really great links (the main reason to subscribe, in my opinion). Unfortunately, most people reported that the newsletter ended up in spam, so stay tuned for a blog post on SPF and DKIM.
We bought Super Mario Wonder and really enjoyed it. We beat it in Killian’s game first, then I played it through on my own. I decided to 100% it, and was rewarded with the Final-Final Test Badge Marathon, probably my favorite Mario level of all time and reminiscent of Super Mario Logic. If you have this game and haven’t yet played this level, you’re in for a treat.
The holiday break was spectacular. I took two weeks off and enjoyed every day. I took the kids to afternoon tea at Chautauqua Dining Hall, we toured Celestial Seasonings (and the kids got really into having tea every night), we ate at the Spaghetti Factory, and we went to the cinema to see Wonka. We played at home, had movie nights (and watched Klaus, one of our favorites), and generally had fun every day.
2023 was a tough year, but it ended on a positive note. I’m hopeful about 2024 and can feel my energy and enthusiasm returning.
Happy New Year to you. Let’s make it a good one.