Some Wonderful Things from 2023

view of the green rolling hills of Vermont under a mostly sunny sky

As the bulk of 2023 recedes from memory, I wanted to share some of the things from my media diet posts that stood out for me last year. Enjoy.

Succession. I did not think I would enjoy a show about extremely wealthy people acting poorly, but the writing and acting were so fantastic that I could not resist.

25 years of kottke.org. Very proud of what I’ve accomplished here and also genuinely humbled by how many people have made this little site a part of their lives.

Fleishman Is in Trouble. Uncomfortably true to life at times.

Antidepressants + therapy. I was in a bad way last spring and it is not too strong to say that finding the right antidepressant and arriving at some personal truths in therapy changed my life.

The Bear (season two). I don’t always love it (especially when the intensity ramps up) but there’s definitely something special about this show.

Barr Hill Gin & Tonic. The best canned cocktail I’ve had, by a mile.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Brutal and inspiring.

Crossword puzzles. A few times a week, a friend and I do the NY Times crossword puzzle together over FaceTime. It’s become one of my favorite things.

AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Am I ever going to shut up about these? Possibly not. The sound quality is better than the first-gen ones and the sound cancelling is just fantastic. I used these on several long flights recently and you basically can’t hear much of anything but your music.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Visually stunning.

The Kottke Hypertext Tee. Might be bad form to put your own merch on a list like this, but I’m just tickled that these exist. Putting an actual physical good out into the world that people connect with is somehow satisfying in a way that digital media is not.

ChatGPT. This very quickly became an indispensable part of my work process.

Downhill mountain biking. I did this a couple years ago and it didn’t click for me. But my son and I went last summer and I loved it…it’s one my favorite things I did all year. Gonna try and get out more in 2024!

Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. Probably the best TV thing I watched last year. Listening to survivors of The Troubles talking about their experiences was unbelievably compelling.

Au Kouign-Amann. One of my all-time favorite pastries. Looks like a boring cake, tastes like magic.

Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson. An extremely clear-eyed explanation of how Trumpism fits in with the Republicans’ decades-long project of weakening American democracy.

The Creator. I liked this original sci-fi a lot — more stuff that’s not Star Wars and Marvel pls.

Northern Thailand Walk and Talk. I will write this up soon, but this was one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

BLTs. I could not get enough of this simple sandwich at the end of last summer — I was eating like 4-5 a week. When the tomatoes are good, there’s nothing like a BLT.

The little hearts my daughter put on the backs of the envelopes containing her letters from camp. Self explanatory, no notes.

The smoked beef sandwich at Snowdon Deli. The best smoked sandwich I’ve had in Montreal.

The Last of Us. A bit too video game-y in parts but overall great. A couple of the episodes were incredible.

Photo of a Vermont vista taken by me this summer while mountain biking.

Discussion  16 comments

Monica

thank you for sharing this list, Jason! I get bogged down so easily- it lifts my heart just a little to hear other folks' joys. a reminder to myself to take note of what makes me feel good. thanks.

Leon Barnard

I'm curious what you use ChatGPT for. How does it help you run/write kottke.org. Also, in general, I still see it as a solution looking for a problem; please tell me why I'm wrong. Thx.

Jasper Nighthawk

Seconding the question about ChatGPT. (I think you wrote about using it to help you code this reply tool, but I didn’t realize (if) you’d made it part of your writing world.) In my own writing I’ve definitely struggled to figure out a value-added role for the chatbots.

Caroline G.

Jason talked more about his thoughts on ChatGPT back in March 2023.

ChatGPT didn't write any of this, nor has it written anything else on kottke.org. I used it once while writing a post a few weeks ago, basically as a smart thesaurus to suggest adjectives related to a topic. I'll let you know if/when that changes — I expect it will not for quite some time, if ever.

Jason KottkeMOD

I don't use it at all for writing (just the smart thesaurus functionality) but I use it frequently for programming — it helped me code the AMA section and the comments feature (as well as a dozen other little projects).

The only possible thing I can think of using an LLM for when actually writing the site is for providing better alt text for images. And even then, it would be under heavy supervision.

Jason KottkeMOD

Matt Webb on AI at The Morning News:

I'm a midwit engineer and an amateur designer and it turns out (according to Ethan Mollick et al) that what AI is good for is taking left-side-of-the-bell-curve people and dragging them up to the norm. So now the dumb ideas in my head, I get to build.

This is it for me exactly. I have a ton of ideas on how to make this site better and now I'm building them at a pace that isn't completely glacial. And I'm having a great deal of fun doing it.

Jasper Nighthawk

Thank you so much for the explanation — now I’m feeling like I’ve been approaching them all wrong, and cautiously excited to put the LLMs towards more technical ends.

Reply in this thread

Dave P

That's a beautiful picture!

Moira Dawson

I'm all for more best-of lists including the occasional sandwich. (Thanks for sharing this list, Jason - very kind of you!)

John Campbell

the little hearts!!! my second son did that years ago, little cut-out red crayon hearts he left all over the house for his dad, in the fridge, in the car, in his wallet - I have many in a box, kept one on my monitor for joy (he's 30 now, far away in L.A.)

Mary Wallace

I always like these lists and discover something new. Thanks for setting up the reply tool. I'm enjoying reading others' takes on your posts.

Paul Josey

upvoting this reply - who doesn't like a kottke list and still loving the comments here as well

Reply in this thread

Daniel Knapp

Was in Montreal in November, and discovered Kouing-Amann for the first time. The soft-buttery richness of the cake contrast so beautifully with the crisped caramel exterior.

Patrick Brown

Re: Barr Hill G&T, I'll have to find that near me. Have you tried the Finnish Long Drink? It's a canned gin cocktail and i absolutely love them. They have the regular and a few varieties. Check them out if you see them near you.

Meghan Lowe

Thank you for sharing! These lists and your media diets in general are one of my very favourite things.

Jan Wedekind

The episode "Forks" in Season 2 of "The Bear" moved me to tears. An episode entirely about a side character! It had so much heart, so much soul. You could see a very conflicted character going through a very personal and important journey and I felt so happy for him.

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