Joseph Naberhaus

2022 In Review

Written in January 2023

A close friend of mine showed me an excerpt from a "year in review" write up that he had started. I don't have any New Year traditions, so I'm going to start one now. Here is long, rambling summary of my last twelve months. I'm writing this for myself, but I'm posting it publicly to force myself to be more disciplined in my writing. Because of this, I'll end up leaving out anything too personal, but I'll do my best to paint the broad strokes.

Before jumping into details, I have something general to point out. Early in the year, I remember reflecting on my emotional health. The transition out of college had been difficult for multiple reasons. Thankfully, I was again starting to feel on solid footing. Even better, this trend continued for the rest of the year. There have, of course, been challenges and sadness, but on the whole this ended up being the most joyous year of my life.


I started the New Year in Michigan while visiting a friend. Because I had recently graduated, this was the first time that I had not gotten a winter break from school. Thankfully, I was still given quite a few days off of work by my employer. The trip was uneventful, but it was pleasant to pass the time with a close friend.

Soon after getting back to Iowa, I set off for another trip. This time visiting two different friends who were both on break from college. First, I drove north to my friend in Minneapolis. We mostly passed the time playing games and watching movies. They taught me a card game called Smear, which I later learned is similar to the game Pitch that my Dad played in his youth. From there, I cut through rural Minnesotan roads towards Orange City. A mutual friend and I spent a couple of nights at our friends place. It was our first time in Orange City, so we got a full tour of the area, which has a heavy Dutch influence. We spent one night in an outdoor hot tub, which was my first experience with that. It was really nice to be out in the cold, but kept warm in the water.

The remaining two weeks of January passed at home. Part of which I spent devouring through the The Three Body Problem and its sequel The Dark Forest. The first book had some especially interesting sci-fi concepts. The second I really enjoyed, but not as much as the first.


A river valley in Tettagouche state park where we were camping

The start of February was a winter camping trip in Northern Minnesota. I've already written some about this trip, so I won't say much more. This trip was full of memorable moments for the two of us. Throughout the rest of the year we would often remark fondly to it.

The week after that trip I went down to Kansas City with a friend. Primarily, we went there to visit the Imperial War Museum. I was deeply impressed by their presentation of the war. Especially the timeline that was printed on the inner wall of the circle-shaped museum. We also stopped at the Green Lady to enjoy some live jazz music. I enjoyed it enough to return there later in the year. For some reason, we decided to walk to the Imperial War Museum from our AirBnB. Which meant we ended up covering more than ten miles on foot that day. On the plus side, it meant we stumbled upon the grand opening of a Taco Bell Cantina, and got free tacos. That evening, we went to Death on the Nile, a Hercule Poirot movie. We are both big fans of the literary series, but were very disappointed with what we saw. Stick to the David Suchet adaption of this book for sure!

My birthday came soon after. This was my first since graduating, but I was still invited by some friends to celebrate the day in my old dorm room. It was a nice gesture by them and an enjoyable evening.

Later that month, I went back up north on a skiing trip. This was my first time skiing, and I didn't take to it at all. After persevering through the morning, I gave up and drove to a coffee shop where I started reading The Guns of August (which is the best book that I read all year). That afternoon was much more enjoyable for me.

Towards the end of the month I drove to Coralville to visit with my mother. She had been staying there for many weeks because my father was in the hospital. Around this time, he overcame the worst of his condition, and began recovery. It was many weeks later, still, before I was able to see him.


Some some ice caves that formed along lake superior

Early in May, I received my first passport. To celebrate this, my friend/coworker and I planned a spontaneous trip to Canada. Our destination was the Sault Ste. Marie office of our employer. We first spent a night in Milwaukee, where we toured the Sprecher's brewery (despite that fact that neither of us like beer), and walked around the downtown. The next day, we headed north and crossed the border into Canada. It was a relaxing week. We started most mornings reading a newspaper at the local Tim Hortons, and ended the days early, because there's not much to do in Canada in March.

On Thursday, we took the day off and started driving around Lake Superior. We cruised through the winter wonderland until we hit Thunder Bay on the other side. This journey was not without incident. At one point, we turned off the highway in an attempt to get to Lake Superior. We descended a slight hill, which turned out to be completely covered in ice below the snow. My poor Ford Fusion was unable to climb it on the way back up. We tried for an hour to get the car up the hill, but had to give up. There was no cell reception, and we were miles away from the nearest town, so we headed to the highway hoping to flag down a passing vehicle. Even better, there was a highway maintenance man right next to us. He was able to pull us out with a chain, and we were on our way! We even found a safe way down to Lake Superior in the end.

At work, we finished up the first major project that I had been involved with. I think this will always be the project I look back on most fondly.

Toward the end of the month, I took a train journey to Michigan to visit with my friend. The US train network is not impressive, but I'm fortunate enough to live an hour drive from one of the stops for the California Zephyr. This train took me to Chicago, where I made a connection for the Wolverine to Kalamazoo. I adore train travel. My favorite part is sitting in the observation car and people watching. Even now, months later, I remember many of the conversations that I overheard on that trip. You don't get that in a car.


Around the beginning of April, we started a new project at work. For the first few weeks we compared different ways to host our new backend service. After experimenting with Amazon Lambda, we ended up deciding that a kubernetes deployment was the best fit for us. Still, it was fun getting more deeply acquainted with AWS.

Over the course of two weekends, I built and painted some new shelves for my parents. Because I don't own a shop where I live, this was the only major woodworking project that I was able to do all year.

I also took one more trip to Michigan. My friend was about to move, so this was the last opportunity to visit him there. I will miss those weekends. The 7-hour drives were perfect for listening to audiobooks, and it was nice to get away from Iowa and spend some quality time with a friend.


Over the course of May I rewrote the build system for this website to support caching. Without this feature, it would take many minutes to build the entire website on my laptop (mainly because of the automatic image compression). I haven't gotten around to it yet, but I want to pull out a portion of this work into a standalone library. It could be used to create any sort of caching compiler that takes in files and creates outputs from them.

The other major event was a week long work conference/hackathon in Phoenix. It was fun getting away from the normal flow of things, and I enjoyed hacking on a side-project for the week. While Phoenix was a little warm for me, I still felt fairly pampered by the accommodations.


A large-mouth bass that I caught

At the very start of this month, I participated in an event called HackDSM. This is a charity focused hackathon, where nonprofits bring in technical challenges for the participants to solve. My group partnered with the Amanda the Panda outreach of EveryStep.

I also started picking up fishing this month. I'm devoid of talent in the sport, but it was still a pleasant way to pass the time. When with a friend, it's one of those activities that makes conversation flow more naturally. When by myself, it was perfect for listening to podcasts. Fishing also gives me something to look forward to in the summer, which is usually my least favorite time of the year.


Mid-month me and another friend visited a friend in Kansas City. That night, we went to the Green Lady jazz club that I mentioned earlier. The next day, we started by touring the NetSmart office where my friend was interning. In the afternoon we found some geocaches in the area. We then performed the time-tested tradition of standing in line for an hour for barbecue. It was good, but I resent standing in lines for any amount of time. That night, we went to a Royals game. My first major league game! It was fun, but I think I still prefer watching the Iowa Cubs at Principal Park.

At the end of the month, I went to Milwaukee again with a friend. This time, I wasn't just passing though. We started the day at one of those diners that every city has, and then we went to the Art museum. We also explored the area some, and were amazed by the quantity of street festivals. It made parking for dinner rather challenging.


A picture of Seattle from the top of the space needle

This month, my friend/coworker and I took a working trip to Seattle. We have a mutual friend that was working a co-op there. We left early in the morning on Wednesday, but we didn't fly straight there. Instead, we took advantage of a long layover in Denver to travel to the Denver office of our company. We worked a full day there, and then got back to the airport to fly to Seattle. This was a lot of fun, but I did arrive to my friends house completely exhausted.

The time in Seattle was a lot of fun. We worked during the afternoon, and then explored in the evening. The first evening we walked around the college that my friend lived near. The next day, we went to one of the Salmon Ladders, which fascinated me, and then watched the sunset from Gasworks park (I don't care what they say, Iowa sunsets are better). On Saturday, we drove to the Twin Falls, which was a beautiful hike, and went to a Dim Sum restaurant in China Town. I had never been forced to use chopsticks before, but I managed to not starve. On Sunday, we visited my friends church, canoed around Union Bay, and then toured the Architecture firm that my friend worked at and the Google office that his friend worked at. On Monday, my friend/coworker and I were working in a coffee shop downtown. After lunch, we discovered a ferry terminal next door, and, on an impulse, got on a boat to Bainbridge Island. We floated there, went to a coffee shop, and floated back all while working on our laptops. Finally, we ended that day by going to an Amazon Go (we tried our best to decieve the cameras, but they identified everything we took perfectly), ascending the Space Needle, and riding the monorail.

We ended the trip with the same long layover in Denver, and arrived back in Iowa completely exhausted. This whole trip was something special.


It was around this month that we finished up the new project that I mentioned earlier. Throughout this project, I had learned a lot about building backend systems that scale. We even wrote it in my favorite language, Go. While it's not as fond in my memory as my first project, this was still a really fun bit of work.

A picture of Chartwell

The latter portion of this month was dominated by a trip to the United Kingdom. I had been anticipating this trip for a year, and it didn't disappoint. Rather than cram my thoughts into this page, I will, instead, be devoting a full page to it.

When I returned, I found my team well on their way into a new project. Instead of joining them, I was placed on a few smaller projects that needed to be done. In the end, I did end up working on the tail-end of this project.


A view of Chicago from Willis Tower

At the start of this month I went with my friend/coworker to GopherCon in Chicago. Go is my favorite language, and I've wanted to go to this conferance for a couple of years. Thankfully, my company was willing to pay for us to go. The California Zephyr train took us to Chicago. That evening we went to the Willis Tower, and got delicious cookies at a bakery (which will remain nameless, but it has a funny name, is located next to one of my coworkers, and is an inside joke on my team). The next day we worked from the Chicago office of our company, and then checked into the conference.

I thought the conference was interesting. The first and most memorable talk was about the Go backwards compatibility promise. I also enjoyed several talks about WASM, and left convinced that this new technology is going to grow in importance over the next few years. On the negative side, I did tire of a repeated theme of people saying, "We rewrote a Python application in Go, and now it is faster". In my opinion, there is a little value in such comparisons. Plenty of companies have reached massive scales with "slow" languages like Python. Still, on the whole the conference was a good experience, and I left with an increased passion for programming.

Later in the month, I went on a one-night camping trip with three other friends. It reached 25 °F that night, making it the first cold-weather camping trip of season for me.


A picture of our camping setup at night

Midway through this month, I went on another cold-weather camping trip with a friend. It reached 20 °F this time, but it definitely felt colder than the other trip. We're both geared up for this kind of thing, so we lived pretty well. For food, we started with some delicous potato soup, followed by hot apple cider, and topped off with a cigar and Cognac. That night, we slept warmly in our insulated sleeping bags. After the sun rose, we stayed warm thanks to a wood burning stove in our tent. We made some coffee and then had a breakfast scramble. Throughout this time, the conversation flowed.

I got really into a personal project this month. I call it Agnostic, and it is essentially a language that transpiles into other languages. It has two use-cases. One is to share business logic across languages. The other is for other code generation tools that need to support multiple target languages. By the end of the month, I got a minimal portion of it in a working state.


Advent of Code started on the first of this month, and that's what used a lot of my free time. I decided to solve this year's problems with Agnostic. The first few days start with easy problems, but I wasn't able to complete them quickly. I had to fix a lot of bugs and add new features to my language before solving them became possible. For the last week, I switched to Go so that I could complete the calendar quickly. I'll later go back and write more efficient solutions in my own language.

In the middle of the month I went to Fulton, MO with a friend. In this little town is a university. At this university my personal hero, Winston Churchill, gave a famous speech that preempted much of the Cold War. The speech is title The Sinews of Peace, and you can hear it on YouTube (I have done so multiple times). In commemoration of this historic event, a wonderful little museum was set up. I'd highly recommend visiting if you're in the area. For me, it was worth the five-hour drive.

A picture of my winter camping setup

The next weekend, I tried out solo winter camping for a night. This is a hobby I'm beginning to invest into, and I really enjoyed my first night out. My wood-stove worked great for keeping the tent warm while I was awake. During the evening, I made food, watched a movie, read a book, and smoked a pipe. Then I tucked in for a cold night (my thermometer registered 0 °F). I stayed warm thanks to my insulated sleeping gear. The next morning I enjoyed some breakfast and a walk before packing up.

Finally, the end of the year involved spending time with family. I really appreciate the holidays. The presence of my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and parents brings my joy. I'm very thankful for everyone that God has blessed me with.

And that wraps up 2022 for me.