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My 2023 Recommendations

This year is pretty thin on recommendations. I looked through my Goodreads and so forth, but this is all I found.

Honorable Mentions

Just to fill out the list, I added a few honorable mentions this year.

First, Into the Breach, a turn-based strategy video game. I tried this game before and didn’t quite get into it. This time, I figured out enough to get hooked for a few late nights and completed one run. Then I was done again, so it was fun while it lasted.

Second, Hunt, Gather, Parent, a parenting book by a NPR correspondent. I haven’t actually read the book, but I really like her articles, such as how to do chores, and this book is the culmination of her research and experiences.

Third, 24 Hours in Ancient Rome, a history book broken up into 24 anecdotes from the perspective of different Roman citizens. It didn’t quite change my life, but it was amusing, and I found myself reciting trivia from it regularly.

Next, let’s get to the actual recommendations.

Video Game: Beat Saber

There’s some novelty to virtual reality, but it often wears off quickly. Given where the technology and applications right now, traditional video games or actual reality tend to work out better.

But some experiences do get it right, and Beat Saber hooked me. It’s Dance Dance Revolution, except instead of stepping on pads to the music, you wield 2 lightsabers and cut up blocks flying at you. It nicely incorporates the physicality of VR into something that wouldn’t work as well otherwise.

Playing the built-in songs was fine, but what really got me hooked was downloading custom songs from the community. From Bruno Mars to Queen, it was a blast interacting with classic songs in new ways.

Article: What Is ChatGPT Doing … and Why Does It Work? by Stephen Wolfram

It’s not quite Skynet, but Generative AI like DALL-E and ChatGPT is really impressive. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about how it works and what its capabilities are. Some resources are too simplistic, and some are way too technical. It’s a bit long, but this article was just the right level for me to understand.

Movie: Little Miss Sunshine

I first came across this movie in a video from screenwriter Michael Arndt where he explains how the scripts (and, specifically, the endings) for Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine work. I only watched the bit about Star Wars since I hadn’t seen the others, but I did wonder how Star Wars could be similar to a movie about a roadtrip to a child beauty pageant.

This movie is strange, and the best laughs are quite awkward. I actually didn’t really love the ending, but altogether, it was just absurd and heartwarming in the best and most unique ways to make it memorable.

Recipe: Easy Spinach Pancakes

With a toddler, we have tried to find fun ways to incorporate vegetables into our meals. My mom made spinach pancakes for me with big visible strands of cooked spinach. This recipe isn’t that: the pancakes are just green.

They mostly taste like regular pancakes, so we have tried maple syrup and other typical toppings. We particularly enjoy eating them with cream cheese or apple sauce.

Video Game: Disco Elysium

Disco Elysium is a roleplaying game where you are an amnesiac detective tasked with solving a murder in a fictional failed Soviet state. Your abilities are represented by different voices that speak in your head.

Roleplaying? Story-based? Not much combat? Funny? Sounds good to me. Grungy? Morally gray? Maybe not my thing, but I got over it.

The first time I played, I died within 5 minutes trying to get a necktie off a ceiling fan. Turns out that was an anomaly (I died maybe a half-dozen times through the rest of the roughly 25 hours), but it’s also kind of that sort of game. The first “quest” in the game is trying to get close enough to examine a dead body without throwing up. Your partner tells you that you need to “get your shit together”, which requires that you meditate on the thought “Volumetric Shit Compressor.”

Super weird, but maybe not so weird because it’s commonly cited as one of the best games around.

Final Thoughts

I’m not quite sure how my list ended up so short this year. In the past, I have had to cut items from the list. I don’t think I specifically consume less or lower quality content than before, so it’s probably in my head. I will have to see what the trend is for next year.

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