2022 Year In Review
Things gone past in 2022, and looking forward to twenty three.

This is the year I started wearing sunscreen. As I write this, it's running down my eyes and reminding me why it took me so long to start.

In other news, this has been a year of many wonderful things. Despite this review being my longest yet, it's been a year of continuation rather than novelty. A year of progression - of pushing the company, personal goals and other pursuits further up the hill. It's also been a year of new friends and new obsessions, sometimes unconnected. Overall it feels like a full year of life, with work and play, and meetings and fun. Let's get into it.

Second warning - this is a bit of a long review. Do feel free to skim through the main headings and the first paragraphs as you wish!

§Checking in with last year

Last year had a few meaningful goals that I think I made progress on. I wanted to spend more time with people I cared about, and to understand how their lives were different from mine.

I've spent this year a lot closer to family (with almost half a year spent out of the country just visiting both sides of the family). I also feel like your late 20s are a period when your friends are your family, and I've spent quite some time with friends both virtually and in person. It has been a lot of change in my environment, a lot of code-switching in different cultures, and a lot of just overall deltas. What's helped me is to try and measure each day by how kind I've been at the end of the day. It's made a world of difference, and it's helped me understand - by talking and listening to more people in my life - how we deal with pain and success, with happiness and failure, something I wanted to learn more about last year.


I also managed to focus more on functional fitness in 2022, taking my HRV from a low of 45 to more than double at 115, and moving my RHR from my most stressful weekly average of 79 to 49. The numbers are not the target, but they help me communicate that I've been feeling and doing better. I have had more energy in my days, bouncing back faster from sickness and injury, and being able to do more things and to do them more easily. A big highlight of this month was carrying someone up pretty tall stairs - sideways, I'll add - without any real difficulty. Something like this would have been unthinkable for me and my back and muscles a year or two ago. I'll take some credit, but she also weighs nothing (and reads this blog).

Kettlebell circuits and sustained cardio have done wonders for my quality of life. Moving forward I'd like to maintain some of this focus, but this year I'd like to get back to lifting, specifically accessory work. Going to a gym after a long hiatus from proper lifting reminded me just how much I enjoy it as a workout, and I'd like to get back to it.

I'd also like - as an optional goal - to get back to running and get to a 5/10K. Not sure where I'll find the time, so this is very much a stretch goal for 2023. I've made very little progress (but still not none) on the flexibility front, but at least I kept things from getting worse.

§New Tastes

This was the year I got into the world of espresso, by picking up a well-loved machine from Carousell. I've never been an espresso person, but I like the occasional latte. I decided to get in (somewhat nervously) because I wanted to learn something new, to feel completely lost at something for a little bit, to bite in and get better.

I remember being introduced to my first espresso machine. The workings of how this type of coffee was made seemed alien and daunting, and I remember being completely out of my depth - both in making this drink and in tasting it.

This was what I was looking for this year, to feel out of my depth entirely. Sometimes you get what you wish for. The first week of the new machine involved painstakingly making some of the worst coffee of my life, and feeling like I'd made the biggest mistake investing in the machine and the grinder. The only thing keeping me sane was the fact that I'd decided to buy it pre-used, and only with proceeds from selling off old tech in the house.

The number of variables going into espresso are insane - grind size, shot length, volume, extraction, channeling, dose - to name the more important ones. I kept track of most of what I was doing (even if I didn't know what I was doing) in a Notion page:


However, these were trivial problems compared to the biggest one that faced me - I didn't know how to taste what came out of the machine. I didn't really have a taste for espresso, nor the ability to discern what I was asked to look for. I quickly discovered that I had bitter-sour confusion, among other resolution issues in trying to figure out which direction I needed to go.

When I started cooking years ago, I began with dishes I knew well - because I could tell what was wrong with them. At least I could tell when I got them right. With espresso, I had no such luck. This was some of the most frustrating, but also some of the most fun parts of the process for the same reason - I was truly out of my depth.

Interestingly (or predictably for some of you), things got better. Turns out that if you spend two hours a day trying to figure out finer notes in syrupy liquid, your mouth gets better at discerning flavours. Kind of obvious, but it still shook me that a sense I considered basic and settled (like taste) could still undergo dramatic changes. In about a week I could taste different components in a shot, smell if a shot was over-extracted before it got there, and separate acid from base. This was around the 100 shot mark:


This led to big changes elsewhere, like my taste for other food, and adjustments in cooking. A lot like a 6-minute mile, where having a limit be broken once helps you realise something was possible in the first place. I think I've been able to taste more and with finer resolution, just by trying to, by asking myself after a bite if there's something else I wasn't paying attention to.

Something really fun to try has been a salami shot, where you successively split the same shot of coffee as it comes through into different glasses:


I could also see how developing a more discerning taste for things could lead to having stronger preferences, perhaps snobbery - something I'm working very hard to avoid as a causal chain. Is it possible to get better at things and to learn to enjoy the better versions of something without having inferior versions cause unhappiness? Can we be content with less once we have a conception of better?

§Learn and understand

A few things were really fun to finally learn this year. Some things I've barely started - like golfing - and some things I've been able to build deep confidence in after years of acquaintance - like Redux and Redux Toolkit. My sticking points are often around starting something from zero, and taking it from ‘I kind of know this' to ‘I know this'.

Building a reading tool for my partner using Redux ballooned into quite a complicated project.She reads a lot of longform, and I wanted to build a speed-reader that used Bionic Reading-style emphasis to make reading faster, and to give her a codebase she could play around with. It started with building a transpiler to process and inject bionic tags into a corpus, inject it into the DOM and style it, like so:


Pretty soon I was adding a Commandbar or quick access menu, personalised theming, medium style highlight menu with shareable notes, chapter jumps, and a bunch more:


The sheer number of reducers and action creators that call each other has gotten out of hand, and I find myself learning more antipatterns in state management as I try and wrestle it back together. For example, say someone made a note in one of their favorite texts, and shared this note with you via a permalink. You open it up, and here's what happens:

(Most of all of these steps happen independently, and coordinate themselves through state)

Needless to say it has been educational. I keep adding to the feature list every time I feel like I'm running low on brownie points. The current goal is to add an offline mode that saves your last X articles/stories with real-time syncs of content and highlights. The implementation for this promises to be difficult, but I still have conceptual questions to answer. How do I anchor highlights or notes on a changing text?



This was a year of a lot of travel, but mostly to old places to see my favorite people. There were some new destinations with old friends re-met, and some new experiences in long-familiar places.

Something kind of strange is that all travel this year looks like it fits on a single line:


Might be something to wonder about - in fact most of my travel of all time fits on that line!

§Looking In

(A big win of the year was training for nothing. It's connected somewhat to meditation, but I'll let the post speak for itself.)

This was also the year I managed a consistent meditation practice, after many false starts. Sam Harris' Waking Up was instrumental in providing direction that was actively curious about what the mind really is, without the strong religious flavor that can often be present. A good chunk of meditation apps and courses also tend to be about productivity, rather than the pursuit of understanding.

I'll skip the things that are often said about meditation, and just say that the kind of meditation you do matters - but in the same way that type of exercise matters. If you currently do nothing, doing any little bit will make a big difference.

I have always had an overabundance of focus and energy (as I've mused elsewhere, specifically about flow energy), and the flipside is that doing nothing has always been pretty impossible. To think about nothing, to have quiet in the mind. Relaxation for me has always been more like frantic thinking about something fun.

Turns out when you try to do something for a long time, you get better at it - same as trying to taste better. My mind feels more steady, with a stronger baseline that I can return to at leisure, which simultaneously provides a good springboard for quickly changing direction (emotionally or intellectually), but also calms and relaxes.

It's also made me more present in the moments of my life. While this isn't always an unalloyed good (to be present), it's helped me experience things more deeply, and by choice rather than by environment. What do I mean? Usually, it's how amazing an experience is, which dictates my engagement with it. Extremely novel or interesting things have a way of pulling you in deep, into the present, to understand and experience it without preconception. Trying to do nothing, and to be present more often has made it easier to access this state on command, rather than rely on how special your environment is. With enough depth that you discover that everything is extraordinary and captivating.

Spending longer periods of time searching for the functioning of the mind yields results - often by illuminating the switches and gears of yourself. You end up with small abilities at first - like ignoring an itch or not minding a loud sound - and find larger ones as you go - like being able to turn the volume down on persistent pain.

Knowing yourself more and being able to pay closer attention has freed me a fair bit from the yoke of experience. It feels better not having to go the long way around to make something happen in my mind - like a bedtime routine just to convince my brain it's time for sleep, or traveling somewhere new just to find novelty or fulfillment. I've found myself playing songs I've known forever and finding instruments and melodies I've never heard - sometimes in the most simplistic of tracks.

In a lot of ways, it feels like experience has refreshed itself, and I find myself excited to open something that I haven't in a while, to see how it's changed.

I'll cut it long here before I catch myself talking about ego dissolution or any more of the many things I might write about later, if I can find a way to make them sound less obnoxious. The mind is an intensely personal thing, and so is the journey we all take through it. Unlike being told about a new recipe or a sports victory, victories of the mind can feel useless and pretentious because of how hard they are to apply as a listener. I'm not sure how that can be made better, but it's something on my mind.

§Something strange

Every year I make a strange wish that seems to come true. Last year was trying to understand the mechanics of trauma, the year before that was learning to find peace in chaos.

This year's wish is to learn more about the internal mechanisms of addiction and deaddiction.

I don't necessarily mean addictions of the chemical kind here. I'm defining addiction quite broadly as something that doesn't add much to your baseline when you get it, but takes away (or threatens to take away) significant chunks off your baseline when you miss it. This could be TV, sleep, biting your nails, even exercise.

I notice often that easy pleasures become comfort zones, and comfort zones become addictions. I'd like to understand it better - especially in myself, and learn if there are ways to coexist and level off.

Do these things need to grow to the point where we need to cut them off entirely? Can hedonic adaptation be kept under control? Is it all nature, or is it nurture? Can we have nice things after all?

I'd like to know more - mostly for personal curiosity, but I can't shake the feeling that there's benefits to digging deeper.


I'll make the Greywing section short, and link in my more company-specific YIR here when I get around to putting it down. This has been a year where we took big bets, grew the team and figured out where we were as a company. It's also the year we started to feel product-market fit in crewing, a trend I hope continues into the next year.

We also released a one-click crew change this year, and how we got there is interesting for the future AI-interfaces.


Turns out I spent 59 days in video meetings this year. It's not a statistic I fully trust, but I believe to be in the same order of magnitude as correct. On the one hand, this feels way too much - that is a full 16% of all my time this year, including holidays, sundays and so on. That's 25% of the days I was working, if we count two weeks of vacation time and take the weekends off. If we cut it down to 8 hour workdays 5 days a week (which is really way less than I've spent working this year), we get to a whopping 75% of the workday.


And it is way too much time spent in calls - unless you consider that each of those meetings would have taken far longer to commute to and from, while risking overruns far more if they were in person. My goal for meetings has been to make sure every person in the meeting - including me - has the ability to materially change the outcome of the meeting, or learn something specific and actionable from the discussion. At least for me, I feel like I have been moderately successful, which means that a good chunk of that two months was been spent constructively, building and shaping this company.

It has been a good year, where we built new internal processes and workflows as we grew from tiny company to small company (product lifecycle squared) is a fun read on this topic). As the year draws to a close I feel like we've begun to find roles we feel comfortable in.

I had a lot of fun painting t-shirts and trying to get 3d-printed stencils to work (with some success), before giving up and printing custom shirts for everyone:


§The most complicated build of the year

Goes to this little heart.


This was a second attempt at something I gave my partner in our first year of dating. I've written about it before in home cooked apps, and last January I decided I would make a better version to fix existing issues (like rechargeability, general ruggedness, etc) in time for our anniversary this Feb.

I had hoped - against all hope - that I had given myself enough time.

Two months of feature bloat, scrapped plans to surface mount the PCB, 30 iterations of the casing, 4 charger boards attempted, over 30 LEDs tested and a lot more considerations later, I find myself assembling, gluing, and squeezing the day we were meant to leave on our anniversary trip. But we got there.

I'll write about it in detail in another post - it deserves one - but the big difference this time around the focus on how it felt to use (and on production quality), rather than what it did. For something that you hold and click, this meant tweaking the microswitches so they were fidget-inducing, finding the perfect infill and thickness to hide the internal circuitry and to diffuse the LEDs the right way, and making sure everything went together in a way that would last the test of time.


While I find some time to write this up, here are some pictures of the circuit, the iterations and 3d model of the case, the miniaturized PCB, and the final assembly:


§Little Bits

Things not worth expanding, but keeping track of:

Cooked a lot more this year, with more recipes from more cuisines. I'm really glad for the rise of 'why-based' cooking guides and recipes, which explain the reasoning and alternatives behind each step. This makes it easier to modify recipes as you go, make substitutions, and tailor things to your taste. It also helps me remember and combine recipes much better than the traditional ”this is how my family's always done it” way. In some ways the evolution of food has mirrored medicine as our understanding of food chemistry has grown.

J Kenji-Lopez Alt and Serious Eats are often my go-to resources, and I can't recommend The Food Lab enough. Notion has also been useful here to help me keep track of the tweaks I learn to make for my preference, and for my partner to rate my recipes with her preference so it's easier for me to know what to cook on a given night.


Spent a bunch of time this year clearing out the apartment and putting things up for sale. It meant letting some memories go, and admitting to myself that I wasn't really going to use some things I thought I would be quite fond of. Either way, feels better for things to have a new lease on life with someone else, especially with pieces of technology. The lifetime of usefulness - and second-hand value - for tech is getting shorter and shorter. Wait long enough and it's a complex paperweight to everyone.

I spent quite a bit of time this year figuring out and adding to basic financial literacy. Often you can know how something works at a high level, but have no real practical experience in using it, because you've never needed to - like a fire extinguisher, a defibrillator, or a line of credit. If you only approach these things when you absolutely need them, you'll wish you had acquired some experience beforehand. It's been quite useful this year trying to figure out how ETFs work in different countries when you buy through the banking system in Singapore, what the specifics of credit card points are like and which perks are real, etc etc.

Haven't been much for gaming this year, but I'm 80% of the way through Elden Ring and (I think) 50% of the way through Ragnarok. To be honest I spent thrice as much time watching lore videos about Elden Ring and looking at fan theories than I did playing the game!


Actually managed to run through and 'finish' some oldies, like Titanfall 2 and MSFS. Halo Infinite crashed on me and wouldn't run again. Forza time continued to this year, but gameplay seems to have petered off after January.

Speaking of games, the PS5 is a major leap forward in controller technology, rendering and a lot more. However, the XBox is a much, much better value if combined with Game Pass. Most games are play once and forget, or in my case play-for-a-little-while-then-move-on, and Game Pass is a much better option than spending 60 dollars every time. That said, PS Exclusives are the entire reason I was forced back into consoles, so it's a toss up.

Twelve Minutes is a wonderful, short game I recommend everyone pick up, regardless of gaming ability. The storytelling is fantastic, and it feels like a shorter version of Outer Wilds, at least regarding the mystery.

Speaking of, I'm hoping to be able to restart Outer Wilds and finish Echoes of the Eye this year. Very few games have had the impact on me that this game has, and I'm hoping the DLC is just as good.

Finally, I'd like to continue learning to fly - a process I've barely started - next year. It's been a lifelong wish, but money and time and geographics have not been very conducive. I'm hoping next year is the one, but I'm also happy here with slow incremental progress :)


Maybe I should take my time learning!


One advantage of writing a review of a year is that I get to relive it. Good or bad, it helps me remember that time isn't as short as it seems - that a lot of life was lived this year. Without a short look back, it risks being lived between the lines and forgotten there. Every time I sit down to write one of these, I read the last one, which surprises me with all the things I've forgotten about.

The other advantage is that I can ramble as incoherently as I'd like. Not really trying to make a point, or talk to anyone but myself, which is a pretty fun liberty.


If I could leave you with something useful from my year, it's the power of cats. I say cats, but I also mean dogs, or memes or articles - but cats really. Post-pandemic, we have all found ourselves living a little further apart, where relationships areeasily lost to work and workload. I will often think of someone, want to know what they're up to - or to just say hi - and not know the right way to say “You came to mind, wanted to let you know”.

Cats have been perfect for this purpose - as long as you know your audience. They are unpolitical, simple, and almost always evoke the intended response.

Here's one for you.

Hrishi Olickel
31 Dec 2022