Since my last update in December 2022
I aspire to write these ‘now page’ updates every 3 months. I struggled to publish at this frequency last year due to my inability to provide context to my activity, sometimes even to myself. Like other experimentation-filled periods of my life, the chaos resulted in something unexpected and wonderful I could not have planned for even if I had known the outcome. Get ready for a mega update!
In contrast to the global crises that broke my heart and left me feeling powerless regularly, 2023 was one of the best years of my life personally. The optimism I had at the start of 2020 before the pandemic actualized. In the words of Kacey Musgraves, I’m alright with a slow burn.
Pursuit of (professional) happiness
I got the closest to ikigai as I have ever been since moving to Stockholm. To understand what went well, I must explain the last 5 years of professional discontentment.
Arthur and I thought our relocation to Stockholm for his job in 2017 would be a short break from San Francisco. We did not expect to fall in love with another city and country. While Arthur’s career soared at an industry-leading company, I grew as much as I could with employers willing to hire a remote worker. I stayed longer than I should have in each role because better options were more rare in Stockholm compared to San Francisco. My experience at Stripe nearly pushed me to leave Big Tech forever and start a taco truck. However, the need to prove to Migrationsverket (immigration agency in Sverige) I deserved "permanent" residency and citizenship forced me to cope with a situation I could not change.
When a Swedish e-bike manufacturer offered me a CTO role, the opportunity reenergized me. The role needed my proven professional experiences and would stretch my skills. The impressive title balanced an unimpressive salary. My desire for more people to become cyclists aligned with the surging consumer demand for e-bikes. It felt perfect. Unfortunately, I and 40% of the company were laid off within a month of my starting. Losing that job interrupted my recovery from near burnout.
Fortunately, a key circumstance changed in that month. Sverige granted me citizenship. This meant I could pursue freelancing or entrepreneurship. I previously avoided those professional options because they would have complicated my immigration process.
Arthur convinced me to seize the moment. He had witnessed how many of my ideas became successful businesses for other people years after we discussed them. He pushed me to take some time to research and explore the opportunities in my list of emerging ideas. It felt scary to give up a regular salary, but there had never been a better time to take such an risk. Dual citizenship freed me from work visa concerns. Arthur’s income, our savings, and the strong social safety net of Sverige reduced the financial risk. Getting laid off was the kick I needed from the universe to try to make my own professional happiness.
The Interledger Foundation gave me a grant to work on its standard for building payments into the browser as a platform feature of the Web and extending it for use by creators using the new social web apps. If you want to know more, watch my 15 minute presentation and read by interim and final reports. I hope to continue working with the Interledger Foundation in some way in 2024.
I currently am working on a new social app called Bana thanks to initial funding from NLnet and the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet program. It’s a private, cozy app for sharing with people you already know and love. It offers the comfort of a group chat with the ambient connection and serendipity of social media before it got all weird. There are no ads, algorithms, brands, influencers, or going viral. If you used Path, Bana is its spiritual successor. I am building it in the open, so you can follow along as I make progress. I hope you will give it a try this summer.
I enjoyed being an engineering manager, but it has been nice to just manage me this past year. I like being an individual contributor again. I love being able to work on technology that has a chance at rebalancing power back to individuals.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ―Dr Seuss, The Lorax
ADHD was not the diagnosis I expected when I first sought help for anxiety in 2022. The pandemic, Putin’s threats to Sverige, and work stress were too much. My coping mechanisms started to fail. I didn’t even know my coping mechanisms were such. After working through the situational stress, my therapist suspected undiagnosed ADHD could be contributing to my remaining stress. They referred me for an extensive and exhausting evaluation. I learned much about ADHD in the process. My diagnosis is so obvious in hindsight. I wish I had gotten help decades ago. So much unnecessary struggle and pain could have been avoided.
I will write more about this in the future and I am happy to chat more about this privately if you want any of the details.
Arthur and I attended Apidays Paris conference. Mehdi, the organizer, invited a group of repeat speakers to a private tour and lunch at The Palace of Versailles to celebrate its 10th edition. Apidays was one of the first conferences to invite me to speak about developer experience. It connected me with an incredible group of technology experts and I am grateful to be part of that community. I felt honored to be included in that group of minds I admired.
Christmas was quieter this year. We did our usual video calls with family to watch presents be unwrapped across the Atlantic. Arthur made a delicious Christmas Day dinner. Karin joined us.
New Year’s Eve was similar. Arthur and I just wanted a peaceful, quiet, and calm end to 2022 and start of 2023. The year had been eventful enough. Malte joined us for dinner and Karin stopped by before the fireworks.
Arthur surprised me with Malte, Marcus, and Wes at my birthday dinner at Woodstockholm. We had a gay ol’ time and went to Indigo bar for a nightcap. The night ended oddly with a guy yelling homophobic and anti-immigrant words at us. The bouncer thankfully got the guy away from our table after a minute that felt longer. I got called slurs in Los Angeles and San Francisco far sooner than 5 years of living there, so Stockholm is still doing better, but it was a reminder that every place has its hateful people.
The next day, we had a lovely dinner at Jason & Keith’s home. They’re such a sweet, smart, and good humored couple. I marvel at how Stockholm attracts so many US Americans I want to have as friends.
Arthur and I traveled to Miami for my 39th birthday vacation. We were inspired by watching the entirety of The Golden Girls in 2022. We stayed in a fun hotel in South Beach, went on an art deco tour, and looked fabulous by the 12th Street Lifeguard Tower. I wore a thong for the first time. We both hope to return to Miami.
We then went to Fort Worth, Texas. Arthur wanted to surprise his sister with a birthday trip to Dallas. I learned “Big D” is the Manhattan of Texas. Arthur found a swanky Airbnb, booked dinner at Monarch Restaurant overlooking the city, and tickets for Shaun Martin jazz concert at the The Black Academy of Arts and Letters. The Airbnb forgot the sheets for the second bed, so we crammed into one bed, child sleepover style.
The next day, Fort Worth had a record-setting ice storm. Everything shut down. We watched movies and played board games. Our flight back to Miami was canceled, resulting in a costly missed connection because our tickets couldn’t be linked across airlines. Arthur’s mom booked us a ridiculously nice hotel using loyalty club points in Miami.
Arthur returned to Spotify! He left last year to join Kry (like One Medical Group, but in Sverige) as a VP of Product. Unfortunately and to his surprise, he managed multiple layoffs instead of growth. Spotify recruited him back to take over his former manager’s role with expanded scope over product and engineering. I am so proud of him. He leads with compassion, strategic thinking, and dispassionate decision making. He seems excited by the work and has established a healthy work—life balance.
We had a delicious dinner with Brad and his Mikael at their lovely new home.
I saw Rina Sawayama in concert with Wes. Her album Hold The Girl is a story of reparenting to heal the damage of a religious upbringing as a queer woman. I had it on repeat in 2021 and can sing most of the lyrics. Her performance live was phenomenal. I cried many happy tears.
We finally saw the aurora borealis in Stockholm with our eyes and not just our phones’ cameras.
I embraced shorter hair. I gave up on my quiff and beard. A year of using a beard growth kit from Copenhagen Grooming resulted in limited success. This was my first time growing a beard for more than 2 months. I quite liked it, but over 80% of people on social media voted that I looked better without a beard. Alas.
Vivien, Arthur, and I went to the Melodifestivalen final at Friends Arena. Melo is the national song contest in Sverige for picking its Eurovision entry. I thought this year’s entries were mediocre melodically and terrible lyrically. Loreen’s performance made up for meh lyrics and was the clear winner. Being in the arena was fun. Big signs off-camera instructed the audience what to do during each contestant’s performance. Many of the people in the audience were under age 14. When I jokingly cheered loudly for the Ica grocery store during the many repeated sponsorship announcements, kids around me laughed and started doing the same. Their parents were not as amused as I was.
I attended the Democrats Abroad Sverige annual meeting. Most of the people were older than me by a generation or two and had lived in Stockholm for decades. Most had married Swedes. A few moved for work. A few had been born in the US, never lived there, but were still required to fulfill the complicated, expensive annual foreign tax requirements. The US is one of the few countries that taxes citizens on their worldwide income annually. Without a state and Congressional representation, the 10 million US Americans living abroad suffer from tax legislation that only accounts for terrorists and tax evaders. It’s painful. I admire the efforts to change a broken system.
I got to dogsit Finn, Wes’s adorable Boston Terrier, for a few days. He was the best behaved American gentleman. He slept by my desk or on my lap as I worked.
I celebrated my 6 year Sveriversary by writing, as I do. I planned this post for years in preparation to be released on my first Sveriversary after I had dual citizenship. When it snowed one night in February, Arthur and Wes took my flag-wrapped photos to the amusement of guests at the Elite Hotel.
On the long Easter weekend (secular Sverige has many religious state holidays), Karin took Arthur and me to Nynäshamn Havsbad for an authentic Swedish spa experience. I had my first ‘sauna beer’. I took my first (and second, third, and fourth) Baltic plunge in 2℃ water. I loved it and cannot wait to return this winter.
Arthur and I attended our third TEDxStockholm with Vivien. I left hoping to one day speak about one of the many passions I got to work on in the last year.
Arthur and I visited our friends Chris and Terry in Edinburgh, Scotland. We first met them in Stockholm. They were in our pandemic bubble and we missed them dearly when they moved. Terry guided us around her hometown’s historical highlights. Chris ensured we ate and drank at the best spots in the city’s culinary culture. A few days was not enough and I cannot wait to return.
We took the train from Edinburgh to London. I presented my first in-person conference talk since the pandemic. The crowd was small, but engaged. The talk (Introducing Leaf Computing) was about an idea I refined in the back of my mind for 5 years across several jobs working on Internet-connected hardware. I submitted the abstract to the conference organizers when I was working at the e-bike company. By April, I was working in a completely different area of technology and could not connect the ideas to my current work. I thought the idea was too good to keep to myself. I hope someone does something good with it. The London trip was quick, but I squeezed in a dinner with my friend Mitch and my first Barry’s bootcamp workout since the pandemic.
Winter lingered around this year, but spring arrived forcefully. The cherry trees seemed to bloom overnight. We started enjoying grilled dinners on Karin’s porch.
I finished a painful year of Invisalign and the results were worth it. My molars no longer dig into my cheeks and my shifting bottom teeth returned to their original location. I wish I had done it years earlier.
Arthur and I hosted a Eurovision finale party. Madde, her brother, Magnus, Vendela, Vivien, and Wes came over. Sverige thankfully did not take my advice to declare cultural bankruptcy because it went on to win Eurovision. (I love Loreen, but I think Suomi had the better song and so did the majority of viewers.) Vivien and I tried to get tickets for Eurovision 2024 in Malmö, but they proved to be more rare than Taylor Swift tickets due to the tiny venue Sverige chose.
We celebrated my German-friend Gina’s birthday with a spring picnic. We first met at Barry’s and connected over The Bachelor/ette. She’s great fun and a sympathetic ear whenever I need to rant about immigration or Swedish culture. We had several lunches and dinners throughout 2023 and I hope to have more together.
Arthur and I went with Karin to see her first Cirque du Soleil show when Ovo came to the Avicii Arena. It was the first traveling Cirque show I’ve seen that was done in an arena instead of its Grand Chapiteau tent, but it was no less spectacular. My first trip with Arthur’s family was to Las Vegas to see my first Cirque du Soleil shows. I later proposed to Arthur before a traveling Cirque du Soleil show in Los Angeles. They are special performances to attend for more reasons than the show for me. I think most conflict in the world would end if everyone went to see a Cirque du Soleil show together.
For the long Whit Sunday weekend, Arthur, Karin, Wes, and I took a road trip to Dalarna. We saw the world’s largest Dalahorse. We walked around the adorable town of Avesta and then stumbled upon the best art museum I have been to in all of Scandinavia: Verket. We stayed in a cute, old country home. Arthur made paella and we ate outside as much as possible even though it was still not entirely warm.
I met Christer Lindarw, Sverige’s most famous drag queen, at a final performance of his incredible Club After Dark show. The show was like a sexy, raunchy San Francisco drag show with the production value of Broadway. I hope it comes back for another season.
I traveled to Helsinki on June 4th to speak at the Apidays conference about leaf computing. I met up with my former InVision colleague Manil, who took me on a sunset walking tour across the city. Before heading back to the airport, I went to the exhaustive Tom of Finland exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma. I hope to return and spend more time in Suomi.
Katja, my German friend I met in Stockholm who moved to London, visited and we had grilled dinner at Karin’s.
On June 17, Arthur, Karin, Wes, and I celebrated the 100th anniversary of Stockholm’s city hall. The Danshuset event transformed the city hall into a 5 hour dance party with live bands and DJs playing music progressing from 1923 to 2023. We were hot sweaty messes with hurting feet by the end of the evening. The crowd filled the space with immense positive energy.
On June 23, we celebrated Midsommar at Karin’s for the third year. We invited a gaggle of gays (Jason, Keith, Malte, Marcus, and Wes) to join her lady friends. We picked wildflowers and made flower crowns. We swam in the cold archipelago (14℃). It poured rain and then the sky cleared, per tradition. We sang drinking songs and I drank non-alcoholic schnapps. We walked home after midnight to a glowing horizon. It was the perfect start to summer.
On June 25, I went to my first Barry’s bootcamp class in Stockholm since the pandemic. My beloved trainer and friend Sophie taught her last class before moving to NYC. She was one of the first people I connected with in Stockholm and Barry’s was the first real community I felt like I belonged in. The pandemic and my illness anxiety messed with that, but a bunch of Sophie’s fans reunited and it felt like old times. Alex later coordinated a surprise farewell hug and toast for us in September the night before she moved, which was special.
Arthur and I made our annual July Fourth Worth trip to visit with his side of the family. We swam and went boating with the 3 and 6 year old niblings. Arturito flattered me when he picked me to ride with in the tube. I got my workout in the scorching heat flying them as “airplanes” in the yard.
Arthur and I both needed this vacation. We relaxed with a spa day, seeing the new Indiana Jones movie, visiting the flagship Restoration Hardware store, and eating the puffy tacos and Chinese-American food we can’t get in Stockholm. Oh, and Ellerbe’s twice.
Arthur made a Midsommar feast for his parents’ neighbors. I enjoyed conversing with people from different generations than my own. We shared our worries about climate change with Texas going from a record setting ice storm in January to record setting heat in July. They asked about the many differences between life in Sverige and the US. Those differences were prominent on this trip. On our first morning, the Supreme Court took away one equal protection of LGBTQ+ people. A few days later, I awoke to Swedish friends checking in on my safety after a mass shooting just 15km away. I remain a macro-optimist about the US, but sometimes the day-to-day events make it difficult.
Vendela invited Arthur, Karin, Wes, and I to her summer home in Skäret to work remotely. We took a train to Lund, then rented a car to do a roadtrip around Skåne. I finally understood why Swedes have summer homes in southern Sverige. It’s stunningly beautiful countryside. We soaked up the sun between the rain storms, ran thru the nature reserve, and swam to the floating dock in brisk 18℃ water. Vendelas’ parents introduced us to their favorite family recipes: party noodles and Flygande Jacob. We visited Höganäs and Arild, ate American bbq, tried wine from Kullabergs Vingård, saw the lighthouse in craggy Västra Kullaberg, ate lunch at Ransvik Havsveranda where the then-sinful swimsuits were first worn, walked along the boardwalk in Mölle, admired the gardens in Ystad, and felt the white sand in Åhus and Havang. Arthur rented an absurdly large country mansion in Östra Sönnarslöv for our final few nights. We bought local produce and he cooked a Michelin-star-worthy dinner in the expansive kitchen. (Arthur might have thought Karin’s cheese sandwiches inspired by Braathens Regional Airlines rivaled it though.) My heart was so full from the trip.
The first week of August was Pride week in Stockholm. Arthur and I kicked off celebrating with a very gay Barry’s bootcamp class with a drag bingo afterparty. For the parade, we rainbowed up and watched from our favorite spot. Adam, Karin, Marcus, Sabina, Wes, and Zack joined us. We ended Pride with Euphoria’s Drag Party at Berns, starring Detox!
Wes celebrated his birthday at Punk Royale and it was an experience. Imagine a Michelin-starred restaurant inside a gay club. Thick fog, laser lights, loud music, shirtless twink waiters, bartenders sloppily pouring drinks, and an attitude of irreverence made the night truly unforgettable (at least for me since I only had 2 drinks).
In mid-August, Arthur needed to meet in Spotify’s NYC office. He found a super cheap ticket last minute for me to join him. This is one of the joys of remote work. Somehow, in just 3 days, I managed to squeeze in meals with my Stockholm-now-NYC friends Leah and Chase; my Emerson College friends Zach, Nicky Digital, and Lucas; and Lucas’s brother Marcus and his husband Charlie.
Shout out to the total stranger in NYC who stopped her phone call to yell at me, “No! Don’t do that again. Put it in your pocket instead,” when she saw me frantically run back to my Apple MagSafe wallet that had fallen off a block earlier when I took my iPhone out of my pocket. She was absolutely right and I needed that advice in that moment of panic.
When I got back to Stockholm, Malte invited me to a good ol’ queer house party and introduced me to Erin, a fellow software developer and federated social network enthusiast. We are now collaborating on organizing the Stockholm Social Web meetup group (more on that in November).
My US American-now-living-in-Schweiz friends Stefan and Dani visited Stockholm and we had lovely lunch catching up. I hope to visit them in Zurich some time in 2024.
Chelas not only introduced Stockholm to the best Mexican food, it also introduced us to Emily. She’s a vivacious chef and sommelier. She’s also an incredible singer and organizer of karaoke nights. My voice was recovering from a cold at the first one I attended, but I plan to rock something in 2024.
The last week of August, my three siblings and brother-in-law visited Stockholm. We started planning this trip years ago and it finally happened. It was a nibling-free vacation for my sibling parents. We planned an action-packed agenda. The weather and fate laughed at us, but we still had fun. We did the Stockholm essentials: an archipelago tour, the Vasa Museum, Fotografiska, and the Gamla Stan ghost walk. Arthur gave them a tour of the Spotify headquarters. We relaxed at Yasuragi, a Japanese spa, because all of the Swedish spas were booked by corporate offsites. We rode all of the rollercoasters at Gröna Lund. We grilled at Karin’s and savored a prix fixe menu at Coco & Carmen.
I planned a 20 km bike tour around Nacka to show the lovely nature in the city. After picking up their e-bike rentals, biking across the city, and riding the ferry to Nacka, my bike tire blew and I couldn’t fix it. I left my siblings Nacka Strand-ed and hopped on a ferry back home to swap bikes. When I returned, we ate lunch, did a 20 minute in-and-out speed tour of Nyckelviken, and hauled ass back to return the e-bikes before our evening reservations. There was a road closure at one point. When dismounting Arthur’s bike, my shorts caught the seat, and I slowly fell over. It was a comically slow fall, but my Apple Watch asked me if I was ok. I cut my leg in several places. The wounds were shallow, but my leg was covered in blood by the time I got home. Hopefully I did not scare any children during the rush hour commute.
My middle brother, Joshua, wanted to go clubbing at Trädgården, a sprawling multi-space venue under a highway bridge. After a traditional Swedish dinner at Tranan (no one comes to Sverige for the food), we danced to euro-beats and weird songs we didn’t know until 2 am.
My siblings got to experience many firsts on this trip, many of the same ones I experienced when I first moved here. I hoped they would leave understanding how I could fall in love with Stockholm. I often feel like I need to justify the physical distance between us. I won’t repeat my entire Sveri-versary post here, but I am really, really happy here. The trip was wonderful. We laughed a lot, cried a little, and created many memories to sustain us until we gather again.
Literally the day after my siblings left, Arthur’s mom arrived. Karin hosted a crayfish party (kräftskiva) for her. Crayfish are high on my list of foods I do not miss when adhering to a plant-based diet, somewhere near turkey. However, I love a theme party and a reason to eat outside in the summer. Gay also took us to Persona, which is destined for a Michelin star.
My condo building celebrated its 100 year anniversary this year. The homeowner association’s (brf, bostadsrättsförening) asked for volunteers to plan a party. This seemed like an opportunity to meet more of my neighbors and contribute, something my limited Swedish scared me from doing. Four of us created an event that left our neighbors in awe of our shared home and with a stronger sense of community. Neighbors stayed hours after the official end of the event and have hosted 2 other parties with building-wide invitations since the event! We toured a few units while playing a a trivia quiz game and assembled a time capsule to be opened in 50 years.
Ulrika, one of the fabulous women I collaborated with on the party, invited me to see an opening show of Moulin Rouge! The Musical in Stockholm. I love the movie and saw the Broadway production in 2022. While the music was the same, the story adaptation in Svenska and staging were unique and fantastic. I am going to see it again in March 2024 and cannot wait. Right after the show, we ran ran ran to the ferry.
The unusually cool and rainy summer transitioned to a cool and rainy autumn. The summer flew by. Autumn would pass even faster with an intense conclusion to my grant from Interledger and preparation for several conferences.
In preparation for my 40th birthday in January, I decided to get 3 months of nutrition and fitness coaching from Jacked Vegans. My fitness goal for my 30s was to improve my strength every year. I accomplished that, but felt my progress stagnate. My coach Luca Fent helped me break the plateau and I recommend him if you are in a similar situation.
The Affordable Art Fair returned and it once again was the best gallery exhibit of the year in Stockholm. Several pieces caught my consideration for purchase, but I decided against purchasing more art until our condo remodel was completed. We had hoped to start it in early 2023 and then in late summer. The plans are mostly completed, but permitting from Nacka took longer than expected and the quoted prices were outrageously high. Inflation from record corporate profits, devaluation of the Swedish kronor (down 22%), and high interest rates forced Arthur and me to postpone our remodel for a year or two. Thankfully, it’s an awesome space as-is.
On October 8, Arthur was traveling for work and I was home alone. Spotify recommended a new song from We Three. The lyrics suggested some spiritual trauma, so I went to their Instagram account to see if they posted more about the song. Their first story was about their concert in Stockholm starting in 3 hours. I saw there were still tickets available, so I went. I cried happy tears before they even started when Morgan St Jean sang Skin And Bones, a beautiful message about gender not mattering in who you love. Many more would be shed that night. We Three’s latest album, Love Me, confronted many religious hypocrisies that hurt me growing up as a queer kid in the Bible Belt with smart lyrics and catchy pop. It became my favorite album of the year.
I gave my leaf computing talk one final time at the Nordic APIs conference in Stockholm. The audience again was small, but receptive to my ideas. Someone later posted online that it was “an inspiring talk that challenged the status quo and let [her] dream of a better world for a moment - a better world where users are in control of their data”. I believe one of the best ways to popularize your beliefs is to ship a product that embodies them. I do not work on Internet-connected hardware at the moment, but I hope someone takes these ideas and builds with them.
Jason Harmon was a keynote speaker at the conference. Our paths crossed many times over the last decade at various API events. We went to dinner and talked for hours about life, politics, travel, the state of the tech industry, Interledger’s ambition to build a new global payment network (Jason worked at PayPal), and decentralized social networks. I always appreciate the breadth and depth of our conversations.
Arthur and I went to Åre to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and 19 years together. It’s a ski town in the middle of Sverige near the Norge border, but we were interested in the Copper Hill Mountain Lodge’s spa. It received an early snow, which made the mountain view from our room even more beautiful. We enjoyed massages and then ate a delicious meal at Supper. On the Wednesday of our actual anniversary date, we celebrated at Woodstockholm and were seated beside another couple also celebrating their anniversary.
My union, Sveriges Ingenjörer, invited me to be a mentor and I met with my first mentee in late October. The best part of being a manager for me was always this aspect of the role. I have enjoyed getting to talk through problems, share anecdotes, and support recent university graduates.
On October 29, I saw Madonna in concert with Vivien and her visiting sister and brother-in-law. Bob The Dragqueen was listed as the opening act, but the show started 2 hours late and they MCed the entire performance. It was awesome!
For Halloween, we carved jack-o-lanterns with friends and went to a freaky drag show on the Patricia boat-nightclub. We set out candy for our neighbors and a neighbor brought her kids’ friends to our door. They nearly tore Arthur’s arms off taking candy from the bowl.
Every year for Día de Muertos, Arthur and I put up an ofrenda and watch Coco. Neither of us are Latino, but the tradition is common in Texas and California. We appreciate the ritual of remembering the loved ones we’ve lost. Something that surprised me is that Sverige has its own similar tradition for All Saints’ Day.
November was a busy month with 3 conferences in 3 weeks in 3 cities.
Arthur and I traveled to San José, Costa Rica for the Intereldger Foundation Summit. I presented the results of my grant, participated in a panel discussion, and presented a talk on the state of the creator economy. I met fascinating people from all over the world working on the many aspects of financial inclusion and digital payments. I left inspired professionally and personally.
We had 3 days before Arthur needed to travel to NYC for work and I needed to be in Bruxelles. We hoped on a tiny propeller plane to get to the west coast and stayed in a luxury treehouse in the rainforest. True to its name, it rained every day with toucans announcing the change in weather moments before. Ants invaded our room one morning and the staff quickly took care of that. We got massages to the soundscape of an intense thunderstorm. I took photos of the flowers that grow wild every time we talked somewhere. It was a much needed respite.
The Next Generation Internet Forum in Brussels brought a mix of software developers and European Commission policy people together. I advocated to policy makers for more investment in the social web. I met with my grantor, NLnet, and connected in meatspace with people I had only interacted with prior on the social web like Laurens Hof and Renaud Chaput. I left inspired by the passion and influence of a rather small group of people working to nudge the tech industry in a better direction. I still am in awe I was invited to participate. The European Commission teetered on the line between great regulation and disastrous regulation in the last year. I hope I am able to help inform better regulation more in the future.
Also, special shout out to Lode, who took a train from Antwerp to be the best local tour guide. He entertained my desire to visit The Atomium and Design Museum Brussels, then led me on a fun walking tour that ended in the gayborhood.
The next week, I hosted the inaugural Stockholm Social Web Meetup at Goto 10, the community space at Internetstiftelsen (The Swedish Internet Foundation). I intentionally chose to hold the meetup during Internetstiftelsen’s annual Internetdagarna (Internet Days) conference. Author and activist Cory Doctorow was a keynote speaker. I predicted he would introduce decentralized social networks to many people in the audience for the first time. My plan worked. 23 people showed up in person and ~50 online to learn more about the social web, Mastodon, Pixelfed, and the ActivityPub for WordPress plugin. My 90 minutes of content turned into another 2 hours of conversation that continued on to a local bar afterwards. I hope to host a second event in March.
Arthur’s dad arrived to a snowy Stockholm to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. A modern adaptation of Thanksgiving—one of gratitude, reflection, and friendship without any colonial baggage—is one of my favorite holidays. It’s nice to share it with fellow US American emigrants and a few svenska vänner (Swedish friends). Art & Arthur baked and cooked for 3 days. We hosted 22 friends in our home for dinner and merriment that lasted until midnight.
That weekend, Arthur ordered “the tallest tree you have” from Julgran.com. 3 men hauled a 4 meter tree up 6 floors and into our living room. I don’t feel the Christmas joy many other people seem to feel, but I love how happy it makes Arthur. I also don’t feel sentimental about many physical objects, but our collection of ornaments from trips makes me smile every year.
Anders invited Karin, Wes, and I over for an Ikea furniture assembling party and first dinner party in his new apartment. He has an even bigger kitchen now for making his incredible chili oil.
I love light sculpture and projection art. For the first time since living in Stockholm, I got to see all of the incredible Nobel Week Lights installations. I planned a walking tour and Arthur put some glögg in a thermos. Karin joined us for a wintery hike across the city to admire the creative illuminations as it snowed.
We had a dinner with our neighbors Bibbie and Lasse that left me smiling for days after. We shared stories of travel, thoughts on the life, and connection to the universe. I appreciate hearing the wisdom of people who have lived life with big open hearts.
Comedian Kevin James Thornton came to Stockholm. Arthur, Wes, and I went to his show and met him afterwards. Kevin is a Gen X gay man who grew up in a super fundamentalist church in the ’90s. His short auto-tuned stories went viral during the pandemic. His humor brings levity to the difficulty of religious trauma. It’s healing in a unique way and I enjoyed his show.
Karin invited me to Nasdaq’s Lucia performance. It was my first live attendance of one. Karin informed me to not applaud until I could no longer hear the group singing as they walked away from the audience. The university group sang beautifully. Karin also gave me a tour of the impressive Nasdaq office. I got to see the IPO bell up close.
Arthur turned 40 and celebrated his birthday by renting the Airbnb country home in Katrineholm again. He told me in July that he wanted a Great American Cookie Cake for his birthday. I could not order one in Sverige, so I did my best attempt at baking and decorating. There was no way for me to keep this a secret from him. He joked, “You’re not very good at surprises,” when he saw me packing all the stuff into the car. “The surprise is if it’s good or not,” I replied. The real surprise was a video of over 50 of his friends and family members sharing memories from throughout his life and wishing him a happy birthday I shared after serving the cake. It was a “love bomb” that resulted in many happy tears.
On December 23, we went to Madde & Magnus’s new home for their Bingo Lotto party. Kids in Sverige sell bingo tickets. Then, the whole country plays during a tv show with celebrities and Christmas music performances. Arthur won 100 SEK and I was one away from a big prize, but lady luck was not on our side this year. We had fun and made some new Swedish friends.
We celebrated Christmas by watching our niblings unwrap presents from 3 different locations across the US via the magic of video chat. They’re now getting to the age of wanting actually-fun toys. Seeing the wrapping paper fly off and their excited faces really is satisfying. Wes and his adorable Boston Terrier Finn joined us for Christmas Eve. Karin joined us for dinner Christmas Day and Vivien joined us for dinner after Christmas day. It was calm and cozy.
We caught up with some friends after Christmas. Azra and Yasir invited us over for a dinner party with their friends and neighbors. Malte and Marcus kicked my ass in another boardgame night, but I enjoyed getting to play a few Tiny Epic games and Galaxy Trucker with them this year.
We celebrated New Year’s Eve at home by playing games, watching the ABC News online stream of hourly celebrations around the world, and Dinner for One. The big show in Sverige every year is a broadcast from Skansen, which we can see from our condo. We watched fireworks explode across the city skyline, played LOVA’s cover of Happy New Year and then Canelloni Macaroni loudly for some reason.
Instead of new year resolutions, I like to pick a theme. My themes for 2023 were resiliency (mental health, professional burn-out recovery) and bravery (taking the risk to explore entrepreneurship). My 2024 theme is focused consistency. While I do not know how exactly I will achieve my professional goals this year, I know what I need to do to make progress. I turn 40 in a few weeks. I don’t have many thoughts on that yet. I’m just grateful to be here and for another year to try to make some memories and perhaps something that outlives me.
TV & movies
- Ted Lasso (Apple TV+): The final season was perfect!
- Marvelous Mrs Maisel (Amazon Prime Video): Also a perfect final season!
- Sex Education (Netflix): Grateful for this series and enjoyed the final season (but I have some notes)
- Silo (Apple TV+): Loved it. Arthur read the Wool book series years ago. I will read as well because I won’t be able to wait years to know what happens.
- Extrapolations(Apple TV+): Black Mirror for climate change is even scarier.
- The Crown (Netflix): I thought the writers of the show must dislike the British monarchy and then I read about the actual events and the truth is so much worse. I am not a fan of monarchies, but the Harry & Meghan (2022, Netflix) documentary and Oprah with Meghan and Harry (2021) interview made me curious to understand why the queen was such a jerk to her grandkids.
- Below Deck franchise (Peacock): Several seasons. The Norge ‘Adventure’ series was recorded during my visit last year unknown to me. ‘Mediterreanean’ still the best. ‘Down Under’ was fun because Aesha is awesome.
- American Idol (Hulu): My top 3 were Zachariah Smith, Wé Ani, and Iam Tongi.
- Little Mermaid (2023): Notably improved story and modern adaptation, but weak performances for King Triton and Ursela. Our first movie theater experience since the start of the pandemic. We saw Carola in the lobby afterwards.
- Kitchen Nightmares (2023, Hulu)
- Hotel Hell (2013, Hulu)
- Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny: Lucasfilm salvaged the franchise with a story worthy of being the finale. We now can just pretend The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn’t happen.
- Barbie was fantastic. A story kids need to hear and filled with smart cultural references.
- Luca (2021, Disney+) was a beautiful coming of age allegory for being queer
- WTF? What’s The Future by Tim O’Reilly: insightful thoughts on tech, society, and public policy
- Survival of the Thickest by Michelle Buteau: funny and vulnerable autobiography
- Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper: read this if you want to understand the hype, hope, and history of Bitcoin
- Everything Is Not Enough by Lọlá Ákínmádé Åkeström: thrilling conclusion to In Every Mirror She’s Black
- Vice by Terry Stewart: a kink-positive romance novel by my friend (hear Karin, Arthur, and I read chapter 15 with Terry)