2023 Winter Solstice Update

by on 2023-12-28 | License Permalink

This has been a weird half of the year. It’s been dominated by the fact that we’re very likely going to be parents in 2024, which is amazing and terrifying at the same time. Mixed into that are the regular challenges of ADHD medication and the British medical system, increasingly complex social demands on my time, and disruptions such as COVID infections.

There’s been some low moments this half a year, but there have been significant high points too. The next time I write a Solstice update, I may very well be doing it from a vantage point of Fatherhood…

Key Events

  • 2023-07-02 – My partner, A, and I see another positive pregnancy test
  • 2023-09-01 – I begin driving lessons
  • 2023-10-06 – I test positive for COVID
  • 2023-10-21 – A and I legally marry
  • 2023-10-25 – We see a healthy 20-week fetus at a scan, indicating that it’s likely we will have a child in March
  • 2023-10-26 – We fully pay off our mortgage on our house


Exercise, Hiking, and Archery

I’ve collapsed these into one heading because there’s really not too much to report here.

I’ve been focusing more on my strength training than my running and it really shows. I haven’t run a 10K in a while, which has only compounded since my COVID infection. In terms of strength work, most of my effort has been focused on making gains on pull-ups. I’m progressing there but it’s went from linear to jagged, and I’m once-again plateauing around 3x8 reps on a purple assistance band.

My plans going forward are to try and emphasise weight loss a little. I have a mostly healthy relationship with my weight but I feel that’s one of the factors holding me back on making gains in pull-ups. Parallel to that, I hope to begin integrating Crow Stands into my weekly routine to practice balance and begin building up my shoulders for assistance muscles.

In terms of running, my immediate goals are to consistently run a 7.5K run once per week, with a goal of doing at least one more 10K before the baby gets here and my routine totally goes out of the window entirely.

We’ve barely done any hikes, unfortunately. We did a few in the summer and early autumn but we’ve had major disruptions with family emergencies, the pregnancy, and my COVID infection getting in the way. One of my personal highlights was dragging Rhiaro across Weardale on a 23.6Km straight-line route which comprised of some of my favourite bits of other hikes I’ve done in the area. Rhiaro is an experienced hiker but I was pleased that I managed to plan/research my own route which kept someone safe and dry across an enjoyable day.

For archery, I spent a good few weekends down the range with my hired bow in the summer but after my COVID infection I haven’t been able to get down. It’s winter and thus the indoor season is in full swing, but sadly the indoor sessions don’t quite gel with my schedule. I have assembled my beginner’s kit and am awaiting on my schedule lining up with a Coach’s so I can get assistance doing the final assembly and getting my draw length measured. Once I have that I can grab some cheap beginners' arrows and start heading down to the shooting range on clear days.


I’m sure how much longer “Esperanto” will be a heading here, as it continues to settle into my life as a mainstay rather than being a hobby. I may replace this section title with “Languages”, maybe.

I continue to journal in Esperanto and have written a few odd lines of poetry here and there, but nothing to report or post. I continue to talk to my Esperanto pal M, and I plan for my child to be bilingual with Esperanto. We’ll be taking the “one parent one language” approach to teaching them language but Esperanto will likely be playing second fiddle to English in their life. That’s fine, as my goal is to simply give them a leg up on learning languages. If they choose to cease learning Esperanto when they’re old enough to tell me that in their own words (in any language!) then that’s fine and I’ll have done my job.

Creative Writing

I’ve worked on a few creative writing projects but haven’t had a lot of time for them around my work and other things. so there’s nothing really to report here, sadly.



Lots of old faves in here with a few notable new entries. Via some internet commentors I discovered Casiopea and gave the album Mint Jams a listen. I enjoyed it enough to grab a few albums from them but not enough to dive headfirst into their discography.

The only other notable theme is rediscovering my love of Black Metal. I got a hankering for listening to some and dredged up some old back-ups to listen to my old Dimmu Borgir and Venom albums. I really enjoyed myself and see this continuing into 2024 intermingled with some Pop-Punk and Electronic.

  • With Clifford Brown by Sarah Vaughan
  • Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane
  • Aqualung by Jethro Tull
  • Pastel Blues by Nina Simone
  • Exile On Main St. by The Rolling Stones
  • Mutter by Rammstein
  • Reise, Reise by Rammstein
  • Vicious Delicious by Infected Mushroom
  • Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull
  • Minstrel In The Gallery by Jethro Tull
  • Songs From The Wood by Jethro Tull
  • Heavy Horses by Jethro Tull
  • Somethin' Else by Cannonball Adderley
  • Midian by Cradle Of Filth
  • Nymphetamine by Cradle Of Filth
  • Trøllabundin by Eivør Pálsdóttir
  • Americana by The Offspring
  • Mugzy’s Move by Royal Crown Revue
  • All I Was by Tremonti
  • So Long Astoria by The Ataris
  • House Of Gold And Bones Pt 1 by Stone Sour
  • Keep Your Silence by Cyferdyne
  • Coal Chamber by Coal Chamber
  • ANThology by Alient Ant Farm
  • Heart Full Of Wine by Angus & Julia Stone
  • I Put A Spell On You by Nina Simone
  • Pastel Blues by Nina Simone
  • Furiosity by Monster Truck
  • Asia by Asia
  • Thornography by Cradle Of Filth
  • S & M by Metallica
  • XIII by Mushroomhead
  • Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) by Gary Numan
  • Savage (Songs From A Broken World) by Gary Numan
  • Sings The Blues by Nina Simone
  • Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Jeremy Soule
  • Mint Jams by Casiopea
  • Make Up City by Casiopea
  • Casiopea by Casiopea
  • Cross Point by Casiopea
  • Photographs by Casiopea
  • Singing the Blues by B. B. King
  • Boston by Boston
  • Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace by The Offspring
  • Americana by The Offspring
  • Midian by Cradle Of Filth
  • Living In The Past by Jethro Tull
  • Duke Ellington & John Coltrane by Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
  • Mutter by Rammstein
  • Giant Steps by Johnn Coltrane
  • Pastel Blues by Nina Simone
  • Mezmerize by System Of A Down
  • Infest by Papa Roach
  • All I Was by Tremonti
  • Push The Beat For This Jam by Scooter
  • Jumping All Over The World – Whatever You Want by Scooter
  • Into The North by The Dreadnoughts
  • In Sorte Diaboli by Dimmu Borgir
  • Welcome To Hell by Venom
  • Black Metal by Venom
  • Disraeli Gears by Cream
  • Abrahadabra by Dimmu Borgir
  • Night Train by The Oscar Peterson Trio
  • Foreign Skies by The Dreadnoughts
  • Death Cult Armageddon by Dimmu Borgir
  • Lifa by Heilung
  • Drif by Heilung
  • Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia by Dimmu Borgir
  • At War With Satan by Venom
  • Blackout by Dropkick Murphys
  • The Warrior’s Code by Dropkick Murphys
  • The Meanest Of Times by Dropkick Murphys
  • Riot! by Paramore
  • Spiritual Black Dimensions by Dimmu Borgir
  • GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo
  • The End, So Far by Slipknot
  • The Gang’s All Here by Dropkick Murphys
  • Devil Came To Me by Dover
  • Stormblåst MMV by Dimmu Borgir
  • We Are Not Your Kind by Slipknot
  • Sing Loud, Sing Proud! by Dropkick Murphys
  • Into The North by The Dreadnoughts
  • Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky
  • Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa by Cradle Of Filth
  • XIII by Mushroomhead
  • The Path Of Totality by KoRn
  • Meteora by Linkin Park
  • American Idiot by Green Day
  • Enema Of The State by Blink 182
  • A Hangover You Don’t Deserve by Bowling For Soup
  • The Meanest Of Times by Dropkick Murphys
  • Soilbleed Redux by Grendel

Total Albums (unique): 93


I didn’t read as much as I normally would, for a variety of reasons. Firstly my ADHD meds play merry havoc with my ability to read before bed so this affects how much I can physically read. This is a tough new reality for me, but one I’ve grown to just accept and soldier on the best I can. Secondly, my COVID infection disrupted my reading for a number of weeks and really ate into my reading time. I couldn’t focus on a book for ages during the active infection and immediately following it. Thankfully, I seem to be able to focus on them again. Next, my partner and I don’t read together much at the moment because we have separate bed times due to the pregnancy. Lastly, I finally started reading The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson; which are notably long!

After watching the movie with my partner, I decided to chew through A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I missed these growing up as they were marketed to people a bit younger than I was, and surged in popularity just as I was knee-deep in The Wheel of Time. I really enjoyed them, with the exception that I thought the end was anticlimactic and not satisfying. Then I remembered that the author had literally warned me multiple times that the ending was not going to be satisfying, so I can’t really complain. The world it created was great and it left lots to the imagination. I will be reading them with our child when they’re ready.

Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive books were the other main feature of this half year of reading, primarily from around the end of September. I’d put off reading Stormlight for two reasons: the length of each individual book; and the file size of each ebook file. Brandon has clearly made a concerted effort to work with artists and the end result of each book is beautiful; however the file sizes are, frankly, ridiculous and take up a disproportionate amount of my Kindle’s memory. Luckily the copies I got are DRM-free, so I’m planning on creating “Lite” editions for personal use by removing the images and replacing the chapter decorations with plain text headers. Hopefully that will reduce the file size enough to keep on my Kindle safely!

I really enjoyed Stormlight, although Rhythm of War was a little bit of a slog. I’m not sure if that was a bit of “fantasy burnout” from chain-reading them, or whether it’s something to do with the book itself. Opinion on the internet seems to be that — while great — it isn’t the best of Brandon’s work, and that might be partially due to it being the first Cosmere book without his long-standing editor working on it. I listen to a lot of Brandon on Writing Excuses and I trust that whatever was wrong or off this time around should be addressed by the release of Stormlight 5. Whether that is learning to work best with his new editor, or something else. I’m looking forward to the next book and am currently going through his “Secret Project” entries so I’m all caught up on the Cosmere.

Notable mentions are Nod by Adrian Barnes and The Men Who Would Be King by Nicole LaPorte. The former is a literary fiction book marketed as a sci-fi book wherein all of a sudden, most people in the world can no longer sleep. I enjoyed the premise and mostly enjoyed the book, but it has since soured upon reflection as a bit misogynist in places. The Men Who Would Be King is a nonfiction book chronicling the rise and fall of the Dreamworks Hollywood studio through the lens of the three major players: Katzenberg, Geffen and Spielberg. It was genuinely riveting and I struggled putting it down at times.

The most disappointing book for me was Foundation by Isaac Asimov. To be clear, I think the book is brilliant but I didn’t click with its pacing or prose style very much and so it was a bit of a slog to read. This is sad since I try my best to enjoy as much as possible. Alas I am not going to be reading Asimov for a little going forward.

  • Never Deal With A Dragon by Robert N. Charrette
  • Endurance by Alfred Lansing
  • Star Wars: Darth Bane - Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn
  • This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  • Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
  • Star Wars: Darth Bane - Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn
  • New Suns: original Speculative Fiction by People of Colour by Nisi Shawl
  • Star Wars: Darth Bane - Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn
  • The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  • The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket
  • The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket
  • The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
  • Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Nod by Adrian Barnes
  • The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
  • The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket
  • The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket
  • The Men Who Would Be King by Nicole LaPorte
  • The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket
  • The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket
  • The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket
  • A Darker Shade Of Magic by V. E. Schwab
  • The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket
  • The End by Lemony Snicket
  • Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  • Words Of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson
  • Mistborn: Secret History by Brandon Sanderson
  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
  • Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson
  • Rhythm Of War by Brandon Sanderson
  • Yumi and The Nightmare Painter by Brandon Sanderson

Total Books: 33

Currently Reading: The Sunlit Man by Brandon Sanderson


This was a great half-year for movies for me. There was a decent mix of cosy nostalgia, junk food, and decent movies.

Highlights for me: Indiana Jones (I hadn’t seen them in a while and love a good classic adventure movie), Spirit (I had never seen it and it was surprisingly well written and engaging), Horns (a rewatch and a worthy one. Great movie.), Children of Men, Birdman, and finally a re-watch of my old B-movie staple Black Dynamite.

For low-lights: American Pie was not as funny as I remembered it being. I somehow felt compelled to watch the second and third ones though. The Hangover was similarly poor. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World had a lot of promise but I feel it fell short. I loved the performances from the actors but I feel the script was a bit off, and (spoiler warning) I actually really resented Steve Carell’s character getting the girl in the end and thought that it cheapened the end of the movie a lot.

  • Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society
  • Almost Famous
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Mulan (2020)
  • A Series Of Unfortunate Events
  • Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Hook
  • Evolution
  • American Pie
  • Horns
  • Men In Black
  • The Matrix
  • Men In Black II
  • The Matrix Reloaded
  • The Matrix Revolutions
  • The Animatrix
  • Four Lions
  • The Crow
  • A Bug’s Life
  • American Beauty
  • Blade
  • Logan
  • Blade II
  • Hellboy
  • American History X
  • X-Men
  • Billy Elliot
  • X-Men 2
  • Shrek 2
  • Moon
  • Children of Men
  • The Disaster Artist
  • Birdman
  • The Hangover
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • Limitless
  • Project X
  • Toy Story
  • Toy Story 2
  • Monsters Inc.
  • Toy Story 3
  • Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
  • Mrs. Doubtfire
  • American Pie 2
  • Fanboys
  • World’s Greatest Dad
  • One Hour Photo
  • American Pie 3: The Wedding
  • Antitrust
  • Inside Out
  • Corpse Bride
  • Gremlins
  • Black Dynamite
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Gladiator
  • A Quiet Place
  • The Truman Show

Total Movies: 58