Happy New Year! May It Suck Less?

Happy New Year!

It’s January first, 2023, or if you prefer, 1/1/23 – a date that not only works regardless of if you use the European or US date system, but is also the one and only Fibonacci day for the century. So… Happy Fibonacci day!

I hope you woke up today rested and excited for what lies ahead. It was certainly a good start to the year for me, waking up next to the woman I love. We even got cuddles from Ghost. And last night, for the first time in forever, I stayed up to see the New Year in, binge watching The Good Life with @Amerikate.

Good Riddance to a Shitty Year

It’s fair to say that 2022 sucked monkey balls (as @amerikate is so fond of saying), both from a personal and a global perspective. I’m not going to go through everything here, because it would take a long time, and I’d invariably miss out something pretty important. Suffice to say that The Washington Post has a reasonably good global-news breakdown (although it does also forget some important stuff).

(Sidenote: As I noted yesterday on Mastodon, even major news outlets are screwing up how they covered the year… choosing some rather interesting priorities in what they considered newsworthy. I’ll maybe make a blog post on that in the future.. but I digress).

Here in Nikki World, last year was the year in which I managed to work too much. It was the year in which Transport Evolved grew more slowly than it had in previous years. Our income grew, but not as quickly as our expenses. We still turned a profit… but it showed me that we need to pivot for the future, and we are hoping to execute on that in the new year (please book us if you have a group who would like to learn about electric vehicles or a fleet that needs to green itself up!). And as a consequence, I think i paid myself less than $11,000 this year. Maybe a lot less.

It’s been a tough year.

The next few paragraphs are going to deal with some tough stuff. So y’know, they’re hidden behind a content warning. I’m going to try and do this when stuff I’m writing gets… difficult.

It was the year in which I stressed more than I think I’ve ever stressed as the world seemingly wanted to eradicate the rights of LGBTQAI+ people in the world. The year in which I logged into my company YouTube channel EVERY SINGLE DAY to find someone leaving homophobia, transphobia, or some other personal-attack against myself or my colleague, cohost and friend PyoorKate. It has been exhausting. In fact, as someone who came out and transitioned in 2001 at the age of 21 (although I started my transition among friends in my late teens), I can safely say that in more than 20 years of living my authentic self, I’ve never encountered more hate than I have in the last twelve months because I’m an out, proud trans woman.

(It was also the year in which I first experienced someone loosing their shit with me in a restroom and threatening to call the cops. The year in which I spotted a truck that espoused killing trans people as a solution to the world’s problems and thus also the year in which I started to not drink or visit the rest room when driving alone for my own safety but not my own health. It was the year in which I learned who is actually an ally and who believes that friends should not be required to be an ally to LGBTQAI+ people but “You’re okay because you’re not like the others”. It was a year in which I added more states and cities and countries to my list of places I will no-longer visit (or will never visit).

It was the year in which more good people died because of the hate we, as a community are shown every day because of right-wing extremists who are convinced we’re the reason the world is failing. It was the year in which my home country made people like me – and the alleged bad things we bring to the world – the target of every political campaign.

It was the year in which I become more of a social recluse. The year in which I’ve worried about going places I don’t know. The year in which i’d rather stay at home and be safe than venture outside of our relatively safe part of the states.

It was the year in which I woke up night after night in cold sweats because of some nightmare or other. The year in which the transphobia and the hate and the homophobia and the nationalism and the “Trans People are groomers” sentiment that is slowly permeating western society got to me more than ever before. The year in which people have pushed back on YouTube because I dare mention I’m married to a woman, the year in which stating that simple fact is me being “political” or “woke”. The year in which people have stopped supporting us because shining a light on some of Elon Musk’s recent homophobic and transphobic statements and his entertaining of straight-up Nazis on Twitter is somehow “Anti EV” or “Racist”.

It was the upside down year. The year in which I have wanted to sell my company with every fiber of my being. Why? Because being in the EV world is now toxic AF because of Elon Musk, the bro culture and the notion that it’s okay that EVs are only accessible to really wealthy individuals… Apparently, those of us who are complaining about expensive EV prices should shut the fuck up because trickle-down economics will save us… (yeah, right).

It was the year in which my doctor decided that she would no-longer allow me to have HRT because she deems the risks to my health to be too great, citing cancer concerns (a concern which both my cancer specialist and other medical doctors I’ve consulted with have said is completely false). The same year, as it happens, where she used a completely different argument to try and get my partner to come off HRT.

Suffice to say, that doctor is no-longer my doctor and we’re now paying $50 a month each for a concierge doctor service.

It was the year in which I’ve sat on the side of my bed contemplating just how many pills I’d need to take for it not to be my problem any more. The year in which I’ve done that too many times to remember. The year in which I’ve spent many an early morning lying in bed wanting it all to just end. For me to be free of living in a world where people like me are not wanted.

Luckily, I’ve always been able to save myself – sometimes with help of friends and family. But in a year where attacks on LGBTQAI+ communities are on the rise, not everyone has been so fortunate.

Then, it’s not unexpected. When you are surrounded by hate from the world every single day, it takes more good to keep you on an even keel. Even if you are a well-adjusted individual, if you’re told time and time and time again that you’re shit… you will begin to believe it. And believe me, last year, it affected every member of the amazing team I work with.

It gets old.

It was also the year in which I, yet again, didn’t get to see my family back in the UK because of COVID. Personally, I’m okay flying if I have an N-95 mask on, but I don’t want to be in a situation where I might give my already frail mother COVID after a transatlantic flight. I hope this year is the year we can make that trip happen.

It was the year in which my wife almost died. No, I’m not being dramatic. She ended up getting appendicitis just a few days after a routine medical procedure. She stuck it out for nearly two days thinking it was just the recovery from the prior procedure, but it turned out it was her appendix. Because of some of the recent crap we’ve had to experience from medical institutions, I opted to drive her the extra distance to the local University hospital, and I’m glad I did. Her appendix burst while she was in the E.R., and it was… not good.

Thank goodness for health insurance… and please, can we have Universal Healthcare now?

@Amerikate wasn’t the only person to be sick either. We all got COVID as a consequence of being at Fully Charged Live. We all wore masks, but not all of us (me included) wore N-95… and that meant I got sick… and then everyone got sick.

Ghost also caused us to have a bit of a panic this year, by eating an entire rope toy. He was very sick for a while, but luckily, the emergency vet (and having pet insurance) came to the rescue.

Ghost, a trim-colored blue merle Border Collie, stares at the camera. The camera is higher than he is, thus he is looking up.
Someone required several thousand dollars of emergency care after eating a rope toy..

The end of the year wasn’t much better than the rest of it. The entirety of the Holiday season was taken up with cancelled flights, having to rescue family members, and changed plans. I cancelled everything I’d planned to do, leaving me exactly two days to get everything done before the start of normalcy next week.

Then we lost a power supply on our main Transport Evolved server, Kennedy. It’s currently powered down, and I had to buy two refurbished ones in an attempt to keep everything safe and functional until I can find new ones. Color me frustrated.

Our studio iMac – the one we use to display images on during our recording sessions? That’s died too, although I think I can fix it. The power cut last week is likely the culprit for it not turning on. I dropped my Raspberry pi that I use for running Octoprint on – and cracked the TFT touch-screen. There’s a long wait list for replacement screens at Adafruit, apparently.

…But Wait. There Were Good Bits, Too.

In addition to all the bad, 2022 did offer some good. We replaced our in-wall Cadet heaters with heat pumps. Sadly, they’re not working right now as they should (as shown by a $800+ and $700+ electricity bill for November and December, respectively, something that the installation company are investigating), but for the summer they’ve worked just great. They also keep the server room at 19 degrees C as opposed to the 40+ it would be if we just let the servers run wild.

We also purchased Adira Tal, our 2022 Ford F150 Lightning pickup truck.

It’s a truck that has proven itself rock-solid reliable, and already has 14,000 miles on the clock, helped in part by that time I drove to Colorado with a car on a trailer behind it, that time the entire Transport Evolved team drove to San Diego for Fully Charged Live USA, and the time, last week, when my wife had to drive to Sacramento and back in 36 hours to pick up her stranded parents who had… *cough* assumed they could fly into Portland during our worst ice storm in living memory.

We’re able, theoretically at least, to run our house off the truck in a storm, and while we’re still trying to figure out why the Ford Home Integration System isn’t working (more on that on the channel), we were able to get essential circuits powered from the truck early last week when the power went out for several days.

Yes, the truck was expensive, and yes, since we purchased it, Ford has put the price up multiple times to a price point we wouldn’t now be able to afford it at. I’m glad we were able to buy when we did.

But look, this is turning into a work post, and I don’t want to do that.

Last year, we managed to eradicate all of our Credit Card debt. That was a big milestone, and as a consequence, my credit score is happy and healthy. I hope this can continue into this year, and that we’ll be able to start doing some more fun things that we didn’t put money towards previously because… debt reduction. That by the way, is down to @Amerikate’s hard work. She’s the money guru.

I also managed to loose 35+ pounds last year. My depression and overall health had deteriorated this past year, not helped by the stuff I detailed in that hidden content-warning section above. At my heaviest, some time in late August, I was over 262 pounds. I’m now down to 224 on a good day, with my weight loss certainly slowing. The catalyst for that, other than wanting to be slimmer, was the news that my blood sugar was technically into diabetic territory and, as soon as I heard that, I was done. I’m not adding that to my list of things… Nope. No way.

Peloton instructor Christine D'ercole instructing a class on the Peloton App
I’ve been cycling and lifting my way through 2022. Christine D’ercole is one of my favorite instructors, as is Ben Aldis.

Prior to this, I’d worked out a fair bit, but I hadn’t actually changed my eating habits. I did that this time around, cutting out a lot of excess food I didn’t need. I still eat what I ate previously… just less of it. Now I’m doing Peloton rides multiple times a week, as well as a bunch of Peloton strength classes. If you’re interested, we don’t actually have a Peloton bike, but rather one that’s compatible with the App-based Peloton setup, something which costs just $12 a month. There’s a whole Subreddit devoted to such setups, if you’re interested. My wife and I were able to get a Schwinn IC4 for a ridiculously affordable amount (i.e. heavily discounted) through a program at her work (the only thing it doesn’t do is show the power you’re generating). If you’re interested in following me on Peloton, just look me up in the app. I’m Aminorjourney, just as I am in most places.

The garden was a rip-roaring success this past year. The chickens were for the most part healthy and happy (although we lost two more of my original flock to Coyotes, leaving only Ashley and Caroline from the original seven birds). I grew Potatoes and didn’t have the Gophers demolish them. I failed to grow tomatoes and cucumbers because the greenhouse didn’t happen in time. And while the Apples didn’t come this year due to late snow killing off all the buds just as they were about to flower, the garden did provide us with food. And that’s always the goal.

Runner Beans
Runner Beans

@Amerikate continued her foray into woodworking, making more and more complicated and amazing things out of wood. She’s pretty much taken over the garage shop now, but I’m okay with that. She has a Saw Stop and a lathe! And she’s hopefully going to start work on the book shelves we so desperately need (did you know we still have books in boxes from our emigration back in 2015?)

We also generated a LOT of power on the roof of our home, adding more than 14 megawatt-hours of solar energy to the grid/our home. That’s good by anyone’s standards.

Enphase app showing solar power generation for 2022
We generated 14.1 MWh of power this year

The dogs stayed reasonably healthy too. Aside from that time Ghost ate a full chew toy…

I also got to spend the year making amazing content with the most talented and amazing group of people in Erin, Michael, Moss and PyoorKate. (Sorry, I added Erin and Michael’s work accounts, but that’s the best place to link for them both).

Transport Evolved at Fully Charged Live USA 2022
Transport Evolved at Fully Charged Live USA 2022

Everyone has really upped the game, and the content we’re now making? Well, it’s on par with much larger companies.

And finally, we survived the year. We made it to 2023. I know that sounds like a small feat (again, if you’ve read the CW section you’ll know it’s not), but we’re both here. My wife and I are both here, and safe, and alive. That didn’t seem like a foregone conclusion for much of the year. I’m feeling blessed we proved that sentiment wrong.

So… What’s Next?

It’s a new year, and a new start, as so many people are fond of saying. Me? I prefer to wake up and take the day, but I can’t help feel some positivity that was lacking yesterday. Then again, yesterday consisted of me breaking a lot of stuff or having stuff breaking, so meh.

Big Tree Tech SKR V1.4 Turbo main board for Creality Ender 3 Pro
I broke it.

TLDR on that? I’d purchased a BTT SKR V1.4 Turbo to replace the stock motherboard in our Creality Ender 3 Pro printer. I purchased it back in 2020, but the last two years had made it tough to actually get anything done. So yesterday, I started the upgrade process having printed out the required case and getting everything ready. @Amerikate burnt the firmware to an SD card, and I… blew up the motherboard somehow. So back to square one. We’re waiting for a replacement SKR 3 Mini V 3.0 to arrive in the mail, and then we’ll be able to print more complex stuff than the 8-bit default stock board will do. I reassembled the printer last night with the stock board, but for some reason I managed to break the LCD in the process, so go figure..

I’m currently printing a set of F150 Lightning emergency frunk release covers for Tom Moloughney, and luckily, my printer is working fine without the LCD screen for now. Hopefully the new motherboard will enable the LCD again, and we’ll be back in business.

Cura slicer showing 3D print setup for Ford F150 Lightning emergency frunk release cages
I’m printing some stuff for a fellow EV content creator 😉

There’s also a new direct-drive extruder and dual-Z axis kit coming, but that’s for a different post.

There’s a bunch of projects I want to achieve this year. Aside from the aforementioned transition at work to doing more consulting (so we have to rely less on the shitty world of YouTube), I’ve got a load of personal projects.

  • We want to put fences up all around our property, so we can enclose our plot completely…
    • …partly because I want my chickens to roam free again…
    • …and partly because I want the dogs to be able to have some more freedom…
    • …but mainly because I want Nigerian Dwarf Goats…
    • …and because I want to keep our property more safe from the kind of people who want us dead.
  • We want to build bookshelves for both the Music Room (which @Amerikate calls the Living Room) and the Living Room (which @Amerikate calls the Family Room). I’m working on convincing her my nomenclature is more appropriate, since we do not live in the Music Room and we do not have children at home any more.
  • I want to loose more weight. My goal is to shed another 60 pounds by the end of August, but frankly, I’d be happy if I manage to get under 200 pounds.
  • We want to build a greenhouse, although we’re a little conflicted about how. I want recycled materials, and @Amerikate wants to go with new construction. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.
  • We need to rebuild or at least, rescue, our Shit Shack – aka our pump house. It’s in a bad way, and I don’t want our source for fresh water compromised.
  • We want our Ford Home Integration System and our Span panel actually working properly. That’s a long story and I’ll not go into it now.
  • We want to do more 3D printing. Seriously, I love printing things and it’s perfect for a brain that, while not officially diagnosed with ADHD, is prone to getting distracted a lot.
  • We want a vacation. I NEED a vacation. Somewhere quiet, with the dogs, is preferred. Sitting on a beach with what feels like thousands of other humans is my idea of hell.
  • We want to fix the garden lawn. It’s a mess, and doesn’t have much in the way of cover right now. I’d love to convert it to a more Native Style lawn. maybe that’ll happen.
  • We want to fix the massive holes left when we moved a load of soil. We made a mess. A big mess, that will require official specialists to come and fix and make a hard standing again.
  • We want to insulate the shop so it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to heat during the winter. And put in some form of AC for the summer. That’s going to be a project we’ll have to tackle soon-ish.
  • We have a bunch of maintenance projects too. The deck needs repair, as does the spot out back where the path winds around near the garbage cans.

I know this is an exhaustive list, and frankly, I expect we’ll manage one or two of those things. But hey, let’s see where we go and what we can do.

In the meantime, I’ve got a 3D print to rescue – It’s started stringing again – and a fursuit to fix. HRH. Queenie Octavia Christina Deerhart is going to be making an appearance at AnthroNorthwest next weekend, and she’s not wearable right now. I have a day and a half to fix that.

Be most excellent to one another, please?