Happy New Year! Welcome to the 6th annual RickCarlino.com Year in Review. Despite currently recovering from a mild COVID infection and writing this post from bed rest, I’m excited to share the highlights of the past year with you.
Professionally, it’s almost two years since I joined Qualia, and I recently transitioned to a new team, marking a fresh chapter in my career. Marathon running has always been a passion, and I’m thrilled to report that this year surpassed the last, making it one of my best years for running yet.
On a personal note, life continues to be a beautiful journey. My children are growing up fast, each day bringing new joys and challenges. However, it’s not without its difficulties. My mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s has intensified, demanding more of my time and attention outside work.
As I reflect on the past year, I’m grateful for the experiences, both the triumphs and the trials, as they shape the journey ahead. Thank you for joining me on this annual reflection. Let’s dive into the details of what made this year unique.
- I ran my first 50 mile (~80km) ultramarathon this year. I ran the race conservatively and finished in 9 hours. It was an amazing experience.
- Presented a talk on GPT function calling during the “AI Night” meetup at Fox.Build. The talk explores how you can handle structured data when building LLM-powered applications.
- Conducted an OpenSCAD class at Fox.Build, continuing my passion for both using and teaching OpenSCAD. The codebase has seen significant improvements in 2023, sparking considerable interest among makerspace members.
- Had the opportunity to discuss my “Cosmic Conquest” historical research project from last year at the Forth2020 remote meetup. This presentation was an extension of a blog post I published in 2022. The event was well-organized, and a special thanks goes out to everyone involved. Watch the talk here.
- At Fox.Build Makerspace, it’s been a thriving year. We managed to paint and upgrade our historic 130-year-old building, welcomed an increasing number of members, and even garnered some publicity when the mayor of Saint Charles paid us a visit.
- Did a weekend trip to Baltimore for a friend’s wedding.
- Visited my in-laws in Thailand and took some time off to do vacation-y things.
- While my contributions to Open Source were limited this year, it’s due to the exciting development of a new OSS project of my own. More on that in the next section.
KoalaSRS, My New OSS Project
In 2019, I wrote an article discussing the challenges with existing spaced repetition software. My vision for an ideal spaced repetition system dates back to my university days and I’ve been holding some ideas in my brain for quite a while. The concept I envisioned, which would have required human-assisted grading, was inefficient and largely unfeasible.
The emergence of large language models in 2023 opened the door to realizing this idea. In January, I began developing a command-line prototype of an interactive, LLM-graded spaced repetition system. This system focuses on listening and speaking drills, uniquely capable of marking responses as “correct” or “close enough” based on linguistic context. This CLI version evolved into a web application, now in a usable public beta, with the source code available on Github.
As of December 31st, 2023, I have used KoalaSRS to review over 1,200 Korean phrases daily. It has become my primary study tool for the upcoming TOPIK exam.
KoalaSRS will celebrate its first anniversary on January 3rd, and I am excited to continue developing the app throughout 2024.
Races and Running
2023 marked my best year ever for running! I completed 221 runs, covering 1,388 miles (2,233 km) over 224 hours. This achievement nearly doubles my mileage from 2022. Joining the Fox River Trail Runners proved to be a game-changer, as I made numerous new friends who inspired and motivated me to reach new heights.
A significant highlight of the year was accomplishing my “big goal”: completing a 50-mile ultra-marathon. The extensive training and preparation paid off, allowing me to conquer the longest run of my life in 9 hours. This journey was not just about distance; it was a profound learning experience about my capabilities. I enjoyed every moment training on the trails and am grateful for the fantastic people I met along the way.
|Great Western Half Marathon
|Second place in division
|Fox Valley Marathon
|Marathon distance personal record
|Personal record for course
|Des Plaines River Trail 50 Mile Ultra
|First 50 mile ultra, a personal record
|Daruna Naree Mini Marathon
|Got lost and added extra 0.8km. Hottest race ever run. Missing overall results
Reading and Learning
- Art of Agile - A great read if you want a refresher on agile methodologies. If you read it, make sure you have a good understanding of “why” you want to read it and be ready to skip sections if needed. It’s a big book with a wide audience.
- Prometheus up and running - It was very informative and I use things I learned from this book quite often. I feel like the writing style could have been improved, as the author would sometime drop advanced topics and vocabulary without diving in deep enough and moving too quickly.
- Identity and Data Security for Web Development - a nice fast overview of some web development concepts.
- I attended a once weekly online TOPIK test prep class hosted by one of my favorite TOPIK YouTubers
2024 TOPIK II Exam Prep
Each year around New Year’s, I set a hobby goal for myself. This year, I’ve chosen to focus on passing the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK II). Although I’ve always been interested in studying Korean, I haven’t dedicated much time to it since university. My aim is to take the exam around mid-year. While taking the TOPIK exam isn’t strictly necessary for my needs, setting a test date provides a specific and actionable goal for my Korean language studies. Additionally, preparing for the TOPIK serves a dual purpose, allowing me to be my own test subject as I continue enhancing KoalaSRS.
Caring for a family member with a disability is a significant commitment, requiring me to be realistic about my achievable goals for the year. While ambitious targets are appealing, it’s also important to acknowledge some goals might be beyond reach at this time. I will try my best!
- Aim to publish at least 4 blog posts in 2024.
- Create a Gemini mirror of this blog.
- Learn OBS and produce one or two videos.
- Focus on minimizing time spent on unproductive online activities.
- Streamline the mundane aspects of life to focus on what truly matters. This includes finding quicker ways to complete routine tasks, honing my prioritization skills, and distinguishing between what’s important and what’s not.
- Revisit the documentation for my favorite productivity tools like LogSeq and Todoist to make sure I am getting the most out of them.
- Successfully pass the TOPIK exam.
- Attract some actual users or contributors for KoalaSRS (currently, I’m the only user).
- Do a think week this year.