Alessandro Cuzzocrea

2022: Year in Review

A work in progress drawing of a small pumpkin with an even smaller apple

Table of Contents

Ludum Dare 50

Protect the Candle Ludum Dare 50 entry page

I joined in on this year’s Ludum Dare game jam, celebrating its 20th anniversary with the Ludum Dare 50 event. The theme was “Delay the Inevitable”, but I had a hard time coming up with an exciting idea.

Unfortunately, my performance wasn’t as good as before, and many people commented that my game controls were confusing. This experience taught me the importance of identifying and fixing unclear game mechanics. It also sparked my interest in “intuitive game design” – should I explore this idea further and share my findings in a blog post?

If you want to learn more about my experience during Ludum Dare 50, don’t hesitate to check out my detailed write-up.

Advent of Code 2022

TEMP

I took part in this year’s Advent of Code (AoC), an annual Christmas-themed programming competition created by Eric Wastl in 2015. Just like an advent calendar, a new puzzle unlocks each day, making the entire event an exciting countdown to Christmas. Each puzzle has two parts: the first one is generally straightforward, while the second part adds complexity, often making brute force solutions less effective. I found myself engrossed not only in coming up with initial solutions but also in refining them.

I managed to complete all the standard challenges and several advanced ones, collecting a total of 41 stars out of 50. The spatial problems particularly intrigued me, with the elevation and sand puzzles leaving a lasting impression. The CRT puzzle was another good one.

While the early puzzles were relatively easy, the difficulty quickly escalated. By the end, I confess, I felt somewhat burned out. The puzzles were sometimes vague, and some examples did not cover all corner cases.

I used C# for this year’s AoC, a language I hadn’t worked with in a while. My productivity experienced a significant boost, and I fearlessly refactored my code. Unit tests were particularly useful on many occasions. C# and the .NET platform are amazing, and I wish I could use them in my day job.

This wasn’t my first AoC experience. I initially participated in 2019 using Ruby but had to stop after the fourth day due to other commitments.

I might participate in AoC again next year, potentially exploring a different programming language. As for the puzzles I couldn’t solve this time, I plan to revisit them next year if time permits.

One takeaway from my AoC experience is the importance of adaptability in problem-solving. It’s crucial to try multiple approaches and know when to abandon a dead-end and try something else. If you’re ever stuck on a problem, visualization can be a game-changer - debugging the solution visually was my secret weapon on more than one occasion.

Feel free to check out my AoC 2022 solutions.

Digital Garden

Alessandro Cuzzocrea's digital garden home page

I often find myself with lots of half-written notes scattered around, some of which I even forget that I’ve written. That’s why I decided to create a digital garden, which is essentially a collection of interconnected notes and thoughts. It’s a space where I can put my random ideas that may not necessarily be full-fledged blog posts but still have value, similar to a personal wiki.

Currently, it’s just a bunch of random markdown notes that I had on my PC. That said, my goal is to continue adding to my digital garden over time and eventually grow some of the notes into well-written posts. I expect to forget about it and abandon it in a few months, given my track record.

I generated my digital garden using 11ty, a static site generator written in JavaScript that I found to be pretty flexible, fast, and leverages the vast JavaScript ecosystem. I’ve been using Hugo for a couple of years now and while appreciate its qualities, I switched to 11ty for this project because Go templates used by Hugo are a bit too complicated and verbose to work with compared to other templating languages.

If you’re interested, you can visit my digital garden here: https://garden.alessandrocuzzocrea.com.

A Thread Across the Ocean

I came across a post on HN about an oceanic internet cable and got interested. I picked up the book A Thread Across the Ocean and was immediately captivated by the amazing story of the first transatlantic telegraph cable and the incredible people who made it happen.

The book tells the story of how the first transatlantic telegraph cable revolutionized communication between North America and Europe. The project took over a decade to complete, starting in the mid-1850s and succeeding in 1866. Overcoming the technological obstacles of the time required immense physical, financial, and courage.

The book highlights the importance of perseverance and learning from failures. Cyrus Field and his team faced multiple setbacks before finally succeeding in 1866, showcasing the resilience and perseverance of the people involved in making the cable a reality and the power of collaboration and innovation.

As I read the book, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the challenges faced by the engineers who laid the cable and those faced by modern engineering organizations. Speed and efficiency are often prioritized over quality, resulting in rushed and subpar products.

Overall, A Thread Across the Ocean is an inspiring read that accurately portrays the ingenuity and perseverance of the human race. It’s an excellent choice for anyone interested in history, technology, or entrepreneurship.

Severance

Screenshot from the TV show 'Severance'. Courtesy of Apple TV+
Credit: APPLE TV+

Severance is an excellent TV series that premiered on Apple TV+ earlier this year. It has quickly become one of the most engaging shows in recent times. The series astutely discusses issues related to toxic work culture, but it refrains from directly criticizing work or capitalism. It offers a critique of the common white-collar workplace and the dehumanization that comes with it, presenting the harsh reality of sacrificing personal life to a dull and soul-sucking job. This draws viewers into an unusual yet intriguing world right from the start.

Every element of Severance is expertly crafted. The story, the music, sound, and acting - everything is top-notch. The opening credits are striking, and the music by Theodore Shapiro greatly enhances the show’s atmosphere. Its haunting resonance lingers even after the show ends.

One of the unique aspects of Severance is its ability to effectively convey varying emotions and tones without relying heavily on any particular element. The show maintains a consistent aesthetic throughout, which adds to its overall appeal. This coherence in style and atmosphere enriches the viewing experience.

The first season concludes with a thrilling cliffhanger. I absolutely can’t wait for season 2 and hope it maintains the exceptional quality of the first season.

I recommend watching Severance without viewing trailers or spoilers first - it’s worth the surprise. If you’re seeking a standout TV show with a strong story, pertinent social commentary, and high production value, Severance is a must-watch.

Sous Vide Cooking

After years of curiosity piqued by the intriguing method of sous vide, I finally plunged headfirst into this culinary adventure, investing in an inexpensive sous-vide circulator stick. It’s a fascinating device, deceptively simple to use, and it has transformed my kitchen into a kind of domestic science lab. The process of bagging food before its sous vide bath is oddly satisfying, a tactile enjoyment that adds to the overall culinary experience.

The results are nothing short of amazing. The meat comes out incredibly tender and juicy, as if it’s been pampered to perfection. Although I have to admit, I’m still honing my skills in the art of searing, especially considering my limited tools: a small skillet being my only ally. Despite these limitations, the sous-vide stick has already impressed me with its ability to deliver restaurant-quality dishes right in my home kitchen.

Finding thick cuts of meat, however, can be quite a challenge here in Japan, at least in the typical supermarkets and local butchers. As someone who’s not the biggest fan of red meat, my experiments have largely revolved around chicken. This method has opened up a whole new world of flavor, making chicken a delightful source of cheap and high-quality protein.

Yule Log (Bûche de Noël)

I can’t help but chuckle when I think about my attempt to make a Yule Log for this Christmas. Ever since I was little, I’ve been captivated by everything about Yule Logs - their shape, the festive design, and the way they bring such a special vibe to the holiday season.

So, I started by practicing with an easy roll cake recipe, which is pretty close to a Yule Log. To my surprise, the roll cake turned out great, giving me the confidence to tackle the real deal. But when the time came to make the actual Yule Log, I was in a rush and ended up making a massive mess.

Looking back, I see that my mistake was not taking enough time to prepare and practice. I was too hasty, and it showed. But hey, I learned from my mistakes, and I’m excited to give it another shot next year.

A slice of the roll cake I made for practice
A slice of the roll cake I made for practice

Overnight Oats

In our busy modern world, finding time to cook a healthy meal can often be a challenge. That’s why I turned to meal prepping and discovered the convenience of Overnight Oats. Overnight Oats have become my quick and healthy go-to meal. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend exploring different recipes and flavors that suit your personal preferences. It’s a straightforward way to streamline your day while still enjoying a nutritious meal.

Overnight Oats can be prepared in minutes and will last for several days in the fridge. This is a convenient and time-saving option, especially when life gets hectic.

I’m also intrigued by the potential variations, such as adding grated apple or muesli to my Overnight Oats. These are tempting combinations that I plan to try soon.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has genuinely transformed my life for the better. For those unfamiliar, intermittent fasting is a lifestyle or dietary approach where you eat within a specific time frame during the day, typically an 8-hour period.

In adopting this method, I’ve developed a routine where I skip breakfast and only have my first meal around 1pm for lunch, with dinner following at 7pm. The key to this approach is to consume no calories outside of this designated eating window. Surprisingly, I don’t find myself feeling hungry, and my meals are sufficiently satisfying to deter me from snacking.

One of the most significant benefits I’ve discovered is the mental clarity that comes during my fasted hours. It’s as though my brain is operating at maximum capacity, and I often do my best work during this period. In fact, I’ve started postponing lunch as late as possible to make the most of this productive phase.

Another noteworthy aspect of intermittent fasting is the restorative break it provides to my body. Rather than constantly processing food, my system gets a chance to “clean up” and reset itself.

However, it’s worth mentioning that everyone’s physiology is different – what works for me might not work for you. It’s essential to find a rhythm that suits your needs and lifestyle. Additionally, be mindful of the potential pitfall of overeating during your eating period – it’s an easy trap to fall into if you’re not vigilant.

Apple Music Replay 2022

My 2022 Apple Music Replay playlist featuring my top 10 songs of the year