2020 in review

A quick summary of 2020

If you want to know how my 2020 went, consider this: it took me almost four months to finish this review post. A real motivation killer, this pandemic. (Although appendicitis accounts for one month's delay.)

It's nothing new to complain about 2020. I complain about 2020 as much as anyone. But for me those complaints are like talking about the weather. I don't really care, I just want to avoid other topics. For me, 2020 could've been worse.

First, January and February seamlessly continued a pretty good 2019. That was nice.

Second, despite the surreality of the pandemic's first few weeks here, the absurd number of deaths, the crazy attacks on science, the long and depressing year of social distancing -- despite all this, things could've been worse. Nobody I know died or lost their job. I never got sick. Life goes on. Of course, my extraordinary good fortunate is no consolation for those killed or impoverished by this capitalist virus.

But yeah, other than that it's mostly been a down year. Here's how it went for me.

January through March

I came back from winter break to find my favorite plant was dying. Being right next to a cheap window during a brutal cold spell is bad. Now, this is the plant I call Junior, which tells you two things: how pathetic my life is at the best of times, and how upset I was at this plant's decline. Fortunately, after much fretting, I made some cuttings that are doing great now. The original Junior has even started to grow back, having rekindled its tiny ember of life. Good thing he doesn't take after me.

Work was quieter than normal. I worried about a conference I was supposed to present at (because I dislike hurried travel). When COVID cancelled the conference with just a few weeks' notice, I figured myself pretty lucky. Little did I know.

March through May

The semi-national semi-lockdown that began in March 2020 was surreal. It still is, thinking back on it. I wasn't afraid or perplexed, but still there was a full week where I would wake up and wonder if it was all a dream. But the empty streets and empty shelves would remind me that it was all very real.

During this time, I split my work time between the office and home. At the office, we had to work mostly alone, with the team broken into groups that would never have any real world contact. Much of my office time was spent washing my hands and spraying down any surface that a human might conceivably touch. At home, I took to showering and washing my clothes after every foray out, quarantining any food I bought during my much-reduced grocery shopping outings, and generally avoiding contact with others. The smell of bleach and honeysuckle hand soap linger in my memory.

No doubt my hyper-vigilance was a coping method. I figured if everyone did their part, we could crush the pandemic and return to normal in short order. And that's what happened in some countries, but obviously not in most of the West, and certainly not in the U.S.

Working from home was hard and only got harder. I still complain that working from home is like turning your home into a factory, that it robs workers of what little sanctuary their homes once provided. But I understand why some people like it. The old workplace was no paradise, what with its spying bosses and utilitarian, profit-focused design. I guess the grass isn't green anywhere. It's almost like the problem is wage labor itself...


Summer was unremarkable. I walked lots, having a goal -- quickly abandoned -- of reaching 1,000 miles in three months. Didn't reach that, but I walked plenty. In July I started carrying weights in my backpack. It was tough at first but before long I could carry 30-40 extra pounds for 13 miles. Like Spring, summer had its own distinctive scent, this time thanks to lemon eucalyptus bug spray. (Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent is effective and safe. Highly recommended!)

I grew another garden. It was hard to find starts since everyone else had the same idea. I toyed with growing everything from seeds, but a late start meant that I settled on using whatever starts I could find: the desired chard and kale, plus some stuff nobody else wanted (mustard, bok choy). My garden gave me raspberries for the first time ever. Those were more work than expected. Lots of little thorns to avoid and a narrow window of time to harvest the berries; they go moldy if you don't pick them at just the right time. How do bears do it?

Travelled to see family despite the correct admonitions from health experts to stay home. That was a good call. Every member of my immediate family came down with COVID, but only months after I left.

In June I went to a local "black lives matter" protest. This mostly depressed me. Not just because of the people driving up and down the street in loud trucks with Trump flags, but because the Trump flag alone was a sufficient message. They didn't have to say anything else. Just by proclaiming their loyalty to Trump, they said -- and we heard -- that they were against black and minority lives. My inability to make an intervention also rankled me. They didn't invite speakers from the crowd (not that I had thought of anything to say) and I couldn't pass out flyers since I don't have a printer. Frankly, though, I probably would've bit my tongue. It's a small community.

There was time to do some projects: fixing some bad html on a website, replacing low quality album rips, etc. These I finished right before going back to work. What I first took to be a sign of perfectly measured productivity now strikes me as proof of procrastination -- finishing only at the last minute.

Gaming-wise, summer was quiet. I'd play Overwatch with friends or a bit of Red Dead Redemption 2 once or twice a week. It was good that I things to do besides gaming.

September through December

Bah. Work was almost as empty as spring; the promise of "closer to normal" was illusory. Working extended hours for no reason was frustrating. The holidays came and went without notice.

On the plus side, fall was pretty. With little else to do, I got out and enjoyed it (but still not enough).

Resolutions for 2021

My favorite media-ish things I encountered this year

These are media-ish things I enjoyed for the first time in 2020, no matter what year they're from.



Movies and TV


When COVID-19 shut everything down, I looked forward to a year of reading and listening to music. Somehow that didn't work out. But a desire to hear voices meant lots of podcasts and YouTube videos, less music.


Top new songs of 2020

For the last few years, I shared the top 25 songs from Spotify's automatically generated playlist "Your top songs of yyyy." No point in that this year. I barely used Spotify. What's more, its playlist seems inaccurate anyway. So I compiled this list from memory. It's based on all my listening, and not just one particular streaming service (which has never been more than a small part of my listening). These are songs I never heard before 2020.

This list excludes tracks from the albums listed above.