2021 Year in Review

I’m a positive person so I have to acknowledge that 2021 was an improvement on 2020; even if that is an easy bar to clear. A lot of good things happened, most importantly my engagement, but there was plenty of rough spots as well. This past year was an improvement and I hope it keeps improving - it has to.

The New Gig

It was clear to me midway through 2020 that I wasn’t enjoying my job at all anymore. I was burnt out from my projects, didn’t feel like I was being very effective, and finally decided it was time to make a change. I left my consulting job that I had been at for almost 10 years and joined Multnomah County as an Integrations developer. This was a really big change and it was exactly what I needed to get me out of the funk I was in.

I started late November of 2020 and showed up to the Multnomah Building to meet my temporary manager who had hired me. They issued me a badge to the building, gave me a quick tour, handed me an unassigned laptop from a pile and promptly sent me home. I haven’t set foot in the office since that first “orientation” day and everyone else at the County I have only ever met over Google Meet. In my first year at the County, I’ve been able to work on a lot of new technologies, which is exactly what I wanted. As a public agency the tasks are totally different than what I’ve worked on before. I built a small automation system using Power Automate to record gun violence data, and another to link patient records in disparate health systems. I worked on a series of APIs with the budget team as part of a very large Data Mart project for linking all the County financial data. Finally, I’ve been working on various projects within our ERP system, culminating in building out the 2022 employee health insurance process. There has been a lot more than that but those are some of the highlights. I’ve been enjoying it so far and finally feel “settled” and not the new guy anymore. I’m looking forward to another good year professionally.

Home Projects

I’ve wanted to make changes to my condo for a while now but always found reasons to put it off. Then we were largely stuck inside for a year and all those little annoyances became unbearable. My boyfriend and I changed almost all the major features of our place and it’s much nicer now. We started the year off by replacing all the flooring. This was a huge project and took a whole week to finish. We had to move all the furniture into the bedrooms, replace all the floors but the bedrooms, move everything back, then finish the other rooms. Once we had replaced all the flooring, we felt really dumb though because now our furniture looked bad. It was old and a hodgepodge of different items from when we moved in together more than seven years ago. We ended up replacing or getting rid of a bunch of the furniture that we spent all that time moving from room to room. Lesson learned! We also bought all new appliances since the ones that came with our condo were showing their age. New dishwasher, oven, microwave, and washer and dryer. Finally, the 2020 fires were still fresh in my memory. I couldn’t handle another hot and smoky summer where we had to choose between running our in-window AC unit to keep cool or keeping the smoke out. We got a min split AC system installed. It was so nice to have this summer and held up even when it was more than 100 degrees.

A Great if Brief Summer

With all the home improvement out of the way I asked my boyfriend to marry me and he said yes. Getting engaged was the start to a great summer. After probably a month of confusion we found that the easiest way to get a Covid Vaccination was at the Portland Airport. There was a mass drive-in clinic there without the need for appointments. We got both our Pfizer shots there early in the year and the summer looked positive. Things were opening back up again, we actually went out to the clubs, we went to the beach, and made some small trips. There was even that brief month or so where the mask mandate in Portland was lifted before being reimposed. Things weren’t fully back to normal by any means, but we were finally headed in the right direction. The best thing to come back was indoor soccer. My team had been waiting for restrictions to lift and we were back on the field almost immediately when they had. I love playing with those guys.

The mask mandate coming back definitely put a damper on the end of the summer. It really does make going out feel not as fun and carefree as before. In some ways the mask mandate return felt like the end of the glorious, if brief summer and as fall came around, we were spending more time in the refurbished condo again. Not anywhere near as isolated as in 2020 but some of that still lingered. I did make it up to Alaska a couple times to help at the Meadery. One was in Anchorage for the summer brew festival and he second was in Juneau, where I had never been before. I really enjoyed the small and compact town - they really know how to drink there. I’m most happy that our Holidays were back to normal this year. We hung out with friends for Halloween. Went down to southern Oregon to visit family for Thanksgiving, and had the big family dinner on Christmas. It’s remarkable how much I missed those “normal” activities.

2021 felt like a constant dance of two steps forward, then one back. Unlike the 2020 experience of everything getting worse, this year gave us lots of good things as well. There are still a lot of unknowns at this point but I’m hopeful that this winter will be the last big surge in cases. With vaccines widely deployed, effective treatments now available, and lots of people already infected it’s hard for me to see the justification for continued restrictions through 2022. I think a lot of people are gun shy about calling an end to this but you have to rip off the band-aid at some point.


We had so many projects in 2021 and a busy summer but I still got a lot of good reading in.

  • Axiom’s End I picked this up because I was a long time watcher of Lindsay Ellis’ youtube channel and wanted to support her work. I didn’t really know what I was getting into besides knowing that it was an alien first contact story. It had me hooked almost immediately and was a great adventure to follow along with. I don’t think it broke any new ground in the “first contact” genre but the aliens were unique and Lindsay knows how to keep the story moving.

  • The Dao of Capital I enjoy investing books, especially ones like this that attempt to take a lot of different threads and construct a framework to understand them. I found myself nodding along and agreeing with many of Spitznagel’s observations but I also found myself skipping many sections in the hope that he would get on with it. He spends multiple chapters blowing a pantheon of Austrian economists, musing about different acorns, and roping in Daoist philosophy before he lets out that all he’s proposing is the use of long dated puts. There’s a bit more to it than that but the core proposal at the heart of the book feels smothered by everything else.

  • When Breath Becomes Air This is a memoir about a neurosurgeon who becomes a patient when he gets cancer in his mid-thirties. It’s very well written and direct in a way that I really appreciated. You never get the feeling like he’s writing for an audience, or that he’s looking for pity. At first it looks like his health is improving but then things get worse and his cancer becomes terminal. It was published posthumously. I read this in February 2021 and I remember not being in the best of spirits at the time. My response to this was very cold and remains so now. I found it difficult to connect with the author. He’s just too perfect! His educational and professional accomplishments are enormous; even with a life cut short. I felt very uncomfortable reading it because there is a way in which it says, without directly saying it of course, that this was a huge loss because he was so talented. I really grappled with that though because isn’t every early death like this a tragedy? We may say those words - but do we really believe it? Looking back on it now at the end of 2021 I think there’s another reason for why I felt so empty after this one. With thousands dying every day from Covid despite enormous efforts to stop it, our society seeming to be tearing itself apart - I find my well of empathy to be quite empty. I can read the book, see the tragedy, but I didn’t feel anything. I think that’s more of a reflection on myself though than the memoir.

  • Gone Girl I’m not surprised that this suspense thriller was turned into a movie. I was engrossed the whole time and I give the author all the credit in the world for slowing building out this complicated web without letting anything slip. All the pieces fit just so and I didn’t know what was coming next. It leans a bit dark and cynical but I can’t deny that I was entertained.

  • Going Postal This is the second Discworld novel I’ve read and I enjoyed it more than Small Gods. Pratchett is a great writer and I was entertained throughout. Not a particularly challenging read; just fun.

  • The Shadow of the Wind I loved this book. It’s the best thing I read in 2021. I’m still thinking about it months later and it was the only work I read this year that made me really “feel” multiple times. I felt the infatuation of first love, disgust at arbitrary cruelty, wonder as the mystery was slowly unraveled, and terror in the abandoned Aldaya mansion. What I loved most about this novel was It’s prose. It was written in a classical style; flowery, lots of time spent on mood and place and feeling. It took it’s time to explain the world and wouldn’t have worked with a more modern style where everything is direct and to the point. Sure, there are some times when it sagged and I wondered why the author spent so long on certain subplots, but everything made sense in the end. I also really enjoyed the setting as it is one I wasn’t really familiar with. Almost all the action takes place in Barcelona during the interwar years and then in the Francoist dictatorship. I’ve never been to Barcelona but this book made me feel like I had. I heartily recommend this novel.

  • The Ghost Brigades This is a sequel to Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. It’s one of those rare sequels that I think improves upon the original. Instead of focusing on the regular part of the Colonial Defense Force this novel instead focuses on the secretive Special Forces which consists of elite troops “resurrected” from the DNA of the dead and implanted with new personalities. The first novel is good but a somewhat conventional human vs alien space opera. In this one Scalzi spends a lot of time musing on the ethics of what the Colonial Defense Forces are doing. The Ghost Brigade is programmed from birth to kill unlike the all-volunteer Regulars. Scalzi doesn’t shy away from having the Ghost Brigade do some truly evil acts in the name of “self-defense”. There isn’t just some morally grey stuff in here. I’m definitely going to continue the series.

  • Permafrost Permafrost is a novella set in the near future where climatic destruction has led to large scale malnutrition and societal collapse. A small group of scientists are trying to rewrite the past in the hope that the grim future they are living can be avoided. This is a time travel story and I like that it takes the problem which plagues most time travel stories - paradoxes - head on. This is a relatively short novella. I enjoyed it immensely and left wanting more.

  • The Actual Star This novel frustrated me because I loved all the individual pieces of it but didn’t think it really nailed the landing. All the different storylines are separated by thousands of years and I loved how you were able to see what happened, then see what the future society thought about it, especially what they had mythologized. The future society in particular was well realized. Dances, naming practices, and pilgrimages were developed out of the life of a character we see in the modern day who is just going about her lift. This is the theme I most connected with from the novel, that seemingly small things might have huge implications in the future. I still recommend this novel. I didn’t think the ending was the best but I enjoyed the ride there.

  • Project Hail Mary Andy Weir’s third novel is an imaginative and entertaining page turner. The central conceit is that a parasite of alien origin is absorbing more and more solar radiation which is causing the Earth to cool down. Scientists are baffled and scour the heavens only to find the parasite in lots of places, but in one system the parasite is there, but not causing the star to dim. Why is that? Well let’s send a ship there to find out! It’s a fun concept and I enjoyed how scientific Weir tried to kept it but it definetly is more soft than hard science fiction. Mood, characters, and the implications of everything presented are touched on but that’s not really the draw here. It’s a very “engineer” plot in that most of the novel is spent dealing with a never-ending series of problems. We only have so much fuel, this instrument is broken, our trajectory won’t take us close enough, etc. It is an enjoyable read, constantly moving, and I recommend it as light sci-fi fare, but it’s not that deep.


Music was a bit more subdued this year than others. I spent a lot of time on Youtube listening to different mixes so my Spotify numbers were half of what they were last year. I’m sure I listened to the same amount of music overall but the analytics aren’t there for most of it. Alas.

From my Spotify 2021 year in review:
My most played artist was Lil Nas X which isn’t surprising because his MONTERO album was on repeat for a long time this year. My most played song was Like I Used to by Sharon Von Etten & Angel Olsen. It just has that “it” quality of upbeat yet melancholy feeling that I kept coming back to.

My 2021 Spotify Year in Review

Here is my own carefully curated 2021 playlist.


I’ve continued watching mostly escapist, travel, and lighter stuff on Youtube. There are some serious ones I’ve added as well but TokyoBTM is a hilarious gem that I’ve enjoyed the most this year. It’s a vlogs, interviews, and conversations with a couple gay guys in Tokyo.

How did I do with my 2021 Goals?

This year was much better than last year. My three major goals for 2021 were:

  1. Get established at my new job
    Starting a new job in a radically different environment than I am normally used to during a pandemic has been interesting. It was challenging for sure but most of it has been social, not technological. I’ve been remote the entire time so getting up to speed with my team has taken a while. It has gone well though and I’m very happy with my move to the County. I think this goal was exceeded.

  2. Reach out more to friends and colleagues
    I think I did better on this than last year but it was a struggle. I did well at the beginning of the year and up to summer but as restrictions came back in Oregon, I definitely shut down again and stayed home. I need to do better this year.

  3. Finish Home Renovations
    A complete success. It was a giant pain in the ass to get new floors installed, new appliances, and a new HVAC system but I am so glad we got it done.

2022 Goals

After the craziness of 2020 it was nice to have a bit of a “break” year in 2021. I feel less silly about having goals again so here they are:

  1. Get out and travel more
    Travel has been difficult the past couple years for obvious reasons. We got out a lot more in 2021 but it has still been dialed way back from prior levels. Already have a couple trips planned and generally just need to get out more often this year.

  2. Reach out more to friends and colleagues
    A recurring goal and one I’m always struggling with. Plan more things, invite more people, check in more often instead of just staying in again.

  3. Finish my art side projects
    Even before the pandemic I was working on various art side projects. I’ve continued to develop them but haven’t finished any and that’s a problem. I want to release at least one this year.

2020 Year in Review

How 2020 of me to finish writing this year in review almost a month late…

What is there to say besides I spent most of 2020 stuck inside? I cancelled all my plans, ate a lot, drank more than I should have, and tried to support friends and family as best as I could while also feeling like a complete failure.
There were certainly some positive things to come out of this year, and big changes, but overall, this year was bad. I can’t bring myself to do that “gee, at least I learned a lot” positivity spin I’ve had inculcated into me. That wouldn’t be honest.
I normally try to focus my end of year posts on specific things or events but that structure just won’t work. Most everything this year has felt like it happened yesterday and months ago at the same time. There are no story beats here, no rising and falling action, only a disjointed series of feelings.

Clouds on the horizon

2020 began with a bang for me. At work I had a number of problematic projects that finally got wrapped up. There was a bit of a lull in contract work so I was assigned to an internal project that looked to be interesting and impactful. I also organized the office Holiday Party which was a smashing success. At the end of January I went up to Alaska to help out at the Meadery since we would be presenting for the first time at the annual Beer and Barleywine festival.
While I was in Anchorage I had a couple local events setup and in-between those I remember turning on the radio in my rent a car and hearing about Covid-19 for the first time. A passenger plane in transit from China had stopped at the Anchorage airport and all the radio stations were speculating about what it meant. I remember not just brushing it off, but making fun of the local radio people. Alaska is rarely in the national spotlight, let alone international. I thought people were playing up this international event happening in Anchorage only because Alaskans are so used to being passed by. I had a lot of things to do while I was up there so after dismissing it as overhyped, I promptly forgot about Covid-19. The festival was a great success and the Meadery got a lot of good exposure.
I returned to Portland and all through February there was a very slow but steady increase in Covid-19 news. On March 6th 2020 my boyfriend and I went out with some friends to see Keane at the Roseland Theatre. That night when we were grabbing dinner before the show we talked about it, especially because one of them is a nurse. We all grasped that it was serious by this point, but the full implications of it still felt distant. We had a great time that night and that was the last big “event” of 2020 for us. Less than a week later everything started to shut down.

It feels really weird downtown btw


I took the bus to work every day. After March 12th until I stopped going into the office and started working from home full time, I was almost always the only person on the bus. It was like a light switch. Nobody used public transit anymore, downtown was empty, there was no traffic, and the only busy place was the grocery store.
Looking back at the first couple months I now remember what a confusing mess it was. Nobody wore masks, then all of sudden half the public did but it was super inconsistent. I couldn’t find flour or beans anywhere. Takeout was encouraged but restaurants didn’t have their systems for it in place yet. Everything moved online and we all had to adapt on the fly.
This was a super confusing time but I look back on it now with some fondness. Yes, it was a chaotic mess, and yes, we were afraid, but people were overwhelmingly in good spirits. I remember there being a very real sense of coming together for the greater good. As a community we were taking on a lot of costs but we were helping to flatten the curve and really, we can survive anything for a few months.
I remember taking a walk in late April around my neighborhood. It was an uncharacteristcally nice day for that time of year. Everybody was out and in good spirits. Families were out walking with their kids, people were catching up, and because there was no traffic people setup little barbecues in the street and were doing socially distant neighborhood cook outs.
Unfortunately, this didn’t last. There were a couple months of good feelings and general consensus on how to handle Covid-19. Yes, things were still confusing, and businesses like mine were hurting a lot because of shut downs, but I remember thinking: “wow, I think we might get through this okay”.

Then George Floyd was killed on May 25th and everything changed.

Summer of Protest

I mentioned before that Alaskans are used to being passed over. Little of national importance ever happens in Alaska and the physical distance from the rest of the country breeds an insular mindset. Alaska is an island that you happen to be able to drive to. I still had some of that attitude but this year has blown that away.
Portland has always had a relatively radical protest culture but this past summer’s BLM protests were unique. Protests erupted across the county, in big and small cities alike. What was unique about Portland was how they stayed intense for so long. BLM protests continued for over 100 days. Things would flare up for a few nights, the protest marches would swell, there would be smashing of windows and looting, tear gas and rubber bullets would be deployed, then things would cool off for a bit before another inciting incident would cause things to flare up again.

When I talked to all my friends outside of Portland all the questions invariably were about the ongoing protests. I live a fair distance away from downtown where most of the protests were happening and since I wasn’t going into the office anymore the protests over the summer didn’t affect me much. The few times I did go downtown though it was distressing to see all the boarded up buildings. Downtown had already been a ghost town because of the pandemic but the unrest pushed it much further. Building owners boarded up the windows and exits and private security became ubiquitous. It was (and still is) quite depressing to walk downtown but it’s hard for me to blame the business owners. All the protests I saw were peaceful but indiscriminate violence did happen and there is nothing businesses can really do besides buy thicker plywood.

At this point the general comity I felt earlier in the year began to break down. People wanted to get out again and businesses wanted to reopen. The curve had been flattened and in summer things began to tentatively reopen. With protests raging every day and businesses being given the green light to reopen, it was really hard to continue to stay in. Republicans, with Trump leading the charge, pivoted from begrudgingly fighting the virus to “the cure is worse than the disease” sort of rhetoric and into outright denial that it was even a problem. But the virus was still out there and with the patchwork of state and local restrictions, and no coordinated plan, the fire was left to smolder and slowly pick back up.

Can things get worse? Yes, they can

My boyfriend and I had not been out to eat at a restaurant all year. Things felt okay on Labor Day weekend and there is this brewery nearby that had expanded their patio. We decided to give it a go since the weather was beautiful and with the big patio there really was no risk. We had some burgers and a couple beers and for a brief moment we thought maybe things weren’t too bad. On the way back home we both noticed an ominous black cloud coming in from the south. There had been weather forecasts predicting dangerous fire conditions for that weekend but nobody was prepared for how bad it actually turned out to be.
We went from a beautiful summer day in the afternoon to complete darkness by early evening as smoke from fires blanketed almost all of Oregon. Multiple small towns were almost completely destroyed. Family down in Medford were very near evacuating. A coworker out on the Oregon Coast lost his house.
In Portland the skies were black for almost two weeks. Portland had the worst air quality in the nation for a lot of that period and the simple joy of walking outside was taken away. I had developed the habit of going on long walks in the evening and weekend just to get out of the house. Now we were truly stuck inside. This was honestly the lowest point of the year. The BLM protests that had continued all summer also stopped because of the fires. There was nothing to do but hide inside and suffer through it.

Just work things

At the same time, I was growing quite disillusioned with work. I wrapped up a series of difficult client projects at the start of 2020 and started work on an internal project which looked promising at the start but slowly went off the rails. I was also heavily impacted by the stay-at-home orders. I do not work well remotely and being forced to do it full time hurt my productivity a lot while also greatly affecting my wellbeing.
I also spent a large amount of time in 2019 on projects to help the office, like organizing get togethers, holiday events, and stocking the fridge with snacks. Being forced to cancel all the initiatives I had been working on was deeply demoralizing and it took me a while to get out of that slump. The internal project I mentioned before turned into a slog. There was months worth of work but none of it was technically interesting to me. I had been feeling that I needed a change for a while and finally reached a breaking point.

I had been talking with some other companies before the pandemic but once the lockdowns started everything hiring related stopped. I figured that I would just stay at my current job and ride this thing out for a bit longer but after six months it was clear that this wasn’t going to end quickly. I started looking again and was surprised by how many companies were hiring. I also got a kick in the butt by a couple coworkers who left and they were right, software developer hiring was even hotter than it had been pre-pandemic.
I reached out to a few companies but after the initial interviews I always got the feeling that things there were too much like my current situation. I wanted a bigger change than just another company logo and a raise.

I was lucky to find just the thing at Multnomah County. It’s a public sector position, which I have never had, I’m part of a Union now, and the work is completely different than what I have done before. I am excited to see where this new position takes me.

In Conclusion

My last big memory of 2020 was the election. My last day at my prior company just happened to coincide with the election and I spent all day finishing up documentation, emailing people, and on calls saying goodbye. After the day was wrapped up I cleaned out my desk and my boyfriend picked me up and I insisted we get some cocktails to celebrate. We went to the Hi-Lo Hotel in downtown Portland and met a friend who works at the hotel bar. Downtown was deserted that night because there were worries about election protests. We had to ring our way into the hotel, which was locked and boarded up, at 6pm. We got inside, had great drinks and caught up with our friend. It was quite surreal though because everyone at the bar was glued to their phone watching the election results come in and you couldn’t see outside because of the plywood covering the windows.

It’s been a rough year for sure. It’s going to continue to be rough for a while longer but I’m hopeful for 2021.


2020 was a great year for reading. I was able to get through considerably more books than most years because I had more free time. What changed though was that I developed a more impatient attitude. I’m usually a completionist with books and will push through to the end but my attitude totally shifted this year. There are simply too many good books out there to waste time with bad ones. If I get bored or think the author is making poor arguments I’m going to skip chapters, and if it continues I’ll drop it. I had to remove some books from this list because of that.

  • On Writing
    An excellent and accessible book that is half memoir, half guide for how to write. I heartily recommend it.

  • Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World
    Anand manages to put into words a feeling I have had for a while and captures the contradictions at the heart of so much “do-gooding” in our society. Anand looks into the role of philanthropists, tech billionaires, and “thought leaders” who fight for equality and justice but conveniently only do it in ways that do not threaten the current social and economic order. I don’t think it is the definitive work on the subject but Anand gets all the credit in the world for blowing the door open to this discussion which I think is going to be a huge issue in the next few decades.

  • Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America
    I’ve followed Chris Arnade on Twitter for quite a while and his reports from the field that make up this book are eye opening and sobering. It chronicles his journey across the United States to all the forgotten corners of the country where jobs have disappeared to be replaced with crime, drugs, and poverty. Chris speaks frankly with his subjects about their lives, their struggles, and their hopes. It’s a very heavy book and unfortunately Chris is just a messenger. He doesn’t end with a proposal or plan and I found this frustrating after my first read but in retrospect think it was probably the right choice. Dignity is not about him or what he thinks, it’s about the people.

  • Ubik
    I struggled with Ubik. I really enjoyed the premise with psychics being employed in corporate espionage and people being kept in stasis after death. However, once the action started I repeatedly got lost and struggled to stay interested. Reality shifting and even falling apart in some cases is part of the story, but I found it hard to follow. I’ve struggled before with Phillip K. Dick novels and I think i’m just put off by his plotting and writing style.

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People
    I had never read this book until this year. This is one of those “classic” self-improvement books that is always recommended. I figured it was too old to be applicable still but I was quite wrong. It definitely shows it’s age in some of it’s examples but it is a true classic. All of the core ideas of this book have been lifted and reused by others. Reading this was like reading the original work after having only read fan fiction.

  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey
    Considered a modern classic, this novel definitely is showing its age. I enjoyed the premise and the interrelated story lines but found the writing style hard to enjoy. It was worth reading but I don’t think I would read it again.

  • Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts
    I enjoyed the first half of this book but that is when I put it down and moved on. This book suffers from the main sin of most business/self-help books. There are one or two real premises that are then stretched into book length.

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
    This is one of those books I had heard about for years but had never read. I regularly see it show up in recommended lists but I must confess to only getting through three quarters of it before I quit. I enjoyed the premise of the book with a road trip serving as the background for a series of philisophical questions. What I didn’t enjoy was the narrator and his relationship to all the other characters. The attitude from the narrator was always that he was wise and thinking deep thoughts while everyone else was simple and only living for today. I mostly just wondered why the narrator hangs out with his friends and son if he thinks so poorly of them.
    When the book is describing the journey, repairing motorcycles, and asking philosophical questions it is pretty good but the character parts just dragged the narrative to a screeching halt for me. I can see why this book is popular. There are a lot of interesting ideas in here, but it felt bloated, self-aggrandizing, and I did not like the haughty narrator.

  • Finding Your Own North Star
    Another book I didn’t finish. It started out really strong with some tremendous passages and insightful questions that are included in small worksheets. At about the halfway point it starts to go off the rails though. The material that felt so urgent at the beginning got stretched to fit a larger book than it should and it began to veer into some serious psuedoscience that put me off immediatelly.

  • Very Important People: Status and Beauty in the Global Party Circuit
    I loved this book. It’s a perfect example of investigative journalism into a very specific social niche that I wasn’t previously aware of. The author brings you into the international party circuit where rich men, promoters, and club owners, collect beautiful women like a commodity. The author approaches this topic as both an insider (being a former model) and as an outsider now in academia. She lays the scene out, explains all the players, and kept me entertained throughout.

  • Different Seasons: Four Novellas
    This book is a collection of four novellas. They are all very different and good in their own way. Three of the four stories have been turned into movies, two of which I have seen (Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me) so I knew the general outline of what would happen. All of them are good but Apt Pupil surprised me the most. It’s the story of a young boy being slowly twisted by an older man with a dark past who is manipulated by the boy in turn. Both slowly grow more monsterous and I couldn’t help but draw parallels to cases of violence in the current day.

  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant
    The final novel I read this year also happened to be the best. This was gifted to me by a friend for Christmas and I read the whole thing by early January. It follows Baru Cormorant as her island nation is absorbed by the Masquerade Empire. The unique culture there is destroyed and Baru is recognized as a savant who can serve the empire. She is recruited from her family, against her will, and sent away for training. Baru is consumed with hatred for the Empire and what they did to her people, but recognizes that there is nothing she can do as just one small girl. She decides to join the empire and be a good servant so that she can eventually free her home from the inside. Once inside the machine though, it is hard to escape.
    After graduating from the Masquerade school she is sent to the distant land of Aurdwynn where she is made the Imperial Accountant. Aurdwynn is a fractured land with thirteen duchies that is constantly on the verge of rebellion. This is where most of the action takes place and using just her wits she must keep the province stable while also realizing her larger goal of destroying the Masquerade within.
    I’m not usually a big fan of fantasy, which this novel falls right into. I think I enjoyed it because there was little magic and everything is very grounded and realistic. This is a book about economics, political intrigue, and deception. There are some battles but most of the action takes place in the courts of the various dukes and duchesses, all trying to gain advantage over one another. I highly recommend it.


It was a good year for music. There were many new artists I found this year, but I definitely leaned into old standbys as well. Just on Spotify I listened to 22,308 minutes of music. I listened to a lot more music mixes on YouTube.

From my Spotify 2020 year in review:
My most played artist was Lady Gaga with Rain on Me my most played song. My gayness is confirmed.

  1. Lady Gaga
  2. Dua Lipa
  3. Ben Platt
  4. Orvill Peck
  5. Conan Gray

Here is my 2020 playlist.


In this unprecedented time (how I hate that phrase) I have fallen into a weird rabbit hole of video game streaming, travel vlogs, and lots of cooking videos. I have continued to follow the more “serious” channels I mentioned last year but this year was filled with far more fluff and escapism. I just wanted to not think about the miserable time I was having this year. So, in no particular order, here are some channels I’ve been enjoying a ton this year.

How did I do with my 2020 Goals?

It’s tempting to give myself a mulligan and sweep aside all the 2020 goals I had because of the pandemic but that doesn’t feel right. My three major goals for 2020 were:

  1. Make the meadery a bigger success
    As a “bar” our meadery operations were heavily impacted by the pandemic. We had to shut down completely a few times and haven’t been able to open our tasting room consistently since March. This is problematic because the tasting room was 90% of our income. I was despondent in late March/early April because we had so many plans for summer 2020 and everything got cancelled, and I mean everything. Looking back on the year though, we did better than I thought we would. Our team came together and we worked through all the issues we had. Grant money from the state and local government kept us afloat. We worked with creditors and landlords to lower our expenses. We also invested heavily into bottling so that we could sell takout more effectively. As 2020 comes to a close we are now looking at distribution deals to get us into more stores. I’m not glad that the pandemic happened and hurt my business so much. It was not pleasent. I do however feel a ton of pride that we were able to survive, and thrive, given the terrible circumstances. Overall I think this was a success.

  2. Expand my work from just technical expertise
    I wanted to spend more time in 2020 working on things beyond just straight coding. Project Management, mentoring junior developers, event planning, and interviews. This goal was completely torpedoed by the pandemic. Nobody was hiring for months, so interviews disappeared. Projects were put on hold, so there really wasn’t much PM work going on, and of course all events got cancelled. I thought I was doing a good job on this one until the external circumstances derailed everything. Let’s call this one a draw.

  3. Reach out more to friends and colleagues
    I think I failed at this one. I was doing well at the beginning of the year but as the pandemic cranked up I found myself turtling at home. I just found it easier to get the time to pass by not interacting with people which was not healthy for me or my relationships. There were a few bright spots like the Dungeons and Dragons campaign I joined with some friends. It has been great to get together in a virtual group every week but I miss work colleagues, seeing friends around town for dinner or brunch, and my soccer club.

2021 Goals

I’ve thought about this for a while and it still feels silly to have “goals” right now. Everything was so uncertain last year that I honestly gave up planning anything more than a few days out. In the interest of reorienting myself, I do have some modest goals for the coming year.

  1. Get established at my new job
    My new job with the County has been great so far. I like my colleagues and am learning a lot. With everyone I interact with working from home though I definitely still feel disconnected. I’m looking to get more settled in and be able to contribute more.

  2. Reach out more to friends and colleagues
    I didn’t think I did a good job on this last year so I am going to redouble my efforts on this. It’s hard for me to reach out because I tend towards introvert. I just need to squash that bullshit this year.

  3. Finish Home Renovations
    I like my place but it is definitely showing its age. My boyfriend and I are working on a bunch of renovation projects and I want to get those wrapped up by the spring. Hopefully things will be normal and we can have people over to see the new place. Thats all I really want from the coming year - to have friends over.

2019 Year in Review

This was a wild year of ups and down for me. My grandmother passed away last December which hit me much harder than expected, along with it being the catalyst of major family drama. This was followed by a rough winter where the meadery project I’ve been working on largely fell apart, along with a string of rough projects at work. December of 2018 through March of this year nothing was going right but then things slowly turned around and have improved steadily. 2019 was truly a rough year but has ended positively and all the groundwork has been laid for an excellent 2020.

The highlight of the year for me was definitely the opening of my Anchorage, Alaska Meadery, Two Seasons Meadery. We had our Soft Opening on August 24th which was one of the more insane days of my life followed closely by our Grand Opening on August 30th. In keeping with the up and down nature of this year, I had the funeral of my uncle on that same day. Fun stuff!

There was no specific low point of the year. The hits just kept on coming at the beginning of the year. My grandmother’s passing, ugly family drama, the original meadery funding source fell through, and all my work projects were in a bad place. It took a lot of effort, and patience, to slowly dig out of all that. So much of this year felt like I was going backwards or stuck in place. If there is any takeaway - it was to remind myself that the consistent application of small amounts of effort over a long period of time can produce big results.


Unfortunately I don’t have a big update for technology. I had a series of work projects that relied on legacy technology so I didn’t have a big opportunity to learn much new stuff this year. Any free time was spent devoted to getting the Meadery off the ground.


I try to read consistently but life gets in the way. I thought I did pretty well this year though and I got through some very good books that I would recommend to anyone. I kept a good balance between serious and fun reading this year.

  • Addiction By Design
    This was an excellent book that really explained how gambling games are built to maximize addictiveness. I heard about this book from an online discussion about addictive design patterns in mobile games like Candy Crush. There are so many ways to subtly change a user experience and addict people. The most striking takeaway from the book for me though was that the key goal with addictive design is not to entertain - but to pacify. When people became truly addicted to the gambling machines the “high” they began to chase was one of being in the zone, their mind blank, it has nothing to do with winning or losing.
  • The Obelisk Gate
    The second part of the Broken Earth Trilogy. I really enjoyed the first book, The Fifth Season, and this novel was good but didn’t hit me like first one did. I think it suffers, like so many middle novels do, of just being the middle of a larger story. A lot happens and it is well written, but you have to keep going to get a conclusion.
  • The Stone Sky
    The third and final part of the Broken Earth Trilogy. This was a great novel right until the end when I thought the overall conclusion was a bit flat. I still think the entire series is worth reading because of the great world building and characters. The journey was great but the destination it reached wasn’t completely satisfying.
  • Why does he do that?
    “Why does he do that” is one of those books that is hard to recommend, but also feels essential. It’s a sobering walk through the author’s history as a marital counselor. Her observations and research on abusive men and relationships is very clear and cutting. The overall conclusion: abusers almost never get better. It’s a heavy ready but I came away from it feeling much better equipped to identify these awful people.
  • Grant
    Grant was my favorite book I read this year (followed closely by “Why does he do that”). It’s a biography, and a long book, which isn’t for everyone but I came away from it with a completely different impression of Grant than I had started with. It also filled in a number of historical blind spots I didn’t realize I had - principally with Reconstruction. That’s why I loved this book. So much attention is paid to the conduct of the war itself without truly grappling with the awful reasons it happened and it’s long term legacy. The Civil War is of course covered extensively in the book but it doesn’t dominate the narrative like you would expect. A large amount of time is spent with Grant before the war and his experience afterwards is covered extensively. I knew about Reconstruction in a general sense but Grant was one of its primary movers and this provides the author with a great way to dive deep into the post war period.
  • Never Split the Difference
    I have a troubled relationship with business/negotiation/entrepreneurship books because they are almost all complete crap. This one rises above the average and I read through it a couple times because it’s a quick read and is immediately actionable. Chris Voss does a good job providing examples, justification for his methods, and fun anecdotes. The best part is that while there is a strategy to his negotiation techniques, it doesn’t have the sliminess you get from most sales books.
  • Children of Time
    This was a weird one. I enjoyed this novel even though I hated half of it. There are two narrative threads going on - one with the humans on a colony ship - and another on the alien planet the humans are trying to reach. I found the human plot on the ship to be ponderous and not very believable, while the alien plot had me hooked. It was a long novel but went by quick once I realized I didn’t care at all about the humans and started skipping those chapters.
  • Wanderers
    Excessive is the adjective I would use for this novel. It’s a very enjoyable read and the core hook is fascinating. There are also multiple twists through the novel which I really liked and the stakes keep ratcheting up until it kind of falls apart. Whole characters and plotlines could be cut without impacting the core story. Some characters make dramatic exits but then return for not very good reasons. Key characters leave the safety of the caraven for bizarre side quests. There are also some scenes that just feel wholly unnecessary (We get it, this guy is really really bad). It’s a mess but it was an engrossing mess.
  • Crushing It
    I’ve been on a Gary Vaynerchuck binge of late and thought I would enjoy his book but I didn’t. If you watch his youtube videos you get better content in a more condensed format. Pass.


I didn’t listen to as much music as I normally do this year. I was drawn into the Youtube Vlogosphere this year and it really took a bite out of my music time. I only listened to 17,928 minutes of spotify in 2019 vs 36,903 in 2018.

From my Spotify 2019 year in review: My most played artist was Kacey Musgrave w. Rainbow being my most played song. Not a big surprise really.

  1. Kacey Musgrave
  2. Carly Rae Jepsen
  3. Lizzo
  4. The National
  5. Passenger

I’ve been a spotify subscriber since 2011 and my most played artist of the entire decade is The National which is a result i’m pretty happy with.

My 2019 Spotify Year in Review

Here is my 2019 playlist of my favorite songs.


I discovered so many great creators on Youtube this year. This has been building for a while but it really felt like the quality of videos on Youtube hit an inflection point this year and i’ve been spending far more time there than I ever have. Some channels I would recommend that cover a whole range of topics:

  1. ContraPoints
  2. David Pakman
  3. Philosophy Tube
  4. Marion’s Kitchen
  5. How to Drink

2020 Goals

Getting the meadery off the ground was the culmination of many years of dreaming, planning and doing. It’s going well but we’ve really only just started with it. My main goal for this year is to just keep watering that plant so it becomes an even bigger success. I’ve been struggling with my work projects of late, but the new ones on the horizon look much better. For my own sanity I’ve been diversifying my work with new forays into recruiting, marketing, event planning, and interviews. I’ve been really enjoying these other tasks that are quite a bit outside my technical wheelhouse. I will continue to expand on these. Finally, I need to reach out more to friends and colleagues. I tend towards the introvert and can easily find myself saying “no” to things when I feel tired or am having a bad day. I’ve never regretted saying “yes” or organizing something. I just need to do it consistently.

New Year - New Layout

Had to update the layout before I could write more - which I do intend to do - and decided to fully embrace orange.

Happy New Year!

Playlist: Outfoxed

There is no real theme to my latest playlist. It started out with some core songs and stitching them together in a few different ways until I was satisfied. Foxes’ If You Leave Me Now was the first song in the list and paired with the always brilliant Adele in When We Were Young I had strong female singers to build everything else around. Cataline, Strumbellas, and Jack Garret are other highlights.

Outfoxed Playlist on Spotify

‘Outfoxed’ Playlist:

  1. To Be Alive - Cataline
  2. Spirits - The Strumbellas
  3. If You Leave Me Now - Foxes
  4. Aftershock - Cash Cash ft Jacquie Lee
  5. Are We Alive - Augustines
  6. Help Me Run Away - St. Lucia
  7. When We Were Young - Adele
  8. Ethan’s Theme - Mikolai Stroinski
  9. Do You Remember - St. Lucia
  10. Wild Child - Cardiknox
  11. Give Love a Try (Formal One Remix) - Aelyn, Formal One
  12. I’m in a State of Trance - Ben gold
  13. Little Ballerina - Emile Haynie, Rufus Wainwright
  14. The Driver - Charles Kelley ft. Dierks Bentley, Eric Paslay
  15. Weathered - Jack Garret