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.