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.