A Look Back on 2020

A reflection on the wild year that was 2020.

Published on  • 📖📖 12 min. read Edit on GitHub


Well, 2020 has certainly been a year. Kick back, relax, and read all I have to tell you about me this year 💁🏻‍♂️

This year started off with probably one of the busiest months I've had in years, and progressed to the months just blurring by. Thankfully I've remained COVID-19 free, which has certainly been a highlight of the year.

Posing in front of a giant 2020 sign
The year started off so well, and with so much hope (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

COVID-19 has always lurked at and shaped pretty much every part of the year. I don't think I went more than an hour or two without ever directly thinking about something related to COVID-19. I'm trying to keep this post mostly positive, but know that I've struggled with living alone, not able to see others, having to cancel plans, and staying motivated. Social distancing and wearing face masks are relatively easy to do, and are so effective in reducing the spread of the virus, I take some comfort in that it's actively helping to save lives. I just hope more people would do the same.

This summer was a rough time, particularly in Minneapolis after the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department. South Minneapolis heard helicopters flying overhead for most of the summer, had stores boarded up for weeks, and fought for what has unfortunately amounted in little change in fighting racism in the MPD.

The last six months have been a blur, and I'm having a hard time coming up with any notable events to highlight. Lots of the same, what's one month from another.

For the fourth full year, I've recorded a compilation of the year with 1 Second Every Day. I swear this makes my year look a lot more interesting than I feel it was. This year it's a little easier to see through the guise at how much of the same there was. Sorry about the overwhelming amount of clips there are at Lake of the Isles...

1 Second Every Day 2020

Lighting Design Permalink#

I started the year with tech week as lighting designer for Young Artists Initiative's Frozen Jr. I somehow managed to pull some ridiculous hours and worked remotely for my day job from my parents' house from 05:00 until the early afternoon when I went to the theater and worked until 22:00. The show was a huge success, a ton of fun to design for, and had a wonderful production staff that I had the pleasure of working with! I spent a lot of time inventorying, testing, and experimenting with some new-to-the-company intelligent fixtures. They were old, but the ones that worked, worked great and let me add a whole new dimension of colors and movement into the show.

Vietnam Trip Permalink#

Less than a week after the show closed I was in the air flying to Vietnam. It was a 12-hour flight to Seoul, South Korea, a four-hour layover, and then a 5.5 hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City, where we landed around 22:00 to something like 85ºF and super humid weather. It took a few days to work though the jet lag, but it was also fun to wake up at 05:00 and get out into the city as everyone was waking up (and it was a lot cooler).

We spent a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, then flew north to Da Nang, and then ended in Hanoi during the lunar new year. Vietnam is beautiful and full of truly incredible food (oh my god, the food was so good 🤤). It was interesting to learn about the differences of the food, culture, and history from the southern to the northern parts of the country. I'm so happy for my coworkers (hi Kim and Jenn!) who were fantastic guides for finding food, getting around, having ideas of places to see, and reading signs and talking to people. It was fun to get to know some friends of Jenn who joined the group as well!

Train street in Hanoi, Vietnam
Train Street in Hanoi, Vietnam
Pho
Phở

This was my first time to Asia and I cannot wait to go back! If you (the reader) are planning a trip and want more people to join, please let me know! It doesn't have to be Asia either 😉

The Pandemic Permalink#

I was in Vietnam when the news really broke about COVID-19. I think there were two cases in Vietnam when we left. The joke's on us though, Vietnam handled it so much better than the US did.

February was pretty good, aside from the looming COVID-19 news. I even had a nice gathering of friends and family at HeadFlyer Brewing towards the end of the month for my birthday. This turned out to be my largest social event of the year 🤪.

The weekend before starting to work remotely in mid-March, I got a haircut, hugged my parents (the last hug I've had this whole year 😔), walked around Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis, and bought a case of Corona beer. Life has pretty much continued for me with the same mindset as I had back then. Wearing a face mask everywhere outside my apartment (unless I'm biking outside, or walking at night when no one else is out) sure makes me miss having TouchID on my iPhone!

Personal Growth Permalink#

With locking down for the rest of the year, I had a lot more time and drive to focus on myself a bit. One notable highlight is how little I drove my car and instead walked or biked to where I needed to go. I let it go a full month without even turning it on, twice this year.

Moving Apartments Permalink#

At the end of June I said goodbye to my roommate and 2-bedroom apartment I had been living in for 2.5 years and moved 200ft (ca. 61 m) away to the next building over and into a 1-bedroom. It's been great having a place to myself and was a good time to upgrade and purchase some new furniture.

Living alone has been mostly alright, but it definitely gets lonely sometimes. I stay socially active through video calls and some masked walks with friends outdoors. It's not the same, but I'll take what I can get.

Physical Health Permalink#

I increased the move goal on my Apple Watch and spent a lot of time walking and biking this year. I've walked around Lake of the Isles about 100 times since March, and around Bde Maka Ska maybe 15 times.

Dusk at Bde Maka Ska
Dusk at Bde Maka Ska
Lake of the Isles Sunset 1
Sunset at Lake of the Isles
Lake of the Isles Sunset 2
Dusk at Lake of the Isles

For much of the year, I biked to my parents house across the river in Saint Paul about once a week. Especially in the late summer and fall, I worked hard on clearing the fog on every street in South Minneapolis in Fog of World. I'm not done yet, but I did finish a huge amount of it. Maybe next year I'll clear west of the chain of lakes and the neighborhoods south of Minnehaha Creek. Biking up and down streets isn't the highest speed biking, but it sure is interesting!

Selfie of biking with my roommate
Biking in Carver Park Reserve
Fog of World Minneapolis
Fog of World exploration in Minneapolis

Through increased physical activity, eating more healthily, and drinking less alcohol, I've lost 20 pounds (ca. 9 kg) this year. We'll see if I can keep that up through the winter 🙃 I'm borrowing an indoor bike trainer for the winter, which has been great for those snowy and freezing days!

Coffee Permalink#

When I went into the office for work every day, I would drink the free coffee they supplied. Now that I'm working from home, I had a reason to actually make coffee at home. At the start of the year, I just had a Mr. Coffee automatic drip brewer. Now I've added a burr grinder, Aeropress, moka pot, Bee Hive pour-over, a milk frother, and a cold brew pitcher. It's been a fun and tasty year in terms of coffee!

Cooking Permalink#

Kind of related to coffee, at least in the sense that it takes place in the kitchen, I've been cooking a lot more this year. While some may find this appalling, last weekend I even bought my own bag of flour for the first time and actually make dough from scratch to make æbleskiver. Beyond that, I've been cooking proper meals a lot more than before mid-March. I mostly stick to vegetarian meals, I like to fry or steam various vegetables and serve with some sort of sauce on pasta or rice (wow Brian, that was such a generic description). Last winter I bought a pizza stone, which has been a delicious and fun adventure to cook with!

With working from home, making lunch is a lot easier and less annoying than preparing a bagged lunch was. I can make a fresh sandwich that has tomato and doesn't get soggy too! 😄 Pro tip, when making a sandwich with cheese, after you toast your bread, put mustard on one slice, and mayonnaise on the other. Take the mayonnaise slice and put your cheese on that, then put back in your toaster oven (the best kitchen appliance) and broil it for a minute or two to fully melt the cheese. It takes just enough time to put the rest of your sandwich together and gives you a melty and delicious hot sandwich!

Homemade pizza
Pizza
Bibimbap
Bibimbap
Æbleskiver
Æbleskiver

Music Permalink#

I listened to so much music this year. According to my last.fm stats, I listened to roughly 38,000 songs this year, totaling somewhere around 90.5 days of play time between Spotify and Apple Music. New for this year, I listened to some Trance and Drum and Bass music, as well as listening to a lot of the following artists (not an exhaustive list whatsoever):

  • KSHMR
  • Pendulum (released new music for the first time in ten years 😍)
  • Born I & Tenka
  • HIGHSOCIETY
  • Desren
  • Far Out
  • Juelz
  • QUIX
  • CloZee
  • Krewella
  • Whipped Cream
Juelz at Skyway Theater, February 29th, 2020

TV/Movies Permalink#

I think I probably watched more TV this year, but not loads more, and I didn't really pick up the pace until I moved to my own apartment in the summer. I finally finished watching all the Fast and Furious movies, they're entertaining and exactly what you expect, which makes them easy to watch. I watched both seasons of The Mandalorian and all of Fleabag. This year marked the end of the great Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I've recently been watching Insight No. 9, Raised by Wolves, and Star Trek: Discovery.

That was all nice and all, but I mostly included this section to encourage you to watch the Netflix show Dark. I binged it in a little over two weeks and it quickly became one of my all-time favorite shows. The show is all in German, which is great for my travel-starved mind, and deals with time. Saying much more would spoil it, but it's a truly incredible show and I cannot implore you enough to watch it. Seriously.

Games Permalink#

I hardly played any board games this year, but I did play a few virtual games of Settlers of Catan and Secret Hitler. Are jigsaw puzzles games? Either way I did a couple of those.

I downloaded a solitaire app on my phone this spring. I've played maybe 2,000 games (I don't want to know how much time that took 👀). I started up a Minecraft server in April and have spent quite a bit of time getting into that again. Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition came out this fall, so I've had a lot of fun playing that too!

Work Permalink#

This fall I hit my four-year work anniversary! I worked on some really challenging problems and features at work this year. Here are some highlights:

  • Upgraded to react-table v7 and rewrote our application's tables to dramatically improve the user experience and feature set.
  • Integrated react-query to our application and added the concept of client-side caching, all while reducing the amount of code and complexity of the codebase.
  • Tracked the routing history and synchronized parts of the application state into the router state for restoring users to the point they expect to be when they go forwards and backwards. This turned out to be an extraordinarily complex feature to build and I'm truly amazed and proud we got it to work.
  • Refactored, to the point of nearly rewriting, our application's end-to-end tests (using Puppeteer) to support automatic retries. I learned about and fairly moderately used XPath selectors for common helpers which makes writing new tests easier and more clear. XPath selectors are wicked powerful and definitely worth checking out if you're ever scripting a browser.
  • Lots and lots of code reviews (which I really enjoy doing).
  • Co-wrote a blog post about Moving to React Testing Library.
  • Gave an internal talk about using React Hooks.

Side Projects Permalink#

I finally wrote a frontend for my gift-exchange library. If you've ever wanted to match people together for a secret Santa gift exchange, then this could be your tool! It supports grouping people together and complex exclusion handling. Head to https://brianm.me/secret-santa/ to check it out.

I moved my last.fm proxy CloudFlare Worker to a proper GitHub repo and have it auto deployed with a GitHub Action.

I overhauled my ZSH command-line setup to use the Starship prompt and removed oh-my-zsh in favor of fully owning the configuration. See the code in my dotfiles repo.

Brandon, Ryan, and I continued to make monthly episodes of our podcast, PodKit, a show about Apple inclined Web Developers discussing web development and technology in general. We just published PodKit 63 where we discussed our favorite web-dev tech of 2020!

I continued to co-organizer the JavaScriptMN meetup. We had two in-person events at the beginning of the year before taking a hiatus starting in March, and then resuming with virtual events in the summer. This fall, Ryan and I redesigned the website to use TailwindCSS and Eleventy, which was a lot of fun, and only included one night of working together in a Zoom call until 05:00! 🤫

What I Missed in 2020 Permalink#

There's a lot I could say here, but I think in general, I made fairly good use of my year, given the social distancing isolation this year.

Socialization Permalink#

While I did see my parents and some family and friends outdoors throughout the year, I definitely interacted with way fewer people. Other than the day I moved, no one has been in my apartment. I would love to host some friends and family for some gatherings, but for now and at least the medium-term, that will have to wait. I also really miss the local tech meetup scene and meeting and conversing with others. The virtual events, especially those with breakout rooms or are attended by a smaller group of people (hi CodePen Meetup!), can replicate some of that, but it's not the same.

A Hug Permalink#

I hugged my parents most recently in mid-March, but no one since. 2021, once I'm vaccinated and the consensus seems to be that it's safe, it's going to happen! 🤗

Okay yeah, maybe I could have done it this year, but it's also the principle of it. I find it easier to just eliminate all close contact and avoid having to create a set of rules or list of people to negotiate with.

Travel Permalink#

I'm so happy I was able to travel to Vietnam in January. I was also able to leave the Twin Cities a few times this fall and go hiking in some Minnesota state parks. In a normal year, I like to spend all but a couple of days of my paid time off on travelling, but this year I spent most of my days off hanging around in my apartment. It was nice to relax, but a far cry from what I was originally planning for this year.

St. Croix River at Wild River State Park
Wild River State Park

Review Permalink#

This year certainly wasn't what I expected it to be at the beginning, but for a micro personal level, I think it turned out okay. We all made individual sacrifices this year, but for the benefit of everyone else, saving countless lives. Keep it up, mask up, and maybe we can see each other in person next year. 🖖