New Year’s Day 2021

I’ve been writing big New Year’s Day posts on this blog every year for the last several years. I might as well do one this year too. Obviously, last year was a doozy, and a lot of stuff has changed, and a lot is still in flux. I’m not even sure where to start. So I’ll start with links to the last few New Year’s posts:

And I guess I’ll follow a format not too different from previous years.

Health, Weight, and Sleep

My weight has been pretty steady at around 135 pounds this year. It dipped a bit in spring & summer, getting down to 130 briefly, but has rebounded back to 135. I dropped some weight at the beginning of the pandemic, probably because I wasn’t eating any take-out food. I’m still logging all of my meals with Lose It, which I’ve been using since 2013.

I’m also still using Sleep Cycle as an alarm clock and to log my sleep. I’ve been having some weird dreams this year, but apparently so has everyone else. My sleep quality has been mixed, I’d say. Some nights I’m fine, and some nights I’m not.

I was pretty good about exercise through the spring and summer. I did a lot of walking. I’ve cut back on the walks now, since it’s been getting colder. If I don’t go out for a morning walk now, I try to do ten minutes on my exercise bike instead. (I’m glad I didn’t get rid of that thing.) I need to be careful about not letting up too much through the rest of the winter.

On the meditation front, I’ve certainly done more meditation this year than I’d usually do. One of the reasons for that is that I’ve been working from home since March, so it’s easy to take a ten minute midday meditation break. Back when I was working in a cubicle, I was too self-conscious to meditate at work. (And, really, the office environment is too noisy for meditation anyway.) I was using Insight Timer for most of this year, but I switched to Calm in December, since I had a deal to get a free year of Calm Premium. I have enough opinions on meditation apps right now that I should probably hold them for another post. But overall, I’d say that meditation helped me get through this crazy year.

I did finally get my hearing checked this year, in March, just before the pandemic lockdown really kicked in. The results were pretty much what I expected: I’ve lost a lot of hearing in my left ear. My right ear is fine. The doctor said that I’m not really at the stage where a hearing aid would make sense. My hearing issues haven’t really much mattered this year, though. If I’m talking to anybody at work, it’s on my computer, and I can just turn up the volume as much as I need. And I’m never in a crowded restaurant with a lot of background noise, so that’s not a problem either.

Work and Professional Development

I’m feeling very lucky to have had a good, steady, job this year, and to be able to work from home. My performance review for 2020 was very good. I didn’t really expect a raise this year, given the general state of the economy, but I got one. So that’s all good. There are going to be a lot of challenges ahead, going into 2021. Again, that’s probably a whole blog post of its own though.

On the professional development front, one nice thing to come out of 2020 was a lot of free virtual conferences. I didn’t participate in as many of those as I would have liked, but I did manage to watch some content from Microsoft Build and Microsoft Ignite. Most of my efforts at learning new stuff this year were centered around SharePoint Framework (SPFx) and Microsoft’s Power Platform stuff. I wasn’t really successful in getting any projects done with any of this new stuff in 2020 though. I have a couple of big projects at work that will really need to get done in 2021. I’m still not even sure if I’ll be using SPFx or Power Platform or something else though.

Looking at last year’s post, I see I was talking about trying to learn maybe Rust or Swift in 2020. I definitely didn’t do that. The one new general thing I tried to learn in 2020 was React. And that was mostly because I needed to learn it for SPFx.

Finance

I’m in pretty good shape, financially. Certainly better than most people, given the state of things. I’ve actually seen my checking account balance grow this year, presumably because I didn’t spend any money on travel, or on day trips to NYC, or even on a lot of little things like restaurant meals and gas for my car and Starbucks coffee. I expect 2021 will be similar. Given how little interest I make on my checking account, I really need to shunt some money over into my Merrill account and buy some more shares in an S&P 500 fund. The stock market (after a brief crash back in March) has done surprisingly well this year. And I probably need to sit down with a financial advisor at some point in 2021 and move some money around. There’s some stuff I want to do to simplify my finances a bit, but I can’t do it without figuring out the tax implications.

I opened two new credit card accounts this year, which is pretty unusual for me. I traded in the AmEx Green card I’d had since college for an AmEx EveryDay card. That was done mostly because the fee on the Green card had gone up to $150, so I wanted to replace it with a fee-free card. And I finally gave in and got an Apple Card. I’ve only used the Apple Card to buy my new Apple Watch, in November. I don’t really anticipate using it for anything other than Apple Store purchases.

I’ve also been thinking about getting an Amazon Prime credit card. I spent nearly $2000 at Amazon this year, so the 5% back could be as much as $100 for me. There’s really no reason for me not to get it, other than not wanting to add yet another card to my wallet.

Subscriptions

I’m always obsessing over subscriptions. The pandemic has caused me to pull the trigger on a few subscriptions that I’ve been holding out on for years. Partially because I have some extra money to spend (as noted above), and partially because I have some extra time to kill at home. So I might as well spend some money and time on nice stuff that’ll distract me from the horrible state of the world right now.

I finally subscribed to Apple Music. I signed up for a six-month free trial in October, so I don’t need to start paying for it until April. But I will likely keep it going when that happens. After years of trying to resist switching from CDs & MP3s to a subscription service, I’ve finally given in and embraced the new way of doing things.

I’ve also signed up for Disney+ and Hulu. I wanted Disney+ for The Mandalorian and Soul. And Hulu had a Black Friday deal where you could get the ad-supported tier for $2/month for a year, so that seemed worthwhile. I’m still resisting HBO Max, but I might give in on that one too eventually. If Wonder Woman 1984 had gotten better reviews, I’d probably have done it by now.

I might also sign up for the Apple One subscription bundle at some point in 2021. I don’t really need Apple TV+ or Apple Arcade, but if the pandemic keeps going, I’ll probably give in on that.

Books and Comics

According to Goodreads, I read 86 books in 2020. I’d set a goal of 100 books, and I didn’t reach it, but I’m OK with that. Most of those were comics, but (again) I’m fine with that.

For my Great American Read group, I didn’t really get through much, but I did finish Gone With The Wind in March, so that was a big one. I also read White Teeth, Invisible Man, and The Outsiders from the TGAR list. I’m still an admin in that group, and we’re still posting monthly group reads, but I’m not sure why I’m still bothering with that. The other admin is doing about half the work, so that’s good. I feel like we’re going to have to wind that group down in 2021, but I’m not in a hurry to do so.

My favorite comics of the year were probably the Resident Alien collections that I read back in May. And the Locke & Key series was also surprisingly good.

I’m still ordering a few titles from Westfield every month, but I think I’m going to wind that down over the next few months. I haven’t gotten on board with DC’s Future State thing, and I’m not reading any Marvel books. So that just leaves a few books from smaller publishers, and it’s probably best if I just switch to digital and/or trades for those. Also, my Comixology backlog is nearly 200 books (mostly collections, not single issues), so just working through that could take me a few years.

Movies

As I mentioned recently, I watched a lot of movies in 2020. Looking at Letterboxd, I see that I watched a total of 73. Probably my favorite film of the year (that actually came out in 2020) was Soul. My second favorite would have been Onward, so the year for me was bookended with solid Pixar films. I did a rewatch of all four Avengers films early in the year, and a rewatch of all the Daniel Craig Bond films just recently. Those were both fun distractions. I also tried to watch a bunch of Kurosawa films, but I only got through four. For 2021, I want to watch some more Kurosawa, and maybe rewatch a bunch of Miyazaki films. (I bought several of them on Blu-ray earlier this year, and haven’t watched any of those discs yet.)

Summary

I am kind of proud of myself for getting through 2020 in one piece, not too much worse for wear. I managed to avoid putting on weight, picking up a drinking habit, getting COVID, and losing my job. I think my mental health is reasonably OK, all things considered. I’m trying not to stress about things I didn’t do. I’d like to have spent more time on “enriching” activities and less on pure distraction, but I’m mostly OK with having watched 73 movies and lots of TV, and having read a lot more comics this year than novels or non-fiction books.

I’m expecting the first couple of months of 2021 to be pretty rough. I think the vaccine rollout will be slow. I don’t expect a change in the status quo on mask wearing and social distancing and working from home. Winter will probably still be in full force through to early March, so we’re not going to be able to do much outdoors. I think the current surge of COVID cases will continue through February, and not start to let up until March. I don’t see us all being able to return to anything like normality until very late in 2021, if at all. But, hopefully, by summer, we’ll have enough folks vaccinated and the political situation will have stabilized enough that we’ll start on the road to “normal.”

I’m thinking a lot about short-term strategies for getting through winter. Things like getting my groceries delivered, watching a lot more “comfort” TV, reading a lot of comics, working out on the exercise bike, meditating, blogging, journaling, whatever helps. I’m not making any resolutions for 2021. I’m going to take it day by day, and I think that’s what we’re all going to have to do.

 

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