2020 began with trips to Dallas, TX and Charlotte, NC and it appeared that this year would be similar to 2019 - traveling for customers and OpenHacks in my role as a software engineer for Microsoft's CSE organization.
But that all changed in March when my team canceled a planned trip to Charlotte to minimize the risk of spreading coronavirus.
After that cancellation, I did not fly on a plane and I barely left the upper Midwest.
Still, it was an eventful year for me and for the whole world.
My son Nick completed his first season as head coach at Kalamazoo College. He inherited a program that has not had a winning record in 17 years. The Hornets made some positive steps under his leadership, breaking several offensive records. COVID has postponed the 2020-21 season, which is now scheduled to begin in February, so he and his team are currently preparing to compete again in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In bigger news, Nick proposed to his longtime girlfriend Adriana and the two plan to marry in 2022.
In November, my son Tim accepted job with Microsoft Consulting Services. He will be working with the US Government, using his knowledge of Microsoft Dynamics. Although we are on different teams, I am very excited to be his colleague.
Both of my sisters sold their houses this year - one moved to a place with a much bigger yard and one downsized to a smaller place (which I have not yet seen)
My brother was hospitalized with COVID-19 this summer in Arizona but has recovered and is now reunited with his family in Australia.
My work travel ceased early in the year, thanks to the pandemic; but I did manage a couple trips later in the year.
I traveled to Michigan in early October to sponsor my nephew's Confirmation.
In late October, I took a weeklong vacation and drove to northern Michigan, visiting my friends Pat and Susan in Petoskey before driving to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for my first extended visit to this region.
In November, I took another week off and drove south, spending a few days each in St. Louis, Memphis, and Nashville. During my stay in Memphis, I was able to make my first visits to the states of Arkansas and Mississippi, bringing me closer to my goal of visiting all 50 US states.
I finally took vacation the last 3 weeks of December, but stayed close to home, as the country's lockdown intensified.
For the past few years, I have been increasing my concert attendance. The current pandemic forced the closing of Chicago concert halls for months and reduced the schedule and capacity after they re-opened. In the fall, I was able to see some very good local and regional artists at venues that practice social distancing. SPACE in Evanston and Jazz Showcase in Chicago's South Loop were favourite destinations, but a spike in statewide infections forced these venues to close again, along with other places in the city. Prior to the Spring shutdown, I did manage to catch They Might Be Giants - a band I have always enjoyed but never seen live.
I did far less volunteering this year than in the past. The only significant exception was when I mentored Chicago high school students for the Illinois STEM Challenge. To compensate for my decrease in physical contributions, I donated more money to charities than I ever have before. My favourite donation happened when I asked Facebook friends to contribute to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, promising to match all donations up to $500. This campaign raised over $1200 for a worthy cause.
All gyms in Chicago were closed for months, so it was tempting to stay home and get fat. To combat this, I came up with a daily 20-minute exercise routine that I stuck with for most of the year. I also did a tremendous amount of bike riding - mostly around the city of Chicago. I made a point of riding almost every day that weather and available daylight permitted. I rode over 1500 miles this year.
As a result, I was able to lose about 20 pounds. Sadly, I gained back 10 of those pounds over the holidays. Back to work!
I accelerated my reading - especially in the summer. I completed 92 books in 2020 and reviewed 85 of them. You can follow my progress here.
I continued my blogging in 2020, posting 182 entries for the year - an average of about 1 every 2 days.
I kept up my 2 TV shows - Technology and Friends and GCast throughout most of the year. I was forced to make a significant change to T&F, switching from exclusively in-person interviews to virtual meetings over Teams or Zoom. It was either that or pause the show indefinitely until we could interact physically again.
This year felt a bit like treading water. My team worked on projects steadily throughout 2020, but at no point did we have high pressure or impossible deadlines. I had a chance to work on two Java projects and I learned a lot about the Spring framework, but I do not think I progressed as much as in years past. The good news is that I have a secure job with a stable company. Repeatedly, company management reinforced the message that it was acceptable for us to feel the stress of 2020 - a message that I appreciated.
Reason for Optimism
I consider myself lucky. Although this year brought change and disruption, it was not the catastrophe it was for many. So many people lost their jobs and/or their health and/or their loved ones this year; so many had to learn to adjust to having young children at home during the week; so many had to learn how to do their job remotely; so many placed themselves in harm's way because their jobs were considered essential.
Seeing others rise to these challenges, it is easy to accept a year with less travel.