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2021 Year In Review

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Happy New Year—yet again! What better way to start the year than a blog post covering the entire previous year in a bird’s eye view? I like reading others' year in reviews, such as Roy’s, Winnie’s, and Mike’s. They’re humbling and somehow help me cope with my own issues. I have a habit of summarizing personal events in “365” pages in my journals. They are interesting to look back to: it’s both painful (past or present lingering personal issues stare me right in the face) and joyful (personal and professional achievements are also listed that deserve more attention).

Highlights

1. The Blog

In 2021, I managed to write more than ninety blog posts, almost four times as much as in 2020. The evolution of Brain Baking is one of the things I’m very proud of and helped me keep sane throughout the year. I discovered the IndieWeb, tried out Webmentions, wrote my own server in Go, discovered Mastodon, integrated it in the site, removed it, parsed more RSS, removed it yet again, added support of the Gemini protocol, dropped it, gave more attention to accessibility, …

Experimentation and fiddling with the site has been an highly enjoyable pass-time that netted new friends and connections, serendipitous discoveries, fire-started the learning of new programming languages, made me join random Zoom sessions and learn more about personal knowledge management and Obsidian, broadened my overall knowledge horizon, and most of all: made me reflect more. Thanks everyone for your support!

2. The Retro Office

In February, I completely redid my home office (see my retro desk/gaming setup in 2021). Just in time, because in 2021, I worked almost exclusively from home, except for on-campus classes. Bike ride to university, teaching, and bike ride home to continue researching. The small investment made a big impact: in my tiny home office, I feel safe, ideas constantly bubble up, I can focus, and if in dire need of a bit off-loading, relax as well. It’s been another quite productive professional year, which I completely attribute to the sole presence of my beloved 40486. Cheers, ISA slots.

3. Miauw.

We got a second cat. I said no twenty times. The twenty-first time, we were on our way to pick her up. I learned that my wife can be quite persistent (I already knew that, she married me!).

Bonnie, our Ragdoll kitten, frequently challenging my writing sessions.

Muesli, our nine year old British Shorthair, is not amused. It took over a month to get over it, and he still loathes her presence. All she wants to do—besides tearing down the place—is cuddle with him. Luckily our Golden Retriever doesn’t mind. I’m still not sure whether it was such a great move. The 2022 year in review will probably tell.

We also got three new chickens and built a bigger fully covered fence for them.

Lowlights

I think I can safely write that the year 2021 has been difficult for everyone. So vaccination doesn’t magically solve things huh? Mouth masks mandated, not anymore, mandated, not anymore, restaurants closing, not anymore, closing, not anymore. It’s clear that our local government doesn’t know what to do either. It seems that we’re looking at yearly booster shots now.

Besides COVID making it harder for everyone to engage socially for obvious reasons, I’ve been constantly struggling with loneliness the past year. It’s difficult to even write about it. The global pandemic made everyone feel a bit lonely, but it’s not the pandemic that is causing it—although it sure is accelerating it. I have the feeling that the shift from industry to academia is one of the perpetrators. It’s been since August 2018, but now it’s starting to hit hard. I miss having colleagues. I miss frequent pairing sessions. I miss debating and discussing issues. I miss feeling equal. I miss mattering. It’s like my academic colleague Daniel Graziotin said: research is awesome but lonely (thanks for your support, Daniel). Not a day goes by that I don’t think about quitting.

And I will. Eventually. But my work is not yet done, and I have the feeling that it is important. If not to someone else, then at least, to me. In the summer of 2021, an idea of writing a book about creativity for programmers started crystallizing. A book that should marry theory and our findings with practice and my industry experience—a hybrid approach, so to speak. It re-kindled my motivational flame, and I am yet unable to let go.

But it doesn’t make it easier. I still feel very lonely. I’m trying to excavate my emotions to gain more insight as to the why. I hope to write more about it publicly when I have the guts to do so. My low energy supply caused me to neglect my interest in food and cooking. The vegetable garden was also not well maintained. Ah well, who knows, this year the pigeons might not steal the bean seeds!

Minorlights

A bullet list of random minor events of 2021:

  • My wife and I rekindled our interest in Magic: the Gathering—again! And hey, I’m a few expansions behind—again! I created my very first Onslaught block inspired Esper Zombie Commander deck. I’m still trying to get four MtG players together…
  • I bought an Evercade, a cartridge-based modern retro handheld, and I like it quite a bit, despite the awful screen. Speaking about games, I overhauled my gaming blog Jefklak’s Codex. I’m still unsure as to whether or not merge its contents with Brain Baking.
  • I enjoyed long walks with a dear friend who also brought my attention to the Dooddoeners podcast, short sessions with two Flemish philosophers about common misconceptions in life.
  • I finally caved in and supported Retronauts. I never quite “got” podcasts, but I discovered that they’re highly enjoyable while preparing dinner or doing the dishes.
  • My M1 MacBook Air (December 2020) is another minor highlight. That thing is a beast, an unstoppable beast. Who cares about the mere two USB-C ports? It’s unstoppable, I tell you! I bought my wife another one. It has yet to arrive—thanks, chip shortages.
  • My VPS server got up in flames—literally. In 2021, I finally learned to write Ansible scripts and automate installs. By fumbling around in the private VPS, my Linux server management skills in general improved quite a bit.
  • I missed yet another conference. I could have visited Madrid and Venice. In March 2022, I might travel to the US. I don’t have high hopes.
  • I killed my Facebook account.
  • In the same vein: I spent a year with LineageOS instead of Android and never felt the need to install anything Googley.
  • My book on the science of sourdough bread (in Dutch) still sells, albeit at a low rate (between 15-25 per month). For not putting in any effort at all, I’m happy with that.
  • I somehow managed to read 35 books this year! I think I kind of cheated, as the Amber omnibus by Roger Zelazny should count for 2, but each separate novel counts for 10.
  • I learned Go and Kotlin from scratch and sharpened my JavaScript skills by using new toolchains and frameworks. Both languages left me excited and wanting to dig in more. Too bad my priorities lie elsewhere for the moment…

I don’t do new year resolutions, we’ll see it when we get there. Professionally, I really hope to finish and publish my second book. I’m fairly hopeful on that one. Personally, I really hope to do something about the loneliness. I don’t have high hopes on that one. And of course, the Analogue Pocket: Q1 2022 baby!

At least now I can choose which cat to cuddle.

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a level 36 Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

If you found this article amusing and/or helpful, you can buy me a coffee - although I'm more of a tea fan myself. I also like to hear your feedback via Mastodon or e-mail. Thanks!