2020 in review

Bought a new house. Worked from it (and the old house) a lot. Oldest kid started kindergarten (remotely). Went on a couple trips. That’s the highlights.

New house

Most prominently, my family bought a new house. It’s only about 8 miles as the crow flies from the old house. The process was a struggle, partly because two kids and a global pandemic makes it difficult to visit as many options as easily as we’d have liked. Partly because the market was extremely hot — we were outbid on the first house we made an offer on, and we’d offered asking price (or maybe even more, I forget). We also had at least one showing canceled because the buyer accepted an offer between the time we scheduled it and when it was scheduled for, and we visited a house for a showing that had — unbeknownst to us and our realtor — already been sold shortly before.

Still, we eventually found a great one that backs onto common ground woods and a creek, with more woods behind it. We’ve seen deer and turkey, and a wide variety of birds, among other animals. Collected some neat rocks along the creek. We’re pretty happy with it.

Which leaves the old house, which has been a bit of a pain to deal with. I haven’t had much luck in finding people to do some fairly light work that needs done before putting it on the market, so I’ve been getting done what I can myself in bits and pieces. Things like resealing the basement walls, patching and painting, etc. Probably the biggest bits are replacing light fixtures, replacing carpet upstairs, and removing sticky vinyl tile from the bathroom floor to reveal — as our realtor suspected — the original 1940s tile floor in great condition underneath. Great condition other than needing to remove all the adhesive, clean and probably regrout the whole thing. I hope I will not be writing about the old house in the 2021 in review other than to say we sold it.

Trips

Went on a couple trips this year.

In January we drove to Minnesota for a funeral in my wife’s family.

At the beginning of March, I went to New Orleans for the 2020 NICAR convention. There had been some question leading up to it whether or not it would happen, but the organizers were pretty consistent in saying it would. And it did.

The conference itself was fine. I’d never been to New Orleans. I flew down, wandered around the city a bit as usual, before the conference. I led sessions on GitHub and file organization, as well as helping out in a sort of “office hours”-type session. Played Wingspan with some folks one night at the hotel bar. The party was at the aquarium on the waterfront, which was quite nice.

Power line towers receding across a lake

After the conference, I took Amtrak back to St. Louis, via Chicago. I visited with Pete in Chicago and ate, if I recall correctly, my last meal in a restaurant in 2020 — March 9 at Breakfast House. I also managed to find Anderson Pens’ Chicago location (new to me). It would close (“temporarily” — but it’s still closed) a little more than a week later.

When I arrived home, I asked my boss whether he thought it might be best if I worked from home for a week, just as a precaution. Later that evening I got an email announcement that a conference attendee had tested positive (another would follow several days later, but that was the last we heard of spread related to the conference). And shortly after that, everyone was working from home.

Other than that, I haven’t been much of anywhere. I took the kids for a drive through Lone Elk Park but we stayed in the car. I also traveled back to Danville for an estate sale at my grandparents’ house, but I went by myself.

Hobbies

(Other than surviving a global pandemic). My singing group, the Greenleaf Singers put on a concert on January 5. And then that was it. We haven’t been able to sing together since. Though the St. Louis Renaissance Faire still went on, we didn’t perform. The Christmas concerts we normally sing were cancelled. I’ve made the least music this year in at least a decade, and I miss it so much. Our group has gotten together on Zoom a few times, just to hang out, but the singing doesn’t work so well.

Rock with fossils

Photography has been on the upswing, especially since buying the new house. The variety of things to see, plants and animals in the woods and along the creek is great for taking pictures.

The kids and I have been down to walk around the creek a few times to go rockhounding. There are some fossils and other interesting rocks to be found, and the creek floods quite a bit so I think the rocks should turn over a fair amount.

A male cardinal landing on a feeder

A very new hobby (like within the past few days) is birding. After noticing the large variety of birds at the new house, I anticipated getting a feeder at some point. Then I saw a sale on 20 lb. bags of mixed feed for $5 just after Christmas, and jumped on it. I hung a tube feeder, which was successful, and then built a crude platform feeder for larger birds, which has also been ok so far. This is in turn allowing for some fantastic photos (I set the feeders up not far from a convenient spot) and even live-streaming.

Geekway to the West was canceled this year, so we didn’t get to go to that. Consequently (and between moving, et al.) we haven’t played a lot of games this year. We did buy Wingspan for Tabletop Simulator and play through that a couple times.

SIU Job

I taught data journalism at SIU for the second time. It went well, despite meeting virtually for the second half. For the upcoming spring semester I’ll be teaching that again as well as a visual communication course.

STLPR Job

It was, no surprise, largely focused on the pandemic. I built a dashboard and a bot for our Slack that helps broadcast the stats to our reporters daily. Also worked on the election, of course. Flew the drone a couple times, including at a drive-in open for business during the pandemic. Among many many other things.

I think I’ve been into the newsroom a total of three or four times since the end of February.

Media

Some media I enjoyed this year, in no particular order:

The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven’s 9th. Enough said.

Chris Thile and Andrew Bird played an incredibly joyful rendition of ‘Blue Skies’ on Live From Here. Also Live From Here got canceled, which is still disappointing to me.

I greatly enjoyed the streamed Sondheim 90th Birthday Concert.

Watched the filmed version of Hamilton on Disney+.

Speaking of streaming services, when we moved, we canceled DirecTV and got Hulu’s live TV service. So far, so good.

I watched the Cardinals play on opening day, which I’ve always enjoyed but was particularly significant this year amid the uncertainty.

I highly enjoyed AppleTV’s Central Park animated series, as well as Ted Lasso. My kids have also enjoyed Helpsters.

I didn’t read a whole lot. I borrowed the biography Weird Al: Seriously, and The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History from the library.

I watched a lot of YouTube:

  • Cracking the Cryptic’s sudoku, which I’ve been enjoying the challenge of attempting every so often. The Miracle Sudoku is what introduced me and many other people to the channel.
  • Late last year, we’d started watching the British comedy game show Taskmaster, and continued that as they posted new episodes.
  • Adam Savage, formerly of Mythbusters, has been doing a fantastic job during the pandemic on his channel Tested.