Good things that happened in 2020 - Wrap up

7 minute read

“Certain years are so eventful they are regarded as pivotal in history, years when wars and slavery ended and deep generational fissures burst into the open — 1865, 1945 and 1968 among them. The year 2020 will certainly join this list.” — New York Times.

2020 is a year dominated by uncertainty, loss and suffering. A retrospective of good things could help us get through these challenging times. In this post, I am going to look past all that didn’t go well and share some personal positive moments from this year. I hope that this encourages more people to do that same to keep ourselves sane in this otherwise chaotic year. Here we go:

New Home

I consider myself incredibly lucky that I moved to a new home at the start of this year just before it all began. The joy of owning the first home definitely kept me occupied with many aspects that come along with it: such as furnishing, decorating and other improvements.

With these improvements, summer in lockdown got slightly more bearable sitting here.

Home automation

I always dreamed of making the space I live in smart - generally being aware of basic intents like turning lights on and off, opening and closing curtains etc. It’s hard to justify building such a setup in a rented home - too many limitations and the work doesn’t easily translate to a new home if you move. Also, being at home gave me plenty of extra time to indulge myself in achieving this dream to a reasonable extent.

Lounge lights syncing with the TV content and curtains closing automatically to avoid glare on the TV screen.

The first couple of months in locked down went by swiftly as I was working on this. My home automation setup is fully open sourced - praveendath92/home-lab on GitHub. I will discuss this further in a future post regarding my idea of a smart home and how I accomplished it.

Baby pigeons

In the early days at the new flat, the hanging wicker baskets in our balcony didn’t have plants so, a couple of pigeons made it their home. A few weeks have gone by and one fine day we discovered 2 eggs in one of the basket.

Baby pigeons born in the hanging plant baskets in the balcony

We waited until the eggs hatched 🐣🐣 and the new borns could learn to fly and leave “their nest”. It was a memorable and pleasant experience - except when it came to cleaning. We watched those pigeons from eggs to newly hatched and finally taking a jump off the balcony for their first flight! 😍❤️

I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home unless you really enjoy cleaning after pigeons.

Painting

Taking inspiration from a friend’s purchase, we bought this Paint by numbers for Adults canvas. It was a long and hard (on the neck) journey started around late August and finished (finally) in early December. It was just another unusual way we killed some time. It definitely helped us take our mind off an otherwise monotonous life indoors.

Color painting with a lot of patience and just a tad of skill

Plants

I grew up in a house with a huge garden and taking care of plants was one of my biggest hobby - besides breaking open toys and any electronics. So naturally we bought a lot of plants. Taking care of them, watch them be healthy and grow is an absolute joy! 🌱🌵🌿

Plants in the home assistant dashboard

Code

Coding 👨🏽‍💻 is an activity that I am deeply passionate about and enjoy very much. I see this as a means through which I could contribute to making the world 🌍 a better place. This year has been phenomenal in that regard as I got to do more of this - both at work and in my personal time. A good amount of it is now open sourced. While there is no perfect metric to accurately quantify the extent of coding in a period of time, I looked at my GitHub contributions heat-map.

GitHub contributions heatmap from 2018 to 2020

I made more contributions in 2020 than the 2 years before that - 32% more than 2019 and 98% more than 2018! A good deal of the extra time not spent in daily commute has gone into coding outside work hours. I hope that everyone who use and build upon my work are creating a positive impact on this world. Checkout my GitHub profile if you need some inspiration.💡

Talks

Attending and speaking at conferences is a great way to learn, share, collaborate and connect with fellow developers and experts in the community. While the pandemic has certainly made it hard to travel or meet in person, it hasn’t stopped us from finding creative ways to continue doing these activities we hold dear. I presented our work at SwiftKey in mDevCamp 2020 virtual conference.

Presenting at the mDevCamp 2020 virtual conference

I also presented 2 more talks in a Microsoft internal conference which was also virtual with attendees from US, Europe and India. I look forward to sharing articles about this work publicly in the next year.

Finance

Outside the stocks vested through Microsoft, I did not invest actively in the financial markets before 2020. The first quarter of this year as you are probably aware has seen historic swings in the market. I invested a good amount of time trying to understand the market and economy. To be completely honest, I have started this is late 2019 at a laid-back pace and 2020 has no doubt played a part in accelerating my learning.

The sharp and significant rise in unemployment and drop of the equities market has shown me the importance of having a good chunk of the savings in cash equivalents. It also motivated me to look for offerings with better interest rates and opened me up to the world of Decentralized Finance (DeFi) in Crypto space. I probably learned more about how money works in this year than all the years before combined! I am acutely aware of the immense depth and breadth of this domain and I hope to continue exploring this new found passion in the years ahead.

Blockchain tech

The first time I paid attention to crypto currencies and the technology that facilitates them was, like most people, in 2017. When I came across Decentralized Finance (DeFi), it really inspired me to learn further about all the other applications of blockchain. It was astounding to discover all the silent progress that has taken place in this domain in the past 2 years when people haven’t been speculating widely. I believe that adoption of blockchain has huge similarities to the rise of Internet in its early days.

This is an area I rediscovered in 2020 after years of hiatus. I believe it will have a great impact on many areas such as Finance, Supply chain, Governance, Security, and building an inclusive world🤞. I am very glad that I started exploring this domain again irrespective of the circumstances that prompted me.

Writing

I started writing more often this year. This includes many forms of writing such as documentation, bloging and publications.

Since our team started working remotely, I adopted a new approach to share and discuss ideas or issues. I started documenting, more frequently than before, any issues, potential future directions for a product, and key decisions and the reasoning behind them. This allowed my colleagues to read and respond to this in their own time. Also, we will now have a document to recall for any discussion!

I also revived this blog after 3 years of silence. Last but not least, I started a medium publication where I explore the workings of Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies and their applications. Checkout Crypto Simplified if this catches your interest.

Reading

All that new learning has translated into plethora of reading. I am admittedly a slow reader than many so I tend to be picky about the books I read. I definitely read more articles, reports and crypto white papers this year than ever before. All that research for Crypto Simplified publication has been one of the driving factors to read more.

Startup

This year most of us have moved online to work, study or socialize. I joined my college roommate’s startup and I work on it in my spare time. We are building tools to enable virtual experiences with your colleagues, classmates and friends. Checkout Heidi for more details. At the time of this writing, we are rolling out a virtual escape room for teams. Checkout it out! 🎄🎅🧝🧝🧝🧝🧝🧝

Your turn

That’s all folks. Some of these activities are unique to my circumstances. I am hopeful that by sharing this with you, it will encourage you to look for the fragments of good moments in this otherwise chaotic year. Look forward to hearing more positive stories. 👀

This too shall pass! Stay safe ❤️💪😷

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