Inspired by “Fogus’ yearly list of great things and people that I discovered, learned, read, met, etc.” - this is my version of what were the best things I discovered in 2020.
- Daily Steps (Avg.): 9232 (-23%)
- Aikido 230 (-10%)
- Shodo 19 hours (-62%)
Of course, 2020 was a bit "special" so I think I should supplement the above numbers with a bit of context.
- Aikido first: my Dojo was closed down twice (in Spring first, and then from November 1st to... whenever). Considering this, and the lack of chances to also go to a seminar or any kind of martial arts events... I am pretty good with a 10% decrease.
- Shodo is difficult to calculate anyway - it is true that exactly like for Aikido there were preciously few chances to go practice with my teacher, organize local workshops, etc. The fact is that I use a logging app to keep track of how many hours I devote to various stuff. And in the case of ShoDo, I only mark the time when I devote one or more hours to it. In reality, my "at home" Shodo activity was much higher than in previous years, in part because I am also doing a bit of calligraphy to supplement my drawing passion. But this means I may spend maybe 10 minutes one day, and nothing the next, and so on. I do not track these "fragments" so they are not counted.
- Drawing: lots more time for it. Probably a bit too much, even. But again, Drawing I never really keep track of in terms of time, so it remains basically "unmentioned".
- Walking: no excuses: I dropped the ball on this one. I tend to do most of my walking when I go somewhere (even just another German city) because if I am at home I usually stay mostly at home (90% I use my bike if to commute to the dojo). COVID of course limited my chances of travel a lot, and this is the reason I did not even reach the "magical" 10K steps/day target.
- Prayer Cushions of the Flesh I had this (short) book on my wish list for maybe 10 years. Recent events (including a rekindled interest in Arabic tales due to my current RPG campaign) finally moved me to get it. It was nice but "Arabian Nightmare" seemed much better.
- Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy an anthology by the same author of the much-lamented (by me, at least) "20 Palaces" series.
Technical and Non-Fiction Books/Papers
- Essere o Vivere Italian edition of "De l'Être au Vivre. Lexique euro-chinois de la pensée". A list of justaxposed concepts from Western and Chinese philosophies. E.g.: Frontal vs. Oblique. Always interesting, but it is difficult to get rid of the impression that Jullien is trying to convince us that Chinese thought is "better" (a problem the author himself is aware of).
Miscellaneous Web Articles
- Why is the Modern World So Ugly? musings on contemporary architecture.
- The two most famous texts on war are Clausewitz' Vom Kriege for the West, and Sun Tzu's The Art of War for the East. The former was strongly influenced by studying Napoleon's strategical and tactical choices. This article tries to find out who was the inspiring general for the latter.
- The Circle of Life. In the 70s the New Alchemy Institute created its ‘living machine’ – a research project of organic farming, renewable energy, and sustainable architecture.
- The Worst Tool for the Job. This is an extremely short article, but I still like to mention it because the advice in it is something I have been doing for most of my adult life.
- Optimizing things in the USSR being a big fan of Red Plenty I was very happy to see it discussed there.
- Whitewood Under Siege - a chronicle of the Pallet Wars.
- On "Scale" relatively short (but still in-depth) review of Scale by Geoffrey West.
- Are we still thinking? On the (sorry) state of human dialogue...
- A Need to Walk musings on one of the most fascinating activities you can have with your clothes on.
- Life after Eroom's law. An interview with the "inventor" of Eroom's Law: why drug R&D yields constantly decreasing results after the "golden age" of the '50s and '60s? Can we do anything about it?
- Quotes from Moral Mazes - very long post distilling the most acute (and pessimistic) insights from Moral Mazes. If you work in any corporate environment you absolutely need to read this piece (and maybe the whole book, too).
Favorite non-book media and entertainment
Once again, little to report here.
- Tenet. The only movie I saw this year. 4/5.
I actually tried to leverage the Pandemic by finally convincing a bunch of people (including myself) to start an online RPG campaign loosely based on Golden Voyages. I am having a blast.
Content (produced by me)
Not much to report, I am afraid. As part of my rekindled RPG activity, I put some more content in my own Mini-Six site, though.
- iPhone 12 Pro - a bit uncharacteristically for me, not only I splurged a lot on the latest and greatest from Apple (despite the old one still being functional) but I am already mentioning here even if I bought it at the very end of the year. One "positive" effect of COVID - for me - was that I saved lots of money (travel expenses, mostly) so I just decided to upgrade, mostly for the camera enhancements. The camera is indeed quite good, especially in low light, and for the rest, I trust Apple to have done a good job so I feel confident in considering this item already "best of" in this category.
- TP-Link re200 WiFi Range Extender Actually bought at the end of 2019 but proved to be an almost prescient move, because it played a big part in me being able to stay in touch with my family during the lockdowns.
- Zim Wiki together with Historio.us (see below) a wiki seems to be my go-to choice to organize information that I produce myself. Zim is the best multiplatform product that I found for my work "notes" (at work I use Windows). It is free, works well and it is available also on Linux and OSX...
- VoodooPad - ... and yet I decided to spend some euros to get VoodooPad, which is functionally non so different from Zim, but it is limited to OSX/IOS only. This is what I use mostly for my gaming notes.
- Historio.us. This is - at least for now - the most practical way to "extend my memory" (at least regarding stuff I read on the Net): instead of just bookmarking a page you find interesting this service caches a copy at indexes it so that you can later use a dedicated search page that will look for your terms only in pages you have saved there.
- Template Maker/ Create and download custom-sized papercraft and packaging templates (for free). This site offers a practically unlimited amount of templates (also known as ’dielines‘ or ‘nets’) for papercraft, packaging, package design, learning materials, decoration, and much more.
- MeWe. Billed as the Anti-Facebook. An apt label if you consider "success" as the most relevant characteristic of Facebook. I joined it after the Google+ Diaspora, but I did not even try convincing my friends to follow me there. Unfortunately, it does not allow people to showcase anything to the outside (i.e. you need to create a profile to see anything posted there). Hopefully, they will add this as an optional feature in the future. Until then, it's just a way to prove that you really can't stand Facebook.
- Nothing to report apart from the usual low-intensity practice.
I keep training and keep attending seminars, both here and back in Italy - but there was no special highlight this year.
Food & Dining
- Blueberry beer a Czech specialty which I found in Prague (and not very common there, either - I kept returning to the same place just to get one). I found it very peculiar, I was alone so I could not perform any tests but I suspect even people who don't particularly like beer would find it nice: somehow the sweetness of the fruit balances the bitter taste while also adding a hint of citrus.
- Xuxu serendipitous discovery while having lunch at Amrit. I was looking for some Indian liquor but finally settled for this which was a nice surprise.
- Boesner is probably the largest art supplies store in Germany, with stores in all the larges cities. I have started visiting it (mostly in Berlin) way earlier than 2020 but considering it was one of the few places I managed to visit "regularly" this year, I think it should be mentioned. (They also sell online, of course).
- Gärten der Welt. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. I managed to live 5 years relatively close to Berlin (which in turn I visited more or less every month) without knowing that apart from the equally majestic Botanic Gardens there was (at least?) another great garden in Berlin. I plan to come back and devote a whole day to visiting it (my first visit lasted 4 hours more or less) but this will have to wait for better times, of course.
- Prague. This was my only true vacation this year. I managed to snatch 4 days in August... just a few weeks before the second strict lockdown. I enjoyed it immensely, but I suspect that in a normal year the masses of tourists would have made the experience a little worse for me.
2020 was the first full year where I actually practiced drawing on a daily basis. I also started trying my hand at live drawing sessions (via Zoom, of course). Here are the most outstanding results for me:
Best as in "Most voted"
This year the "Most voted" category was a bit more complicated to decide upon: I tried a couple of ways to "promote" some of my drawings, and in the end the top 3 in terms of "likes" were all from this category.
I then decided to take the top voted excluding all the "promoted" posts and this is the result for 2020:
Best as in "This is what I like more"
"The one I like more" was also pretty hard to decide, of course.
Once again, I opted for one that was at the same time "simple to draw" (I was just doodling away while looking at a picture sent by the model) and - in my own opinion - pretty good.