As I expected, I would not finish this post in 2021, but I figure we’re still in a reasonable time horizon. What can I say? This year was also really wacky, but I can say that we were able to do lots of fun things, regardless. Hoping this year we get to do a couple bigger trips, including some beach time and a national park or two.
Things that I accomplished this year.
- Went digging for shark tooth fossils in Maryland
- Watched our seat of government get attacked by Nazis and white supremacists broadcast live on the web while on a remote conference call for work.
- Went for a winter hike at Huntley Meadows Park and saw a ton of amazing wildlife on the frozen lake.
- Celebrated Evan’s 8th Birthday!
- Made a Kalimba out of an old cigar box with the boys.
- Built my first snow fort with bricks in 40 years.
- Hiked the hills around Lake Fairfax Park
- Got Liam started with horseback riding
- Visited the Finger Lakes for our wedding anniversary, including a trip to the Corning Museum of Glass. Got the royal treatment at a number of wineries, given Jen’s creds.
- Went to NYC for Jen’s birthday. Visited the Bronx Zoo, toured the old family apartments of our grandparents, and ate our way around Manhattan including Via Carota.
- Made a kick-ass veggie garden from seed. Got better at working our yard so that next year it will be even better.
- Sold our minivan.
- Went to visit my cousins in Rochester for their sons’ high school and college graduations. Got to experience my kids playing with their kids, which was awesome, and one of the things we missed while in California.
- Saw Evan start to learn the drums. He’s still going!
- Made our second trip to AwesomeCon DC! Got Shatner’s autograph, learned about Black Holes with Liam, and watched Evan school lots of gamers in Super Smash Bros.
- Visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum for the first time since 2001.
- Got to see Brandi Carlisle and her band play at Wolf Trap.
- Visited Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and got to see colleagues, friends and family.
- Did a digital asset purge. This included consolidating years of backup drives, cloud storage accounts and all of the various sync workflows for backups. It was a pain in the neck, but very rewarding in the end. Still tying up a few loose ends but now that the framework is in place it’s going quickly.
- Celebrated Liam’s 10th Birthday with a Godzilla party at a water park.
- Visited Occoquan, Virginia. Really cool little town!
- Stopped leading the Cub Scout Den. It was an awesome experience for three years, but ultimately the kids lost interest and it was becoming too much work without their buy-in.
- I started a Zettlekasten, or slip box, as the basis for my ongoing note-taking. So far, getting into the groove of using it is the biggest challenge, however, I frankly love the simplicity of writing and versioning text files as opposed to wrestling with Evernote and OneNote for that. Biggest challenge moving forward is just working through my rough note archive bin, but its all there and I can tag it and reformat it as I have time.
- Said goodbye to the company where I spent the last 5+ years, ICF, in search of a new challenge. It was a good run this year, launching the ICF Climate Center, revamping the digital agency experience for ICF Next and just really running a ton of solid demand generation campaigns with my awesome team members.
- Learned a new programming language, Rust. I was really hankering to just get my hands on writing some code again, so I learned how to work with the language, build a website for one of my side projects and set up my deployments. Forgot how much fun this could be.
- Reconnected with some of my favorite former colleagues from throughout the years. It was particularly great to check in with all of the ThoughtWorkers are still kicking it to hear about how much the company has changed, and what has stayed the same.
- Interviewed with several amazing organizations and met a whole bunch of just fantastic digital product and marketing folks around the world. More to come on this shortly!
- Took the kids to see Harry Potter on Broadway.
- Took two courses from the good folks at Section4 around Business Strategy and Product Experimentation. Being a Professor G fan for many years, and being personally committed to the idea of revamping higher-ed, I had to experience what they were building, and it’s really good, namely because they have a stable of incredible educators from some of the best universities, and they’ve developed a really good system and workflow for engaging the cohorts. I owe this topic a dedicated post to do it justice.
- Got to enjoy Ween when they rolled into Silver Spring, and thanks to Gabe and the band, was able to enjoy it in style with some good friends. It was a killer set including a ton of tracks from the first two albums.
- Helped JRI-Poland.org run a full year of fundraising campaigns including an end of year Challenge Grant for our new NextGen platform.
- Made a small return to the blog, posting a couple of times during the year. That said, I’ve done a good amount of planning and prepping content for my blog and a couple of other side projects this year. I’ve admittedly struggled with the best way to blog about my varied interests like digital strategy and marketing, genealogy, etc without overwhelming people. Now that it feels like there’s a new newsletter platform emerging every other day, I want to be cognizant I’m not just feeding the ball of noise. I’ll outline what’s happening in a post soon!
My 2021 Reading List
Inspired by a couple of my more voracious reader friends, Jeff Mazur and Gayle Kansagor Hope, here are the titles I managed to read this year. Also trying to keep Goodreads up to date if you want to try to link up there.
Themes: You’ll definitely see a few clusters here, but there may be a couple of surprises.
- Judaism in the modern world. I know that I’m not alone in the struggle to maintain awareness of what our culture has lost to racism and antisemitism. It can be an ongoing challenge to find meaningful dialogue and I’m happy that I have discovered some fantastic authors like David Badiel and Bari Weiss who have offered really critical thinking around the modern discourse on these topics. In addition, Dara Horn was a newer discovery for me, but is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. Her historic fiction offers imaginative storylines of characters that feel like people I have known my entire life.
- Mindfulness and mental health – I am a fan of all things Rick Hanson, so I had to digest his latest this year, not to mention some other great reads including Cecily Strong’s tale of grief, Laura McKowen’s manifesto of addiction and sobriety, Gretchen Rubin and Cal Newport’s works on minimalism and focus, and lastly a great book on the purpose and value of sleep.
- Psychology and Persuasion – If you loved Thinking Fast and Slow, you’ll enjoy Daniel Kahneman’s latest, Noise, which delves into the difference between different flaws of judgement including Bias and Noise and how to design with them in mind.
Not dropping full reviews, but happy to dive in deeper to discuss any of these if you are interested. I have definitely made more of an effort to acquire less books in the last couple of years, so most of these were digital buys or borrows (thanks Libby).
Full 2019 list below:
Note: as an Amazon affiliate, I might receive a very small commission if you purchase books using my links below.
- Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel
- String Theory: The Parents Ashkenazi by Dara Horn
- The Rescuer by Dara Horn
- This Will All Be Over Soon by Cecily Strong
- How to Fight Antisemitism by Bari Weiss
- Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
- Neurodharma by Rick Hanson
- Masters of Doom by David Kushner
- Had I Known by Barbara Ehrenreich
- Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin
- Irresistible by Adam Alter
- Product Led SEO by Eli Schwartz
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- Broken Horses by Brandi Carlisle
- Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
- We are the Luckiest by Laura KcKowen
- Noise: A flaw in human judgement by Daniel Kahneman
- Mutualism by Sara Horowitz
- Small Victories by Anne Lamott
- Ten Passive Income Ideas for online business by David Kadavy
- Digital Zettlekasten: Principles Methods and Examples by David Kadavy
- Weapons of Math destruction: How Big Data Increases Inqueality and threatens democracy by Cathy O’Neil
- City of Thieves by David Benioff
- The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
- South of Broad by Pat Conroy
- Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
- Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
- The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Jonathan Haidt
- The Perfect Weapon by David Sanger