Friday, January 01, 2021

Review of 2020

What did you do in 2020 that you'd never done before?

Survived a pandemic. Published a book (long in the making) with Language Science Press. Got grumpy emails from retired male professors criticizing me for my politics. Started supervising seven doctoral students at the same time.

Did you keep your New Years' resolutions?

Once again I resolved to exercise more. Once again I did not do so.

Have you any resolutions for next year?

No. (I think I’ve finally learned my lesson.)

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Just learned that Joe Goodwin has a seven-week-old - congratulations!

Did anyone close to you die?

No. And that’s a hell of a thing to be happy about in itself.

What countries did you visit?

January-February: England, Wales, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy.

March-December: a few hours just across the border in Switzerland; otherwise just Germany.

What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

The freedom to travel. Other freedoms.

What date(s) from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

29th Oct 2020. Inbox zero! (Yeah, this was a shit year.)

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Publishing the Wackernagel book, I think - though that one doesn’t really count as this year’s achievement, since most of the work was already done. Also finishing the draft of the HEL textbook with Míša.

What was your biggest failure?

Getting tunnel vision and being overly sensitive to minor things that don’t affect me directly.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

Arthritis in my big toe joint! Which sucks given that I’m 35 and walking is pretty much the only form of exercise that I enjoy. But I have orthopaedic soles that help a bit, and it can be operated on in future if necessary.

What was the best thing you bought?

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition.

Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Everyone who stayed at home, wore a mask, followed the guidelines, and therefore didn’t literally kill people unnecessarily.

Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Admin people. A surprising number of people who find Pinker’s behaviour and views unobjectionable.

Where did most of your money go?

Random mail order shit that was intended to cheer me up, including a new gaming laptop. Also, charity and occasional acts of generosity.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?


What songs will always remind you of 2020?

No songs, I think. Wasn’t really a musical year.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

Happier or sadder? Sadder.

Thinner or fatter? Fatter (?).

Richer or poorer? Richer.

What do you wish you'd done more of?

Repeated from last year: “Real relaxation activities, i.e. hiking, cooking, washing things. I’m bad at relaxing.” Even when I have complete control of my own time and nowhere else to be.

What was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in 2020?

Getting scolded by Germans. (This should be a Cards Against Humanity card.)

Who did you meet for the first time?

LOL. I remember the days when you could meet people... That said, I did meet my three new STARFISH doctoral students, and a new colleague, Tamara, who are all very nice.

Did you fall in love in 2020?


How many people did you kiss?

LOL. I don’t think I’ve even shaken anyone’s hand since early March.

How many one-night stands did you have?

ROFL. See above.

What was your favourite TV programme?

I watched a lot of TV this year, but most of it was trash. Stranger Things series 3 was by far the best series yet. The new Altered Carbon was okay, but not as compelling as the first series. Off the beaten track, Roll Together’s D&D streams - particularly Sea of Swords: Forsaken - are well worth watching for anyone who likes a character-driven, somewhat thespian take on D&D.

What was your favourite film of this year?

Knives Out.

What was the best book you read in 2020?

Fiction: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. Non-fiction: The Anarchy by William Dalrymple.

What was the best game you played in 2020?

This year I replayed virtually every Bioware game, as well as several others. Mass Effect 2 stands out as probably one of the best games ever made. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla provided many, many hours of fairly mindless fun, Age of Empires II: DE kept me sane at an unexpectedly difficult point in autumn, and what I saw of Baldur’s Gate 3 on early release was impressive (though a bit grindy at points).

What was your greatest musical discovery?

I didn’t discover any music in 2020.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

T-shirt, jeans and (when necessary) jumper.

What kept you sane?

Being able to video call with people I care about.

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 35, and the pandemic had slowed down enough for me to go for a nice restaurant meal with Henri and Fernanda - in late May, for the first time since early March.

How did you spend Christmas?

With Fernenri, to whom massive thanks.

What would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Oh, gee, take a guess!

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost in the second Antman film.

What political issue stirred you the most?

P*nkergate. Also, and relatedly, transphobes.

Who did you miss?

Literally everyone.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Not hate, but my opinion of many has soured.

Was 2020 a good year for you?

No, not at all. Though I do need to relativize that: I’m mostly healthy and wealthy, don’t have kids, and on top of that I’ve always been pretty introverted. And I haven’t taught since February, thanks to research leave. So 2020 hasn’t hit me as hard as it has others - but it’s still been rough. I do get a bit anxious and a bit depressed, and I don’t have anyone to bubble with.

What was your favourite moment of the year?

Probably my crazy, unplanned trip over the Gotthard pass and around Switzerland by train in February. It got stuck in my mind afterwards as the kind of thing that would have been either impossible or deeply inadvisable for all of the rest of the year. But there were other nice moments: boat to Gaienhofen with Fernenri, and walking up around the Saarschleife. And it was nice to reconnect with quiz people from Manc, who paradoxically I actually saw more of than usual.

What is a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020?

Oh, I don’t know. I feel like I got some insights into how people who start out opposing an unjust system end up getting co-opted as its defenders. But I can’t formulate it as a crisp and clear life lesson, so I’ll end on this fairly unsatisfactory note.