My 2020 in review
I am mostly writing this for myself, but happy if anyone finds it useful. (Re-reading the “Best of the input” from last year gives vibrant echoes that remind me why I am writing these posts even in the short-term.)
A year of change
2020 has been a year of change for everyone. It has been a year that we all have seen new angles and strains of our world and life; Working from home, not seeing friends or loved ones, fear for the pandemic, rampant inequality, looming climate crisis, political polarization, a general distrust in democracy, and so on.
Most people talk about 2020 as if they wish it never happened. But, the pandemic of 2020 was just the pressure that made the underbelly visible.
None of these things were new, it is just that our reality isn’t as safe, stable, and set as we thought. The world is in no means perfect and often we need to see it to get out of our own complacency.
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
— Leonard Cohen, Anthem
2020 was the year of awakening on many fronts and I hope we will look back on it as a start of many great movements. We clearly need to either change or use the machine we built — but one thing is sure a lot of things “happened” 2020.
I won’t spend all this text on the pandemic and the global agenda, but the plan is to reflect personal changes, and even smaller things in life. But, it felt strange to leave it out.
Pale Blue Dot
The biggest thing that happened for me (in a more isolate case) this year was that Heidi, Joel, and I started the climate tech venture fund Pale Blue Dot. We started fundraising back in October 2019, but “opened up the fund” in June this year.
The origin of the name
The name is a homage to a Carl Sagan quote from 1990. He asked for the Voyager 1 satellite’s camera to take one last photograph of Earth, and in that picture, our plant is a size of a pixel and looks very lonely and fragile.
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. (. . .)
There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
There are many more things to be said of work, the venture fund, and how working intermittently from home with two new wonderful colleagues have been, but let’s keep it short.
First of all, I would say: What Brisk was to TAT, Pale Blue Dot is to angel investing or Blueyard. The second time feels more structured, more serious, more responsible — and with more responsibility. What used to be playful is now real, and work. Which has both upsides and downsides.
Secondly, I am very happy to get to work with Heidi and Joel. They complement me, challenge me, and make my days brighter.
Finally, to get to work with climate tech entrepreneurs is a true joy. There are so many ambitious, striving, innovative people out there that will make the world a better place, and the energy and hope I get from them is a true gift.
I feel so grateful that the projects that I started are being taken over by capable hands, and I will pause and cherish this here.
- 👩👩👦👦 A shift at the help of Skane Startups, as Vala Zulfiu went on maternity leave, amazing Zhenni Liang taking over as managing director.
- 🏠 And, at The Ground, Thimar Innab, took over and got the place to the next level.
Projects, mini-events, and changes
- 🥗 At the beginning of 2020 I took the final step to become vegetarian, so just stopped eating fish and seafood. I don’t consume dairy apart from cheese and would love to find a replacement to moving to consumption without exploitation.
- 🍷 Because of a strange headache in August, I stopped drinking alcohol altogether. Many parts of alcohol are ritual or social (well, not so much this year maybe) and it has been somewhat tricky to learn the new ways. It took a month for the wanting and the habit to go away, and still in search to redesign the rituals and finding good replacements.
- 🤞 It has been a year without any (major) hospital visits, surgery, or epilepsy. And, no one close to us has seemed to have hosted SARS-CoV-2 (in a destructive way). Those non-events are also events. But, my dad got cancer — but (1) it seems to under control, (2) he seems to be in a good mood, and (3) started treatment. Still… Puh.
- 🎿 Exercise this year culminated, and almost ended, with doing Vasaloppet with Erik Byrenius (who am grateful for being there, as I otherwise wouldn’t have finished). I survived. The “race” took 9 h, 37 minutes, and 4 seconds and was 99% about not quitting. Since that, I only ran/did roller ski ten times this year after that — and only in December longer than 10 km. (Part of me feel like doing Vasaloppet one more time strangely enough.)
- ⚙️ This summer I found Factorio which ate some nights for me and two of my kids. It is an extraordinary experience (and heard that Shopify endorses it), trying to build and maintain a supply chain, with all its parts — and loving the chore! Played a bit of Wingspan and Scythe and the latter will stay on as a regular.
- 🧐 Arvid and I started a serious strain of movies and reading together this year, with the highlights being (one of my favorite movies) Groundhog Day, Schindler’s List, The Dark Knight (which is a very serious movie about justice, hidden in an action movie), Shawshank Redemption, Parasite, and District 9, as well as reading (and translating) one of my all-time favorites Slaughterhouse Five. It has been a joy.
- 🎙️ Timo Engelhardt, Guy Gunaratne, Joel Larsson, and I started a weekly “Philosophy Podcast Circle,” which went from a happenstance to episodical reflection. We started with Philosophize This! (my fav episode was Hannah Arendt) and then moved on to “freeform” and have treated Peter Turchin, Jack Halberstam, Jan Gehl, and Arne Næss.
- 📺 I transitioned to understanding how to use YouTube for search, especially for cooking. A small step for…
There has been almost no work travel at all this year — so much that it calls for mentioning :D
- 🏔 ️But, before the Europe got what was happening, we went to the north of Sweden to cross country ski. The most amazing part was not the weather, snow, or nature — but that the kids loved it.
- 🏕 ️During the summer, when Sweden was in La La Land of “no pandemic,” we went hiking and even got so far to pitch the tent twice and sleep in nature.
Writing & thinking
One of the “fails” of the year, or at least things that I am a bit disappointed at now, is that I haven’t written almost anything on my blog. I find writing, and crafting a text to a final version, is an amazing way to sharpen my thoughts and thinking about a subject.
I don’t know what I am going to say. Should I just “promise” to write more 2021…?
Best of the input
I read 35 books this year, plus reading Guy Gunaratne’s first draft of his new book. This year was a lot less non-fiction, but maybe that has to do with the philosophy podcast circle taking a lot of my audiobook time, and my work necessitate a lot of science reading.
- 🦠 Spillover was one of the few non-fiction that I feel are worth mentioning. It is about zoonoses, how diseases “spillover” from animals to humans. It was written pre-SARS-CoV-2 and is very ominous…
- 🤕 Brené Brown with Tim Ferriss and Dax Shepard on Podcasting, Daily Practices, and the Long and Winding Path to Healing. This was a very strange trio, but there are so many great quotes (“What other people think of you is none of your business”) and wonderful moments.
- 🏺 Prof. Ada Palmer on Pandemics, Progress, History, Teleology and the Singularity on Singularity.FM. Ada Palmer seems to always be able to put any time into historical perspective.
- 👨🏻🦳 Seeing White is a 12-part series about white privilege. I thought I had grasped racial inequality somewhat, but this one hit hard and was listen-worthy!
- 🎭 Hamnet was historical fiction (Shakespeare’s family) about parenthood and work — the prose is a blend of tangible and otherworldly.
- 🏹 The Song of Achilles another historical fiction — a truer re-telling of the Iliad than many of the movies and “modern war-stories.” It is a story about friendship and love, that left me angry that some kinds of love aren’t “accepted.”
- 🚪 The Ten Thousand Doors of January was escapism at its best. Beautiful, floral language and a wish that we can just get out of the everything we are caught in.
- 💀 The Book Theif — a reminder that in times of hardship, we still are frustrated by and in the everyday things.
- 🪦 The Graveyard Book — or maybe it should be called “It takes a graveyard to raise a child.” Amazing to read a book for kids (and grown-ups) that was both funny and moving!
- 😓 A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, set in post-war Chechnya, but more about life hardships and how we still power on, no matter what.
- 🎻 I got to watch Kite’s amazing performance at The Royal Opera (not physically present, naturally. It is 2020 after all.) And, it was a long time since I got so moved by music.
- ✖ ️XKCD delivered good truth with this one:
As always Twitter is a source of so much wisdom, shouting, and joy:
2020 was a year when I didn’t set aside time for meditation, deep reading, or deep reflection. It feels like the year blurred together and there hasn’t been a real pause for anything, but at work and the world scene in general .
It was a year which can be summed up with “change” and a new awareness and I hope it will be the start of many great things in the world.
There are decades where nothing happens;
and there are weeks where decades happen.
— Vladimir Lenin