November 26, 2020

Following my first and second posts on the WFH MVPs, the Most Valuable Players of my year spent largely working from home, here’s the third and final (for now) list of shout-outs to the companies, products, and services that have helped me endure 2020.

I’ve made it a point to support many of the local shops and restaurants in my neighborhood, including Standard Goods and Monster for gifts and Heritage Distilling for local spirits and hand sanitizer. Among restaurants, Katsu Burger has giant burgers and surprisingly good, unfancy sushi at its Ballard location. The Boar’s Nest kept me going for much of the summer with its good barbecue and handy online ordering, but a collapse in the catering market put it out of business. I’ve been relying instead on Bitterroot for my BBQ cravings. Everything I’ve ordered from Secret Savory has been delicious — they’re part of a new wave of Thai restaurants that have a broader menu than the noodles and curries that I’m used to. Skål Beer Hall has been my favorite spot this summer for outdoor dining on a spacious patio built by reclaiming a few street parking spaces. I hope they keep their clever and delicious offerings going in years to come. These are just a few of the places that I’ve felt good about supporting, both to diversify my dinners and to support local businesses that have been hurting for much of the year.

Back when I worked in an office, we had an event to select a new coffee supplier. At that event I discovered Fidalgo Coffee Roasters, based in Burlington, Washington, for whom I voted. I’ll admit that their generous giveaways to employee-voters helped to sway me, but their coffee was legitimately delicious. Fidalgo has also been my personal favorite to brew at home every day; I’ve tried many roasters both local and national and I keep coming back to Fidalgo’s offerings.

My employer makes a big deal about wellness, offering monthly reimbursements for things like gym memberships and meditation apps. With its encouragement (and money) I’ve been using the Calm app nightly. It has a broad amount of content geared towards relaxation and mental wellness with no intrusive advertising, although there are some odd product placements for dating services and mattress companies mixed in. Just getting a periodic reminder to disconnect and breathe can be very helpful. I now end my day with a Calm session and I feel like it helps me go to sleep more peacefully.

Especially after my big social media reset this summer, I’ve been prioritizing getting my news and information from trustworthy and high-quality sources. The New York Times remains my #1 pick for news. I have often talked about disabling its anxiety-inducing news alerts, although I haven’t done so. The Times’s data-driven journalism has produced some great visualizations that I highly recommend to friends, coworkers, and anyone who appreciates fact-driven visual reporting. The paper has also pivoted to emphasize things like simple homemaking and easy recipes that have helped me out greatly. While the opinion, style, and real estate sections of the Times don’t do much for me, I will continue to subscribe to support its great reporting. I encourage everyone with the means to support journalism by paying for it. Purely advertising- and clickbait-driven journalism has proven to be largely useless both as a business model and as a means for informing the public.

Lastly, I bought myself a Raspberry Pi earlier this summer as my first “desktop” PC in years. I originally bought it to run a few Discord bots and it works really well for that purpose. I then connected a simple USB webcam to it, and with just a couple of short scripts, I have a simple closed-circuit TV camera up and running. Between the broader Linux community and the passionate Raspberry Pi hacker community, there is a huge resource out there for people interesting in building up their scripting, development, and even 3D printing skills. I now have to resist the urge to build a whole cluster of low-powered nodes for projects at home.

It’s been a truly difficult year for so many. Gratitude and optimism have kept me going. Pass them on.