Goodbye 5780

The year 5780 began for me, personally, on a terrible note caused by evildoers at Stack Exchange Inc. I won't say more about that here (I wrote plenty at the time). As above so below -- the door to their teshuvah remains open should they choose to correct their transgressions, but I, unlike the Holy One, do not hold out infinite hope for sinners to mend their ways. There are more important things in life to focus on.

5780 was the (sob) first year of the global pandemic crisis. On top of the sickness, the deaths, the changes in daily life that come with any pandemic, we in the US saw reckless endangerment, needless deaths, and political profiteering to levels even those of us already worried about the authoritarian trends of the toddler-in-chief did not imagine. He knew. And he let it run rampant anyway. Because he thought, somehow, that it would hurt his political opponents and not his own supporters. Because that oath he swore on taking the office, those words about serving the people (all of them, not just red states) and upholding the constitution and suchlike, was just fluff to him, not a commitment. Having thrown the people under the bus, he's now in full sabotage-the-election mode, betting that he can get away with it as he's gotten away with so much more. At worst, he figures, someone will manage to sue him years from now and he'll pay someone off. I fear for our country.

I fear for our country in other ways too. The white-supremacist-in-chief emboldened bigots ranging from crowds chanting against Jews to attacks on houses of worship to vigilantes fatally "protecting" the public from unarmed demonstrators to police who kill and recklessly endanger black and brown people who are already restrained and thus not threats. (Whites, on the other hand, generally get the benefit of the doubt.) And it would be easy to say that the bigot-in-chief is responsible for all this and we have only to remove him from office, but that's obviously not true -- the roots run much deeper. Our society has work to do.

And that work involves nuance, discussion, hearing and trying to understand others' perspectives, working together with people who are different, acknowledging the humanity of every person. Too many on the far right and the far left believe that they are keepers of the One Truth and that anybody who doesn't commit 100% to their view of truth is an enemy to be disparaged, cancelled, or killed. People are complicated, and attempts to paint monochrome pictures, while enticing to crusaders seeking us-vs-them litmus tests, are failures if the goal is to solve problems rather than to triumph. Too few people are willing to consider positions that exceed the length of a catchy slogan, but that's where the work has to get done.

But for all the trouble that 5780 brought, both personally and on a larger scale, it also brought some moments of personal light. Despite the pandemic, my family and most of my friends are healthy, Dani and I are still employed, and our companies both made the transition to working from home. Even when (I say "when" but don't attach a timeframe to it) it is practical for us to go back to our offices, I think I will do a mix, working from home several days a week and going to the office for direct coworker contact once or twice a week. (I think it's now clear that this would work and I don't expect much resistance.) I don't want to see people only in two dimensions; digital interactions are not the same. But they often suffice if mixed with other interactions, and working from home affords some flexibility (and saved commuting time) that I wouldn't otherwise have. I can go to the weekly lunch-time torah study at my synagogue now, for example, which was never practical from the office.

This year, for basically the first time, I tried growing food and herbs. I did some things right, some wrong, learned stuff, and have had the benefit of fresh-off-the-plant food when cooking. One of the tomato plants died last month but the other is still producing. I learned that I need to be more aggressive in pruning basil. I learned that I do not have many places that get 6 hours of sunlight a day (what counts as "full sun") and that they move over the course of the season. I planted in pots not the ground so I can move things to chase the sun, but now, as the equinox looms, there is no full sun to be had on my property and I'm not going to move pots over the course of the day. Maybe next year I'll do something on wheels. Maybe I'll just accept a shorter season.

A couple months into the lockdown a friend gave me a sourdough starter. This, too, is something I never would have done in the Before Times. The schedule that sourdough calls for isn't compatible with the daily commute, which leaves weekends, but it's also not compatible with Shabbat. But if I'm home it's easy to tend over the day and a half or so that the process requires.

But my biggest personal silver lining from 5780 is the Codidact project. We -- most of the original people are refugees from Stack Exchange, but we have others now who knew not those evil times -- are building anew, learning from our experiences elsewhere, and doing things we were never able to do on Some Other platform. I'm doing feature design, community management, something like product management, and more. We've launched several communities, including Judaism, to my delight. We have work to do on both the software and community-promotion sides, and we still need to set up a non-profit entity so we can accept donations, but I'm truly excited to be part of this, to be helping to lead this, and with such a great team.