Frankly, I'm not up for any lengthy summaries. I publish many observations as my regular blog posts, and we had a recent "summary" episode of CTO Morning Coffee on Twitter Spaces recently. Neither I'm going to list personal accomplishments, goals ticked off and such - because why should you (a reader) care?

But looking retrospectively at the last 12 months, there are certain services/products/tools I used (& enjoyed) so much, they deserve a word or two. And that's what this blog post is about: my biggest surprises, discoveries, stuff I found surprisingly helpful - basically, a bunch of recommendations for very different areas of everyday life.

Without further ado:

Best/most valuable tools

  1. Obsidian (for work) - in fact, I dedicated an entire blog post to it, but the more I use it, the more I appreciate it. It hasn't just replaced a bunch of other tools I've used before and proven to be both intuitive and flexible. I can't underappreciate the rich ecosystem of community plugins that frequently surprise me with their authors' creativity. Yes, I used to prefer RR (and I still <3 it), but the truth is that Obsidian's growth has by far surpassed what's happening in Roam (yes, I'm aware of the unfortunate circumstances that have affected Conor and his partner).
  2. Curio - having a sanitized stream of articles from sources like FT, The Economist, MIT Tech Review, WSJ, The Guardian in a narrated form is a clear win. One subscription (instead of many), good selection (I did double-check that), convenient application. I still need to apply my judgment (as all of those sources have their "lenses" that distort their perception of reality), but well - these are the times we're living.
  3. Scribd - I was skeptical (about the idea of "Netflix for books"), but Scribd has proven me wrong. First of all, the selection is vast, and the limitations are practically non-existent. New titles pop up very quickly (in 90% of cases, on the same day the title becomes available on Amazon), not only as e-books but also audiobooks. This app has helped me save a LOT of money this year - the only drawback: it drains the battery much faster than Audible.

Biggest discoveries

  1. Quillette - an online magazine for people who value reason, objective (science-based) truth, and humanism above anything else. It's like a droplet of soothing sanity in the Internet's ocean of fake "truths", extremism, and pure idiocy. The best journalism on the web these days. Free Thought Lives (thanks to Quillette).
  2. iPhone - yeah, so I switched over (from Android). After almost 12 years (my first Android phone was HTC Hero), primarily because I couldn't stand trading my privacy for pretty much nothing anymore. The transition was much more smooth than expected. I don't miss anything particular (from Android/Google), and yeah, I use as few Apple-provided apps as possible (no iTunes, Apple Music, etc.).
  3. Clubhouse - the social platform (type) I was looking for - IMHO, the ideal cure for so-called "digital fatigue" (audio only, LIVE-focused, everyone can participate actively/passively). In the end, we've chosen Twitter Spaces for CTO Morning Coffee, but to be fair - it was Clubhouse that has paved the way.

Best books (non-fiction)

I've reviewed all of them on Goodreads, so I'll provide only the links to reviews - you can find all the details (of what I liked and what I didn't) there.

  1. "Staff Engineer" by Will Larson - review link
  2. "Self-Sovereign Identity" by Alex Preukschat - review link
  3. "The Wires of War" by Jacob Helberg - review link
  4. "Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life" by Luke Burgis - review link
  5. "The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail" by Ray Dalio - review link

Most fun (entertainment zone!)

  1. The best board game - Root - yeah, that choice may look surprising, but we've played many more family games this year (with my 9yo daughter), and Root truly shines here: it's engaging for any player (regardless of the age), it provides unmatched variety (because the factions are ultra-asymmetrical) and it rewards creative strategies.
  2. The best music album - Musk Ox "Inheritance" - acoustic, progressive neofolk I've dug out from Bandcamp (which is the best source of new, quality music one can imagine). So addictive & immersive, I couldn't stop listening, but the latest releases from Osi and the Jupiter, Hania Rani, Taurwen, or Walden were not far behind.
  3. The best movie/TV series - no winner/recommendation - TBH I haven't been to the cinema in 2021 (even once), and I've watched just a few shows on streaming (Narcos: Mexico, The Office (w/ S.Carell) and 2-3 documentaries), so there's nothing I couldn't wholeheartedly recommend you.
  4. The best computer/console game - no winner/recommendation - I recall playing only two games in 2021, and both of them are pretty old (Dark Souls 3 and God of War) - they are awesome, but probably the whole world has played them already ;)
  5. The best book (fiction) - "The Wisdom of Crowds" by Joe Abercrombie - Joe has delivered, as he always does. A great conclusion of his latest trilogy ("The Age of Madness") - meaty, satisfying, deeply engaging. The only real competition (this year) was James Islington (I've read all three volumes), but in the end, it simply had to be Abercrombie.

OK, enough with these recommendations. And enough with 2021 (which has brought a lot of pain and sadness in my personal life). I have very high hopes for the fruitful and even more fulfilling 2022. Plans are already ambitious, so buckle up - it's time for another day 1.