Summary of 2012

Over the past few years I got into the habit of writing a summary of the best memories of each year. It’s a good way of remembering many of the good things years later, and you can also see how your life changes over time. So here’s a summary of my 2012.

Best trips:

  • Hiking through the surreal landscape of Iceland and then soaking in outdoor hot tubs in the evenings (in 35-40°C water in the 10°C air). The most amazing hike I’ve ever been on is the one between the small seaside town of Skógar and the unbelievable valley of Thórsmörk (Thor’s forest) across Iceland’s volcanoes (including the one that disrupted air travel in 2010) and ice fields. Iceland one of the awesomest places in the world. Go if you can.
  • Jersey, the tiny British island off the coast of France that not many people have been to, and yet it’s probably the most beautiful place in the UK that I’ve ever seen.
  • 5 trips to the US (California, New York and the Seattle area). Enjoying hiking and cycling in 15-25 degrees in California in the middle of the European winter (plus seeing migrating whales in Monterey), and being surprised by how pleasant Kirkland is (it’s a small lakeside town near Seattle, surrounded by lakes, mountains and forests).
  • Cycling along the 17 Mile Drive in California.
  • Drinking and eating in Ukraine (Ukrainian hospitality seems to mean endless food ;) and visiting Lviv and meeting interesting locals in tiny villages in the mountains.
  • Philosophy over Belgian beers in Utrecht and Amsterdam.
  • A weekend in Siófok, a place by the Lake Balaton that turned out to be surprisingly nice out of season.
  • Walks and cycling trips in the English countryside along the Grand Union Canal, near Broxbourne, Cambridge, Epping Forest, Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield.
  • Malaysian jungles and islands and awesome food in Vietnam.
  • The hike through Gran Canaria’s Fataga canyon.


Best books:

  • Death with Interruptions: What would happen if people suddenly stopped dying? What would happen to the state, the Church, the healthcare system, people’s daily lives, the pension system, etc.? Not even a very far-fetched idea anymore given how much longer people live now than they did a few generations ago.
  • On Love: Alain the Botton is a modern day philosopher, and unlike many philosophers who write in a style that’s completely inaccessible to most readers, he’s very readable and talks about very real aspects (and problems) of life. This is one of most honest portrayals of someone’s (the author’s own) relationships I’ve ever seen.
  • How the Mind Works: Very annoying in some places (for a book on science it makes many bold statements without backing them up with relevant research), this book is still a fascinating glimpse into how the mind might work (we don’t actually know how it works), and how the various mental faculties (seeing, abstract thinking, etc.) could have evolved.
  • Toxic Parents: Describes various ways parents can mess up their children (mosly by being selfish and not really caring about the kid).
  • The Tunnel: about a person who’s disconnected from society’s norms.
  • Notes from a Big Country: Bill Bryson’s funny comparison of life in the US and Britain.
  • The End of the Game: Another great collection of Julio Cortázar’s absurd short stories. He’s definitely my favourite South American author.
  • Man’s Search For Meaning: Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl’s shocking description of his years in a concentration camp (and also his psychological theory about the meaning of life, which I found less interesting and believable).
  • Elements of Visual Design in the Landscape: Have you ever thought about what makes a landscape beautiful / interesting? I started thinking about this recently, but didn’t have an idea until reading this book (How the Mind Works is also a good source of information on the subject).

Best programmes:

  • The Olympics. I was caught off-guard by how exciting it can be to be in the middle of such a huge event. Overall it was very well-organized (something many people were skeptical about before the event) and fun. (Though I only managed to see a volleyball game in person – tickets weren’t easy to come by -, which was also surprisingly exciting.)
  • The usual philosophical discussions about life, the universe and everything (and people and relationships) in various English pubs. This hasn’t changed for years.
  • Crazy lunchtime discussions about the weirdest topics with the team at work. The unexpected word combinations uttered within the same sentence alone were astounding.
  • Daily relaxational foosball. I can now definitely say I’m decent at it.
  • Cinema: besides a bunch of predictably good movies there were also some much more unexpected ones: Silent Souls (a beautiful movie about a people whose members don’t speak much, and are surrounded by the vast landscapes of rural Russia), Eva (a Spanish movie about what sentient robots could mean to humans), Looper, Berberian Sound Studio (an absurd movie about a sound engineer creating sound effects for a horror movie).
  • Golf. This was the first time I’d ever played golf “properly”, and it turned out to be much more enjoyable than it looks from the outside. (Though the perfectly landscaped settings did help.)
  • A great Portugal-Denmark game at Euro 2012 in Lviv, Ukraine.

  • Concerts:
    • Amon Tobin: watched the insane visuals of the ISAM gig for the 2nd time, and still mind = blown.
    • Leonard Cohen. He’s almost 80 (was born in 1934!) and is still amazing.
    • Lorinc Barabas: Hungarian folk(-ish) music mixed with electronica/hip hop, an unlikely combination that actually worked really well.
    • Red Hot Chili Peppers
    • Random punk gigs in Hungary
    • Hugh Laurie blues

  • Plays/comedy:
    • Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice: a surreal, Kubrick-like film, but on stage. Time is passing very slowly, but in a good way.
    • Pintér Béla: Szutyok
    • Various plays about real/fake happiness at Edinburgh Fringe.
    • Luke Toulson’s stand-up comedy.

Most memorable food:

  • Temporarily we could enjoy the best office food ever; the (I think Spanish) chef did absolutely amazing things. Unfortunately she’s gone now (though we probably didn’t deserve her anyway) :\
  • The freshest and cleanest (Iceland’s too far from everything else to be polluted) fish and game ever, in Iceland, excellently prepared at the Lindin Restaurant overlooking Lake Laugarvatn.
  • Ukrainian hospitality with food (including lots of dill and purple stuff), food, drinks, food, drinks and food. (and then cake and food and cake.)
  • Chinese and Vietnamese soups prepared on street corners in hawker stalls in Asia.
  • An amazing horse stew cooked in beer in Birrificio di Cagliari, a place in Sardinia where every dish is cooked with a different type of beer.
  • Burmese tea leaf salad in a Burmese restaurant in San Francisco.
  • Fried dog in Vietnam. (It tastes like really fatty pork.)

Learning/work:

  • For most of the year I worked on a system that was more complex than anything I’d worked on before; this has a bunch of good lessons in how to (and how not to) do things.
  • I also became a team lead (of a very small team), which is a lot more responsibility (and also opportunity) than what I had before. I don’t claim to be good at this yet, but I’ve definitely made progress and am a lot more confident and efficient now in leading an effort rather than just being part of it.
  • I now have the courage to walk up to anyone in the street and ask them things in Spanish without much thinking. Olé.

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