2020 to 2021


…was a hard year for many people.
For me, it wasn’t too bad, although it definitely did not turn out as expected.

The year started off with a really amazing trip to New Zealand. My second time there, I got to see a bunch of new sites I hadn’t seen before (Abel Tasman and Mt Cook in particular) as well as re-see many sites that were just as wonderful on a second stop by. I brought a bike this time too, which was wonderful. I also brought my parents, which was perhaps a little less wonderful but I managed to survive.

Abel Tasman Park

I had quit my previous job on the expectation of starting a new job I had lined up once I got back from New Zealand. Covid, however, messed with that plan and I ended up taking an altogether different job working as a Data Engineer at United HealthGroup. This new place is definitely a learning experience, in that is near-constant team restructuring and there are lots of restrictions on what can and cannot be done (supposedly for HIPAA, but sometimes it seems to go too far).

Look, farm fields.

Both unemployed and employed I ended up working at the farm with the parents. When nothing is happening, the farm is nice because I can run around and do my various outdoor projects without any worry about quarantine restrictions.

Mom with our covid chocolate stash

However, living with my parents can only be endured for so long. In response, I ended up the year traveling again. This time, to Ukraine, specifically Lviv for a few months. This is a quite different trip from my trip to New Zealand, as I am mostly hiding out in my apartment and working and only doing a little sightseeing. Traveling in Covid was stressful, but mostly because of the potential for flight cancellations and border closures. I don’t think anything I have done here is much more risky from a disease-perspective than what I would be doing back home.

I plan to write more on Lviv in the future, but one big difference in this destination is the relatively low levels of English speaking here. I think Ukraine would be the hardest place I have visited to travel around and explore – outside of the big cities. However, with Covid, I wasn’t planning much of that anyway. Lviv is a very walkable city with lots of wonderful cafes – which thanks to the exchange rate are cheap too!

One crazy thing here is that I am not doing any cycling. None. No bike. My training is all based around running. This continues a trend for this year, with me generally preparing more for triathlon by including more running. Just today I ran 17 km without any major pains. Starting the year, a 5 km run was about as far as I could go, and even that was painful.

Throughout all of this year I was working on my ambitious AutoTS project. That is automated machine learning (AutoML) for time series. It is great fun. It has really taught me a lot about software engineering not just data science. That said, I don’t feel my project is as interesting to people as deep learning directly (it uses deep learning but that’s all underneath). Perhaps in part because it is complicated, and perhaps also because work like this threatens to lessen the need for so many data scientists… We’re happy to automate other’s jobs, but perhaps not our own.


Looking ahead at 2021, one of the more exciting things for me is, hopefully, the opportunity to race in triathlons and bike races again. I actually didn’t miss this as much as I would probably have expected – between Strava KOMs and Zwift races I managed to maintain competition. Still, it would be nice to race again.

One big question I don’t have any answers to where I will go/live in 2021. I will definitely spend some time at the farm. I might move into an apartment back in Minneapolis. I might rent an AirBnB in another city for a month or two to try it out (Seattle?). I will also probably travel at some point.

In terms of my projects and hobbies, I would also like to try writing some short story fiction in 2021. It’s not a high priority, but hopefully I will get some things done. I expect much more of my free time work will be on AutoTS in 2021. I am uncertain how far or how long to take this project, but I expect at least for the next year to put a lot of work into it.

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