The 2020 to 2021 transition post

Welcome to the year 2021 friends.

Every year around about this time, I try to write a transition post like this one.

You can get a list of all of the transition posts by going to the “transition” tag page.

If you don’t have time to read them all (haha), you could just scan through last year’s 2019 to 2020 edition.

This transition tradition started at the end of 2009, which coincidentally is also the year that the Weekly Head Voices was born.

The goal of the transition post is to do a really spotty year review, and then to gaze unsuccessfully into the future.

Figure 1: A scene from a hike up Leopard’s Kloof. I chose this one, because it deviates nicely from the usual cloudy skies images in my posts. Also, it’s just intriguing and perhaps foreboding enough to accompany any predictions for 2021.

Figure 1: A scene from a hike up Leopard’s Kloof. I chose this one, because it deviates nicely from the usual cloudy skies images in my posts. Also, it’s just intriguing and perhaps foreboding enough to accompany any predictions for 2021.

More seriously, the ever-evolving network of posts on this website (there are now literally hundreds of them), along with the ever-evolving but also fading network of neurons in my head (probably at least a few hundred of them too!), benefit from an occasional higher-level connecting of some of the dots.

In the introduction of the 2018 to 2019 transition post, I ramble on slightly more about the multiscalar nature of my subjective experience, and how that is reflected in my notes database, of which this blog is one aspect.

Let’s get on with it!

Noteworthy snippets through the lens of this blog


One of the biggest issues for most people last year and still at this moment is COVID-19.

If you’re interested, you could take a look at the Weekly Head Voices posts that had something to say about COVID-19, but you don’t really have to.

Fortunately, world-wide vaccination has commenced. However, we have to keep our fingers crossed that:

  1. The world succeeds in getting the vaccine to a sufficient number of humans on time.
  2. A vaccine-resistant strain does not happen. It could, because math, and because evolution (selection pressure due to the vaccine, doh),

Whether the above outcomes realise or not, I do also hope that we retain as many as possible of the lessons we have been learning thanks to the pandemic.

  • Mask-wearing and generally improved hygeine with the major goal of protecting our fellow humans are great habits.
  • We have made great strides towards the future of work, where many workers (by far not all, but it’s a good meaningful chunk) are able to commute less, pollute less, better organize the interaction of their work and family lives and, importantly, their work is measured by its value and not by the number of hours it takes place in.
  • We humans are in this (today pandemic, tomorrow something else!) together.

Lazar Focus: The side-project that got released

Around these parts we have a rich tradition of starting but then never finishing side-projects, and the concomitant giant side-project graveyard to show for it.

This year, I did manage to ship the little distraction blocker tool I wrote, called Lazar Focus. The first WHV mentioning was #196.

In addition to the fact that this little tool has ended up helping me to rescue many aspirant unproductive days, it has sold more than 10 copies, which was my life goal for this project.

The Pygmalion effect

From Adam Grant’s book Give and Take, I learned about the Pygmalion effect, where a teacher’s belief in the intrinsic capabilities of a student, whether those were justified or not at the time, had a significant and enduring positive, one could say potentially life-changing, effect on that student’s performance.

Besides the bit about the Pygmalion effect, that post (WHV #201) contains a micro-summary of the Shape Up book by Basecamp, which is also worth a look.

Take the day off to go run in the mountain

During the year, for example in WHV #203 when I took my birthday off to go running in the mountains, I learned that taking days off on the birthdays of you and your loved ones to go do stuff outdoors is a Great Idea(tm).

(I also learned that sometimes you don’t even need an excuse. Just take the day off and go run in the mountains.)

Use it or lose it

The human system is amazingly adaptable.

The price that we pay for that flexibility is that each and every one of our learned capabilities requires continuous practice in order to be maintained.

In short humans, use it, or lose it.

Fool your mind

I’m making peace with the fact that I apparently need to apply, continuously, various silly tricks to keep the slippery eel that is my mind on the straight-and-narrow.

As a shining example, the refocus reminder, a bell that reminds you at hourly intervals to focus, indeed sounds a bit silly but adds a great deal of value.

My favourite example from last year however is creating yet more (but smaller!) habits to kickstart my bigger habits, in this case a 3-item morning checklist to kickstart the more daunting full day checklist.

The morning bootstrap checklist is, at the risk of sounding like a startup-bro:

  1. meditation,
  2. deep reading and
  3. planning.

Blogging stats

Since February 17 of 2020 when I migrated everything to a small Hetzner VPS, the server log files tell me that saw just over 157000 unique visitors, which is 492 per day on average.

I wrote 30 posts on during 2020, of which 25 were editions of the Weekly Head Voices.

Thanks to the shiny new archive page I put together today, you can now finally see all of 2020’s posts in one place, or of any other year, should you be more into the older stuff.

In addition to the posts, I also published 11 posts over on

In addition to the regular WHV posts, I’m happy to have published what will hopefully be only the first in a whole collection of book notes posts, namely Notes on the book “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace.

It’s chunky at just over 7000 words, but it will give you a pretty good idea of the contents of the much more substantial book it is based on!

Details for nerds

This is the invocation I used to generate reports from the nginx log files using the goaccess tool:

zcat -f -- /var/log/nginx/*.gz |\
    goaccess --ignore-crawlers --log-format=COMBINED -


In 2020 I seem to have run just 100 metres shy of 1100km. (Typical…)

More would have been good, but I’m happy with this.

Exercise did take a bit of a hit due to lockdown, although I could definitely have squeezed more in.

Whatever the case may be, the aggregated amount of enjoyment and satisfaction was astronomical.

A personal highlight was running the 24km(ish) Kogelberg trail with a tiny crew that included two of my Dutch family members.

(These blog retrospectives are strange, because they are also life retrospectives, but they shouldn’t get too personal. I would be remiss however if I did not mention that having these specific Dutch peeps here in 2020 was magical. I am going to miss them terribly.)

Also thanks to said peeps, I did more trail running this year than ever before.

It turns out that I am surrounded by beautiful trails. WHO KNEW?!

The other highlight I want to mention was GOU#1 running her first race, the distributed CTM 10km in Jonkershoek. Here’s to many more GOU kilometres!


Thanks to some strict words by friend PK during the year, I got solidly back on the daily meditation train, which ended up being the start of a streak of (workday) morning meditation longer than anything I’ve been able to maintain up to now.

(The bootstrap checklist in Fool Your Mind above might also have contributed to this.)

The Waking Up course by Sam Harris has been amazing for more than two years now, and even more so when trying to build and keep up a daily meditation habit.

What I especially like about Waking Up is its focus on the explicit practice of the experience of consciousness and the role (or non-role) of the self within that. (for a tiny example, see WHV #207)

Practising this daily has been an experience that I can only recommend in the strongest terms.

(Please let me know if you’d like to try a month for free. As a subscriber, I get to give these out to as many peeps as I want to.)

Life Systems 2021

The WHV approach to life, the universe and everything (also known as “WALUE”, but you have to over-emphasize the terribly soft “W”) has been evolving for a few years now, but it was most recently summarised in WHV #198.

At the basis of this approach we find the two formidable pillars of

  1. love and
  2. science,

and in that order. On top of these pillars rest The WHV’s Two no Three Rules for Achieving Great Success in Life, or Just Surviving, Whichever Comes First.

The two no three rules are:

  1. Be useful.
  2. Be likable.
  3. Evolve.

In the previous transition post, I talked about six personal daily life directions, the continuous reformulation of which I had integrated into my morning routine.

It was a good start, but the life directions were a bit too specific, and six separate things is too many to keep at the core of your thoughts.

Motivated by this, and also by the Lex Fridman podcast with Chris Lattner wherein Lattner, an amazing engineer, but more importantly such a kind human being, underlined the importance to him of always continuing to grow and learn, I mashed together everything I had to come up with two clusters of daily life directions:

  1. Grow, learn, build, enjoy. (motion)
  2. Be useful. Be likeable. Be kind. (self-checks)

In the stupid-dimensional universe that is my mind, I know that these directions are obviously in the spirit of WALUE, but I can’t yet articulate clearly how they relate to the pillars and the rules of WALUE.

Maybe they’re just a neat little pile on top, or a little bit to the side, leaning against the WALUE building?

Whatever the case may be, they have been part of my daily checklist for a few months now, and they seem to work in the sense of being practical, checkable and tiny enough to keep in mind always.

Plans (for tomorrow, at least)

This bit is quite scary.

I hardly know what’s going to happen tomorrow, and here I wanted to talk about plans for the whole year!

So, to be clear, what I’ve listed below is limited to the concrete items that I can see before me right now.

The absolute basics

  • Attempt to apply Life Systems 2021 all of the time.
  • Practise mindfulness every day.
  • If I’m wondering whether I should go run, the answer is “yes”.

Comms upgrade

I would like to level up my communication game.

Work from home is here to stay, and that’s a good thing, but it has muffled my face-to-face communication modality, something that has had a profound impact on my full communication suite.

Most of the clever folks now agree that the correct answer is asynchronous communication. Future-facing companies like Basecamp and Doist have been preaching this long before COVID-19.

To be more specific, I need to figure out first how to do asynchronous communication in my daily work, and then to become really good at it.

Write more about good books

I’m planning to publish more focused book notes like the recently appeared Creativity, Inc. post.

It’s great reading these books, but I’ve noticed that if I’m planning to publish book notes, I read more intently, I take better notes, and the extra processing stage before starting to put together a blog post really helps me to integrate the knowledge contained in the book.

Every good book one is able to integrate is in fact a cheap, but possibly game-changing firmware upgrade…

Wishes for 2021, for you

Thank you for reading this. I am grateful that you’re here.

I wish you and everyone you hold dear the best 2021 possible.

Quite concretely, we can all help to make this happen by being as kind as we possibly can to as many fellow humans as we possibly can.

In the words of a fellow traveller: SMÉAGOL OUT!