Do I need to say that 2020 was an awful year? Must I?
Let’s watch a Carl Sagan video before I get to my annual review of the first post of each month.
This is not the “Pale Blue Dot” video I was looking for. I went through my blog archives, I went through my Facebook archives, I searched on YouTube. I couldn’t find it. I believe I’ve found references to it online, and I believe it was taken down, unsurprisingly, in a copyright claim. But this video is nice, and will stand in its stead.
As with previous years, I’m linking to the first blog post I made each month. I don’t blog every single day — indeed, this year I’ve been really bad about updating the thing — so it’s not uncommon for the month’s first post to be in the latter half of the month (like February). The result is a strange mix of whatever was on my mind, and at least two months I went the easy way out and posted recent photographs, sans context, for the month’s blog post.
January: Revisiting the Washington That Never Was. I talk about B.F. Smith’s 1852 painting of what is now the National Mall in Washington, DC, showing a version of the Washington Monument that was never built, the original shore line, the Washington City Canal looking quite pleasant, and shadows pointing south (an astronomical impossibility). I downloaded a high resolution version of the image from the Library of Congress website, did some clean-up, and now it hangs in my home office.
February: The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes: Making an eBook. I didn’t make a blog post in February until the 16th, and that’s because I spent six weeks making an ebook out of Ellery Queen’s long-out-of-print anthology, The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes. I talk a little bit about the history of the book, my own interest in it, how I started building an ebook six years ago then stopped, what I wanted from it, and why I picked it up again and finished it. I showed off some of the work — it’s purely a private project — because no one else will ever see it. I’ve done some work to it since then — a few more typos smashed, a rethink of the way notes work due to the way the Kindle handles (or rather, doesn’t) OL/LI tags — and, frankly, I’m still quite chuffed by it.
March: The Most Notorious Brothel Owner in Civil War Washington. My great-great-grandfather William Gardner is buried about thirty feet from Mary Ann Hall, a brothel owner in, as the title suggests, Civil War Washington, a fact I discovered when, through a circuitous Google search, I landed on her Wikipedia page and, when looking at the cemetery image there, knew exactly what I was looking at, because I’ve stood in exactly that spot. I’ve been wanting to visit Congressional Cemetary ever since — the last time I was there was a few days before my vision went sideways and I was hospitalized — but, due to COVID, I haven’t had the opportunity to get down to DC. In 2021, then.
April: A Perfect Spring Day. In the second week of working from home due to COVID precautions — and at a time when we all thought we’d be back in the office by Memorial Day — I went for a walk into Dallastown to stretch my legs and expand my vistas. I had ambitions of blogging more because I was working from home — then I didn’t.
May: A Loss in the Lynchburg Baseball Community. Ronnie Roberts, a fixture in the Lynchburg Hillcats front office, died of cancer. I’d met him two years earlier and talked about that.
June: Speculating About The Great Gatsby. Was Jay Gatsby an Army deserter? Something I noticed when re-reading the book.
July: Scenes of Early Summer. Nothing momentous. Tea. The neighborhood cat.
August: Harrisburg Baseball, a Century Ago. Another find at the Library of Congress, a photograph of Harrisburg from the early 20th-century, showing the old ballpark and the Capitol complex. I annotated the photograph and compared it to my own, more recent photos. Compare also to this mid-19th-century painting of Harrisburg.
September: A Triple Parody. While doing some genealogical research, I came across a brief parody of Sherlock Holmes, A.J. Raffles, and Sexton Blake in an American newspaper in the early 1900s. That genealogical research produced this, an account of how my great-great-grandfather’s mother-in-law was reportedly 100 years old when she died in 1886 and why I have doubts. Serious doubts.
October: Early Autumn. Nearly seven months into working from home, some photographs of the neighborhood, which became a bit of a personal project throughout isolation.
November: Gritty Leading the People. A collection of some of my favorite Tweets from the week of the 2020 presidential election, some about the election, some not.
December: Scenes of Recent Life. Photos and commentary on life around Thanksgiving. Nothing groundbreaking.
I say this every year, but in 2021 I’m going to try to write more. I may share more links. I may share more photos, I may only write for a paragraph or three.
For a better, more cohesive, review of 2020, see my contribution to this PREVIEWSworld article. I was asked to offer some thoughts on what got me through isolation this year, and I took an hour to write something a little more involved and thoughtful.
It was for work, so I pull a few punches, but the only thing I would really add that I didn’t express is that some days I struggled, there are some days I regret, there are some opportunities missed, but that’s okay. Sometimes, just getting through the day counted as a win.