There is always so much great work by other people to enjoy. I’m expanding the scope of this section a bit more because it gives it the chance to hit a few more high notes! Given the state of 2020, I think it’s nice to read something that’s just whole-heartedly positive.

Best Of

If I can make one recommendation with the hope of it hitting the right person, it is to watch Dark. If you like shows that make you think, and you enjoy time travel and/or paradoxical world building, then watch Dark. The third and final season came out in 2020 and it left me with basically no additional questions. Which for a show of its narrative density is practically unheard of. I’m re-watching it again right now actually.

The EU made laws around streaming services so that they have to have a certain percentage of European content and netflix has released a few bangers, notably House of Paper and Dark.

I honestly don’t want to explain anything about Dark, it’s great - if you enjoy being challenged by your TV. If you don’t, you’ll probably get bored. IMO, give it three episodes to make sure. By the fifth you should have a real sense of how dense it will get.

In a year where being a good citizen was sitting around doing nothing, Destiny became the perfect time sponge. I literally did everything: played competitive trials, completed every raid, watched tens of hours of lore videos, did the weekly achievements and maxed out a character. It could offer something back to almost any amount of time.

Come March, I re-joined my old clan in Destiny, and got back involved with many old faces and a whole set of new folks. Destiny offered a constant sense of progress in a world grinding to a stand-still. Was it “progress”? IMO to some extent, yes. Being human is balancing your needs with others, and Destiny offered a constant social environment to hang out and vent pressure. I didn’t have the energy to doom-scroll and then write code in my free time. Destiny helped.

Destiny 2 is a spectacular game, built on foundations that have been solid for many years.

They’re doing great work, and the latest expansion “Beyond Light” is absolutely beautiful. They added the planet Europa, and a very cool weather system, giving the planet a really physical and cold vibe. I kept asking Danger to come over to look at particular mountains or ice caves to try and share just how far computer graphics have come.

The lore is wild and expansive, the worlds are complex and it can give as much as you’re willing to put in. It offered simple rote mechanics with dailies and weeklies, and then complex deep mechanics via raids, which meant you could decide how much effort you want to put in.

For someone who loves the genre Hades lives in, I let Hades slip me by for too long. That said, it was a total pleasure to come into the game fully polished. Hades takes the repetitive gameplay mechanics of the rogue-like genre and naturally wraps it in a HBO-worthy narrative.

You play as a young man trying to run away from home, only for that to never truly end up going the way he hopes. I’ve run through the game at least 60 times at this point, and there’s still a reasonable incentive for me to keep on going. During our very social December and new years in Northern Ireland (in our Covid ‘bubble’ with Danger’s family), a run on Hades has been my personal recharge time.


Over the last few years my taste in punk has gotten rougher and more political, this year I discovered Anti-Flag and I fell totally in love. For the last 20 years they’ve made songs that protest the systems of power and not individuals, for Trump they decided to get personal. I found them as a recommendation from my 2019 band, Rise Against.

I feel like I can keep diving into punk and find all sorts of new gems every year.


Xbox Games Pass

I’ve played more variety of games than ever before because of Xbox Games Pass. I get it for free as a Microsoft employee, but allow me to shill. It turns out I’m very into having a temporary set of hundreds of games. I find the balance between owning games and treating them as a service is pretty reasonable here because there are so many games shops that constantly offers deals.

I’ve had Xbox Games Pass for 2 years, and I still regularly buy games outside of it (every game in this list for example isn’t on Games Pass) but there’s definitely enough variety and quality in the sets of games in the pass that I enjoy loading it up on my windows computer and seeing what’s new.


At some point, I really wanted to re-play Tenchu, an old stealth game set in feudal Japan. While there had been a few re-makes, I was surprised to find that Hitman had a lot of the aspects I enjoyed from Tenchu but had a sense of humour about itself and had a recent “Game of the Year” style release.

What a clever game, each level is a massive sandbox of people going about their day and you have to kill a particular individual. There’s usually many different ways to do this (ranging from the brute-force (get near and shoot) to the meticulous (set up a trophy to explode when someone wins ) ) - Danger says this was her favourite game to watch.

There is something both very cerebral and silly at the same time when a long multi-step plan comes together, but you’ve been wearing a flamingo suit the entire time to kill an F1 driver by pushing her brother infront of the moving car. I had always assumed the game was too serious for me, but I was wrong and I’m looking forward to Hitman 3 coming out in 2021.

Paradise Killer

A surprise detective game which gave me some of the vibes from Obra Dinn and Pheonix Wright but played like a mix between Doom and a Visual novel. Yeah, it’s a weird one. I loved it, Paradise Killer absorbed me for a few days and I played through until I could prosecute pretty much everyone who had been involved in sketchy shinanigans.

Crosswords & Typeshift

Danger and I have been consciously trying to play word games on a daily basis. We work on it daily, I’ve been getting into the meta of wordgames, as a part of preparing for Puzzle Box and there’s a lot to enjoy.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

I have a soft spot for Ori, the first one is super nostalgic for me, I played it when Danger first came over to see New York. It’s probably the most polished game in it’s genre (metroidvania) and balances slow explorative gameplay with explosive and intense boss fights which force you to really grok the mechanics it’s taught you.

I flew through the game in 2 days, I probably owe it a replay.

Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing

These two came out at the perfect time, all around the world people were settling in to not do anything for months. Doom Eternal offered an experience to really turn your brain off with. Feeling something like a rhythm game FPS once you get how it works, the game forces you to not make favourites with your guns and I played it through in a few days on very difficult and it was all encompassing.

While I was playing Doom Eternal, my wife played Animal Crossing and Danger’s island was exquisite. She hung out with her friends on it, played every day, and for a while I played the turnip market with her. Animal Crossing, like with Destiny, is a game that can take as much time as you give it.

Tower Defenses (Bloon’s Adventure Time, Dungeon Warfare 2)

When I wake up, I play a round of a tower defense game to get my brain up and running. These two have been the best, and is roughly equates to 15-20m every day.

Danger’s Games

Danger’s favourite game was Ikenfell. She loved the representation in the game, and played mainly for the story. She almost stopped playing but discovered a way to skip battles. She poured a million hours into Animal Crossing, and thoroughly completed Spiritfarer. She wanted to make sure Agent A and Luigi’s Mansion 3 gets a mention, and says Hitman was the best game to watch me play.


Tiger King

It felt like the entire world watched Tiger King at the same time, that alone was worth it.

Cobra Kai

I wasn’t sure what to think of this when I saw the trailer for the 2nd season, but I enjoyed the style and was interested in a re-take of old nostalgia. It did a great job of making a argument between two boys progressively get pettier and pettier as they keep it up in manhood.

Sex Education

Danger put it on and I got hooked.

Get Duked

Saw it, thought it’d be dumb (it kinda is, but on purpose) but I was putting down a sofa for the next few hours anyway and found myself completely absorbed.


Danger has been watching this in the background, and I’ve been fascinated by its approach of re-imaginging a past where multi-culturalism is the norm. This article in Oprah magazine covered the topic pretty well I think.


There are some ideas which have just stuck in my head over the year, a good idea really needs examining from many angles and these just keep rattling around.


Crev is a work-in-progress idea for creating a web of trust for dependencies. Basically, crev allows you to say “I’ve vetted x version 2.1, and y version 3.2”, then people can say “I trust orta” and so they can trust x@2.1 and y@3.2. Then I can trust another person, and so on and so on.

An interesting idea, hard to see that being feasible in the larger ecosystems like JavaScript/Rust/Go. Maybe the Swift ecosystem is small and with few enough dependencies to be able to pull it off. Clever idea for sure. If there was value on working on CocoaPods, it’d be worth trying to get the two together.


When presented with an idea like post-capitalism, it’s a little hard to look at that space that would leave and see anything but an empty void (or a set of possible dystopias). Degrowth has been one of the most interesting concepts I’ve seen around what could culture look like if GDP wasn’t the defining characteristic of a country. Maybe that can provide a direction, and I should study it more.

First, degrowth challenges the idea that economic growth is the only way to achieve prosperity and wellbeing for all. Growth does not improve our lives. Instead, the pursuit of infinite economic growth on a finite planet has led to both vast social inequality and ecological destruction


An attempt at a real “Web 2.0” by the founder of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee. De-centralization in this case doesn’t rely on the snake-oil filled world of blockchain tech, but instead a set of extendable ideas about how a user’s authentication and information is stored and accessed by different services.

Could it work out? Hopefully. It’s an attempt at tackling the big data & centralization problem. I’d love to experiment with moving Capture to support Solid - though there’s interesting tension like “where does the ‘subscriber: true’ live” when the user has full control of their data?


HTML + JS + CSS with a bit of magic to drastically simplify user-land code. Svelte takes the approach of adding a compiler with some JavaScript and connects variables in a neat way. The code you write is very readable, and each part of a svelte app is self-composed. Having written React-specific code for the last ~5 years, it’s been cool to take the time to dig into alternatives.


JavaScript is everywhere at this point, but the biggest platform for building native apps in JavaScript is React Native. GJS is JavaScript bindings from the GTK team, and used a lot in default gnome desktop apps and inside the shell itself. No other desktop platform has taken JavaScript as seriously as this. Honestly, I think it’s a reasonable approach to get a lot of folks invovled in native programming.

Destiny 2 Content Vaulting

I loved reading this, for a games product blog it was suprisingly technical. How do you evolve an ever increasing game from stretching too far from its original boundries? Bungie made the hard call to outright remove massive amounts of their existing game instead of calling it quits and making a Destiny 3. They gave it a narrative purpose, but at the heart Bungie chose to re-focus on what they had and continue on the same path.

JavaScript has been going through some pretty substantial tooling changes, and I think Swyx’s post on the shape of where JavaScript is going fits the territory I see quite well. I also consider Snowpack and Deno to be the first true examples of what a modern JavaScript setup would look like in 3-5 years. It’s simpler tooling because more constraints are applied on developers, but those constraints already match what most people are doing. They get to skip the legacy of the last generation and are worth watching.




I’ve not finished Ward, at this rate maybe I’ll finish in 2022 but I’m honestly just glad it exists. Knowing it does will always give me a little bit of warmth. I loved the first one, in part because I can see my own flaws in the protagonist and the world-building is easily some of the best I’ve experienced. Ward (Worm 2) has a different protagonist, with a drastically different way of looking at the world so I find it flows a bit slower to me. Either way, looking forward to my re-read in 2024.

The first fifteen lives of Harry August

I think I searched for “time travel stories” and found the title compelling enough to give this a shot, which was a pleasant surprise. It follows Harry August’s lives as he finds out that when he dies, he keeps his memories and starts again. How does that affect your lives, goals and interactions with others? Only downside to the book was that I was more interested in what the antagonist was up to vs the protagonist stopping them. There’s some really interesting ideas in that book.

Understanding complexity

A lecture-driven course on the ideas of complexity. The series provided a really great set of mental tools to try to model the interactions between many people/communities/companies/nations at scale. For example, it provided a very solid way to think about why then JS ecosystem feels so different from my prior iOS ecosystem.

After this series, it became much easier to think in terms of interlocked systems instead of grand designs.

Working in Public

A great high-level look at how Open Source software works today, and a guess at what the future of Open Source development could be. I see it as the sequel to more academic 2016 Roads and Bridges, where the the author took some time to work at GitHub on their Open Source team, gaining some sense of insider knowledge of the overall architecture. I liked her take, I read it in a single run.


A book that looks at the advantages of cross-domain knowledge. A little bit too self-help-y sometimes, but if you are a career-switcher or value being good at many things instead focusing on one, then I think you’ll get a lot out of the book.