2021 retrospective


Published 2021-12-31.

Table of Contents

  1. Things that defined my 2021
  2. Trajectories for 2022

Things that defined my 2021

Events

  • I got married! It was perfect. Meg and I were overjoyed to see our family and friends in person after spending so much time apart. We got married on a Saturday morning at Spanish Banks beach in Vancouver, and after a lovely lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, we went back to the beach to catch up, play frisbee, and hang out until sunset. I can’t imagine a more special day, and I’m continually amazed that I’ll get to share my life with such a special person.

Projects

  • I made major progress on solving two of my most longstanding health issues. (I’m lucky that both are minor.) One is now completely solved, and the other is being treated much more effectively than it has been before.
  • I learned to snowboard, basically. I went three times in 2021, and became proficient enough that I feel confident going down blue-square hills. I intend to practice more now that there’s snow on the mountains again.
  • I read several books about investing, and wrote an investment policy statement for myself. I haven’t published it, but I might sometime.
  • I wrote The real value of games, an essay that I think is pretty good.
  • I became reasonably proficient at Tableau and Airflow, two common data science tools that I had never used before this year.

Activities

  • Reading. I read way more books in 2021 than in any prior year. This happened because I went through some important mindset shifts regarding book selection and reading. I’ll write more about this soon.
  • Hiking. In last year’s retrospective, I said I wanted to explore more of the mountains around Vancouver. And boy did I! With great company, too. My wife, my brother, and one of my closest friends and I did tons of hikes throughout the summer and fall: The Chief, the Sendero Diez Vistas, Gambier Island, Mystery Lake, Eagle Bluffs, and the Minnekhada trail.
  • Travel. I did four significant trips this year. The first was my honeymoon with Meg, on the Sunshine Coast. The second was my trip to Ontario to visit my parents. The third was my trip with Meg to San Francisco for the Roblox holiday party. And the fourth was also with Meg, to Salt Spring Island (where I am writing this!). We unfortunately had to cancel two big trips this year—one to Manning Park, due to flooding, and one to LA and Hawaii for Christmas, because of the rising case counts of the Omicron variant.
  • Playing video games. As I wrote in The real value of games, I made a concerted effort to play more games in general, which led me to start playing video games again for the first time since I was a kid. I logged many (perhaps too many) hours playing Civilization VI, Factorio, and The Witness. I also played a cooperative game with my brother called It Takes Two, which was a blast.
  • Watching movies. In last year’s retrospective, I noted that in 2020 I watched fewer than 15 movies, all told. I think in 2021 I must have watched over 50, which I’m very happy about. My wife, my brother, and I take turns picking movies on Friday and Saturday nights, which works super well. The rotation exposes me to tons of movies I would never have watched if I were always the one picking. My favorite part is when we discuss the movie afterward. I’ve almost started to think of movies primarily as tools for generating interesting conversations.
  • Running. I’ve been running at least once a week for the past several years, but I enjoyed it substantially more this year after making (and frequently adding to) my running playlist, which only includes songs in the right BPM range for my stride frequency. Now I can easily get in 30 minutes of joyous synchronicity any time I want.
  • Weightlifting. In 2019 I ditched weightlifting for bouldering, but then had to give up bouldering when the pandemic hit. I would have gone back to bouldering once things opened back up, but the bouldering gym is too far out of my way now that I’m working from home full-time. So I was basically doing no strength-based exercise for over a year. Three months ago, though, I went back to weightlifting, and it has made me feel so much better. I never want to go without some form of strength training again.

Books

This was my best year ever for reading, both in quality and quantity. Here is the full list of books I read. I enjoyed almost all of them, but these were the standouts:

Articles that stuck with me

Videos that stuck with me

Music

Albums I loved

Songs I loved

Here they are in a Spotify playlist.

Movies I loved

  • Thunder Road, (2018). Don’t watch the trailer—just watch the movie.
  • There Will Be Blood, (2007). I found it spellbinding.
  • Psycho, (1960). Anthony Perkins’ performance in particular was amazing.
  • Dune, (2021). Ahh, so much fun.
  • Midsommar, (2019). Not scary, exactly, but certainly horrifying.
  • I Lost My Body, (2019). An intriguing concept, very well executed.
  • Night Raiders, (2021). A sci-fi allegory for the residential school system, quite thrilling and well-acted.

Shows I loved

Loved

  • Succession. This show really has it all. I watched it twice.
  • Fleabag. A hilarious two-season British sitcom about a young woman trying to find her way.
  • Dark. A German-made time-travel mystery. Easily the best fictional exploration of time-travel I’ve ever encountered.

Comedy I loved

  • Bo Burnham, Inside. If you haven’t seen it yet, you really must.

Products

  • Bone-conducting headphones. The Aftershokz Aeropex headphones were probably the best purchase I made this year. I’ve always hated having earbuds stuck in my ear canals, and over-ear headphones get too hot, or put pressure on the top of my head. These headphones sit outside the ear and conduct sound through the jawbone. They’re super lightweight and comfortable, to the extent that I can wear them around the house for eight hours in a day and basically forget they’re there. They’re also excellent for running, because they don’t fall off/out. The one downside to them is that they don’t really work in loud environments, like busy streets or on public transit. But since I mostly wear them around the house, and use them primarily for audiobooks and Zoom calls, they’re perfect.
  • Latex pillow. I’m terribly picky when it comes to bedding. When I noticed that my pillow of the past three years had started to sag, I went on a hunt for a replacement. It took a few tries to find something that worked for me, but the effort was worthwhile. My pillow is made of 100% latex, which holds its shape much better than foam or down/alternatives, and stays much cooler. It’s also hypoallergenic.
  • Wool duvet. I’m getting a bit obsessed with wool—one of several ways in which I feel like I’m turning into my dad. This year in mid-fall, I picked up a wool duvet from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It’s so nice to sleep under, because it keeps me warm but is very breathable, meaning I never wake up sweating anymore.
  • Bed sheet fasteners. My bedsheets were constantly slipping off the mattress, until I solved that problem by spending $10 on Amazon.
  • Gatorade water bottle. You know, those green squeeze bottles. They’re the best.
  • Laoganma spicy chilli crisp. My friend Matthew introduced me to this amazing chilli sauce. I want to have it with everything now.
  • Minimalist sandals. This summer I got the Xero Shoes Z-Trail sandals, and they’re the most comfortable sandals I’ve ever owned. Incredibly lightweight.

Recipes

  • Creamy asparagus and mint pasta, from Salt Fat Acid Heat.

Trajectories for 2022

Priorities

  • Publish more high-effort essays. I kept intending to do this in 2021, but never really showed up to do the work. This feels bad. I simply don’t like looking back on a year and seeing that I didn’t do much effortful writing.
  • Continue exercising regularly, especially doing strength training. I really hope the gyms open back up soon. I’ve been thinking that I’ll give this program a go. Until then, I’m doing home workouts with my kettlebell and dumbbells 3-4 times a week, and going for runs on my off-days. I also hope to go cross-country skiing several times this winter.
  • Continue reading lots. I want to try to read more older books this year, start pushing back into the classics a bit more than I have been.
  • Experiment with new recipes and cuisines. I’ve got a nice rotation of meals that are healthy, tasty, and enjoyable to make. I’d like to add at least three or four new meals to that list.

Anti-priorities

  • Social media. I don’t intend to start posting on Twitter again any time soon, and I want to read it less too. Using News Feed Eradicator on my computer has been extremely helpful. I wish this existed for mobile, because blocking the site entirely usually doesn’t work for long. I end up unblocking it and then falling back into my usual pattern. Maybe I should make blocking Twitter on mobile part of my weekly or monthly review.
  • Alcohol. I don’t think I want to swear it off entirely, because there are occasions where it can be nice. I just find that more than half the time when I have a drink nowadays, I regret it. It simply makes me feel bad. Maybe I should read a book or two about the harmful effects of alcohol, so that I have a richer mental model of what it’s doing to me when I do drink it.

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