Things I Was Grateful For in 2021
It’s hard to believe that I wrote my 2020 post over a year ago. It’s been quite the year, with changes good and bad, large and small.
In my personal life, I moved back to Vancouver. I spent a few months of 2020 in Vancouver, but in 2021 I moved back for good. I have loved living here again and being closer to my friends and family. It’s my favorite city in the world, even when we’re having wildfires, torrential rain, snowstorms, and wind storms.
In my work life, Vertigo Games acquired SpringboardVR, and I helped launch ArborXR. It’s been a joy and a pleasure to work on a new product with the same team. We’ve had the opportunity to tackle some exciting projects. One of my favorites is our deployment with Axon for Public Safety Training. Our team exploded in 2021 and will be growing even more in 2022 - we’re hiring!
With all that said, here are some of the things I was most grateful for in 2021.
Place - Kauaʻi, Hawaii
For someone who extensively traveled in 2019, the last two years have been an adjustment. So spending two weeks in Kauaʻi with my partner was a significant change of pace. Nevertheless, it was two of my favorite weeks of the year and an easy choice for this list.
Hawaii seemed like an excellent choice for a trip mid-pandemic. Cheap direct flights from Vancouver made it very appealing. I’ve been to Maui, Oʻahu, and Hawaiʻi (The “Big Island”) before, but there is something incredible about Kauaʻi.
It’s not the place to go if you want to party or be out late at the bar. Most evenings, everything nearby closed by 9 pm. But, the island itself is beautiful and serene—some of the most enjoyable hiking and beautiful beaches I’ve experienced.
It’s hard to picture a better two weeks spent working remotely. I look forward to returning to Kauaʻi in the future and exploring even more of the island.
TV - Reservation Dogs
I considered writing about Ted Lasso yet again this year. It’s the only show I re-watched episodes of this year. Despite that, I’ve decided to keep with “first seasons” only for this list. Those accomplishments are more important to highlight. So few shows make it past their first season, and Reservation Dogs needs a second season.
Co-created by one of my favorite directors of the previous decade, Taika Waititi. He’s behind some of my favorite films of the last decade, including “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” and “Jojo Rabbit.” Everything he’s ever made has had an impact on me. His unique voice permeates his work.
But enough about Waititi. The other co-creator, Sterlin Harjo, is the breakout success of this TV show. I knew shamefully little about him until this show. Thanks to a fantastic interview with Marc Maron that changed! It was a pleasure to learn all about the 1491s, a Native American sketch comedy group he helped found. I can’t wait to see what he creates in the future and watch his past works!
There’s a fun bonus for the Canadian viewers too. Despite being set and filmed in Oklahoma, the cast is full of incredible Canadian talent. Three of the four main cast members are all from Canada!
Available on Hulu or Disney+
Movie - Red Rocket
Thanks to the COVID pandemic continuing in 2021, I had another year of watching lots of films. So many films. Far too many films.
I watch a good mix of films. Big Hollywood productions. Smaller Indie films. And, of course, the critically acclaimed Oscar bait too.
I enjoy them all, but I found I had a hard time with some of the critical darlings this year. In particular, both “The Green Knight” and “Spencer” weren’t that interesting.
But “Red Rocket” knocked it out of the park. Sean Baker is an incredible director. I’ve loved Sean Baker’s films and the punch to the gut that they deliver. I went into “Red Rocket” expecting to be in tears more than once. Instead, it was surprising how much of the film I spent laughing. Sean Baker has proven he doesn’t need to crush your soul to make a gem of a movie.
Do yourself a favor and watch Red Rocket as soon as you can. Afterward, watch Sean Baker’s last two films, Tangerine and The Florida Project. You’ll be a better person for it.
Still on my list to watch are The Worst Person in the World, The Power of the Dog, and Licorice Pizza.
Available at a theatre near you
Tech - mRNA Vaccines
They’ve saved over half a million lives and had huge impacts on the economy. They’ve helped lower anxiety and reduced depressive symptoms too.
Of course, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has not been perfect or fair. COVID-10 vaccines have shown a deep inequality in vaccine availability worldwide. The rollout has shown this could be the cause of the situation we’re in today.
Even ignoring the COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines, it’s been quite the year for mRNA technology. From their potential for treating cancer to HIV, it’s clear they’re here to stay. I’m excited to see where they lead the future of medical treatments.
Availability dependent on the country
Gear - Sony a7c
A very recent addition to my travel bag, the Sony a7c is everything I want from a camera. Mirrorless but full-frame. Compact but powerful. Charges over USB-C so I can stop carrying a MicroUSB cable around when I travel.
I’ve been using Sony’s mirrorless camera system for most of the last decade, and it continues to impress me. They are the perfect balance of ease of use with advanced controls when you want them.
In all honesty, it’s TOO much camera for me, but it’s a great excuse to work on my skills! I plan on keeping this camera around for a long time to come. So now I can spend my money on lenses…
Available at most electronics stores
Game - It Takes Two
I didn’t play too many games during 2021, but even so, It Takes Two won this without breaking a sweat. The ingenious level design continues to surprise me. It has characters that make me laugh. A storyline that is heartwarming (and heartbreaking). I’ve always been a sucker for a great co-op game. This is one of my favorites of all time. It’s so well-rounded that I have a hard time thinking of negatives for it.
I have had an absolute pleasure playing this online with my good friend Jameson. The seamless online co-op is a wonder to behold. Also, the second player doesn’t even need to own the full game; there is a “Friends Pass” edition.
For anyone looking for a beautiful story-driven game to play with your friend or partner, give It Takes Two a try.
Board Game - Eclipse
One of the best parts of returning to Vancouver has been getting back into in-person board games. It’s been such a lovely change after a few years of primarily playing on Tabletop Simulator. There’s nothing comparable to getting together in person with a few friends. The experience of cracking a beer and escaping is one of my favorite gaming experiences.
Eclipse is everything I love in board games. It’s not too difficult to pick up and play for the first time, but it has a deep level of expertise to master. Every game is different, with it feeling a bit random but not so random that it feels like you have no control over it. Moving tiny spaceship figurines around a board is also very satisfying.
Usually, I have a hard time with long games, but I lose myself in Eclipse and don’t know where the time has gone.
Available at your local board game store
Podcast - Underunderstood
I never found a podcast before and then spent the following week binging it. I listened to the entire back catalog, sponsored it on Patreon, and continued with the bonus episodes. It has everything I love in a podcast. Educational but entertaining stories, broad research on fascinating topics, and phenomenal hosts.
I love learning new obscure things, and Underunderstood is chock-full of them. Why isn’t my McDonlands McFlurry stirred? Check. Does Jeff Goldblum have a secret tattoo? Check. Is this Reddit viral 9/11 photo a hoax? Check.
Available wherever you download podcasts
Activity - Disc Golf
I’ve played disc golf on and off for almost a decade now. So in 2021, I dove deep into it. I played over 100 rounds throughout the year, or once practically every 3 days. The perfect pandemic activity got me outside and enjoy some time with friends. Combined with biking to the courses, it even became a method of exercising.
One of my disc golf highlights was playing some courses that I had never played before. In particular, Raptors Knoll in Langley, BC. Raptors Knoll is the first “tournament level” course I’ve played and was a severe challenge.
In 2022 I hope to do a few things to improve my game. Work on my putting, make my distance drives more consistent, develop my sidearm throws. Then to top it all off, play in my first tournament.
Likely available at your local park
Place - Jaybird
I’ve always had a hard time motivating myself to exercise. It’s something I’ve been trying to figure out for myself throughout my adult life. I always enjoy playing sports or biking for transportation. But a regular fitness routine has eluded me.
I’ve always found going to the gym boring, which always scared me away from going consistently. I don’t get motivated by the “being yelled at” style of fitness instruction. This caused many more popular fitness studios to never work for me. Likewise, yoga classes have always frustrated me. I don’t know the name of all the positions and can have a hard time keeping up.
Jaybird hits the perfect balance for me. It’s a blended fitness class in a hot, dimly lit room. Instructors are great at talking you through the motions of your body. No more memorizing the name of positions. It’s a welcoming place where I am always excited to spend an hour. I can’t wait to go again later this week.
Available in Vancouver or Toronto
Book - Leviathan Falls
I read over 50 books this year, so picking a favorite was difficult, but I have to give it to Leviathan Falls. After nine books over a decade, The Expanse series continues to be one of my favorites. James S. A. Corey, AKA the writing duo of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, have proven themselves to be Scifi masters. I am very excited to read whatever they work on next!
It’s refreshing to read a series where the new releases are consistent. Slow series like “A Song of Ice and Fire,” “The Gentleman Bastards,” and “The Kingkiller Chronicle” drain my excitement. I’ve dove deep into each of those fanbases but didn’t last long. The Expanse has kept me around for a decade.
Available at your local book store
Album - Wilds by Andy Shauf
I didn’t discover Andy Shauf at all until this year. Somehow I missed his incredible 2020 album The Neon Skyline. Thankfully I did stumble upon Wilds this year.
Both albums are such a pleasure to listen to. It was a fun surprise to learn that he’s a Canadian artist - and I loved getting the album as part of Arts & Crafts Record Club. I can’t wait until I get a chance to see him perform live sometime in the future!
Available on Bandcamp or any music streaming service