My Year in Review, 2021
Welcome to my third annual Meg’s year-in-review post (see 2020 and 2019) and what’s my first blog post in all of 2021. Eek. Haven’t made much time for writing, unfortunately; it’s been a much busier, happier year than 2020 was! Unlike 2020 which I spent in a monotonous, depressing “comfort zone” (the pandemic obviously didn’t help), this year I really took back control of my happiness. 10/10 recommend. Here are some highlights:
- Got a divorce! Thank you everyone who supported me through this. It was amicable.
- Saw friends in person again. Parties, hikes, movies, live music, plays, bars, lunches, dinners, travel.
- Finally I visited my family in Minnesota. And saw my parents in LA.
- Started to lead Product at Kaggle … for now. I declined an offer to be permanent Head of Product since I’m not keen to start people management as our team grows.
- Bought a new bike and started to exercise more regularly and go for walks every day (though lately hasn’t been great apart from some hikes–need to make a New Year’s resolution).
- Created and hosted a super successful data science game show called SLICED on Twitch with my friend Nick Wan!
- Met a Canadian from my Among Us gaming group (thanks Nick!) and fell completely in love. I’ve honestly never been happier or felt luckier.
- Visited Toronto (twice) and Banff and made even more future plans to travel and be together with this person.
- Started to play chess (umm, but now only puzzles), Scrabble, and learn Japanese on Duolingo as well as Cantonese with my new partner.
- I stopped drinking so much alcohol. I haven’t stopped drinking completely, but I used to keep beer at home and drink most days and now I don’t do that. I can’t say I feel any different, but it still feels like a healthy choice regardless.
- And the final big one: I decided to move to Toronto! When I moved to LA in 2017, I thought it could be forever. But through the fires in the summer of 2020, I began to feel I couldn’t make it my permanent home. Still, I’m moving sooner than expected, but I’m following my heart (and bringing my mind with me). Toronto will define my 2022.
Note: Sorry this post is so late!
Titane (2021) was this year’s Palme d’or winner and Meg’s most highly anticipated movie of the year. It premiered in LA when I was in Toronto and it played at the Toronto International Film Festival when I was in LA, so it kept escaping me but I finally managed to see it at The Alamo Drafthouse in DTLA. The director, Julia Ducournau, also directed Raw (2016) which I saw and absolutely loved when I lived in Pittsburgh, PA. An elderly couple walked out of the theater during a particularly intense scene and I was craving the same corporeal sexual shock in her latest film Titane. It was very satisfying and unexpectedly heartwarming and funny (honestly, I thought there would be more sex with cars in the movie, though). Anyway, I knew I’d love the movie straight away when it began with the main protagonist murdering a man who attempted to sexually assault her.
Other movies that were highlights this year:
Dune (2021) which I saw with my parents when they visited me in LA. I got tickets to see it at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX. My mom wanted to see a director’s Q&A, but this is the best I could manage (there was a director’s Q&A a couple of weeks later, sigh).
Booksmart (2019) is a movie I’ve seen 3 or 4 times at this point. It’s perfect?! It’s on my list because some of us from the Among Us gaming group started watching movies together and we picked this one weekend. I was desperate for my boyfriend to watch it with us because I knew he’d love it. And he did, which made me so happy.
I still watched Akira (1988) a ton this year (it was my “movie of the year” last year), so it’s still on my list as a highlight of course.
Honestly I didn’t listen to much new music this year, sorry. I did get to see some live music this year, though, which was great. So I’m going to cheat and write about that instead.
Ween. Ween is special to me because I first listened to them while on a week-long road trip with my sister in Australia. Her new boyfriend at the time (they’re still together!) made us a “mixtape” for our car ride that featured a lot of Ween. So it’s like our sister thing now. We saw them in St. Paul, MN in 2018. This past August we saw them again at Surly Brewing also in Minnesota. It was amazing. I remember the feeling of buying the tickets back in February 2021 before getting vaccinated. The founded optimism was such an incredible feeling. And it was made even more gratifying when it actually came to fruition.
Deafheaven. I saw Deafheaven in 2019 in LA and I was excited to see them again at The Ace Hotel in DTLA this past fall. I went by myself. The venue was totally gorgeous, would definitely go back. The show was okay. Can’t say I adore their 100% clean vocal thing as they played every song from their new album, Infinite Granite. But hey I’ll take pretty much any live music at this point.
Dead and Company. My parents came to visit LA so they could see Dead and Company at The Hollywood Bowl for three nights on Halloween weekend. This was a “bucket list” experience for my dad so that was special. If you don’t know, my dad is an enormous Deadhead. I was invited to join him for one of the nights which was fun. Definitely a nostalgia thing for me since I grew up listening to The Dead.
Opeth. The last music I saw in 2021 was Opeth at The Palladium in December just a couple days after getting back from Banff, Alberta. I caught up with a friend beforehand at the same bar we went to before their last LA show immediately before the pandemic lockdown. So we were a bit nervous about triggering a Groundhog Day effect (uhh, I even wore the same outfit as in 2020).
Okay, let’s go. My favorite band, Porcupine Tree, is reuniting and I couldn’t be happier about it. I got into them around 2006 and they broke up just a few years later. I never got to see them live (although I have seen Steven Wilson live a few times). They put out a single, Harridan, which to be honest is so good. It’s genuine Porcupine Tree and it’s making me so hyped for an album and upcoming tour.
I, uhh, didn’t really read any good books in 2021. A few years ago I switched to audiobooks which hugely increased the number of books I would “read”. But ever since I stopped commuting to work, I’ve listened to far fewer audiobooks. I’ve also completely swapped to listening to podcasts before bed each night. So yeah. I canceled my Audible subscription.
This year’s top game has to go to a classic: Scrabble! I played a lot more games this year compared to the previous year, so it was hard to choose. Scrabble was also a late entry to 2021. My partner and I just started playing together in September or so after I put out a call on Twitter for non-ad-riddled Scrabble apps and discovered Woogles.io. It’s basically chess.com but for Scrabble and we love it. We play every night and it’s a perfect long-distance relationship ritual. He’s also the first guy I’ve dated who can beat me, which I’m going to interpret as being romantically significant. We even collaborated on a project to use their undocumented API to grab our game data and analyze it. This turned into a Community Competition on Kaggle: Scrabble Point Value. Basically, it’s brought me a ton of joy this year.
Other top games for me in 2021:
Among Us. I picked this as my game of the year last year and honestly I was tempted to pick it again this year. At the very end of 2020 I had just started to play at work and maybe once or twice with this gaming group online. But it was really this year that we played a ton (every Saturday for a solid half year). Plus, me and the guy I’m now dating even hand-tracked our game stats to analyze later and obviously it’s how we met in the first place. I never thought I’d meet someone and fall in love online playing a video game. What is this, 2008? Anyway, Among Us will always have a special place in my heart now.
Cyberpunk 2077. Yes, I played this game on my Stadia when it came out and had zero issues, sucker! I’m actually replaying this right now. It’s totally … okay? It’s fine. That’s right, I still use my Stadia.
It Takes Two. Me and my friend Nick played this around the time that we were working on SLICED! It’s super cute and creative and a lot of fun. And it just won Game of the Year at The Game Awards!
Chess. Also another super classic that I got back into during the pandemic. Briefly I got into playing some actual games, but I’ll be honest I found it extremely anxiety-inducing and couldn’t handle it. So now I just do chess puzzles which I love. My boyfriend is also into chess and we puzzle battle just about every single day, too. I’ve even beaten him a few times!
Top podcast (sort of)
I’ve listened to more podcasts in 2021 than any year prior. I’ve mostly kept the same things as past years in my rotation: Darknet Diaries, Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe, Sean Carroll’s Mindscape, 99% Invisible, and Stuff You Should Know, for example. To this, I’ve added a number of relationship / romantic podcasts which I won’t list here. But I did have a couple of podcast serials I listened to which I can recommend:
Wind of Change. This came out in 2020, but I listened to it in 2021 (haha pretty sure?). It’s an investigation into the theory that the 1990s power ballad “Wind of Change” by Scorpion was written by the CIA during the collapse of the Soviet Union to be the anthem for the revolution during the collapse of the Soviet Union. If you like this, there’s also a cool Radiolab episode in their Mixtape series about the introduction of contemporary western music to China via Dakou, plastic scraps of trashed cassettes refurbished.
Operator. I’m listening to this right now. It’s about the rise and fall of the sex operator industry titan, American Telnet. There’s so many facets to this that make it a really fascinating story: marginalization of sex work, their technological innovations, and, well, another classic story of capitalist scandal and demise.
Top TV show
I also didn’t watch a ton of TV this year. Even more so than movies, I found I simply didn’t have the time or attention span to dedicate to an entire series. I could do 90 minutes here and there, but not three seasons of Succession (just kidding, I just started watching this). So most of my enjoyment came from more lighthearted, bite-sized affairs. This makes I Think You Should Leave (Season 2) my top pick for 2021. It’s so weird and brings me so much joy. If I can’t decide what to watch sometimes I just put on old episodes for comfort. How the jokes and language permeate my everyday thoughts has also been really satisfying.
Other highlights include:
Pen15. The creators and main characters of this show are pretty much exactly the same age as I am so this show is a major flashback to 5th grade for me. Its balance of levity and heartfelt sincerity are so wonderful especially in the latest season where they confront more serious topics.
Married at First Sight. You might call this my guilty pleasure show. I’ve kind of given up on 90 Day Fiance in favor of MAFS full time. I just love the combination of romance and a social experiment like marrying a stranger at first sight. Another pandemic highlight for me, for example, was Love is Blind (go Cameron and Lauren forever!).
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Here's my 2020 year in review where I talk about my fav movies, music, games, etc. https://t.co/oUHQSC9aTo— meg.ehh 🇨🇦 (@MeganRisdal) January 4, 2021