2021 Year End Summary

A couple of elves and a reindeer from the Elf Club House LEGO set.

It’s been more than 5 months since I last published anything to my blog. Of course there are reasons for that. One of them being that I’m working now rather than unemployed and looking for work, so I don’t have as much free time and having new content for potential employers to look at isn’t as important (not that the majority of my content was relevant for that anyway). In the months between when I started my data analytics boot camp in 2020, and started my current job as a Curriculum Engineer, I wrote 20 blog posts. They were often quite long and time consuming to write, so once I started working, I found it was easier to make time for activities that I knew wouldn’t take as long to complete. Plus some additional fun things that had fallen by the wayside when I was writing more regularly for this blog.

I’m going to sum up this year—a full year where we’ve still been in a pandemic—but focus more on what I’ve been doing in the last 5 months that I haven’t been posting. I’m separating the post into different sections, so feel free to scroll on by anything you’re not interested in. The sections are: professional/career, reading/comics, movies/television media, LEGO, stand-up comedy/live shows, and home and social life during the pandemic.

Professional/Career

I guess that 2U/Trilogy deemed me a success story after I completed the boot camp and landed a job, because they referred me to two interviews to talk about my experience, and I was also a guest on one webinar for prospective and current 2U boot camp students, and will be one again next month specifically for UC Berkeley. After so long of being made to feel like I was a lazy failure in terms of a professional career, it’s been a great feeling to experience being recognised in this way. The first interview links to my second-last boot camp project about Pokémon. As a result, since November, my free usage on the host it runs on gets used up before the end of the month. I haven’t opted to upgrade so I’ve just let it remain inaccessible for the last week or so of the month.

Also interesting to me is how the effort I put into my LinkedIn profile thanks to 2U’s career services, I also occasionally have recruiters or hiring managers reach out to me about jobs they’re hiring for, despite the fact I’ve stopped being as active on LinkedIn as I had been when I was looking for work. I imagine being currently employed helps with that, especially considering the roles are most often in curriculum development, which is what I’m doing at the moment.

Whilst I can’t speak too specifically about the work I’ve been doing these last five months, I do want to say that I enjoy it immensely, and I feel like a strong part of the team. I really enjoy the people I work with and feeling like I’m making a difference. Education hadn’t been the field I’d been most interested in getting into, but workplace culture does make a difference to me so I’m very glad I didn’t dismiss the opportunity purely because I had thought I wanted to be doing something else.

Reading/Comics

The final book in Ed Brubaker’s Daredevil comics run

I didn’t read much in 2020 (I only met half of my Goodreads goal of 40 books), especially compared to when I started keeping track of my comics reading in 2016 (128 trades/graphic novels) and 2017 (208 trades/graphic novels). I shared my comics read from both of these years on this blog, but since then just Goodreads, which doesn’t include the comics I read in single issues. As a result of my reduced reading in 2020, I lowered my reading goal for 2021 to 20 books. Despite that, since October, I finally let myself dive into the back catalogue of Daredevil, and thus surpassed that goal by more than 3 times by reading a total 64 books. In fact, more than half (33) of the books I read this year were Daredevil or Daredevil related. I made my way through all of Frank Miller’s run, Kevin Smith’s reboot, followed by Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Andy Diggle, one Joe Quesada book, a collection of 19 issues of mostly Ann Nocenti’s writing, and all of Chip Zdarsky’s that are currently released in trades. I managed to read all but two without purchasing them. The only books I had to pay for because they weren’t available at a library I had access to were Ed Brubaker’s last book (pictured above), and the Shadowland event (which I bought digitally). If you’re interested in reading some Daredevil but don’t want to read as much as I did and don’t know where to start, feel free to ask me for my thoughts! Maybe I’ll do a write up later on once I get through Mark Waid’s run, which I’ll be making my way through next.

Looking back as I’m writing this, I’m actually a little stunned at how much I read since October. This means I read well over half of the books I read this year in the last quarter of the year. At least you can see why that occupied a lot of my time instead of blogging.

Earlier this year, since I’d been keeping track of the comics I read since 2018 in draft emails without sharing them to my blog, I actually converted that information to a Google spreadsheet. For posterity’s sake, I’ll include the single issue comics I read in 2021 here (feel free to scroll past them for the next section if you’re not interested, though). I bought more than these, so this is just my read list.

Some of the comics I picked up in August, 2021 – still haven’t read all of these

Marvel
The Amazing Spider-Man Beyond Tie-In (iss. #78.BEY)
America Chavez: Made in the USA (iss. #1-5)
Champions (2020) (iss. #1-10)
Cable: Reloaded (iss. #1)
Deadpool (2019) (iss. #10)
Deadpool 30th anniversary (iss. #1)
Demon Days X-Men (iss. #1)
Empyre (iss. #3-6)
Empyre Aftermath (iss. #1)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2020) (iss. #12-18)
Hawkeye: Kate Bishop (2021) (iss. #1)
Jane Foster: Valkyrie (iss. #7-10)
Magnificent Ms Marvel (2019) (iss. #14-18)
Runaways (2017) (iss. #33-38)
Strange Academy (iss. #7-13)
Strange Academy Presents: Death of Doctor Strange (iss. #1)
S.W.O.R.D. (2021) (iss. #6-7)
Thor & Loki: Double Trouble (iss. #1)
Wakanda: The Last Annihilation (iss. #1)
Wiccan and Hulkling (iss. #1)
Wiccan and Hulkling: The Last Annihilation (iss. #1)

Image
A Man Among Ye (iss. #4)
Helm Greycastle (iss. #1)
M.O.M. (iss. #1-2)
Ordinary Gods (iss. #1)
Sweet Paprika (iss. #1-5)

Boom! Studios
Brzrkr (iss. #1)
Eve (iss. #1-5)
Good Luck (iss. #1-5)
Once & Future (iss. #15-22)
Proctor Valley Road (iss. #1)

Other Publishers
Giga (Vault, iss. #3-4)
Destiny, NY (Black Mask, iss. #1-2)
Space Pirate Captain Harlock (Ablaze, iss. #1)
Eros/Psyche (Ablaze, iss. #1)
Bermuda (IDW, iss. #1-4)
Life is Strange: Coming Home (Titan, iss. #1)
Killer Queens (Dark Horse, iss. #1-2)
Harley Quinn The Animated Series: The Eat. Bang! Kill. Tour (DC, iss. #1-3)

Movies/Television Media

I’ve already written about some of the shows I’ve watched/caught up on during the pandemic, but primarily focused on the ones I watched with my kids. 2021 has been a big Marvel year for me. All of that Daredevil reading above? That came about in part because I finally watched the Netflix series (along with most of the other Marvel Netflix shows I’d missed—Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders). I caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., watched all of the Disney+ MCU shows (WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki, What If…?, and Hawkeye), Hulu’s Hit Monkey, and even worked my way through the appallingly bad Inhumans series.

All up, here’s my 2021 watched movies and TV list:

TV showsMovies
Another Life s1-21. Wall-E
Avatar: The Last Airbender s1-32. Raya and the Last Dragon
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist s23. The Social Dilemma
WandaVision s14. Us
The Blacklist e8.03-9.065. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Doctor Who (2005) s126. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. s2-77. The New Mutants
Legend of Korra s1-48. Harvey
Kenan s19. Crimson Peak
The 4400 s1-410. Irresistible
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay e1.0211. Luca
Love on the Spectrum s112. Murder by Numbers
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier s113. Black Widow
The Dragon Prince s1-314. Venom
Inhumans s115. Searching
Kung Fu (2021) s116. Wonder Woman 1984
Home Economics e1.01-1.0217. Tangerine
Why Are You Like This s118. Entrapment
Daredevil s1-319. Cruella
The Handmaid’s Tale s420 (& 21 & 43). Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Luke Cage s1-222. Free Guy
Punky Brewster (2021) s123. The Net
M.O.D.O.K. e1.01-1.0224. MIB International
Animaniacs (2020) s125. The Greatest Showman
Tiny Toons e1.30,1.5126. Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Murder, She Wrote e1.01-2.0227. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Punky Brewster (1984) e1.01-2.0128. The Other Woman
Animaniacs (1993) e1.01-1.2529. Colette
Wu Assassins s130. Unbreakable
Iron Fist s1-231. Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Loki s132. Split
Sex/Life s133. Crazy Rich Asians
Monsters at Work s134. No Time to Die
The Defenders s135. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Brooklyn Nine-Nine s836. Knives Out
What If…? s137. In the Heights
Agent Carter e1.0138. Repo! The Genetic Opera
Sex Education s339. Dune part one (2021)
Sherlock s1-4 (+ Abominable Bride)40. The French Dispatch
What We Did in the Shadows e1.0141. The Eternals
X-Men (1992) e1.05-1.0642. Love Hard
Cowboy Bebop (2021) s144. Red Notice
Hit Monkey s145. Isn’t It Romantic
Hawkeye s146. Bombshell
Samurai Pizza Cats e1.0147. Ghostbusters (1984)
48. Ghostbusters: Afterlife
49. Spider-Man (2002)
50. Encanto
51. Romeo Must Die
52. West Side Story (2021)
53 (& 60). Spider-Man: No Way Home
54. The Matrix Resurrections
55. Iron Man 3
56. Mindgamers
57. Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas
58. Batman Returns
59. The Farewell
61. The Amazing Spider-Man
62. Spider-Man 2

As you can see from this list, I caught up on a lot on TV this year that I’d been missing out on over the last several years, and stayed up to date with some new releases. I watched so much TV that most of the movies I watched this year didn’t happen until I’d felt sufficiently caught up on much of the TV I wanted to watch. The above list is essentially 59 seasons across 36 different shows, with a spattering of episodes from a few more. I don’t think I’ll ever have the time to watch that much TV in a single year again, but I’m grateful I was able to catch up on so much.

Watching Iron Fist on my TV

It was also nice feeling like I could get back in to the movie theatre again, which I went to 15 times since Black Widow was released in July (and I saw both Shang-Chi and Spider-Man: No Way Home in the theatre twice). Yes, that’s right, SO MUCH MARVEL to enjoy this year.

Of course, now with the rise of COVID cases again thanks to the more contagious Omicron variant, where we’ve been told it’s a good idea if we upgraded our masks, I’m beginning to feel like maybe I should stay away from movie theatres again for a while. On the other hand, out of an abundance of caution, I did get myself tested after three crowded movie theatre visits and cold-like symptoms, and my results came back negative for COVID. I think I’ll see how the data looks in the coming weeks anyway, because at the moment I can’t think of another movie I want to see in the theatre until March.

LEGO

LEGO set 21322 Pirates of Barracuda Bay

LEGO fast became a major interest I revisited in the pandemic, especially after I started working and could afford to buy more sets. The first huge set I built this year was a recent pirate set (pictured above), which I got and built as a reward to myself for completing my data analytics boot camp. My youngest kid worked on this one with me, and it got him more interested in LEGO in a way he hadn’t been before, although he’s still nowhere near as big a fan as me. I got a few more smaller sets after this one, and then my next huge set—a reward to myself for landing my current job—was the Daily Bugle set.

LEGO set 76178 Daily Bugle

In July, I started livestreaming my LEGO building on Facebook to select friends, starting with the Everyone is Awesome rainbow Pride set. That sort of grew into including friends guesting on the streams to chat with me, and I was enjoying it so much, it kind of became incentive for me to keep buying more sets so I’d have more to stream. I now have so many sets that should last me well in to 2022, depending on how often I stream. If you’d like to follow along with any of my builds, you can subscribe to my channel on YouTube (and catch up on all my public streams), or follow me on Twitch. I only announce about half of my streams in advance, so following/subscribing is the best way to get notified when I’m going live. Since I went public with my final Daily Bugle stream, the LEGO sets I’ve built live include:

Shang-Chi Battle at the Ancient Village​ (set 76177)
Bro Thor’s New Asgard (set 76200)
Tuk tuk (set 40469)
LEGO® Marvel The Eternals Deviant Ambush! (set 76154)
Home Alone (set 21330)
Santa’s Sleigh (set 40499)
Elf Club House (set 10275) (partially pictured at the top of this blog post)
Skate Park (set 60290)

Home Alone and Santa’s Sleigh LEGO sets

I’ve loved having friends join me as guests while I stream, too. Friends from near and far—from the Bay Area, to Austin, Texas, to New York City, and even as far as Malaysia! Back in May, I lamented about how much I’d been missing Malaysia and feeling so disconnected from my friendships there. I hadn’t really been staying in touch with them, and did they even still remember me? So I appreciated that the LEGO streaming ended up affording me some opportunity to catch up with a couple of those friends regularly, when they were available.

Prior to my public live streams, here’s the full list of the sets I built the rest of this year:
Police Water Scooter ([free] set 30567)
Ice Skating Rink ([free] set 40416)
Pirates of Barracuda Bay (set 21322)
Avengers Wrath of Loki (set 76152)
Falcon & Black Widow team up (set 40418)
MF Set – Summer Celebration (set 40344)
Fairground MF Acc. Set (set 40373)
Easter Bunny’s Carrot House ([free] set 40449)
Easter Sheep (set 40380)
Story of Nian (set 80106)
LEGO® Easter Bunny Hut (set 5005249)
Chinese New Year Pandas (set 40466)
Swing Ship Ride ([free] set 5006746)
Everyone Is Awesome (set 40516)
Winnie the Pooh (set 21326)

Stand-Up Comedy/Live Shows

After JR De Guzman’s show at Punch Line Comedy Club San Francisco

When things started opening up again for live shows, and the main comedy club in Kuala Lumpur that opened just before I moved to California—Crackhouse Comedy Club—offered zoom tickets for those who couldn’t attend in person, I wound up buying zoom tickets to watch some of those shows at 5/6am local California time. I really appreciated that the pandemic gifted me with a way to see some of my friends perform again without them all having to get Netflix specials, or me having to fly to Malaysia to see them. I also went out to see some live shows in San Francisco. Specifically JR De Guzman (who I met in Malaysia but is from California), Irene Tu, Sheng Wang, and Ronny Chieng.

After I’d been to a few stand-up shows, I started contemplating returning to the stand-up stage, especially as it seemed moderately safer to perform solo without a mask with a masked audience compared to performing improv on stage again (where only a couple improv theatres are back to performing in person in the Bay Area anyway). I’m still undecided on that, but I did find an open mic spot within walking distance from my house, which I’d be interested in checking out before I make a decision about it. Of course, now that the Omicron variant has led to the postponement of SF Sketchfest, I’m likely to delay seeing live shows again too, let alone consider getting back on stage myself.

The only other live show I went to in person this year was a concert for Alanis Morissette and Garbage – a concert that had been postponed twice due to the pandemic, and I initially had a ticket for before the pandemic hit. It was the first major event with lots of people I attended during the pandemic, and even with it being outdoors, it was kind of nerve-wracking being around that many people again. I had a great time, however, and I’m glad I was able to attend.

Alanis Morissette at Concord Pavilion, Sept 29, 2021

Home and Social Life During the Pandemic

I’m still very much a home body, and still seeing very few people in person. The pandemic has continued to be weird for me. I’m not sure how to explain (or even if I fully understand) why I find it easier to go out to things on my own, masked, and yet still feel weird about meeting up with friends in person most of the time. I think it’s primarily because I feel safer wearing a mask and being around other masked people, but I feel weird about seeing friends and wanting to stay masked. It makes me feel like I’m telling them I don’t trust them to be taking safety precautions. On the other hand, given how many people I’ve now seen mention that they’ve gotten COVID while vaccinated and hanging out with friends, or that they know so many people who have, I also feel like my decision around that has been warranted.

My youngest kid was only just considered fully vaccinated as of December 29th, since he wasn’t able to get vaccinated until it was approved for the 5-11 age group, and I really needed to be cautious so my kids didn’t have to miss in person school due to contracting the virus. However, I will credit the fact they never caught it in school despite weekly testing catching one kid in each of their classes with it as one of the major reasons I felt safe enough to go to public events like movie theatres and stand-up shows while masked.

It was only a rare occasion that I got out and saw friends in person. I saw one with the excuse of getting to ride the San Francisco cable car for the first time in my life when they resumed service in August and were offering free rides.

Riding the Powell-Hyde cable car with my friend Diana Brown

Due to all of the above, the majority of my social life has taken place online. That’s why having guests on my LEGO streams was such a life saver for me. One friendship that had been a regular source of communication for much of the pandemic (and he even came to visit me in the San Francisco Bay Area in July) ended up wearing on both of us, so we had to take a break from each other. We’ve had minor interactions with each other since. Another with a former lover rebounded in flirtations again, which I’m not really surprised by given that this has been our cycle and the longer the pandemic goes on, I find myself still not keen to go out and meet new people to date. So it’s just nice knowing there’s someone out there still attracted to me for all the reasons I want someone to be attracted to me for, even as we can’t physically be together. I have at least attempted to try out new dating apps this month, now that I have a better idea about what I’d want in a relationship and that I’m more confident in myself. It’s slow going. It doesn’t feel like there are enough fellow nerds on the apps I’m using, but at least the apps themselves feel better for relationship potential rather than hook-ups.

I’m closing out the year with a partial kitchen remodel, thanks to what I initially assumed was some minor earthquake damage a few months ago that kept getting a little worse. A crack in the middle of the granite above the window that looks outside from the kitchen sink. I suppose it could’ve also just been gravity because granite is heavy. Because there was also an occasional leak/drip coming through the crack since I first noticed it in the beginning of October (I had to check my Facebook to figure out the timeline—actually there were two earthquakes in two days just before I noticed the crack!), I also thought there might be some plumbing issues from the bathroom above the kitchen to deal with, which may or may not have contributed to the crack.

Crack in the granite above my kitchen window the night before demolition

My water bill doubled for mid-October-mid-December, and though some plumbers who came to have a look said that was likely caused by an unrelated issue (leaky toilet downstairs) that had already been resolved (because they didn’t notice any signs of water running when they checked my meter), seeing the bill freaked me out so much. I assumed it was related to the leak that occasionally came from the crack, which is what sparked me into actually contacting contractors and plumbers to deal with the damage.

The contractors I chose suggested redoing my kitchen lights since I was opening up my ceiling and going to have to repaint it too. Whilst the lighting wasn’t as urgent, I figured I may as well while I’m at it. There have been times I’ve gotten up early and needed to use the kitchen but the lights are too bright for me. This way I get more flexibility with the lights, and it looks neater. I figured I may as well also get the walls repainted while I’m at it, since the ceiling was getting done, and I didn’t like the yellow too much in contrast with the rest of the colour in the room. I am grateful I’m in a position where I could afford the repairs and remodel, thanks to squirreling away money throughout the year from unemployment benefits and my work income. This would not have been the case a year ago. It still sucks, because I’d have preferred to use that money for a vacation (whenever I eventually feel safe to get on a plane again) or fixing up my backyard, but this is one of the costs of home ownership. All in good time for the other stuff I want to do, I suppose.

I was going to wait and publish this post after the work is completed, but there’s still a little bit more to do, so I’ll probably just update this post later once I can include a picture or two of its completion.

Year’s End in Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with how I managed to balance my time between nerding out on stuff I enjoy, spending time with my kids, and being a responsible adult (finishing my boot camp, getting a job, working, dealing with getting a child support order, fixing stuff up in and around my house). It feels damn good to have managed to make a success out of my life as well as finding my authentic self again so soon after getting divorced, and during a pandemic to boot. If you’d have asked me if this was what I envisioned for myself when I decided to end my marriage in 2019, I would’ve said no. It’s not something I would’ve expected I could do. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. You just gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other and following opportunities that present themselves, even if they’re not necessarily what you’re looking for. Mindset makes a huge difference.

One thing I didn’t mention earlier is that I didn’t play as many video games this year as I did last year. The only one I played right through was Life is Strange: True Colors, which I thoroughly enjoyed. My kids and I rounded out the year with some new games (video and table top games) they got for Christmas though – Sackboy: A Big Adventure (PS4), The Keeyp (Kickstarter backed tabletop game), Math Fluxx, Chemistry Fluxx, and Beyond Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes themed co-op tabletop game).

When I’m able to dedicate this much time to nerding out on stuff I enjoy, and immersing myself in new interests, I feel more authentically myself. These interests often serve as a reminder for just how autistic I am, because I don’t have a lot of friends who nerd out as much as I do on the same content. I gotta say, it has been good becoming better friends with a fellow comic book/Marvel nerd this year, though, because now I actually have someone to talk to when I read certain comics, or want to talk about something that happened in the MCU, or perhaps another movie we’ve both seen. Sometimes I’ve wondered how I could find more people who are just as interested as I am in the same content, but often it feels like too much work to try and start up those new connections. It’s time consuming, and sometimes it’s just easier to make time to continue immersing myself in my various interests. When it happens more naturally without my seeking it out, it feels kinda magical.

Me holding the Jessica Jones Alias omnibus released this year, with a Deadpool rug beneath me, and LEGO behind me.

As much as it sucks to feel like you lost time of your life thanks to a global pandemic, I think it’s still well worth looking back on the time and seeing what I was able to do despite all that. I don’t feel like my life is 100% full of roses, and the longer the pandemic drags on, the easier it’s gotten to dwell on loneliness, but I still have a lot in my life to be thankful for.

I don’t know what 2022 has in store for us, but thank goodness my kids are both vaccinated now, and I’ve been vaccinated and boosted.


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