2022 Recap

January 4, 2023
Confidence: certain

2022 is coming to a close, which means it’s time for my annual look back at the year, telling the stories and coming to realize that I didn’t accomplish many of the things I said I was going to. But that’s OK; hope springs eternal. Maybe next year! More on that in a bit.

We rung in the new year doing fondue with a small group of friends. The vibe was magical and really felt like the GLOBAL PANDEMIC was over. We put down the quiet evening to being old, not to being unable to go hard. It was lovely. The morning after we started a new new years tradition, nursing our hangovers with steam-it-yourself dim sum. Strongly recommended.

A week later, Erin and I headed off to Mexico. I don’t exactly remember why; maybe it was just to get out of the Canadian winter or something cliche. We went to Sayulita — which is a bit of a meme town in my family — and spent the week eating tacos, hanging out on the beach, and surfing. Well at least, that was the plan. Instead, we both got aggressive norovirus infections and the trip was mostly spent in the bathroom. But we also heard the most amazing family fight across the open air (“MOM! YOU BIT ME IN THE NECK. WHAT THE HELL?”). It was nice to escape Canada, and also nice to come back, which is about the best you can hope for in a trip.

While in Mexico, I set off on my “review 52 papers” project, and spent like ten hours of the vacation working through some gnarly math. It was great, and I started learning the Agda programming language in a serious manner. This turned into wanting to write it myself, which turned into needing to build all my own tools, which turned into cornelis — my most successful open-source project to date. That was cool, and I got pretty good at Agda by the end of the year. More on that later.

I had been secretly planning to create a podcast for the last few months, and this project finally got rolling in January. I researched and interviewed people in my little programming community, seeding the conversation with “what are you better at than anyone else here?” and seeing where that lead to. I did four episodes, and felt like I was really hitting my stride by the end. But the process was more energy than I wanted to put in, and quickly burned out on the idea. The interviewing and hanging out with people was fun, but the preparation and editing wasn’t. Eventually I hired an old friend as an editor, which dramatically improved the situation, but it wasn’t rewarding enough to pursue further.

As part of my yearly goal to get fit, Erin convinced me I should do Couch to 5k — a 9 week running program to turn a non-runner into someone who runs 5ks. In my case, it was only a single 5k, because I did it with bad shoes and hurt my knees or something. I never ended up loving running, but it was nice to have done and kind of fun to get sweaty.

Erin on the other hand, decided to run a 10k race, so we headed to Vancouver for the weekend and she crushed it, placing as the third fastest woman in the entire city. My job was to be there and cheer, which I did with great relish and talent.

All this time, I had secretly been preparing a secret: engagement! But it turns out it’s hard to charter a boat in February in Canada without the weather destroying your plans while your partner is in law school with a very busy schedule AND keep the whole thing a secret. It didn’t work, so instead I opted to take her out to a nice place for a picnic. After a nice picnic, we jointly decided it wasn’t a sufficiently good engagement, so I gracefully went back to the drawing board, and bided my time.

Instead, I came up with a much better engagement, but it required doing ARTS AND CRAFTS. You wouldn’t expect it could take multiple professional printing houses several weeks and several attempts to print 120 sheets of paper, but there you have it. You can pay people to do a job, but you can’t pay them to care. The flowers needed to be delayed four times because they were the only people who seemed capable of doing the thing they advertise doing professionally. I ended up doing my ARTS AND CRAFTS at Staples, by hand, in a FURY of anger and speed, because they somehow lost my job and asked for my help in getting everything cut. Still charged me full price though :)

Nevertheless, it was worth it. Erin loved the ARTS AND CRAFTS and we jointly agreed it was a much better engagement than the previous attempt, because this time it caught! I had become a betrothed man!

Our time in Victoria was numbered. Erin was only there for law school, which was about to finish, and I was only there for Erin. During the last few months, I had put together a local functional programming community out of nothing but elbow grease and bullying people to come. It was really paying off, with nearly ten excited members coming regularly. BUT THEN WE LEFT TOWN and I think it imploded. Oh well. Good practice for next time.

On my last day or so, my friend Mike The Crane Operator took me up the famous crane. I don’t have much to say about this other than it was one of the highlights of the year (but not as much of a highlight as getting engaged, he said wisely.) Thanks Mike The Crane Operator!

Then it was time to set sail on adventure. Both literally and figuratively, but only if you count the literally part a few days later. Erin and I flew to New York as a staging ground before our Grand Tour across Europe. But first we had to get to New York, which involved going through Calgary. We were flying at the end of the month, and while Erin got her boarding card no problem, mine continued to say “unable to issue boarding card, please speak to an agent.” You see, I’m cursed when it comes to technology and bureaucracy and especially technology in the service of bureacracy.

The issue was that I was assigned the dreaded SSSS status, which is short for something along the lines of “you’re going to have a really bad time.” Quad-S status means your suitcase gets unpacked at every security checkpoint and everything gets scanned for bombs. You have to take off your shoes and your pants and submit to cavity searches while they go through your email accounts. And worse, this is not just when you go through security; it’s every time you go through security, which they make sure happens along every leg of the trip. Just in case the last guys missed something, I guess.

Thankfully I do all my seditious activities somewhere other than my cavities, so despite the annoyances, we made it to NYNY just fine. We were met there by my old friend Ariel, whom we’d given permission to book us fun things without asking first. He took us to a great comedy show and an… “alternative” hipster music thing, all the time while speeding around town at speeds that shouldn’t have been possible on legs the size of his.

And then it was time for the cruise ship. And Oh My God. We were clearly not the target audience for the thing. It was twelve long days of crossing the Atlantic, without booze or anything fun to do or anyone interesting to meet. But I have written about this before.

The cruise ship dropped us off roughly in London, where we stretched our legs, appreciated how young people could be, spent some quality time with Erin’s parents, got yelled at by an Italian man named Luigi, and went to a great play set in — and physically located in — a court room.

We wanted to take the train to France but it’s wildly expensive so instead we took a Ryanair flight for £6 headed to Tours. We left for the airport with plenty of time, but the bus didn’t come, and then we had to make a MAD AIRPORT DASH. Except I didn’t take out my liquids so my bag went for secondary screening by people who gave no fucks about efficiency. Erin went ahead to try and hold the plane, but she texted me saying “sweet lord it’s a hundred BILLION miles so you should probably run.” My bags finally cleared security and I started running, and she was right because it was like a five minute run all the way through the winding duty-free store.

Of course, we made it to the gate long before boarding started.

We arrived in Tours and thought it would be nice to walk from the airport into town. As soon as we got outside, it was scorching, like 30C+! Realizing we were now in the Mediterranean, I changed into my shorts behind a gas station, and left the jeans and coat behind, ready for this new tropical paradise.

Tours was pretty OK. We got Ethiopian food and Erin found a nice riverside festival with a great-but-not-at-all-tight jazz band. We settled in with some beers and had a magical night, but realized Tours was not for us. So we booked a train ride down to Bordeaux, and bought charcuterie for the trip! The French train system is marvelous: smooth, clean, quiet, timely. Eventually we got into the charcuterie and all of the French people gave us surreptitious glances, as if we were doing something egregious. We were never sure if it was our choice in charcuterie, our brazen technique, or maybe that you’re just not supposed to eat charcuterie on a train. It will forever remain a mystery.

Bordeaux is much more happening than Tours, so we decided to go on a tour of Bordeaux. Unfortunately, most of France is neither the Mediterranean nor is it tropical, and I spent the day regretting having thrown away all of my warm clothing behind a gas station. I was rocking a tank top and sandals and my god was it cold. To warm up after the tour, we ducked into a small cafe and I had an embarrassing experience trying to order food in French. Eventually we got it settled, and set up for some laptop time upstairs. A random stranger in the cafe recognized my Haskell sticker, and then recognized me! Tomas turned out to be super cool, and we set up some time the next day to nerd out without our partners. The next day was also cool, so Tomas and Kayleigh invited me and Erin to a cheese restaurant for dinner, which was ALSO cool so then they invited us to come on a roadtrip to the beach with them. One marvelous and extremely sunburned day later, we returned, searched for after-sun, and retired, patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

Erin and I didn’t love France, and we didn’t know where to go, so we hopped on the cheapest Ryanair flight we could find, which took us to Agadir, Morocco. We had talked about finding a surf/yoga retreat in Morocco and so this seemed like a good move. We crossed the Moroccan border, and learned the customs agent also didn’t love France. He was very vocal about it. One chatty cab drive later, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere Tamaraght, Morocco, across the street from a carpet shop and a cafe owned by a seven-year old. The place is a surf town, but for some stupid reason, we didn’t lean in, instead, doing… well, I’m not quite sure.

The coolest thing about Tamaraght is that it’s a dry town: there is no alcohol to be found. I have a complicated relationship with alcohol, and it was really cool to find a place that just didn’t have any. Alcohol is so ubiquitous in Canada that I’d never imagined you could just not. So instead everyone just smoked a lot of hash. Humans gonna be humans I guess.

Erin wanted to go on a tour in the desert, and we figured we’d both have more fun if I didn’t come since I’d be a grumpy Gertrude and Erin would worry about whether or not I was having fun. Avoiding it dodged both problems, so while she and the ENTIRE HOSTEL all went for a week-long trip to the desert, I instead ate Moroccan tacos and headed for the next surf-town over, Taghazout. Taghazout was cool; I stayed at a coworking space and met a bunch of cool people, including Josh who had spent the last evening waterboarding anyone who was interested (and it sounds to have been quite popular!) Finding some other digital nomads who were traveling but not there to party was good for the soul, and helped me realize just how scroogey I was being for the whole trip.

I reunited with my One True Love (Erin) in Marrakesh, where we were planning to meet up, but then randomly stumbled across one another in the medina. What a sight for sore eyes! The trip that morning to the big city had been something; I took a shared taxi to the bus station with some other strangers I met on the street, ended up paying about $1 for it, and then took a six hour bus ride sitting next to a woman who spent the entire trip sending a lot of voice messages. I was annoyed about it until I remembered that 30% of women in Morocco are illiterate, which helped me empathize. This woman just wanted to talk to her friends during the long bus ride.

Erin had picked up some stomach bug while out in the desert, and so I did a lot of Marrakesh on my own, involving getting abducted by a Swiss woman who tricked me into thinking she spoke English, and then used the driving directions for us to walk around the Medina. I was hoping for a quick beer downstairs, and instead got taken around ugly parts of the city for an hour before I saw an exit to escape. Yeesh. Erin and I then escaped the medina and went for McDonalds, which was exactly what we needed. Moroccan food just isn’t “all that.”

We were killing time until I had to be in Zurich for a Haskell conference, and that time was now upon us. So we Ryanaired our way up to Geneva, and had a magical afternoon lying in the grass, exploring green spaces, and listening to an amazing piano player practicing in the park. I didn’t know CERN was in Geneva, and so I didn’t go, and it’s one of my biggest regrets of the year. Alas. Also there was a STRANGE MAN who was staying in our hostel room. He kept coming into the room, and then turning right back around. Odd. Peculiar. Who is this mystery man?

Geneva gave way to Zurich, which enamored us both. There’s such a stark contrast between Zurich and Marrakesh. In Switzerland, there are huge, free, publicly-available drinking fountains everywhere. The cities are gorgeous and green. The people are quiet and respectful. Contrast this to dusty Morocco where you will die if you are not constantly drinking bottled water while you’re being harassed by merchants (and lusty men, if you’re Erin!)

We had planned to stay in a hostel in Zurich, but something went wrong last minute, and I decided that my company could afford putting us up in a nice hotel for the week. Exceptionally good idea on my part. I spent the weekend at the hackathon, and brought Erin out a few times to meet some of the nerds. She was pleasantly — and thankfully — impressed after me building up the general character of your average Haskell programmer for years.

While in Zurich, I had the pleasure of reacquainting with Farhad Mehta, one of the organizers of Zurihac, and a genuinely delightful human. He suggested we spend a week doing a study-group, and I jumped on the opportunity. We spent a week doing Agda and Isabelle, punctuated by my living arrangement’s shower grading me on my water usage, many noodle breaks, and a fondue vending machine. Only in Switzerland!

Zurich lead to Vienna where I caught up with my old friend Anna and bought Erin some cursed new headphones (though I didn’t know they were cursed when I bought them.) Aching for some culture, I headed off to a local jazz bar where I was treated to an extremely intimate concert of some bass player doing a set for his birthday with musicians in his life. It was a nice idea but everyone else there was in the show, and you can really only listen to so much jazz lead by the upright bass.

After a brief stint, I ended up in Budapest, intending to reunite with Erin, but she was trapped in Barcelona. So instead I went out on a pubcrawl with my roommate, and somehow got adopted by 15 Indians, none of whom knew one another. The pubcrawl was a bust, but my new friends were delightful.

Erin arrived at 5 in the morning after a CHAOTIC AIRPORT EXPERIENCE, so we took it easy for a few days. The week culminated in Budapest’s Turkish Baths, which are like a western swimming pool except literally a million times better. You can pick your desired temperature water in two-degree increments, and when you’re tired of being in the water, you can pick a sauna by how hot and how salty you want it to be. Truly a marvel of the modern world, even though nerds will tell me this stuff is ancient.

We took a delightful train ride down to Croatia, which I’m sure is a lovely place, but for me the charm was primarily the old man who complemented my new Birkenstocks (“not just a shoe for old men!” they told me) and the discovery that white noise helps adults sleep too. However, Split paled in comparison to Dubrovnik, where we accidentally found ourselves on a nude beach with THE LADS, met an Olympic swimmer, and almost died in the sun due to missing our bus home.

This whole time we had been meandering our way down to Greece, where Erin and I had signed up for a week-long sailing lesson on the Aegean sea. We finally got to Athens, where the airport experience was amazing, and where our hostel room burst open five minutes after we arrived at 3am when two keen and amorous youths made their way in, oblivious to our presence. After the whole thing was sorted, we did all the stuff you’re supposed to do in Athens like looking at old stuff and looking at other old stuff.

You’d think after the whole Greek economic thing that there would be lots of enterprising souls working the markets, but we found a disappointing lack of pandering Greek mythological merchandise. What a missed opportunity. We did, however, find a great t-shirt of Zeus as a hipster.

Other highlights of Greece: going ring shopping, getting stealth-drawn by my roommate, and visiting a “political party” where we hung from a ring on the ceiling and took turns showing off our best moves on the stripper pole.

Finally it was time to go SAILING. We took a (rather stressful, due to me getting us lost) ferry to Aegina where we met our crew for the week. Skipper John, salty Sven, and Douwe. The crew had evidently been assembled for Erin and my pleasure; Sven and Douwe were just there to get some paperwork stamped: they already knew perfectly well how to sail. We spent the week sailing around at INSANE SPEEDS which felt very fast indeed but instead were along the lines of 15km/h. On one particularly memorable night, we were night sailing without any wind. It was a gorgeous, starry evening, with nothing to do and nowhere to be. Thankfully our evening was rescued by Sven, who decided what the evening really needed was a loud, driving Eurotrace soundtrack.

While Douwe and Sven were nothing to write home about, meeting Skipper John was perhaps the highlight of my year. Skipper John has spent his entire life sailing around, a good chunk of it on the Mediterranean, and he has the mental health that comes hand-in-hand with a life lived simply but well. I hadn’t realized how atrocious my mental health had gotten during the pandemic. When I compared my mental well-being to other people, it felt like I was doing OK, but I wasn’t. I’m not much of a fatalist, but it seemed like the universe was conspiring to send me to spend a week with Skipper John. His unbridled enthusiasm for life was a stark contrast to my own, and I’m happy to say my life has changed for the better since having met him. Thank you, Skipper John, wherever you might be. Happy days; happy days.

Sailing was the end of our trip in Europe, and happy we’d left and even more happy to be leaving, Erin and I boarded a flight back to Canada. We found a temporary place to live while we house hunted. The place was a gorgeous, 28th floor apartment right on the north end of Vancouver’s downtown. The only problem was that it seemed like a huge scam. We were supposed to rent the place from Sasha, except that she didn’t own the place, her parents did, and she was renting it out while they were on vacation. It seemed too good to be true, which, as we learned, was what they thought about us too! “We just want to make sure you’re not the sort of people who are going to film a porno in our house” they commented when we met in person. Thankfully, both sides were delighted to learn the other consisted of good people, and thus we landed a swanky pad that would make any place we could actually afford under a lease pale in comparison.

There was a whirlwind trip through Toronto where we almost missed our flight, but ran through the airport and instead made it safely, crashing on Andrew’s couch when we arrived in Vancouver. Thanks mate!

Figuring we hadn’t had enough adventure as of late, Erin and I got tickets for the Vancouver Folk Fest which was pretty cool in that I got to see the New Pornographers. But really, I was exhausted and jet-lagged and just wanted to not go anywhere or do anything for a few weeks. So instead we took the bus up to Penticton to see our parents!!

Come late September, I realized my ongoing contract for 18 project days had begun the previous October, and it seemed embarrassing to let it linger for a whole year. So I got my act together and behaved like a proper business man, and finished the contract. Figuring I had completely blown my chance at getting hired back, I sent a professional-sounding “thank you” letter to the company. Oddly enough, they liked me enough to send back a “would you consider re-signing?” I checked to make sure they hadn’t said resigning, but no, everything was good!

Being back in Vancouver was really, really good. Erin and I found a place no problem, and carried a yellow couch across the city to furnish it. I had been hankering for a place to settle into since before the UNCERTAIN TIMES, and finally it felt like I was in a place I could do that. So instead I took the bus up to Penticton to see my dad again!!

Which was really nice, actually. We got some quality, dedicated father/son bonding time in for the first time in over a decade, when we’d driven across Canada together. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve realized that my parents are too, and therefore it’s both important and relatively-urgent to prioritize seeing them. This wouldn’t be my last time seeing them this year!

Back in Vancouver, I was called up by EF, the startup accelerator firm which had caused me no small amount of stress the year before. But this time they wanted me to come to a nice dinner on their dime, and meet other cool people. I went, with trepidation, but had a surprisingly nice time. In fact, I met one particularly cool people, Lazar, with whom I’ve stayed in touch and who has grown to be a good friend.

The EF dinner reminded me that I wanted to go try to be a startup man. But EF told me they were full up, and that I should apply next round instead. One morning however, I found myself with spare energy, so I decided to apply. An hour later I was on the phone with EF, who were all of a sudden VERY KEEN to get me to move to Toronto in three days’ time. Which, if you remember from last year, seems to be their M.O. Erin and I had discussed the possibility, and she was OK with it if I was. Seeing as I was just getting settled into Vancouver, moving to Toronto seemed like it was right in the cards. EF forced me to buy a flight to YYZ before they’d send me the contract (WTF?). Thankfully my lawyer didn’t like the contract, and EF was unwilling to budge, so I didn’t end up moving to Toronto. Instead, EF went bankrupt a month later.

My neighborhood in Vancouver has a parkour gym just down the street. As a boy, I used to while away the time in Terrace BC by getting drunk and climbing buildings. Parkour seemed like the adult version of that very hobby, so I signed up for a trial month. It’s been life altering. I’ve never had fun doing exercise before, but parkour has changed that dramatically. All of a sudden I found myself going three, four times a week, just because it was fun to jump on/over things and to hang out with other people who also wanted to jump on/over things.

At some point during these months, I thought that I might have ADHD. I asked a doctor friend who said he “knew a sketchy guy” I could talk to about that. The sketchy guy called me in THAT EVENING for an EMERGENCY CONSULTATION, where I was asked all sorts of leading questions. When it was all over, in a left-field move that nobody could have predicted, the sketchy guy diagnosed me as having ADHD! It’s a bit of a sham because I was hoping to actually talk to someone about it, but instead managed to just get a prescription. That being said, the meds do seem to help, so maybe the sketchy guy isn’t as bad as he sounds. I have much more to say on this topic, but will put it into blog format some other time.

The year steadily marched on, unlike Erin, who steadily RAN. A marathon, that is. In the cold rain and snow, on the water, with a bone-chilling wind under dry circumstances, which it most certainly was not. I was the designated helper! My job was to drive around and make sure she had everything she needed. It was all going well until my phone died and I got lost and spent an hour driving around and very nearly missed her crossing the finish line. Thankfully I didn’t, and we are still happily engaged.

In November, I decided to do NaNoWriMo again, this time writing a math textbook. I succeeded with flying colors, and now have a (very) rough manuscript for another book. I plan to get it cleaned up in the next few months, so keep an attentive ear out for Sandy Maguire’s next flying-off-the-shelf best seller.

And that was pretty much the whole year, except for the Christmas fiasco where our flights got cancelled due to SNOW, and then our moms got sad, so we made lots of very-last-minute plans to not merely double-down on Christmas, but to triple-down! Like I said, I’m learning that family is much more important than I realized, and so I’m trying to do my best on that front. The drive up was terrifyingly low in visibility, and the resulting visit with an ominous prophecy, but otherwise, a spectacular cap off to the year.

One last thing! I bought a smart phone this year, and decided I wanted to take a daily selfie. That didn’t end up happening, but I did manage to take 225 photos. Now you can watch me age much faster than I actually age!

Thanks for a lovely year, 2022. See you all next time around.