Happy New Year and a Look back on 2021

It’s the morning of January 1st 2022 (it sounds so futuristic), and as I sit in front of my computer archiving emails from the past year I find myself wanting to take a few moments to reflect on the past year, from news events to happenings in my personal life. So without further adieu, a quick retrospective of everything that resonated with me in 2021.

Historically, I feel that people could have been described me as a bit of a loner, although it’s not a title I gained by explicate choice. I’ve always found meeting new people difficult, simply because I am a somewhat awkward person. In the past I’ve shied away from gatherings of my peers because I didn’t have a good idea of what to do or say, however, the 2020 pandemic and the elimination of most social contact through work (after switching to a primary remote job) left me with a need for human contact. I maintain a part time retail job, not because I need the money, but because I generally enjoy the team I work with and it’s a great opportunity to stay grounded least I loose all perspective by interacting with other people solely through a computer screen. One of the biggest takeaways for me in 2021 has been that I have joined several gatherings with my colleges – something that wouldn’t have happened just 24 months ago.

I’ve also had the opportunity to gather with some of my co-workers at my remote job as well. On a couple of occasions I’ve jetted over to Vancouver to meet up with colleges I would ordinarily only see virtually. It’s been a truly rewarding experience and something I hope to have the opportunity to continue with in 2022.

I’ve also been spending more time with a core group of friends I’ve had since High School. While in 2019 and 2020 we would only occasionally meet up, over the past year we’ve tried to meet on a much more regular basis, usually at least once a month, and get up to all kinds of adventures.

Speaking of adventures, it was on one such adventure that I acquired my current pet – a yellow spotted millipede. I happened to find the little guy on one of our hikes and was immediately enthralled with him. This is the first pet I’ve had since I was a child (when I had an English Springer Spaniel while growing up). My millipede is easy to care for, and spends most of his time hiding under the foliage in his tank, but on the occasions when he’s out and about I enjoy watching him crawl around and explore. I’ll even take him out for supervised walks around the house! It’s been around 6 months since I got him, and supposedly they only live for around 2 years so we may not have much time left, but I plan on making the most of it, and since they’re native to the area I may be able pick up another one on a future hiking adventure!

One of the many times I’ve had my millipede out for a walk

Of course, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. A falling-out of sorts between two of my friends back in May has created a sort of schism in our social group that has resulted in not seeing as many of my friends as I necessarily would have liked. I remain hopeful the lines of communication can be re-opened though and maybe in the coming year we can work to repair things.

Overall I feel that I’ve grown, and become a slightly more well-rounded person over the past year, and will hopefully continue the trend over the next 12 months.

Of course, I remain a very nerdy person at heart so this post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of some major technical upgrades I received over the past year. After waiting and waiting, I am pleased to report that I finally have fiber Internet connected to my home. While the latency is only a slight improvement over DOCSIS (our cable plant is actually pretty decent) more then quadrupling my upload speed has been a game changer for things like YouTube uploads and offsite backups.

Speaking of Internet connections, I become one of the “chosen ones” in 2021 after my Starlink application was approved. Starlink is a game changing satellite Internet service which uses thousands of Low Earth Orbit satellites to provide low latency Internet from Space! I currently have my Starlink dish affixed to the peak of my roof and experience a first hop latency of around 35ms and speeds of up to 150/10mbps. Right now Starlink is providing a backup to my fiber internet connection, but as the technology matures I’m hoping to be able to take the dish on camping trips and have high-speed Internet connectivity literally anywhere I go!

My Starlink dish (left)

I took part in a number of sub-terrainian explorations in 2021 after discovering a passion for Draining back in 2019. I didn’t get as much time clocked in exploring the underground as I would have liked, but I did managed to explore a cool brick drain as well as finish off the last sections of Bowker Creek. I also took pert in a truly epic explore of a rock tunnel and teardrop brick drain in wee hours of Thanksgiving morning with a couple of acquaintances I met on uer.ca which I hope to do a write up about in the coming months.

I’m hoping to clock some more urban exploration time in over he next year, and have plans to show off some of the sections of Bokwer Creek to another potential explorer I’ve met though this site. I would also like to do some above ground urban exploration such as an abandonment or similar.

In July, I officially become a cyborg after getting implanted with an RFID chip. The original intention was to store some crucial backup data, which it does well, but the technology has sparked a whole new interest in RFID and NFC hacking. At this point I find my desk covered in a variety of different access control readers as I explore the technology. I even put together a homemade access controller for my office space (so I can open my office with my hand you see!) and have plans to build a similar system for my house. When I started looking at NFC implants all those months ago I never suspected it would lead to an entirely new area of interest (obsession?), but here we are.

I took a couple of trips in 2021, though due to the pandemic I have not traveled outside of Canada in more then 2 years. In September my company flew me out to Toronto for a week in order to assist with some on-site work. Physically working with hardware is always a blast and hanging out with some of my co-workers in person was fantastic. I watched so many late-night movies at the office and ate so much junk food!

Following the September trip, it was off to Halifax for a few days in October to setup a new PoP for Free Range Cloud, my hobby company. My roommate (and business partner) and I managed to set everything up a couple days ahead of schedule so it was fun to do some tourist-y things in Atlantic Canada, including a marathon drive up to the tip of Cape Breton Island (and back) in a single day!

One trip I have sadly not been able to take is a trip to Fremont, California to perform some much needed work on the Free Range Cloud rack there. The rack is in a state of mess and desperately needs to be cleaned out and rebuilt from the ground up. I had a trip all booked in March of 2020, right as the worst of the pandemic began to hit and borders began to close, but of course it needed to be cancelled. By October 2021, things on the pandemic-front began to look up and I even found myself planning a new trip to Fremont, only to have the Omicron variant flare up and scuttle plans yet again. I’m hoping to finally make this trip happen in 2022 and get that damn rack cleaned up!

Speaking of my business, it has been steady growth over the past year and we are now into customer number 1400+. As I mentioned, we stood up a new PoP in Halifax and are now one of the few VPS providers to provide services in that region. Unfortunately, with the good growth also comes bad growth, and we became a favorite provider for spammers and DDoS attackers in 2021. In response to all the unwanted business it became necessary to revise some of our policies and implement some (much needed) network improvements, including reverse-path filtering and port 25 blocks. I’m hoping we have now seen the last of our shitty customers and will be able to continue our slow, but steady growth in the new year.

Finally, I had the opportunity to do actual volunteering with the HAM radio group again this year. Historically, the local amateur radio club has provided communications support for a number of local events including marathons, bike races and hockey tournaments. As the COVID-19 pandemic surged over the past 2 years, most of these events were cancelled, leading to a absence of opportunities to practice my radio skills. In latter part of 2021 though, some events managed to go ahead including the Tour De Victoria bicycle race and a scaled-down version of the Victoria Marathon in October. It was great to get back in touch with some of the local radio amateurs and be able to use my radio skills for an actual purpose once again.

Our HAM Radio control station for the marathon in October

Unfortunately, 2022 is beginning to look less promising with events already being cancelled due to the Omicron variant. I’m hopeful if we can get a handle on Omicron the latter half of the year might be salvageable but it is really a case of wait and see at this point. I’m also hoping we can get back to in-person club meetings, but again, it’s a wait and see approach.

There was, of course, a lot of news happening in 2021; From the pandemic to extreme weather, to the situation in Afghanistan the number of news events happening left my head spinning at times as I tried to keep up with it all. Traditionally, I put together a retrospective of the year’s news events and this year was one of my longest ones yet. If you get a chance, check it out on YouTube and feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you think!

Overall, there was a lot going on for me over the past year, despite (and in some cases because of) the COVID-19 pandemic. As the new year begins, I am hoping to build on the successes of the past 12 months and correct some of the problems (at least the ones what are within my control). I generally avoid making new years resolutions, because I have always felt one should make positive change when one is ready, not because of an arbitrary date on a calendar, but I do enjoy taking this time to reflect on the past year. So with that, I shall end this meandering post and end simply with “Happy New Year all, without further adieu let’s get on with 2022!”

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