My 2021 Year in Review

For the last eleven years, I’ve written a “year in review” post. I highly recommend you try it. It’s a time capsule that lets you reflect on the past year, appreciate parts of it that were great, and develop a plan for the next year. You can view any of the past 10 years’ posts here: 2010,  201120122013,  201420152016,  20172018, 2019, and 2020.

Marilyn and I celebrating her birthday

2021 felt weird. Coming off of the chaos that was 2020 and January 6th, much of the year felt like getting over one traumatic experience while still being in the middle of another one. The former president was out (and off Twitter) which was great for my mental health. However, I struggled to stay optimistic as other bad news or inaction continued through the year. I started to realize how much I had let the news impact my own mental health and took steps to try to stay informed without being overwhelmed.

That was a common theme of 2021 – trying to feel connected to the world without the usual methods available.

Every year I try to pick out a few personal themes as well. Things I spent a lot of my own energy on throughout the year. My themes for 2021 included Hardcover, training for a marathon, hiking the Highline trail, learning new programming techniques, improving communication with my wife, and attempting to balance enjoyment with safety.

Those all sound like a lot and includes some lifetime goals of mine. Stating them like this doesn’t share the full story.

Hardcover is still just a startup without many users. Maybe it will succeed, maybe not. We’re just launching to beta now (March 2, 2022 – National Reading Day).

My marathon time was 5 hours and 45 minutes after not training or preparing correctly, which left me with awful cramps after about mile 15. (Side note: My time for the half marathon was 2:20, and that was with some uphill sections).

Although I hiked almost 50 miles of the Highline Trail, I ended up tapping out after a toe injury (and other issues) made every step painful.

Some of the new programming techniques and ways of doing things ended up being a lot worse than the previous setup, which meant rewriting parts multiple times to get where I could have gotten faster.

After a couples retreat where my wife and I learned some new techniques to communicate, we’ve sometimes struggled to keep consistent with the processes we learned.

In other words – these themes aren’t “wins” exactly. I see them more as areas of growth. In some cases (like marathon running) I realized it just wasn’t for me. My preferred long-distance run is the 10k, which is what I now limit my outings to. They feel better, fresher, and more enjoyable.

For hiking, I realized I enjoy it more when trips are limited to 2 nights in the wilderness at most. Being farther away from society (and help in general) adds a bit more worry than I’m currently comfortable with. Who knows, maybe more 2 and 3-night trips out will change that.

My 2021 Month By Month

Here’s a quick breakdown of what stands out from each month looking back.

January – Besides being glued to the news after a violent attempt to overthrow the elected government, I volunteered at the Sundance Film Festival doing online support. Since it was online we watched a bunch of movies at home. My favorites were Eight for Silver, Cryptozoo, and Land.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the big screen
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the big screen

February – I became a regular at Snowbird, the local ski resort on the Ikonpass. It’s my favorite ski resort in SLC and has delicious Indian curry that tastes amazing in cold weather. I also launched the Minafi Platform Directory to showcase great places to invest (and which aren’t-so-great). Mrs. Minafi and I celebrated our 14-year anniversary by renting out a theater to watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (it was our first movie theater experience since before lockdown).

March – Lily (our 13-year-old dog) went in for surgery. We mentally prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. She pulled through, recovered, and is now in much better shape than before! It was an emotional month.

Our dog lily in a scarf
Hipster Lily

April – Lots of running, some skiing, started thinking about this idea of building a Goodreads competitor out of spite for Amazon.

I’m considering making a Goodreads competitor (or more aptly a Letterboxd for books) out of spite for Amazon. A “Spite Site” if you will.

@adamfortuna on Twitter, April 23, 2001

May – Went 100% in on this Goodreads alternative, formed a team, started working on it. Also went on a vacation to a local resort in Park City to stay for a few nights for my birthday (complete with tasty food, new hikes, and swimming in a crater.

Swimming in a crater

June – We went to Colorado for a couples retreat to learn how to communicate better with each other. We learned a bunch and loved just hanging out with people and playing cards against humanity or Concept like the old days. It was cut short after Lily had an emergency that required us to drive home from Denver -> SLC a day early and left us stressed out for some of the retreat (the person taking care of her had given her peanut butter, and she reacted very badly to it).

July – I stepped up my running to the point I was doing 25 miles a week or so. Then on July 23rd, I ran the Pioneer Day Marathon here in SLC! It was a fun experience, although I don’t know if I’ll ever run another one.

August – Fully vaccinated and with declining COVID cases, we flew out to San Francisco to see family and extended our stay for Mrs. Minafi’s birthday with a few nights in Napa Valley. We went on winery tours, had delicious food, and had lots of family time.

Loved our stay at the Candlelight Inn

September – Two friends from Seattle came to visit us in SLC, which gave us the chance to be tour guides. We saw caves, went on hikes, and ate at some of our favorite places. The trip coincided with an Alanis Morissette, Garbage and Cat Power concert which was our first live music since COVID started. We also spent a few days in Vegas with them cautiously masked up and avoiding crowds as much as possible.

October – After a travel and activity heavy few months, October was mostly just relaxing and working on Hardcover.

November – More of the same from October, plus an amazing Friendsgiving with some of the most delicious food I had all year (plus some rock band of course). Also got a new Macbook Pro after 9 years!

December – After playing Stardew Valley with my niece and nephew, I decided to start my own farm. Somehow I’ve now put 170 hours into this game since then. πŸ˜… (update: it’s a lot more now).

Yearly Favorites

Here are a few standouts from the year.

Favorite spot I visited: I think it’s a tossup between the Homestead Crater and being in the middle of nowhere in the High Uinta Mountains. The Homestead Crater is a fun, casual experience if you want to swim in a hot spring. Being so far away from people during my Highline hike gave me some new perspective on my own mortality that was humbling.

Favorite games I played: Stardew Valley takes the win for most hours and the most fun. That Aged Ancient Fruit Wine isn’t going to age itself! My wife and I also played a bunch of It Takes Two, which is a great coop game.

Favorite restaurant meal: After only getting takeout and delivery in 2020, we ate out a few times in 2021 after getting fully vaccinated and before Omicron. I loved Fireside Dining in Park City. It’s basically an Alps-themed buffet where you’re sitting in front of a fireplace with Racelette’s. Delicious and amazing experience. Getting the omakase at Momofuku Las Vegas was my favorite overall meal. Seriously delicious all the way through.

Favorite concert: Seeing Garbage live was my favorite of the year. Shirley Manson can still absolutely kill it. We saw Pink Martini for the 3rd time which was also fun. We attempted to go to a bunch of Red Butte outdoor concerts (in the garden), but the ones looked forward to most were called off (Counting Crows, Roger Daltrey). We ended up seeing Spoon live, which was also amazing.

Favorite live events: We only went to two (non-concert) live events: a live recording of Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard and a Hasan Minhaj show. Hasan’s standup blew me away – I loved it. Armchair expert was fun, but the big surprise was Portugal the Man doing an opening set just because he was attending the show as a guest and offered to play a song or two.

Favorite hike: 2020 was a hike-heavy year. After our 2-week national park trip at the end of 2020, and our inability to travel much, hiking was one of the only avenues I had to get out of the house safely. With more options in 2021, I ended up spending less time hiking. Of course, my favorite hike was The Highline Trail – a 120-mile trail across the peaks of the Uinta mountains. I made it about 50 miles in before an injury took me out.

Favorite movies: I rated 5 movies this year as 5 ⭐: Bo Burnham: Inside, Eight for Silver, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Suicide Squad, The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story. I watched many other emotional and more serious movies, but I tended to want escapism rather than realism this year.

Favorite shows: Midnight Mass, The Expanse (watched it all from the start after so many people recommended it), Squid Game, Alice in Borderland, Dexter: New Blood, Invincible, Wandavision, Loki, What We Do In The Shadows, Only Murders in the Building, Mythic Quest, Ted Lasso, Kevin can F*** Himself. (Yeah, I might have watched a lot of TV this year…)

Favorite books: Wallet Activism, the Murderbot series, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Project Hail Mary, Greenlights, Everybody Fights: So Why Not Get Better at It?, The Midnight Library, The Lifecycle of Software Objects (this is an amazing dystopian Tamagotchi story), Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents, Dark Matter, Uncanny Valley, Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy, The Burning God (The Poppy War, #3) and the entire Alice in Borderland manga.

Favorite podcasts: Make Me Smart, The Art of Product, Indie Hackers, Social Software, How we Survive, You’re Wrong About, Our Opinions are Correct, Invisibilia, Hyped, Freakonomics, Opting Out with Cait Flanders, and many more.

Favorite new programming discovery: Two standouts that I seriously love in this one. The first is Hasura, which is an open-source API that sits in front of your Postgres database and provides an elaborate GraphQL API. The amount of time saved not needing to build out a full API is huuuuge. Every API request for Hardcover uses it. The other addition is Next.js, which is one of the most simple frameworks I’ve ever seen. It’s great for a fast front-end backed by React.

Favorite project: Hardcover, of course! It’s been exciting to just start a whole new project in a space I’m passionate about. A decade ago created a widget to list what I was reading on my old blog I updated it over the years, switching from Angular to Ember to Vue to React – using it as a testing ground for new ideas. Once Goodreads decided to cut off access to their API (which I mentioned in my 2020 year in review post) I knew I’d need to find an alternative. There’s something about a good name that inspires me. When I settled on Minafi for this site, it gave me enough momentum to work on it for years. I feel the same way about Hardcover already.

What’s Next for 2022?

We’ve been reluctant to plan much for 2022. We’d love to travel again when it’s safe, but also don’t want to be stuck in another country isolating for weeks if we catch COVID (and leaving Lily alone!). We have a few trip ideas on the agenda though:

  • Visit Disneyland in Los Angeles (February).
  • Spend a few weeks in Seattle with friends (April)
  • Get off the grid for my 40th birthday at a cabin in Sundance (May)
  • Go on a friends-trip to a cabin for a week (May)
  • Go Helihiking in Banff (August)

That’s already a lot and without an international trip penciled in. We still want to visit Taiwan and Korea – the trip we had planned for March 2020 was canceled.

Beyond that, I still want to post here on Minafi monthly or so. It’s been MONTHS since I updated any of my financial spreadsheets or tracking. I’ve gotten to the point lately where I’m outright neglecting my finances–which has been nice for my mental health to be honest. There have even been times I’ve freaked out thinking “did I transfer money into checking to pay credit cards?”.

I’m not sure what’ll be next for Minafi. I suspect it’ll be less about specific financial topics, and more just updates on my life – a peek at what “retired” life is like for someone who is constantly working on other projects. Minafi will continue to be one of those projects. The others: only time will tell.

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I'm , a full-stack product developer in Salt Lake City, UT. I love enlivening experiences, visualizing data, and making playful websites.

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