Holidays and the end of the year and the beginning of another COVID year

It’s 2022 and the year has now begun with another year notch on my belt. It’s been a pretty wild year in 2021.

This running shell was actually perfect for winter running as an outer layer, with some Uniqlo heat tech material underneath- the turtleneck was probably the most critical piece for my running gear this winter. That running cap from New Balance is also a fave- I don’t need a full on balaclava as they are often too hot to wear.

An overview of the year? I managed to finally finish my doctoral studies, defended in summer, and convocated in the fall – I had hoped that it would be in person and that with vaccines that would end the restrictions to COVID indoor gatherings, but alas, that was not the case. Instead of being with my bros and brethren …I was with myself. I did manage to stay with W and H during the morning and then I just walked around and reminisced over the years of college all my favourite spots and memories around school. It’s been a wild ride. Like nearly 2 decades of a wild ride. Although things have changed with major buildings like the new CCIS building coming up, a lot of the stuff is the same. I miss some of my early year hang out spots including V-Wing and Cameron library study hall basement and that crazy huge atrium p-126 where I had nightmare fuel of first year chemistry and physics courses (although v-wing had its fair share). I especially miss the dorm rooms in HUB mall and all the hangouts me and my bros would crash in, and our late nights in Rutherford library study hall. Lots of things are moving on- HUB photo is for sale as a business- I remember spending time there checking out the Casio EXILIM cameras and wishing I had the funds to grab one of them (and an Olympus Stylus Verve too!). It’s now mostly passport photos- nobody buys equipment anymore. Also my camera collection blew up way beyond the EXILIM cameras haha. I really wish the graduation had been in person – I am determined to walk the stage with my doctoral gown but alas I don’t think that will happen- even a spring 2022 convocation is unlikely seeing how Omicron is wrecking havoc with shut downs again. I’m likely to borrow a gown at some point in 2022 and go out for a stroll in campus, but I doubt I will get to walk the stage of Jubilee. Kind of disappointing with how much time I have spent on campus for this. However, being able to stroll around campus was really great- especially since in person classes are shut down again in 2022 and its likely a ghost town again. Fortunately I was able to have some parental time for dinner with H and W and this was great, followed by an amazing brunch with my bros- the food was not as impressive, but the company and service was fantastic and a great end to a celebratory weekend.

Eating rich tasty foods probably didn’t help with fitness goals and overall conditioning but I enjoyed eating this winter nonetheless. I am trying to be more mindful of my eating though. Intermittent fasting can only help so much. Hot pot means good company to hang out with although I don’t care about the taste of hot pot itself.

This years fitness goals have been so weird. First I was adjusting to the shut down and the lack of regular movement in my day to day, on top of no gym access REALLY made my lethargic and sluggish and I definitely pack the COVID 15 – I’ve waxed poetic about winter running and I definitely found this was a saviour for me mentally; I managed to blow through my cheapo running steel spikes I got at Winners to the point they are dead now. H’s doc recommended me a pair of Kahtoola spikes made with carbide tips that are much less intrusive and affect the running gait much less. The spikes really seem to dig in the ice- unfortunately they also seemed to have dug into my Vapormax Run Utility shoes and my right side seems to have burst – ARGH; however compared to the Air Max, they seem to tolerate burst Air chambers better, and can still support walking- my first Air Max are just mostly dead even for walking. The running also made me dead for running; it is much harder for me to run now without worrying about injury- the Achilles, big toe, and ankle blow out this year was brutal and I ran much much less this fall and winter; I did pick up lifting much much more though and my lifting has gotten much stronger; keeping clean bench presses and bigger dead lifts and squats have really brought my achievement bar up a level and I’ve been quite proud how far I have pushed myself there. I’m not sure if we are going to go back into a gym shut down though, seeing how other provinces have done so, so that’s just depressing.

The Kahtoola running spikes that seemed to be massive upgrades over my previous spikes, but might have burst my Vapor Max Air chambers
Running with O in one of the major ravine trails near his neighborhood. Fantastic ambience with he cloud cover and snow with this night run. Definitely feeling gassed compared to him.
Running amongst the pathways – the extensive walkways lead to many interesting areas to run – could be a nice substitute if we end up not moving to a place near a ravine or river valley.
Lots of neat houses overlooking the ravine- this house even has a nice private pathway down to the running trail from its backyard.
The pathways leads down to a nice little creek. Incredible down here- I’d imagine summer would be killer with all the greenery.
The cables are something I would find hard pressed to splurge on at MSRP but at a discount its about right for me- they add a nice little aesthetic to my set up.

My camera game keeps going up- like beyond what I thought it would be when I was getting my first DSC-F77 back in first year and being wildly excited over digital photography. This was the year I really embraced my full frame game with additions of the a99 II being especially huge. Absolutely my favourite camera so much so I have little interest in modern FE mount bodies. I had thought I might be slowing with A mount stuff when I grabbed the 12-24 F4 G FE lens recently to add to my wide angle coverage recently….but no. I went to one of my favourite local electronics shops in Ontario that seems to have bought out all the old Sony Store stock when they closed up in Canada years ago; and now I own a 24-105 f3.5-4.5 and 16-35 f2.8 Zeus’s zoom lens. The 24-105 is a Minolta remnant and seems largely similar to the pre Sony buyout Konica Minolta lens – no SSM motor and loud screw driven but relatively not as loud. Doesn’t use the full AF module in the a99 II – only uses the centre AF points as its likely seen as an old unsupported third party lens- the lens was discontinued by Sony years ago- and was old even for A-mount. Really compact though and nice to have a nice zoom range on a very small/light body; decent reviews from Kurt Munger on this lens too with centre sharpness; in comparison, modern mirrorless lenses seem to be much more expensive, larger – and not necessarily better- apertures are slower and lenses are not necessarily sharper. So actually maybe a win for me. And its really not much different in aperture from a typical f4 24-105 zoom like the modern G lens. It’s a nice lens if I don’t want to carry the heavy 24-70 Zeiss f2.8. It’s also more useful of a range compared to the 24-70 f4 Zeiss FE lens and still smaller of a lens (not to mention possibly sharper). Anyways I wasn’t really planning on getting another lens, and especially another wide angle lens, as I had made an active decision to get the 12-24 f4 G over the 16-35 GM but I got such a discount on the 24-105 I had to ask (more than 75% off the 2008 price off- maybe 85% off the cost with inflation in 2022 standards). So I asked about the 16-35 f2.8 Zeiss….and I got it for 1/3 the MSRP, brand new. Yes its the Mark I so slower SSM motor, possibly different lens coatings and no weather sealing, but that’s a massive price difference. I also prefer the SAL version over the FE version. Sony stopped branding their premium lenses with Zeiss recently, and I like the branding even if it doesn’t actually mean that much. It’s weird though- the 16mm is actually quite a bit different than 12mm (I knew that but still) – the lens doesn’t feel like an ultra wide when I shoot with it, but I might be used to the 12mm on the G lens or the 13mm on the iPhone 12 Pro Max . Anyways now I have two ultra wide zooms and I’m supporting two systems. Wow. I think at some point I’m going to get a modern FE body – likely that supports the LA-EA5 adapter, as I do not intend to buy the equivalent FE lenses to replace my A lenses. So far it seems I am on the path of heavy zooms on the A-mount.

My audio game really went up this year. Like not really in a needed way – but I did anyways; I upgraded my headphone and earphone game with the MDR-Z1r and IER-Z1R when I defended my doctoral thesis because naturally Sony’s flagships seemed fitting for the occasion. This season I was saving for the TA-ZH1ES headphone amplifier to compliment these two cans, but again, an impromptu visit to my fave local store here gave me the PHA-3 portable headphone amplifier which was not on my list at all- however the price was quite reasonable (although I did see I was not charged the negotiated price including tax which stings with the HST price; but I got so many extras and great service that I can live with it- and importantly I love these kinds of stores in comparison to shopping at big box chains or worse, Amazon). So then, naturally it seemed fitting to also have some nice cable support- Sony created premium high end cables when it got into the HiRes marketing years ago- with premium Sony cables and premium Sony/Kimber Kabyle cables. I….I got both kinds. For different set ups. Again for a great price. I personally don’t see audio quality changes as a primary driver for these cables- its more for the look, esp with the Kimber Kable. And it seems like they might not be all on sale anymore too, so finding them new in box is great. Worse, I just found out (but really should have expected) that the Sony Kimber Kables have been faked, which would explain the hella cheap versions on eBay and Ali express. New cables sell for quite a bit still and with questionable authenticity, it seemed worth it to get them from a reputable reseller at a good discount. I also got to experience my first balanced cable set up with he PHA-3 and my WH-1000XM2 in wired mode. Not exactly the best audiophile headphones but a neat set up still, using the PHA-3 in to DAC mode on my iPad with Amazon Prime Music. Will be interesting to see how the PHA3 does with the Z1R series. I also bought a balanced cable for the MMCX connector- technically I could use it with the IER-Z1R but I have heard that frequent cable changes can lead to damaged connectors so I am planning on using the stock cable with the IER-Z1R and the upgrade cable with the XBA-H3 which really has not had a lot of love since I got the MDR-EX1000 as my primary in ear monitor. I’m still hoping to grab the TA-ZH1ES to round out my signature series at some point but…I’ve gone kind of nuts with this stuff so probably some breathing space to appreciate it all would be good. Realistically the biggest fish in the sea to grab would be speakers with some intention from me to grab the AR or equivalent Sony speakers but that is def far down the road. The other would be the near field Sony speakers that I don’t recall the model number because they are so expensive they aren’t even a save up and splurge, they are like a set a 10 year goal plan purchase. I’ve got plenty of vintage Sony speakers though that have not had the love of a full set up in a home to fill the gap though in the mean time- I’m especially hoping to grab the ED matched subwoofer for the LA500ED because I feel those speakers are crying for a subwoofer set up. Lots of stuff to look forward to with music listening.

Some of the selection at the store- there’s plenty of old merchandise in here- look at that a700 dual lens kit box! Crazy. If I didn’t have one already I would make an offer to grab it. That a77ii looks pretty tempting for me- its a modernish a-mount body which would pair great with the 16-50 f2.8 and 16-80 Zeiss but …I have too many bodies right now.

Which brings me to my next reflection on 2021- lots of reading. Not as much as I could actually be doing, but more than I have done in some time; now that I am done school, I can actually read leisurely which is nice not to do things with a pressure. Most of my reading has been work related which also helps me with my day to day work stuff. I also really enjoy listening to my music set up while I am reading. I’ve been focusing on a series of journal from the North American Psychiatric Clinics where they seem to focus on different issues – the last few I have been looking at include emotional outbursts, ADHD, sleep, and current topics including screen time and children, particularly relevant with how much online school and interaction is occurring with COVID. I’ve also picked up a new book from Walmart pertaining to organizing life based off a Harvard psychiatrist and life coach ; I haven’t really had time to dig into this book just yet being out travelling, but its been nice to read. I find it helpful in my own personal life but also my practice

Gym time in the hotel – just me and me only. Restrictions just got worse and no gyms are open now- many of the hotels we looked at had no gym access, so I got lucky even if it was not like my home gym. I have a feeling our home gym is going to be be shut down seeing that Ontario and BC have clo
Breakfast in the hotel- seeing that it was the one included item in our place, I made a point to break intermittent fasting to eat breakfast- it was nice but I felt bloated. And I got tired of the fake eggs stuff like this quiche patty thing.

Travelling- this year we travelled to two places- a brief stay in Banff and Toronto at the year’s end where I am currently blogging. Banff was interesting- it was fairly strict in following COVID guidelines including the Main Street outside, where security regularly policed non maskers. We didn’t do much indoors- most of the time was outdoor excursions with brief forays inside to grab food. We spent time on the gondola which was quite pretty to see the town and all its glory from the mountain top; did some skating; and did a lot of walking around. I think people were generally friendly too. I’ve been quite apprehensive about interacting with people in seeing all the polarizing perspectives on COVID and politics in general in the last five years in particular. Thankfully everyone was quite great when we were out and about. The hotel stay was nice, but lots of things like gym amenities were unavailable. Fortunately, me taking up winter running lead me to being able to still stay active and run during our stay outside and there was a decent trail near our hotel.

Toronto- this was an interesting trip. We have spent the last two years figuring out how people including family, friends, and work colleagues have been with the pandemic and determining different comfort levels of everyone ; the flight in Toronto was great but the flight back had one kid constantly taking his mask off and blowing his nose and the other dude beside me had a throat mask.

Friends- lots of good food with friends- a deep dish pizza from Decadent pizza (name?) that had the most delectable tastes with mushroom and bacon; and then a hot honey based pizza post run is just a hit the spot moment. And then some congee and Hainan chicken/long donuts/dumplings/rice rolls; and then my fave – Caribbean take out with some really solid goat curry and oxtail. All really really solid food. We also had some burgers that were pretty decent- better than Burgers Priests portobello mushroom burger. This was a great way to connect with my one main man in Toronto O. Going for regular runs and then mashing up some good food afterwards. As much fun as it was running with him, it was pretty tiring- hes just way to tall and his stride is just too much; also he was killing it at F45 for conditioning, whereas for me I was really focusing on strength and less conditioning after blowing out my foot for the eightieth time this fall. It was really great to run with O; got to have some great late night chats about life. I did get to have a short chat with friends back home on Zoom for New Years but that was a little less in depth but still great to see everyone. Overall friends were really great this year- I think we finally figured out a dance with COVID that let us get together and make some great memories over the year- I think generally we have all been on a similar level of caution which helps a lot with how we interact with each other. Additionally, politically we tend to also be similar, which helps because unfortunately it is so political now with everything. I’m also excited with reconnecting with O recently, we have started new daily goals again- I’m watching food intake, water intake, reading, and exercise. Should be dope and a great way to stay connected cross country.

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