Friday, December 31, 2021

A few things that made my 2021 interesting..

Two Arctic seas meeting, a late midnight
2021 is still a pandemic year that often felt like 2020. However, overall, the year was more positive. It was not better than my pre-pandemic best years (2019, 2017, 2015, and 2013). But this post focuses on the happy moments.

1. The Alaskan Arctic, twice - in the peak summer and the peak winter!

Witnessed the Arctic transforming completely with seasons from 24 hours sunlight to no sunrise. Visit Alaska was my childhood dream since 2001. After two decades, visited twice this year, and experienced the taiga and tundra biomes of Alaska.

2. A "Polar Bear Plunge" in the Northernmost Point of Alaska in the North Slope Borough

On a fine summer day, I jumped into the Arctic Ocean at Point Barrow (Nuvuk), where the Chukchi sea meets the Beaufort Sea. Nuvuk and Utqiagvik are now the northernmost and westernmost points I have ever been to. The water was not as cold as I anticipated. But I had to dry myself quickly and put my layers of clothes back on - as outside air in Utqiagvik was cold even in the peak summer, and water on skin makes it feel colder.

3. Witnessing Northern Lights two nights consecutively!

On New Year's Eve and the night of Jan 1st, 2022. The NYE had a magical feeling to it.

Valley of Fire State Park, NV

4.  Exploring the culinary scene of Northern Virginia (NOVA).

A calm Uzbek restaurant in Arlington and a seafood restaurant in Alexandria.

5. Getting stuck in Fairbanks in a historical "Icemageddon."

Canceled and delayed flights lengthened my stay from 4 nights to 6 nights. I handled an extremely volatile itinerary elegantly.

6. Long walks on cold Arctic winter temperatures of -34C, feels like -40C.

The weather app warned frostbites to exposed skin in 2 minutes and asked not to go outdoors. I did. I got a frostnip on my left thumb once too. 

7. Spencer Glacier and the blue glaciers of Whittier and surroundings

A scenic hike and standing in Spencer glaciers, and short walks in Whittier.

8. The view from Mount Evans, high at 4,348 m elevation

It is the highest I have ever been. And the scenic drive with mountain goats in the streets.

9. Arriving at Las Vegas, NV via long dark streets from Kanab, UT 

Slushies in Las Vegas was the weakest alcohol I have ever tried. 

10. The desert landscapes of NV and CA

Licked (!! because, why not?) some salt from the lowest elevations (-86 m) of death valley, and some hikes in the valley of fire, Joshua tree, and Mojave parks and forests.

11. The French Quarter of New Orleans

It has this genuine European charm and nightlife that I haven't felt elsewhere in the USA.

Mount Evans, a Fourteener of CO.
12. Witnessing the bore tides in real-time from the train ride

From Anchorage towards the south, magnificent views of mudflats and glacier-covered mountains of Chugach National Forest.

13. 20 km frequent weekend walks in Atlanta Beltline west and south and Stone mountain trail

More explorations of South and West Atlanta; leisure walks in roadsides of various neighborhoods such as Edgewood, Cabbage town,  and College Park; and interesting mini hikes such as Doll's Head Trail/Constitution Lakes Park.

14. Disconnecting from the world in Charlotte.

Long weekend brief trips are fun. I liked the 7th Street Public Market.

15. EmoryBMI Google Summer of Code - a successful summer as a mentor for two projects and the org admin

Our sister organization caMicroscope had a productive summer too, I learned from their mentors. 

16. The 2 Pfizer shots and the Moderna booster

They gave hope for a year that overwhelmingly felt like a twin of depressing 2020.

Spencer Glacier in summer
17. Crossing the bridge to Camden, NJ from Philadelphia, PA.

Almost summer - but it was rainy and cold. Thankfully, Philly had some nice cafes.

18. Getting soaked in a heavy thunderstorm in Bonita Lakes Park in Meridian, MS.

The town has some ghost vibes, like a haunted town. I won't recommend walking alone there at nights. It is a ghost paradise.

19. Burgers and CBD water outside the Illegal Burger restaurant, Denver downtown
Met some interesting strangers in Denver/Colfax, Idaho Springs, Boulder, and Littleton.

20. Accepted journal papers - a productive year for research.

Niffler at Journal of Digital Imaging (JDI), NEXUS at IEEE Access, and Viseu at Elsevier Computer Networks (COMNET).

21. Regular dentist visits after a decade. It was expensive.

Since I did not spend considerable time with humans this year, my dentist became the person I most interacted with this year.

22. Exploring Washington DC with my former colleague.

It reminded our Atlanta walks pre-pandemic in 2020.

New Orleans French Quarter
23. Discovering Chungha's music and becoming a fan.

INNA, my all-time favorite since 2013 from Romania, also had some great music this year.

24. A colorful view from the apartment in central Portland.

It was a trip-inside-a-trip from Seattle in a serial trip. In such backpacking trips, especially including flights, packing-unpacking-and-repacking, ensuring not to mix the still-clean clothes with dirty/used ones, is an art.

25. Up and downhills of Seattle on rainy Thanksgiving days.

The Chinatown / International District was nice for a good walk, despite the bad weather.

26. Software-Defined Systems SDS 2021 Conference.

Nice to meet my peers, although it was virtual. I was also the technical program committee (TPC) chair.

27. Snow covered Christmas Eve in Anchorage

This was my first white Christmas, everything covered in heaps of snow and snowflakes falling occasionally. Loved that feeling. I used icicles to write Happy New Year on snow. 2021 was easily my most favorite and unique Christmas.

Walking across the frozen Chena River
28. Crossing Chena River on foot from Pike's Landing, College, AK.

To get a selfie with the "Love Alaska" sign on Christmas day. In the winter, this "path" is also known as "Ice Bridge" but becomes an actively flowing river when it gets warmer in spring to autumn.

29. Reading a book outside in the snow by the fireside in Fairbanks.

Thanks to the hotel's library and the beautiful view that the snow had crafted.

30. Dangerously slippery roads of downtown Fairbanks

Walked across the entire downtown Fairbanks on various types of snow, ice, and slush - The good traction for my long boots prevented me from slipping on the heaps of snow with ice layers.

Every year, I have one new year's resolution - to outperform my previous years. :) 2021 was not a bad year, and comparing it with my pre-pandemic years is unfair. It was better than 2020, and it was the best I could achieve solo in a pandemic. I expect 2022 to bring an end to this crisis and bring back happiness to the 2019 pre-pandemic level. I wish you a happy new year. Thanks for reading my list until the end. You may read the blog posts of all the previous years as well.

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