Brad Bennett’s favourite things of 2020

I’ve been inside since March… my favourite thing is sunlight.

Beyond that, I got excited about a few gadgets this year, a new car and of course some games and movies.

I spent a little more time in the woods this summer and back visiting my parents, which was a nice change of pace from how cold and empty Toronto is at this time of year.

Looking back, I wish that I had something fun or wise to say about 2020, but instead, I’m just happy to be through it, and I’m looking forward to revamping my home office 100 more times until I someday get to go back to see my co-workers.

Without further ado, these are the things that I liked the most this year.

My wooden boats

When I was nine years old, my grandpa built me a cedar strip kayak to use since he and my grandma lived on a lake, and I spent a lot of my summertime there paddling around.

When he was younger, he also built a cedar strip canoe. Since then, the kayak was luckily stored in the garage, but the canoe didn’t fare as well. Instead, it sat outside and withstood the elements the best it could.

Since I was able to work remotely for long periods this summer, I got to go home and live with my parents and my grandpa for a few weeks and restore his old canoe. This meant that my cousin, my grandpa and I stripped off all the fibreglass, reapplied a new sheet and a few fresh coats of epoxy and urethane.

While the canoe isn’t in as good of shape as it used to be, it still floats and I think it looks awesome. Plus, it’s unbelievably light for a 16-foot canoe. I’m not sure what else I can say about this, other than if you’re interested in making a cedar strip boat and you have a lot of time and space, you should do it.

If you’re interested in learning more, there is a great YouTube series by Nick Schade that breaks down how to do it.

Fujifilm X-T3 and lenses


This year I finally stepped up my photography game by picking up a Fujifilm X-T3 and two lenses: the 35mm f/2 prime and the XF 16-55 f/2.3 zoom.

Previously, I used a smaller Canon Eos M5 with an equally small 15-45mm f/3.5 kit lens and the Fuji is a massive upgrade. Earlier in the year, I dipped my toes into the Fujifilm ecosystem when I tested out the Fuji X-T200 and walked away impressed with the little camera. From there, I pined over cameras for a few months before finally settling on the X-T3 once the right sale came around.

Since then, I’ve been loving the camera and the images I’m able to take. The simple step up in lens quality and sensor size is definitely the most significant upgrade for me, allowing me to take shots at night that my old Canon would kill with noise.

While I still haven’t mastered the new Fuji in the same way as my older Canon, I’m looking forward to spending more time with the camera over the next few years. I’m especially looking forward to its video performance and figuring that out once it comes time to shoot my next MobileSyrup video.

My bike

Like many other people, I bought a bike to have an excuse to go outside more during the summer.

Instead of getting something new, I opted to get a fixed-gear steel frame bike off Kijiji. After slapping a brake on it and learning the weird quirks of fixed-gear riding, I started to fall more and more in love with my simple bike.

Like the canoe, there is something enjoyable to me about disconnecting from your phone and just going on a short journey. The bike was great at being able to do that, and I’ve been missing it now that it’s colder out and I’m too much of a baby to go for bike rips.

That said, I’m excited to tune it up at some point this winter and get ready for another fun summer of tearing up the city.

The 2020 Porsche Taycan

Yeah, I lied. My bike wasn’t actually my favourite form of transportation this year. If you really want to move, there is no better way than the Porsche Taycan.

This car can hit 0-100km in about three seconds, and it feels like an absolute powerhouse when you’re behind the wheel. I got to spend about a week with this monster, and it ruined regular economy cars for me.

I’ve fallen so in love with the feeling of driving electric vehicles that I’m looking forward to the next few years so I can hopefully test drive a few more to get a better understanding of how the EV market works and what makes one better than another.

That said, after my time with the Porsche, I’m sold on electric cars taking over gasoline vehicles as soon as possible.

Top songs and albums

While I don’t have a definitive favourite song of the year, I can say that the new album from The Avalanches called We Will Always Love You is a fantastic third outing for the band’s remaining members.

Beyond that, bands like Waxahatchee, Perfume Genius and JPEGMAFIA got a ton of playtime on my Spotify throughout the year. If you’re interested in some of the new music from 2020 that I listened to, I] have a Spotify playlist.

Outside of Spotify, I fell for Sonos’ fantastic radio show called “Radio Hour.” These hour-long episodes see small names and famous artists sitting down to DJ a set for the company. This is supposed to be a hook to convince people that Sonos is the best place to listen to music, and it’s pretty good. That said, if you don’t have a Sonos speaker, I recommend checking out the Radio Hour sessions on MixCloud, where you can also listen to them for free.

Hades

The latest title from Supergiant Games fell onto my radar this year and I became obsessed. This game puts you in the shoes of Zagreus, the son of Hades, as he attempts to escape hell time after time.

Without going into much detail, the game has an unexpectedly compelling story, super satisfying gameplay and a unique hook.

This hook combines the game’s story with the actual gameplay and the game rules of a roguelike game. Roguelike titles are defined as a subgenre of games that task the player with replaying similar gameplay sections to make it further and further with each attempt.

In Hades, these sections are your repeated escape attempts from hell. What the game does that’s so magical is its masterful blend of story and game by making roguelike elements part of the story’s diegesis.

On top of that, the game has an incredible dialogue system that makes sure each time you talk to a character, you get a new response, and it’s often related to your place in the story, who you interacted with before or how your last run went. Seriously, there are often times when I was surprised with how well the characters in the game knew what was happening with the overarching story and the small details of my previous run through hell.

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