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February 2019 Retrospective

In my January retrospective I wrote that I did not like the final structure of the article. It took over eight hours to write but still felt like the ramblings of a schizophrenic and those three massive lists at the end made it look like a BuzzFeed article. I'm still not quite sure what ideal structure of these things is so I am going to try and experiment again this month.

Instead of reviewing my goals for the previous month at the end of the article let's try starting off with them. If you look back at past retrospectives you'll see I only spend a line or two on each goal because I wrote about them tangentially earlier. Let's try flipping that on its head and go in-depth during the review process. Maybe I'll find that normal sections can be much more terse or even omitted entirely because they are adequately covered when reviewing my goals.

Review February's Goals

Before I start I want to note that almost every single goal I set fell into one of two categories. It was either valid for every day of the month while also being instantly failable or it could be completed in a single day. There weren't really any goals that instilled good behaviour week after week. I was either perfect all the time or failed horribly.

For example, there was nothing like read your book at least three different days a week or don't watch TV at least one day a week. All of the goals were completely overbearing such as "exercise every day" or "no sugary snacks" which go directly against the rules I set for my New Year's Resolutions.

That being said I am not certain this is a bad thing. Maybe two many goals like that aren't ideal but at least they are only valid for a month. Perhaps goals that push you hard are good stepping stones for bigger things like my New Year's resolutions.

Anyways I am rambling again. Let's actually start reviewing these things.

โœ… Greens every day for lunch.
The salad bar at work is solid so this was an easy goal to meet. I genuinely looked forward to seeing what the daily specials were. It also helped cut down on the amount of other things I ate during lunch which is another win. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to keep me full for very long which leads directly into the next goal.

๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ No sugary snacks!
I don't even know where to begin. Muffins, chocolate almonds, ice cream sandwiches, red licorice, chocolate raisins, carrot cake. We even bought cupcakes on multiple fucking occasions! The only way I could have given a bigger middle finger to this goal was if I bought a can of whipped cream and shot it directly into my mouth.

I have praised having a supermarket in the lobby of our building many times before but it definitely makes it way too easy to get sweets. Speaking of making things way too easy...

๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ No carb heavy meals from the supermarket.
You'd think a ramen bar in a supermarket wouldn't be appetizing but you'd be entirely wrong in our case. Not to mention the burritos, sandwiches and shepherd's pie they also have. I did my ancestors proud and carb loaded the whole month to help get me through this arduous California winter where it sometimes got down to single digits Celsius. The horror!

โœ… Cook dinner at least once every weekend.
OK finally we have a good reason to live above a supermarket. Every weekend we would go downstairs and pick up everything needed to make a nice, healthy dinner. Steak & asparagus or paleo burgers were our goto meals but I will admit that one weekend we simply heated up a pizza in the oven. It was a healthier, thin-crust pizza though I swear!

๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ Exercise every day.
Another of the instantly failable goals that I broke for the first time on February 8th and proceeded to break at least a dozen more times, which is pretty bad in a month with only 28 days. I used the "Lacey woke me up" excuse many times but I'll be honest and admit that my sleeping habits are garbage. Getting into bed after 10 pm and then using my iPhone for an hour is not the way to way asleep.

๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ Run a 10K.
Probably not surprising that I didn't run a 10K when I barely managed to wake up in the morning. Even when I did I usually went to either the bouldering gym or yoga. The couple of days that wasn't the case it was raining heavily I just used the gym in our building instead.

๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ Start lifting weights. Specifically target your back muscles.
Those two or three days I used the gym in my building I did lift weights but I am not going to give myself a pass because I really didn't put my heart into it. I did manage to do 30 push-ups again so at least I am not losing my strength, but I am still a long way before I can considering myself "lifting weights".

โœ… Build and fly a drone.
I actually did this in the very first week of February. I bought my parts on the 1st and wrote an article about it. I then built and flew the drone on the 6th and wrote another article on how I did that. But that was the last time I played with my drone for the rest of the month. I wanted to try again but I was so uncertain about how to fly properly that I couldn't bring myself to unpack the drone.

In an effort to set goals that instill good habits throughout the month, I am going to fly my drone at least once every week in March. I have four batteries that last five minutes each so draining them every week should be a very reasonable goal.

โœ… Read Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs.
I started reading it February 10th and finished on the 18th. It wasn't the page turner I was hoping for but there were enough interesting anecdotes that I was always curious as to what came next.

If you are unfamiliar with the book it is written by Ken Kocienda who was a software engineer at Apple when the original iPhone was built. I hoped that the book would be an in-depth look at that whole process but unfortunately it mostly focused on what Ken worked on. It started with the inception of Safari in 2001, the creation and launch of the iPhone in 2007 and a brief mention of the iPad keyboard in 2010. I am certain Ken worked on other things but for the purposes of this book he focused on those three. However, this only took up about half of the book.

The other half was Ken waxing poetically about Apple's design culture and this was where the book faltered in my opinion. He never really gave a good explanation as to why Apple's design process is so great. He would use flowerly language and everything would boil down to "this was the way Apple did it and it turned out great". On multiple occasions he praised when Steve Jobs (or someone else higher up) would come in and make a snap decision that everyone rallied around. He treated it like it was the only possible solution to the problem. He made it sound like Apple could do no wrong even though we know the first five or so versions of iOS had tons of glaring mistakes. But we overlooked them because there was so much else revolutionary about the device. To say Apple was infallible because the iPhone was such a huge success is disingenuous in my opinion.

It is still a decent book and I would recommend it for anyone who wants an insider look into how the iPhone was built. But it feels like an engineer looking back at the prime of his career through rose coloured glasses so take everything with a grain of salt.

๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ Read Cyberpunk 2020.
This will be the fourth straight month (at least) that I have failed to complete this goal. Maybe I will finally get around to reading it sometime this year but it will not be because it is a monthly goal.

โœ… Beat Claire's scenario in Resident Evil 2.
I believe I started this on February 7th and finished it on February 8th in 4 hours 40 minutes. I was actually so interested in the game that I went back and replayed both Leon and Claire's scenarios because I wanted to get the vaunted S+ ranking. It took me 2 hours 18 minutes to S+ Leon and 2 hours 13 minutes to S+ Claire.

After all of that I am still enamored with this game and plan to beat both Leon and Claire's second run (maybe even S+ them) in March.

โœ… Start a new video game.
I played both Anthem and Apex Legends this month. I have way too much to write about these games so I am going to give them their own standalone sections further down.

โœ… Schedule some driving lessons and pass my behind-the-wheel test.
I passed but I should have done much better. I wasn't near the fail threshold but the mistakes I made where rudimentary ones that are unacceptable after 16+ years of experience. I am a bit more rusty behind-the-wheel than I thought.

But let's put that in the past. I can finally drive in California and that means road trip! I am still in the preliminary phases but hopefully we'll get to drive somewhere in April.

โœ… File taxes.
Trump's tax cuts may be screwing a lot of Americans but I don't seem to be one of them. The government owes me some cash money after I filed my taxes early.

โœ… Redraw something else on my iPad.
This one came in just under the wire and I am not really happy with my effort. I drew a turtle eating pizza again but it felt like a chore. I do want to do more drawing but I need to find a new way to motivate myself.

๐Ÿ™…๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ Consume less digital media.
I honestly thought I had consumed more digital media this month than the previous three combined but when I went back to those monthly retrospectives I realized that I have actually been pretty consistent. Last month I wrote with respect to consuming digital media: "I don't know how to measure this but I to want ensure I at least look back on it next month" and it has been a really sobering thing to do so.

Just look at what I spent my time watching this month:

Some quick back-of-the-napkin math gets at least 80 hours of watching the TV which means about 35% of my waking, non-working time was spent in front of the boob tube. That does not seem healthy.

Thoughts on Last Month's Goals

I gotta say, I really do like writing more about these goals. I have a much better understanding than ever before as to why I set them and why I failed. Previously I would write around my goals a lot and then rip off one or two sentences to quickly justify why I could or could not complete them. It is obvious that there is much more nuance than that. I think I will continue to do this in future monthly retrospectives.

As far what I should have done differently that seems fairly obvious. If I had gotten off my ass and ate less this actually may have been a pretty solid month. Sure I would still not have read Cyberpunk 2020 or watched less TV but I would have completed the majority of my goals.

So looking forward to march it seems that there three tentpole goals to achieve: sleep better and exercise, eat healthy, and watch less TV.

Exercise

I have harped on my shitty exercising enough for this article so let's work out what I need to do in March. Getting out of bed only four days a week is obviously not acceptable so how about we start with exercising a minimum of six days and the seventh can be a rest day. If I am still feeling up to it maybe I could do some light cardio but let's not kill myself yet.

Of those six days what kind of exercising should I do? Three days of bouldering still seems like a great idea. It is one of the few things that actually motivates me to get out of bed. For the other three I am thinking either lifting weights or yoga. These activities will be much more draining than the 30 minutes on the elliptical I would cop-out with before.

So continue to boulder, lift more weights, do more yoga, increase my strength, improve my flexibility. When you summarize it like that it doesn't seem too hard now does it?

Food

Here is my goal for March

I can't trust myself to not eat junk food so let's take away that ability entirely. For March if I am going to have breakfast or dinner it can only be a Soylent drink. If I need to snack outside those times I can have only fresh fruit or vegetables.

Lunch will be the one exception. It will be difficult to have access to chilled Soylent at work so I am going to set some strict rules as to what I can eat. Every lunch must start with a large salad. Only after I have finished that can I go back and get a serving of whatever protein is being served while minimizing my carbs.

I do realize that this is not a great diet for someone who wants to put on muscle but I am going to focus on burning fat first. Eating at a calorie deficit and exercising more should make serious inroads towards that goal. Once I've lost some fat I can then make little tweaks to improve myself.

Anthem

Where to start with Anthem? Maybe the most telling thing I could say is that I signed up for EA's Origin access premier service because I did not want to pay full price for the game. I was almost certain I wouldn't play it more than I month so I thought a $15 / month rental was the best choice and so far I have been proven correct.

I am not sure who Anthem is trying to serve. It is an incredibly average "looter shooter" like Destiny, The Division or Warframe. The problem is that of all the things you would expect from a looter shooter, Anthem does them worse. Finding loot is worse. Customizing your character is worse. Equipping gear is worse. Starting missions is worse. Exploring the world is worse. Even the gunplay and character abilities are sub-par. Anthem has only two things going for it that no other looter shooter has: flight and obscenely pretty graphics.

Anthem was suppose to be different because it was BioWare! This is the company that brought us Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, Dragon Age and Mass Effect. They were suppose to take those amazing storytelling chops and bring them to a looter shooter which was something no one thought could be done. Instead they made a poor xerox of the original Destiny without any of the improvements that occurred over the three years after that game was released.

I don't think there is anything BioWare can do to save Anthem. So many of these bad decisions are baked into the core of the game. It would take years of patches to fix everything and that would only get them on par with other games in the genre. The Division 2 launches in two weeks. How many players are going to move onto it to see if it is the one that catches their interest?

Apex Legends

I had high hopes for Apex Legends. I am a massive fan of Respawn Entertainment and the two Titanfall games are some of the best first-person shooters of all time. But while Respawn's first step into the battle royale genre was a breath of fresh air, their inexperience with a game of this type really shows and there were just too many rough edges to keep me playing.

The first 10 hours were amazing. Everything was all shiny and new. Trying to figure out the weapons and game mechanics every match was an adventure. Sure there were disconnects, crashes, and players quitting but there was always something else that kept me going.

After about 10 hours I had a good handle on the game and wanted to start winning. Every time it would crash or disconnect I would get frustrated. Every time a teammate would immediately quit pissed me off. Every time a teammate rushed off after landing, died and then did not wait to be respawned would make me question why am I wasting my time with this game?

The tipping point was probably the dozenth or so time when I had to ask myself "how did I not kill that player?" Apex's main problem in my mind seems to be the time it takes to kill an enemy and how little information you have about their health. Sometimes a shotgun shell would instantly down a player other times it wouldn't. Sometimes two shots would down a player and sometimes it wouldn't. Was it the armor? Did I not actually hit them? Was it lag? The number of times I died and wasn't sure why just became too much.

Obviously no one likes losing and looking for an excuse is common. I won't deny I do that. But when I can't figure out what I need to change that is a problem. If I am clicking the "Play" button just so I can roll the dice and see if this time things turn out in my favour, I'd much rather play a competitive game like Dota 2 where your skill plays the most important factor and luck fades to the background.

Books

I wrote about Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs above but before I read it I finished reading Mona Lisa Overdrive. Everything I wrote about it in January continued straight to the end of the book so it was a pretty disappointing read. Neuromancer had set such a high bar that I guess it was foolish to think the sequels could surpass it.

After Creative Selection I was on the hunt for another book and Elsie turned me onto Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. I am about 62% through this book and it makes my blood boil. Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh Balwani are absolute sociopaths that should be put behind bars. Their actions destroyed the health and wellbeing of countless employees, defrauded investors of hundreds of millions of dollars with outright lies and deceit, and even directly lead to the suicide of someone.

The worst thing about all of this is how long they were able to get away with it. It was over a decade of this sleezy, reprehensible behaviour before anyone actually called them out on their bullshit and finally got the law involved. And even after that it still took another four years before the company folded completely.

There is something seriously wrong with Silicon Valley and the people who occupy it because this decoupling of work and empathy is all too common and this book is just an example of when it goes to the extreme. There are probably hundreds of other companies that behave something like it because too many people have deluded themselves into thinking they are "changing the world" no matter what the cost.

Review New Year's Resolutions

So what kind of progress did I make towards my New Year's resolutions this month?

1. Get my driver's license and go on a road trip
I got my driver's license and started planning a road trip (hopefully for April) so we are getting dangerously close to completing this.

2. Lose body fat
I doubt you will be shocked to read that it went up again. Turns out muffins, chocolate almonds, ice cream sandwiches, red licorice, chocolate raisins, carrot cake and cupcakes make you fat.

3. Do 50 push-ups and 20 pull-ups
I mentioned this earlier but I managed to do 30 push-ups again but couldn't go beyond. I don't expect to see much progress on this goal in March since the odds of me gaining significant amounts of muscle are low but I hope to rebound and make some progress in April.

4. Find a side project or hobby
I honestly completely forgot that I was suppose to do this but I did build the AcroBee drone so maybe my subconscious remembered. I didn't really spent too much time with my drone which I hope to rectify in March. I also hope to do some more serious drawing which could also count towards this resolution.

5. Read six different types of books
I would classify both Creative Selection and Bad Blood as non-fiction books. That would mean that I have read two different types so far this year: science fiction and non-fiction.

Once I finish reading Bad Blood I plan to change it up next by reading something historical about World War 2 or maybe just go back to my roots and choose some high fantasy.

6. Complete unique 24 scenarios in Gloomhaven
Unfortunately we were only able to beat one scenario this month due to scheduling conflicts. We've still completed five scenarios so far this year which puts us ahead of the pace needed to complete 24 by year's end. Still I would have liked to maintain the pace of two a month so we could have some leeway near the end of the year.

7. Be proactive at work and take on tasks that increase my visibility
I originally was going to write about how I was not being proactive at all but when I thought about it more I realized that I was doing it in very subtle ways. I am taking part in a very painful migration that most engineers do not want to deal with and it is allowing me to be exposed to different facets of the app as well as requiring me to communicate with many engineers. It may not be some sexy big project that everyone knows about but I am definitely not being sequestered to some closet under the stairs.

8. Grade my mood multiple times a day
I continued to do it every day and the results are still far from ideal. The average has gone down and more days are "bad" rather than "neutral". Even the weekends aren't having the up-tick I would expect. Maybe because subconsciously I am upset with how much time I am wasting watching TV.

9. Run a half-marathon
Haven't done anything specifically for this yet.

March Goals

OK we need to wrap this one up because somehow it is longer than my January retrospective.

Exercising, health, TV. These are the three areas I must focus on in March. I am going to continue to try and explore other hobbies and continue playing copious amounts of video games but those three areas I must succeed at and these are the goals I think that will help me get there:

#MonthlyRetrospective

๐ŸŽฎ