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March 2019 Retrospective

For the first week of March everything felt great. I was making progress towards almost every one of my goals and seriously thought this could be the month where I finally complete them all. But on Saturday the 9th I woke up with a tickle in my throat and everything took a turn for the worst. For the next 10 days I abandoned most of my goals by eating whatever I wanted and sleeping in late every morning. The cold I developed got so bad I ended up taking a day off work just to rest. Things were exacerbated by the fact that Lacey's sleeping habits regressed and nary a night went by where I was not woken up at 4am by her caterwauling.

By the time my cold had subsided the damage was already done and I resigned myself to slothfulness for the remainder of the month. I barely exercised and continued to eat anything and everything I wanted. My routine in the evenings barely changed. After arriving home from work I would eat dinner, watch TV / YouTube or play video games until bedtime. When I started writing this article I planned to chastise myself for this behavior but when I looked back I realized my goals for the month pushed me towards this. Outside of exercising and eating properly none of my other goals really occupied significant parts of my time. They were mostly quick distractions that didn't actually push me towards trying anything new.

In February I wrote "Exercising, health, TV. These are the three areas I must focus on in March." and I failed on all three fronts. I can only hope to learn from my mistakes by attempting to understand why I made them and set better goals for April.

Review March's Goals

🙅🏻‍♂️ Breakfast and dinner can only be Soylent drinks.
When I got sick I failed this goal within 24 hours. I gave my body everything it needed to fight off the cold and that did not include Soylent. If I had managed to return to this goal after my cold had ended I would have happily considered it completed but instead I continued to gorge myself for the rest of the month.

🙅🏻‍♂️ Snacks can only be fresh fruit or vegetables.
When I stopped drinking Soylent for breakfast and dinner I also stopped eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Ice cream sandwiches are so delicious when you have a sore throat. Not to mention soft pound cake or crunchy potato chips.

🙅🏻‍♂️ Lunches must start with salad and then I can get some protein after.
Why have a salad for lunch when you can have fried chicken or a burrito full of french fries?

🙅🏻‍♂️ Exercise at least six days a week.
It almost seems pointless to continue going over these anymore. I woke up before 8:30am less than 10 times the entire month and barely exercised outside of bouldering.

🙅🏻‍♂️ Lift weights or yoga three times a week.
Here is the prime example of a goal that when failed cascaded to other goals. When I woke up late one morning and couldn't lift or go to yoga that was the deathblow for exercising six times a week. My spirit was broken and I figured if I was going to fail I may as well just get some sleep these three days a week instead.

✅ Climb a V5.
My one shining star this month. Bouldering was the only thing I could actually force myself to get out of bed for because I just love it so much. Despite my sickness I managed to get to the gym nine times and actually completed a V5 on the day I felt a tickle in my throat, Saturday the 9th. I attempted to climb a few other V5s but I am still not strong enough. My finger and back muscles are just not there.

🙅🏻‍♂️ Do 35 push-ups.
Do I even need to write anything at this point? How about "what is a push-up?"

🙅🏻‍♂️ Do 7 pull-ups.
Now this is getting depressing.

✅ Run 10K.
I cranked this one out on March 1st in 56 minutes and 43 seconds. Far from my record pace but while the first five kilometers felt good it was the back five that killed me.

✅ No using the phone in bed. Either read on my Kindle or turn the lights off and sleep.
This was a really good goal and I am very happy I completed it. Maybe if I had chosen bad books it would have been much more difficult but The Longest Day and The Final Empire actually had me looking forward to bedtime.

✅ At least one day a week of no TV.
While I technically did complete this goal it wasn't really in the manner that I intended. One week I avoided TV by going out to a Meetup after work and did not get home until it was past bedtime. Should I really count that as a day with no TV? I was never tempted to actually watch it. In my mind this goal was to stop me from coming home at night and immediately turning on HBO. It was to force me to get out of my comfort zone and try something different.

✅ Read a new type of book.
I actually read two new types of books!

I started with a book about World War 2 called The Longest Day and was so engrossed that I actually finished it on March 13th. With over half of the month remaining and my goal of not using my iPhone in bed in jeopardy I returned to some good old fantasy.

I have raved about The Stormlight Archive on this blog many times (check out my monthly retrospectives from September 2017 to February 2018) and it is easily one of my favourite high fantasy series of all-time. Its writer, Brandon Sanderson, is incredibly prolific and actually wrote another series entitled Mistborn that takes place in the same universe. I picked up the first book in the series, The Final Empire, and absolutely devoured it.

🙅🏻‍♂️ Beat Leon and Claire' 2nd run scenarios in Resident Evil 2 remake.
I never even touched Resident Evil 2 this month. I watched four seasons of Game of Thrones (that is 40 episodes!), The Rookie, The Grand Tour, HBO's Theranos documentary The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley and played Anthem, Devil May Cry 5, and The Division 2. Resident Evil 2 just drew the short end of the straw but I do hope to return to that amazing game.

✅ Beat Devil May Cry 5.
Not only did I beat it once but I went back and beat it a second time and then I went achievement hunting.

Devil May Cry 5 is one of the best games of the year hands down. I equated it to an 80s action film where it is just pure, over the top fun. Chock full of engaging combat, beautiful graphics, banging music, and corny one-liners, Devil May Cry 5 surpassed all of my expectations which is impressive because they were pretty dang high.

I was convinced that in the 11 years since Devil May Cry 4 the developers were going to try to "modernize" it to appeal to the mass market. But when you see the opening credits you know this game is Devil May Cry to the absolute core. No concessions.

There is only one thing I have to knock Devil May Cry 5 for and that is the boss battles. There are a couple that are a real slog but they are far between and don't really wreck the pace of the game.

✅ Run the batteries of my drone dry at least once a week.
This goal forced me to fly my drone for long enough that I became certain something was wrong with the controls. I figured out I had nearly everything mapped incorrectly and after I fixed the problem flying suddenly felt intuitive.

I am still not a great pilot and am starting to suspect that these "whoop drones" are not really meant to be flown without FPV goggles. They move so fast that it is hard for my brain to keep up with what direction is "forward" on the controller. I am tempted to buy a pair of FatShark HDO goggles and see if my skills improve but $500+ to drop on a test is a difficult pill to swallow.

🙅🏻‍♂️ Draw something completely original.
Didn't even take out my iPad the whole month.

✅ Write a completely standalone article.
I wrote about what I think the most important features are in a car.

✅ Hotlink 4 things.

Thoughts on Last Month's Goals

I think there were two main issues with last month goals.

The first is that most of my exercise goals were too closely related. When I failed one I failed another and that really took the wind out of my sails. When I saw it was impossible to succeed for the rest of a week I just gave up and that poisonous mentality would carry over to the following week. I don't know why I keep making this mistake because it is literally one of the guiding rules I had for my resolutions. I don't think some monthly goals can't be instantly failable but the majority of them need to boost my enthusiasm rather than drain it.

The second is that I really didn't have any goals that forced me to branch out. Playing video games was always an easy out for fulfilling a goal instead of trying something new. Even the goals that did allow me to branch out were nothing more that distractions for an evening. If I completed them I could go right back to playing video games. I need to think about goals that not only get me to try something new but also engage throughout the entire month. I know this is much easier said than done but I must bring it to the forefront now to ensure I hold myself accountable going forward.

Exercise

So exercising in March was a complete failure. What do we need to change for April? I think having a goal of exercising six days a week is still fine because to be healthy I need to exercise that much. Prescribing exactly what to do every week is maybe a bit heavy handed. What about monthly goals? I'm going to take a break from setting yoga goals this month and instead focus on cardio and strength which will get me closer to my resolutions for the year. Let's set a target of run 30 kilometers in total and complete 6 pull-ups at once. It doesn't matter how many times I exercise to reach these goals (although I suspect I am not going to do them on my first try) just that by the end of the month they are complete.

Food

No more ice cream sandwiches! That is too easy a goal for April so let's try something a bit harder. How about intermittent fasting? I'll stop eating at 8pm and not break my fast until lunch the following day. I was mostly using breakfast as an excuse to take a break and partake in the stereotypical avocado and toast that SF loves so much so nothing is really lost there. I don't want to put any constraints on lunch because I'm probably going to break them but what about dinner? I think Soylent for every day during the week is a reasonable goal and will help curtail unhealthy prepared food that I was buying from the market downstairs. With respects to snacks let's bring the only fresh fruit and vegetables goal forward to this month. I was doing well for that first week so I don't see any reason why I can't do it for a full month.

One thing that I haven't mentioned anywhere is my caffeine intake. I did a good job at not drinking much caffeine for my first four years in San Francisco but late last year I cracked and was drinking Red Bull almost daily. In the last two months I've augmented that with afternoon coffees from Blue Bottle and I am really not liking where this is heading. I am going to try to stop cold turkey in April and if I do end up needing a little pick-me-up I'll give myself an out by drinking tea.

The Division 2

Last month I wrote that Anthem was in trouble because The Division 2 was launching and I wanted to know how Bioware thought they were going to compete with it. Having played The Division 2 there is absolutely no way in my mind they can compete. The Division 2 is better or equal to Anthem in every aspect. Literally the only thing Anthem has on The Division 2 is that you can fly. That is it. I would chose The Division 2 over Anthem every time.

That being said while The Division 2 is better than Anthem it still has a lot of the same problems. You are given tons of loot and it does augment the look of your character nicely but it still isn't that satisfying. Knowing what loot you just picked up is so difficult that I would routinely find myself not caring what I got and only after a couple missions would I finally go through my backpack and organize everything I had. The gunplay is also not great. It is worlds better than Anthem but enemies are still too much of a bullet sponge for my liking and the abilities are not as powerful as I would expect. You play a more tactical game of cat and mouse with the enemies since you have to hide behind cover but it sometimes feels like you're shooting BB guns because of how little damage you dish out.

The story is meh. The world is beautiful and you actually explore the nooks and crannies (not like Anthem where you just fly over everything) but The Division 2 has a similar problem as Anthem where starting missions is still a pain. You need to physically travel to the mission in the game and matchmaking is spotty at best.

All of these rough edges make it hard to keep playing. I really do enjoy when I am in the middle of a main story mission, shits poppin' off and I am fighting alongside other players. But once that is over and you get dropped back in the world I find it really easy to just sign off because I don't want to take the time to walk to the next story mission. I tell myself I'll set aside some time and do it later but the last time I picked up The Division 2 was over 10 days ago. I really do want to go back to it but when I sit down at night it was so much easier to turn on Devil May Cry 5 instead and I think Mortal Kombat 11 is going to take that title in April.

The Final Empire

The The Final Empire really is a stellar book and if you took my recommendation and read The Stormlight Archive I can guarantee you will like the Mistborn series.

What I find most surprising is that Brandon Sanderson wrote The Final Empire before any of The Stormlight Archive books but in my opinion The Final Empire is much better than the first two books in The Stormlight Archive. The world building is as amazing as you would expect from Sanderson. The detail he puts in to make the world truly feel alive is second to none. But the pace of The Final Empire is nearly perfect. My complaint with The Way of Kings was that it took 80% of the book to really get anywhere and with Words of Radiance the protagonists were just getting their ass handed to them for the majority of the book. In The Final Empire you feel like every chapter could have that "oh shit" moment and the ups and downs the protagonists experience are well balanced. They aren't constantly riding high or getting their teeth kicked in.

Captain Marvel

I'm gonna try to keep this short because saying this is probably treason in most of the world. I did not think Captain Marvel was a good movie because there was no real character growth. Not like Iron Man or Captain America or Thor or even the Guardians of the Galaxy experienced in their first movies. Captain Marvel started out as a stupidly strong, arrogant, sarcastic hero who ended the film as a stupidly strong, arrogant, sarcastic hero who can now fly.

I really want to know what their plans are for her second movie because she was shown to have absolutely no weakness and is being set up to go 1 on 1 with Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. I'll be interested to see how her character grows from that.

Review New Year's Resolutions

I screwed up half of my monthly goals, how did I do on my New Year's resolutions?

1. Get my driver's license and go on a road trip
Still got my license but haven't made any more concrete plans for a road trip because I have been focusing on what kind of car I want to buy. Also, if we go on a road trip we need to figure out how the hell we're going to feed and drug Lacey while we are away. The joys of owning a sick animal.

2. Lose body fat
It went up a percent but I'm cultivating mass bro.

3. Do 50 push-ups and 20 pull-ups
Failed these in my monthly goals and failed them again here. At least I am consistent.

4. Find a side project or hobby
Just like in February I completely forgot about this resolution. At least earlier in this retrospective I realized that my monthly goals weren't forcing me to try something new which would directly work towards this resolution. I have absolutely no excuse for not having at least one monthly goal that contributes to this.

5. Read six different types of books
I have read two different types so far this year: science fiction and non-fiction and I added two more: history and fantasy.

6. Complete unique 24 scenarios in Gloomhaven
Elsie and I were only able to beat one scenario which gets us up to six total. That means we're on schedule but now we have burned up all of the scenarios we saved so we absolutely must complete two in April.

7. Be proactive at work and take on tasks that increase my visibility
I am definitely becoming more visible in subtle ways. Those painful migrations really do expose you to a lot of different people. While I wish I was creating something from scratch, keeping the plane in flight by doing the grimy work is just as important. I do fear I won't get a promotion this year because of how Silicon Valley requires you to do something big for that but honestly I am happy where I am.

8. Grade my mood multiple times a day
I did it every day and the average for the month is actually back up to what it was in January. I guess eating junk food does improve your mood. Something interesting to note is that there were really no bad days or great days. Everything was relatively neutral. There were no extremes except for the one day where I felt that I was getting sick.

9. Run a half-marathon
I guess I ran that 10K on March 1st and then never ran again. That's something right?

April Goals

My goals for March were exercise, health, TV and I managed to complete none of them so I must carry all of them over into April. Exercise and health should be "relatively" easy to achieve if I actually put some effort into it but what am I going to do about TV? My complaint was that it was just too easy to default to TV because none of the other goals I chose were very involved. Other than playing video games (of which I plan to do plenty since Mortal Kombat 11 is coming out) what else can I try to do in April?

Playing Gloomhaven is a fine choice. Elsie and I are really into it and a single game takes anywhere from 2-4 hours so that is easily a night gone. I bought a Udemy course on Docker that will take me at least 11 hours to complete so that is something meaty to bite into. My time at work is starting to stir the need to work on my iOS foundation frameworks again so maybe I can finally get off my ass and do something towards that. I could even finally read a pen-and-paper roleplaying rulebook and try to create a character or something so I do something productive.

Turns out when I sit down and take more than five minutes I can actually come up with some pretty decent goals. So how about this for April:

#MonthlyRetrospective

🎮