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April 2019 Retrospective

Fuck the Boston Bruins, fire Mike Babcock and trade Nazem Kadri. Now that I've gotten that off my chest let's completely forget about the Toronto Maple Leafs and move onto the April retrospective.

Before I get to reviewing my goals for the month there is one thing I really want to dig into because it is undoubtedly my greatest problem: I watch far too much YouTube and TV. I have written about this in both February and March and attempted to come up with goals that would curtail it to little success. With the NHL and NBA playoffs starting in April and the release of season 8 of Game of Thrones things seemed to get even worse. Looking back at the past month there was hardly a workday where I didn't either watch YouTube / TV or play a video game until 9 pm at the earliest. This leaves so little time for anything else that it shouldn't come as a surprise that my other monthly goals are suffering.

Past me would probably say it is time to for a sweeping declaration and create some ludicrous goal for May where I am not allowed to watch any TV at all but after this month I have a new appreciation for gradual change. I'll get into this when I review April's goals but from an exercise and health perspective I think I've made great strides because I've been focusing on small changes that are now almost second nature to me. Sure I can still improve further but those improvements are no longer as daunting because I'm only a small step away from them compared to the big leaps I was trying to make last year. So for May the small change I am going to make is absolutely no TV after 8pm, fullstop. That may not sound like a big change and that is the point. Even if I only claw back an hour of TV a night that is still time that can be spent elsewhere.

Review April's Goals

🤷🏻‍♂ Exercise at least six days a week.
I did end up taking six days off which means there was one week where I didn't exercise for at least two days. That week occurred when one of my best friends from Canada visited and I spent a couple of late nights out with them and just couldn't will myself out of bed the next day. For that reason I am going to give myself a solid shoulder shrug for this goal because I only missed out by a single day and I swear that I tried really, really hard to hit it.

✅ Run a total of 30 kilometers.
I ran four 5Ks and finished the month with a 10K. I was actually quite impressed with myself because I managed to maintain a 5 minute per kilometer pace throughout the entire month. That is the kind of pace I was maintaining when I ran 15+ kilometers a week so despite all the time off I still appear to be in fine form.

🙅🏻‍♂ Do 6 pull-ups.
I was only able to do four in a row but to be quite honest I never actually tried to complete this goal. I made only a handful of attempts and quickly gave up when I saw I was out of my league. If I truly want to do something like this I need to focus more on strengthening my shoulders throughout the entire month rather than focusing on glory metrics like this.

🤷🏻‍♂ No breakfast. Fast from 8pm to lunch the next day.
So I technically failed this because I had breakfast at least once (it was actually three or four times) but I believe I maintained the spirit of this goal. In previous months I was having breakfast nearly every morning because it was something that killed a little time before starting the work day in earnest. That is obviously a horrible mentality to have and in April I definitely broke out of it. The few times I did eat breakfast it was because I was truly starving after a hard workout and needed some fuel to get me through the day.

I've written multiple times about how I shouldn't set goals that can be instantly failed but instead create ones that promote good behavior. This is a near perfect example of that kind of goal which was phrased much more strictly than it needed to be. Something like "Only have breakfast if you are truly starving" would have been a goal that I could have easily given myself a ✅ for.

🙅🏻‍♂ Dinner during the week can only be Soylent drinks.
Speaking of setting goals that can be instantly failed here is another perfect example. I broke this one during the very first week of the month and then constantly used that failure as an example that it is OK to fail again. Rather than try to build a good habit I just gave up because the failure was guaranteed. A simple rewording of this goal to be something along the lines of "have a Soylent drink every day after work before considering dinner" would have had the exact same intended effect and been much more difficult to fail.

There were a dozen instances this month where after having a Soylent I was satiated and went on with my night. But for a large number of days I was really craving something when I got home from work and thought "well if I am going to break my goal I may as well go full tilt and not drink Soylent and just eat more". These are the sort of things I need to be more aware of to help improve my goalsetting in the future.

🙅🏻‍♂ Snacks can only be fresh fruit or vegetables.
Another instantly failable goal. Even though I did have my fair share of oranges, mandarins, apples, watermelons and pineapples this month I did supplement them with popcorn, tortilla chips and even delicious madeleines. I wasn't gorging on these unhealthy snacks like I have in the past so there was a definite improvement but not enough that I can give myself a pass on this goal.

🤷🏻‍♂ No coffee or Red Bull. Tea is fine.
OK I really need to stop setting instantly failable goals. Every month I just end up trying to justify to myself why I lived up to them or not with usually very handwavey reasons. In this case I really did stay off coffee or Red Bull for the vast majority of the month. There were only four days where I got a poor night's sleep, still woke up early to exercise but had to stay up late. For those days I chose to have a little bit of caffeine to see me through. This is a far cry from March where I was having caffeine daily just for shits and giggles and so I whole heartily believe I maintained the spirit of this goal.

🙅🏻‍♂ At least one day a week of no TV.
I completely forgot about this goal for the first week, managed to do it during the second week and then actively ignored it for the rest of the month so I could watch the NHL and NBA playoffs. That isn't an excuse it is just the truth.

🙅🏻‍♂ Continue not using the phone in bed.
Could this be another instantly failable goal that was maintained for the majority of the month but because of a few moments of weakness it has to be marked a failure? I think so!

There were a couple of nights where I was particularly tired and choose to use my iPhone for 10 minutes before turning the lights off and trying to sleep. The majority of the time I looked forward to climbing into bed because it meant I could take out my Kindle and continue to read my books.

✅ Read The Well of Ascension, the second book in the Mistborn series.
I finished The Well of Ascension on April 20th and immediately moved onto the third book in the Mistborn series, The Hero of Ages.

I must admit I was fairly disappointed with The Well of Ascension. The first book, The Final Empire, was an elaborate heist tale set amongst this rich and vibrant world and, in my opinion, The Well of Ascension did not really build upon it in any meaningful way. The whole book took place in a single city again but focused mostly on a dysfunctional and highly toxic relationship between the two main characters. Rather than have a single conversation with each other about their relationship, the two characters spent 90% of the novel brooding and making wild assumptions about their significant other that led them to question why they were even in a relationship. I understand that this kind of relationship does exist but it was stretched out much longer than it needed to be and the ultimate resolution was the equivalent of high school sweethearts eloping which just made me think "oh this relationship is doomed".

I would say that only about a quarter of the book was truly interesting but in quintessential Brandon Sanderson fashion the conclusion was quite grand and very enjoyable. It is the reason why the second I finished the book I moved onto its sequel. So far The Hero of Ages is much better than The Well of Ascension simply because it is focusing more on the massive world than the characters interpersonal conflicts. I am sure they will resurface at some point but for the time being I am very much enjoying the worldbuilding that is happening which reminds me of why I loved the first book so much.

✅ Beat Mortal Kombat 9, X and 11.
I did manage to beat all three games but sweet Jesus it was a frustrating affair.

Mortal Kombat 9 was easily the worst of the bunch. The story mode was chock full battles that didn't improve your skills but instead forced you to use cheese tactics that would never work against a human being. There were 2v1 (and near the end of the game 3v1) battles where you simply had to discover which combos the A.I. did not understand how to escape. The boss battles were even worse because the rules of the game would get turned on their head and some of your attacks just wouldn't affect the enemy. Unsurprisingly the final boss was the worse offender because it could arbitrarily gain "armor" (a concept which exists nowhere else in the game) that prevented your attacks from interrupting his. This meant the boss could use their most deadly attacks and you had literally no recourse other than to run away. I spent hours learning all sorts of ways to combo and juggle enemies and when I got to the final boss all of that meant nothing. I would not recommend anyone play this game.

Mortal Kombat X on the other hand was absolutely amazing. None of the battles felt cheap and the combat mechanics, story and graphics were worlds ahead of Mortal Kombat 9. I had an absolute blast playing this game and even the final boss battle wasn't half bad. He did kick my ass three times but his abilities weren't anything I hadn't seen before. His shtick was that his ranged attacks were a bit more powerful than anything up until that point which just meant I had to focus on closing the distance and making sure I was fighting him toe to toe.

Mortal Kombat 11 is better than Mortal Kombat X in every way except one. The story and graphics continued to be top notch and the combat mechanics were slightly tweaked that it added an awesome new tactical layer to the game. X-ray attacks were removed and replaced with the concept of amplifying attacks which made keeping your eyes peeled for openings even more important. The only place Mortal Kombat 11 faltered was in the final boss battle because it decided to take all of the worst elements from Mortal Kombat 9 and combine them. You face an enemy that behaves almost like nothing you've seen up until this point (she can summon a T-Rex???), is immune to the majority your attacks and when you get her to half health she spawns a random enemy that you have to defeat before you can finish her off. In the end I beat this boss just by spamming the two kick buttons over and over again because apparently those simply attacks could stunlock her. Amazing job NetherRealm 👏🏻.

I do want to give a shoutout the HORI Fighting Stick Mini. It is my first ever fighting stick and was absolutely amazing for Mortal Kombat X and 11. I cannot imagine playing a fighting game without a stick now.

🙅🏻‍♂ Beat two scenarios in Gloomhaven.
Elsie and I chose to play Yoshi's Crafted World instead of Gloomhaven this month. Setting up a board game like this is quite daunting and it was much easier to pick up our Switch and play.

🙅🏻‍♂ Beat Yoshi's Crafted World with Elsie.
We are probably only about 40% of the way through but do hope to finish it sometime in May. Yoshi's Crafted World is a solid game but its level are very hit and miss. Some are super fun and their unique game mechanics were incredibly innovative while others were quite boring and a real slog to get through. It just doesn't have that same polish you'd expect from a Nintendo game like Mario or Zelda but since this is one of their "B tier" games I applaud the effort. I look forward to seeing what the developer can do in their future games because they have a lot of potential.

🙅🏻‍♂ Complete Udemy course on Docker.
I am about 18% of the way through the course so far. I simply didn't prioritize it enough throughout the month. I will carry this goal over into May and force myself to complete it during the first week.

🙅🏻‍♂ Commit something to my Roadrunner framework.
I don't know why I deluded myself into thinking I would actually do this. It was a goal for all of 2018 and I barely did anything. Suddenly I think I'm gonna get off my ass and work after work?

🙅🏻‍♂ Read a pen-and-paper roleplaying rulebook and create something in the world. A character, battle, world map, etc.
Starting this goal is still proving to be the hardest thing because I really have no idea how I should consume these books. They are absolutely massive and reading them in order doesn't feel like it would be the most productive thing. But not doing anything is much worse so I just need to force myself to do it. The aim for May is to keep one of the books on my nightstand so I can read any part of it before I go to bed.

✅ Write an article comparing all of the cars I am thinking of buying.
There was far too information to cram into a single article so I wrote one each for the Tesla Model 3, Hyundai Kona Electric, Genesis G70 and Subaru BRZ.

I honestly didn't know what I should buy until I sat down and wrote these articles but after doing so it seems painfully clear that the Tesla Model 3 is nearly the perfect car for me. The only reason I haven't gone out and bought one yet is because it is a tad bit more expensive than I would like. The monthly loan payments combined with insurance and parking really do add up and it would be a significant portion of my monthly budget. If Hyundai had actually got me a car to test drive I may have owned a Kona Electric by now but the typical car dealership model is failing again and the ability to simply order a Tesla online and have it delivered to my door in two weeks is hard to beat.

✅ Hotlink 4 things.

Thoughts on Last Month's Goals

I think there were two major shortcomings with my goals for April.

The first was that I may have had too many goals. When I got home from work I sometimes felt paralyzed by choice and had difficulty deciding what I should do. Perhaps though it wasn't that I had too many goals but that some were too vague. "Commit something to my Roadrunner framework" or "Read a pen-and-paper roleplaying rulebook" are just uncertain enough that it was much easier to default to "play Mortal Kombat". Regardless I think for May it would be a good idea to set fewer, more focused goals and see if I can get all of them done. If so I can look into expanding the scope in June.

The second shortcoming was that too many goals were able to be instantly failed. The worst part was that nearly every one of those goals could have been rephrased slightly to promote a good habit throughout the entire month rather than "DO X IMMEDIATELY OR YOU FAIL HORRIBLY".

Oh one other thing that cannot be glossed over is how ineffective "At least one day a week of no TV" was. There were 22 weekdays in April and I had about four hours of leisure time for each one of them. That is only 88 hours of which I easily spent over two thirds playing video games or watching TV. In May I need to do something to curtail these numbers. Perhaps judiciously tracking what I do with every hour after work and find a way to get this ratio down?

Exercise & Health

Bouldering is still going well. I was able to do multiple V5s in a single session and in another I did 20 V3s in just over an hour. Running is decent as well since I can maintain a 5 minute per kilometer pace and ran a total of 30 kilometers this month. Yoga is in this strange spot where I really don't feel that I am progressing but am still good enough for the C2 classes. The only thing that it seems I can do is work on not feeling as strained during class but that feels like it is tied to me building muscle outside of class. Speaking of which I didn't really do anything this month to focus on increasing my strength. I need to find some sort of 10-30 minute routine that I could do before I boulder or maybe even before a run. Perhaps push-ups as part of my warm up routine?

With respect to food I still have a lot of room for improvement but the good thing is that I feel it is more cutting back on the bad stuff than eating the right things. I am not indulging in as many sugary snacks as I used to but it is still higher than it should be. My hope for May is that I'll focus more on making myself eat the good stuff first so that I'll not be hungry for the unhealthy stuff afterwards.

Game of Thrones

SPOILER ALERT FOR EPISODE 3 OF SEASON 8 OF GAME OF THRONES!

I absolutely hated the Battle of Winterfell. It was so poorly written that every few minutes some glaring inconsistency would slap me in the face and force me to ask "why the hell is this happening?". Why did the Dothraki charge to their death? Why were the infantry in front of the trench that could be lit on fire? Why were the catapults only used once? Why were the dragons not focused on killing the zombies slaughtering their troops instead of Falkoring it above the clouds where they could see nothing? Why were only like 12 people guarding Bran? How did that tidal wave of zombies slaughter thousands of soldiers but when named characters are literally pressed up against a wall or surrounded they can walk away unscathed? Why did Dany land Drogon and let him get absolutely swarmed by zombies? How did Jorah magically teleport out into the middle of the field? Weren't the castle ramparts completely overrun by this point? Where the fuck did Arya come from? We just watched Theon run like 50 meters with a spear and get killed by the Night King who was within arms reach of a dozen white walkers. Arya suddenly became the Flash and was able to run right by them undetected? Didn't earlier she get physically caught by zombies multiple times while Beric sacrificed himself to save her? Why did the Night King die so suddenly? Why was he built up as the biggest threat to the world for the last 8000 years and then dies in his very first battle south of the wall? Why the hell was he even in the battle if he knew he could die in a single hit? Who was the Prince who was promised? Why did it matter that Jon was revived or that he is even a Targaryen? Why the hell would you write an episode that literally proves Cersei was 100% correct for staying out of this battle because now she has numeric superiority. If every good character wasn't wearing plot armor Cersei would conquer the seven kingdoms immediately. Also what the fuck was the point of the Three Eyed Raven? Bran did absolutely nothing useful this whole time other than maybe be decent bait. What the fuck is his purpose now?

All this episode has done is confirmed what we all suspected after season 7. That David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are not good writers and were riding the coattails of George R.R. Martin for six seasons. Now that they are out of material they have no idea what to do and are pulling their punches like every cookie cutter TV show does. The good guys have to win and nothing bad can happen to them.

I honestly don't really care about the next three episodes because I know what is going to happen. The good guys will march south, Cersei will try some schemey shit and fail, lose a major battle and then die. Jon will be the noble man and do whatever is best for the realm while if Dany hasn't gone completely insane she'll take the Iron Throne otherwise she'll probably realize she doesn't want it and return to Essos. Oh and Arya will be some crazy mystical ninja that cannot be stopped and do some more impossible shit because why the hell not?

Avengers: Endgame

I promise there are no spoilers here. I just want to say that Avengers: Endgame was a solid film jammed to the gills with fanservice after 11 years of buildup.

Miscellaneous Mentions

This article is getting a bit long in the tooth so some rapid fire mentions:

Review New Year's Resolutions

1. Get my driver's license and go on a road trip
I wrote about the #cars I want to buy and how the obvious choice is the Tesla Model 3. Even if I don't end up buying it I bet I would rent one from Turo for whatever road trip we take. Speaking of which we are 99% sure that road trip will be down to Los Angeles to visit an old friend. It is an 800 mile round trip that we should easily be able to do over a four day weekend. It will also give us the opportunity to check out the largest Supercharger station in Kettleman City.

Random side note, shopping for car insurance is a complete clusterfuck even in tech obsessed San Francisco. I still got the best quote by actually getting on the phone with an agent compared to start-ups like Clearcover or Metromile.

2. Lose body fat
It has stabilized around 20% this month but it is still up for the year so that ain't good.

3. Do 50 push-ups and 20 pull-ups
Only managed 25 push-ups and 4 pull-ups.

4. Find a side project or hobby
I guess the Docker course on Udemy could be considered an attempt at finding a hobby but honestly I completely forgot about this. Last month I wrote that there was no excuse for not having at least one monthly goal that contributed to this resolution but since I didn't complete a large portion of them I couldn't have made much progress.

5. Read six different types of books
I read more fantasy books this month so I am still at four: science fiction, non-fiction, history and fantasy.

6. Complete unique 24 scenarios in Gloomhaven
I didn't play Gloomhaven at all so we are now officially behind schedule having only completed six scenarios on the year. I'm gonna have to do some doubling up if I want to actually complete this resolution.

7. Be proactive at work and take on tasks that increase my visibility
The painful migrations are continuing to slowly expose me to more parts of the company but I will admit that these were not the tasks I was envisioning. There are dozen of other projects that need bodies to do the work and I just need to take some serious time in May to choose one.

8. Grade my mood multiple times a day
There was a significant bump in my mood this month and it looks like I have Shazam!, Game of Thrones, Mortal Kombat 11 and Avengers: Endgame to thank for it. Also social interactions after work seem to be a boon as well. There was only one day that was marked as "worried" while everything else was either "neutral" or better. The biggest problem now seems to be that I am quite stale at work and need to find some way to make it so I could mark the middle of the day as "exciting".

9. Run a half-marathon
I ran 30 kilometers total this month and can still do a 5K in under 25 minutes and a 10K in under 50 minutes which means I'm in good shape. The next step would be to try to run a 15K and then register for a half-marathon.

May Goals

There are three pieces of criteria I want to apply to my goals for May:

  1. Minimize instantly failable goals. Attempt to reword them so they are valid for the entirety of the month.
  2. Be very specific. No more vague goals that leave some interpretation as to what has to be done.
  3. Less overall goals. I want to see if I can finally have a month where I complete everything so I am going to be incredibly pragmatic.

Also I have a medical procedure scheduled in May that will require me to not be physically active afterwards so this will dampen my normal exercise goals. I am going to do my absolute darnedest to get back to the bouldering gym as soon as the doctors will allow me.

I tried to word all of the goals so that aren't instantly failable but unfortunately some were impossible. Those goals are very close to stuff that I do almost as a reflex nowadays so I am quite in my ability to complete them all. I also cut back on my video game related goals. I am under no illusions that I will play more video games that are listed but I no longer can use them as an easy out when debating what should I do after work.

#MonthlyRetrospective

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