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March 2020 Retrospective

I honestly have almost no interest in writing this retrospective. I have been working on its draft for a few day nows, forcing myself to fill in random sections just so I can say I am making progress. But with everything that is happening it has proven extraordinarily difficult to find any enjoyment in my life.

San Francisco has essentially been in lockdown for over two weeks now and is going continue all throughout April at the minimum. The stock market has tanked in historic fashion so any plans to buy that dream house are dead for at least the next two years. Remember my New Year's Resolution to take more vacations? That is absolutely dead in the water. At this rate I'll be lucky if I go on any vacations this year.

Let me be clear, I realize that I am being incredibly selfish. Record unemployment is coming. Doctors, nurses and other essential workers are getting fed into the meat grinder. It is so frustrating and depressing to understand the scope of this problem but have absolutely no way to help other than donating money to something that may or may not be effective. I honestly feel guilty that my career is completely safe because I can sit at home and push pixels to create an iOS app. Meanwhile there are developers out there making software to help detect things about the disease or printing 3D models of all sorts of necessary medical equipment. Again, I realize that I am being selfish but I also feel a lot of guilt.

I am lucky in that I have saved enough money so I can get through 2020 without difficultly. For the tens of millions of people who are going to be unemployed for the majority of this year, their future is not so bright. I really wish I had the utmost confident in governments around the world to help lessen the blow but they all seem to only be talking about the next month, not the months afterwards. Reddit threads like this show the staggering ripple effect these shelter-in-place orders are having and while I recognize they can't simply be rescinded, I don't see how they can be in effect for much longer. Even if the number of daily new cases halved every day for the next two weeks and we sheltered for two more weeks to let the sick heal, we'd still be back to the numbers we had at the beginning of March. What would then stop us from reliving March/April all over again? Maybe testing is going to skyrocket and we'll be able to gather in small groups again. But I don't see how that happens until June at the minimum and by then how many of those tens of millions of lost jobs will be gone for good?

I don't know where I am going with this. I'm sorry to have made you read all that if you did. This is just what has been rattling around in my brain 24/7 when you live 4000 kilometers away from all your friends and family. I begrudge everyone who has someone they get to shelter with. I always knew I was extroverted but now I get to fully understand just how much I need face-to-face contact with other people.

I apologize for my ramblings. Let's try to get into the meat of this retro and highlight some of the positive things that somehow managed to happen this month.

The Good

Airlifted Lacey to Canada

Easily the best thing that happened this month was that Elsie was able to fly into San Francisco and then take Lacey back to Canada. Transporting Lacey was one of the things that was eating at me the most because driving her across the country for six full days sounded like an absolute nightmare. Getting her through TSA security didn't go as smoothly as it should (thanks for squirming Lacey) but on the whole it sounded like everything was fairly uneventful and Lacey is enjoying her new home.

Packed up most of my stuff

Lacey was the last thing anchoring me to San Francisco. So after she left I went into hardcore packing mode. Almost everything I own is inside a cardboard box at this point except for the TV and my gaming computer. Hopefully by the end of this weekend everything will either be in a box or a dumpster and I'll be living in a hollowed out shell of an apartment until I start the drive home.

Ran 100+ kilometers and maintained 150 pounds

I promise I maintained the shelter-in-place order except to grocery shop or go for a run which I did every two days. Not even a pandemic could keep me from hitting my seventh straight month of 100+ kilometers. I also further improved my pace to 4 minutes 38 seconds per kilometer. I can outrun covid 19 probably right?

I've also made an ardent effort to keep my diet from falling off the wagon. I've been buying lots of fruits and eating lots of salads, trying to keep my caloric intake down because I'm obviously not burning as many calories as usual. So far everything has been going great and I've had absolutely no change in my weight or body fat.

Read two books

I finished 500 Years Later: An Oral History of Final Fantasy VII in two nights. It wasn't as deep as I was hoping but it did have some interesting behind the curtain peeks at how Final Fantasy VII was built. I would probably only recommend it to true fans of the game or 90s Japanese game companies. If you don't have your finger on the pulse of video game culture I can't imagine you enjoying this book.

I started reading The Expanse back in 2016 and devoured the first first four books in under a year. After the release of the fourth season of the TV show, my interest was piqued so I picked up the fifth book, Nemesis Games, and really enjoyed it. There was some slow spots but overall the story was solid and set up a truly intriguing scenario for the books to come. I have already purchased Babylon's Ashes and plan to finish reading it in April.

Visited Alcatraz

I have lived in San Francisco for 5+ years and literally ran past the pier where the Alcatraz tours board hundreds of times. I finally visited it this month with some relatives who managed to come just before covid 19 really took off. Alcatraz really did live up to all of the hype. It was a bizarre, almost unbelievable, look into the past. To imagine those tiny cell blocks jammed packed full of hardened criminals on this small island just off the coast of San Francisco seems impossible nowadays. It will easily be the top attraction I recommend for anyone who visits San Francisco.

Knives Out

Alright I will admit, I have railed on Twitter many times about how I absolutely detest Rian Johnson's writing, especially The Last Jedi. But I will gladly eat crow after seeing Knives Out because it was exceptionally well written. The way it takes a whodunit and turns the typical presentation of events on its head was awesome.

Knives Out is one of those few films that I can recommend for everyone. If you are a fan of well written and well acted cinema you will enjoy knives out.

Tiger King

Let's jackknife from well written and well acted cinema to absolutely fucking batshit unbelievable reality TV/documentary. Honestly I shouldn't even tell you what the premise of Tiger King is because you really need to see it for yourself to truly believe it. It is a seven episode miniseries on Netflix and I give mad props to whoever edited it. Every episode ends with a "wait, what?" moment where you just gotta keep watching to learn more about the insanity. Maybe to people who live in Florida or Oklahoma this is just their day to day life, but as an apparently sheltered Canadian boy I could not believe that people like this inhabited planet Earth.

Animal Crossing

It has been seven years since Nintendo released an Animal Crossing game and with the ongoing pandemic there could not be a more perfect time for Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I honestly find it to simply be more of the same but I don't say that disparagingly. It is the same life simulator it has always been except with a couple of quality of life improvements. The same core loop is there with a little bit of crafting sprinkled in for some variety. It is the perfect escape for an hour or so a day where I talk to my friends, catch some fish or bugs, build or buy something for my home and then go to bed.

The Bad

Covid 19

Wasting time on Reddit

I know I've written this down for several months in a row and it has become a running joke, but I feel this is the month where it finally passed into the territory of masochism. I've been trapped indoors for a large portion of the month so I had plenty of opportunity to try new things and expand my mind. But instead I chose to waste at least an hour every day on Reddit. 1/24 of every day just fucking gone. Add it all up and I've easily wasted at least one waking day browsing that useless website. Think of how much progress I could have made on building a Go app using Docker if I spent 16 hours on it!

I am honestly at my wits end for how to fix this. I know the problem is most likely idle hands. If I could find something I was truly interested in then I should never be bored. But I have been trying to find that hobby for years now with little success.

Doom Eternal

I was really looking forward to Doom Eternal. Doom 2016 was one of my games of the decade for Christ's sake. I just wanted to run full-speed at demons and blow them apart for 10+ hours of pure fun. Unfortunately I got something very different.

Doom Eternal honestly doesn't feel like a sequel to Doom 2016. It is almost as if the games were developed simultaneously and at some point in development they splintered because of a disagreement as to what the core gameplay loop should be.

In Doom 2016 you were this unstoppable Space Marine who carried tons of ammo and unloaded it into every demon you saw until they could be ripped and torn apart. You never stopped thinking about moving forward and destroying your enemies as fast as possible so they could drop more health and ammo. It was simple and fun.

Doom Eternal decided to make things much more complicated. Instead of thinking about killing demons as fast as possible you are focused on managing three different resources (health, armor, ammo) and the multiple tools you have which are the only way to get those resources. Instead of rushing headlong into battle looking to deal out as much damage as possible, you're running around looking for the weakest enemy that can get you the resource you are low on. It is a fundamentally different way of playing an FPS.

Also enemy design has taken this bizarre turn where you essentially have to shoot enemies in their weakpoints otherwise you'll get wrecked because they do so much more damage this time around. The game wants to force your into their rock/paper/scissors weapon system where you absolutely have to use a specific weapon or you'll suffer. This does get alleviated near the end of the game when you've unlocked all the weapons and their upgrades but that is an indicator that they probably should have just all been unlocked to begin with. In a similar vein, you will be consistently out of ammo for the first 50-70% of the game until you get a bunch of ammo capacity upgrades. These upgrades don't make the game funner, the make the game fun for the first time.

There are also other enemies whose eyes literally blink green when you are able to damage them. Otherwise they are invulnerable. I swear the people at id Software wish they could be making a Dark Souls game rather than a Doom game. The focus on "git gud" gameplay makes absolutely no sense to me. I guess since the original Doom literally pioneered what a first-person shooter is maybe id Software is trying to redefine it again.

I haven't even harped on the pointless platforming yet. If the combat indicates id's dream to make a Dark Souls game, the platforming seems to indicate they want to make an Uncharted game as well. There are dozens of jumping puzzles simply to make it from one combat arena to the next. They are not enjoyable and don't add anything to the story. All they can do is make you angry when you undoubtedly fail. I probably would have finished the game two hours quicker if I didn't have to do any of the platforming.

I really wish I could see what the focus groups for this game were like. Were they just full of id Software fanboys who heaped praise on them? I can't imagine they didn't get raked over the coals for the combat loop and platforming. Or maybe I am just in the minority. It is getting 90 on Metacritic so perhaps the Doom franchise just isn't for me anymore.

The Outer Worlds

I managed to soldier on and finally beat The Outer Worlds after a dozen more excruciating hours. Last month I wrote that I would have probably stopped playing the game if I wasn't streaming it, and it retrospective I wish I had listened to that gut feeling. The longer the game went on the worst the gameplay and story became. It just sort of ended after the final "big decision" where you push the button you want and get a bunch of text describing what happened to those characters that you really didn't give a shit about.

The characters and story seemed to be the bare minimum needed to justify why you went from level to level. Three weeks removed from beating this game and I can barely remember anything about the story. Everything that I do remember came from the emergent narrative of my sociopathic and idiotic player character who stole from or murdered almost everything in sight. In the end none of those actions seemed to really matter as the game just funneled you towards its cookie cutter ending.

All of this could have been forgiven though if the gameplay was fun but unfortunately it just became rote as time went on. I was essentially a god who could not die and I was not intending to make that type of character. I did not put a single point into combat. Everything went into my interpersonal or scientific skills because I through they would have a larger effect on the story. They did not.

I cannot recommend this game to anyone. There are much better first-person action games out there and much better sandbox adventure games. The Outer Worlds sits in this weird middle ground where it doesn't really excel at anything that makes it worth buying.

Rewatched Contagion

I don't know why I thought rewatching Contagion during an actual pandemic was a good idea, but in hindsight I can safely say it was not. I guess one upside is that in the film it took less than six months to produce a vaccine so maybe we can do that too right? RIGHT? 😬

Honourable Mentions

Gantz: O film and Gantz manga

Since we're all stuck inside might I recommend Gantz: O on Netflix. It is a movie based on the manga so please go into it expecting an absolutely nonsensical story. The main reason I recommend it is because the CGI is absolutely mind blowing for a completely animated film.

I enjoyed it so much that I actually went and read the first twelve volumes of the manga. It is even more batshit insane than the film but I am completely enamored with it so I'm not really sure what that says about me.

Finished hockey lessons

Just before everything went tits up I finished my nine weeks of hockey lessons and really feel like I made progress. I have a lot more confidence now and honestly just want to get out there and practice more. Hitting the ice is one of the first things I'm going to go when these lockdowns are lifted.

HomeKit Secure Video

This is simply a PSA that HomeKit Secure Video cameras out there and they work well. If you're like me and aren't thrilled by the idea of your security camera uploading footage to some company's server then you should look into HomeKit Secure Video. Everything is encrypted and uploaded to your personal iCloud. It is the next best thing to having your cameras only store footage locally.

Review March Goals

April Goals

Get to Toronto. That is fucking it. Nothing else matters in April as long as I can ship my things to Toronto and then drive there.

It is going to be a Mad Max style dash across the United States. 4000+ kilometers all by myself. Five 10+ hour days of driving. I'll be honest, I am terrified but I don't see any other way. I give myself 10:1 odds that my car has some mechanical failure. 3:1 odds that it gets broken into.