Games Games Games

As mentioned in the last post, I have four standing gaming sessions a week (if you include the work one). If anything, this pandemic has been better for playing board games with friends, albeit virtually, than life beforehand. Maybe that’s part of the reason I never feel like I have time to do anything, but at least the relaxingness is good?

We started out at the beginning with our old favorite BrettspielWelt. The last time we used it (years ago) it was a downloaded java client that was reasonable. Now it’s a more web-based interface that is mostly clunky to use, although it seems to be decent enough.

But then someone (Austin?) suggested moving to Tabletop Simulator instead, and that has been a much better experience. Greg describes it as a physics engine that happens to play board games, which makes for amusing interactions sometimes, but there’s nothing like flipping the table when you lose a game. It also fixes a lot of the tedium of playing normal board games, even for non-scripted games, by simplifying things like shuffling.

The Fairfax group has started a weekly Jackbox games session, thanks to Tim, and that’s been a blast. Drawful 2 is one of our favorites, and we’ve gotten maybe a little too good at drawing some of the prompts.


Work introduced me to the joys of Codenames online and Broken Picturephone (AKA Eat Poop You Cat), and that has been pretty spectacular too.

Lastly, we’ve been (more recently) playing board games with Mark and Sharon (AKA my San Francisco crowd) via Board Game Arena. It generally feels like a much better version of BrettspielWelt, with (somewhat) more usable interfaces and clearer game instructions. Its main downside seems to be that a lot of the popular games and critical features (like multiple players from the same IP address, AKA in the same household) are gated behind a paywall. Fortunately Mark’s membership takes care of that for us, so it’s a pretty seamless experience.

I’ve also been taking my first forays into tabletop RPGs with Patrick and David (from high school), somewhat via Roll 20 but mostly just via Google Meet. Patrick DMed a great introductory game for us with the Lasers & Feelings system, which was simple enough for me as a beginning, and also let David’s experience with other RPGs guide us through. We’re looking at starting another campaign soon, but in the meantime, I’ve been putting them through more Jackbox.

In addition to *all* of that, thanks to Tabletop Simulator requiring me to actually make a Steam account, I’ve also started playing some of my old backlog of Humble Bundle (and other) games. I finished up West of Loathing in a few days, had a period of Cities Skylines destressing, and found a great way to “cheat” in Cook Serve Delicious 2 to get huge perfect days and unlock content (serve only sliced turkey breast or brisket, plus one side, with max prep stations). I’ve also been dabbling again in some older games like Mini Metro, World of Goo, A Virus Named Tom, and Girls Like Robots.

More recently, I’ve been playing Overcooked 2 with Austin where we’re nearing our goal of 3-starring every level in the game and all its expansions.

So I guess the nice thing about this whole pandemic, at least, has been keeping in regular contact with many people who are not physically close, since (other than timezones) it makes no difference whether someone is physically in the same city as you. Having regular contact with (old) San Francisco people, high school people, old Tartan people, the Fairfax group, and other Pittsburgh friends that have moved away has been pretty great. I think I’d still gladly give it up for the world to not be so screwed up, but hey, silver linings?

Life Continues

I’m super behind on pretty much everything, whether it’s my ever-growing list of TODOs at work, my (still) unprocessed Thailand photos (from February!), any attempt to make progress on any of my personal endeavors, keeping the house in some form resembling clean and tidy, or even just updating this blog/journal/whatever it is.

The world increasingly feels like it’s falling apart around me. Everywhere (including Pennsylvania) seems to have decided the pandemic is over by sheer force of will, and cases in the US are pretty much continuing to increase from their previous peak. Restaurants and bars and gyms are open again. Masks have bizarrely become a political issue. The police seem to be going on ever-increasing rampages with impunity. The federal government is increasingly incompetent (if that’s possible) at handling the crisis. State governments are unable or unwilling to fill that role anymore.

The easiest thing has been to hide away every night and do mindless things like watch YouTube videos (I recommend the Taskmaster series, which is hilarious, and was recommended to me by at least three separate friends) or participate in the (fortunately) large number of virtual game nights (including the work one, I have four recurring sessions a week now)… even Beat Saber feels like too much effort most days, now.

I can’t manage more than short bursts of actual brain-y time at work. It took me 2 hours to diagram out a basic OIDC flow (which I should know like the back of my hand) because I just couldn’t focus. Salesforce has been doing a great job at helping their employees through this mess, but my obligations to literally dozens of people still feels insurmountable at times. There’s an increased meeting load, which doesn’t help. Maybe that’s why I’m so behind on everything.

I cancelled my dentist appointment, because it felt too high risk to me. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe the next chance won’t be for a year or more. Maybe I should start using mouthwash or something else to try and handle things myself until then. Maybe losing teeth is the tradeoff for being safe.

I’m increasingly worried with each passing week that I’ll get sick, despite all the precautions I can take, because there are enough other people that just don’t care anymore. I’m increasingly worried that I’ll have serious complications, as someone who is in the at-risk category with respiratory illnesses. And I don’t know what else I can do about it, other than ask others to bear the risk of required activities like grocery store visits in my place, which feels like it’d be utterly barbaric of me.

I want to give up and say screw it and treat getting sick as an inevitability so I can stop worrying about it, but I think I’m too afraid of what that could mean.

But if Pennsylvania is bad, Arizona is totally exploding. I’m worried about my mom. I’m worried about her anyway, given she’s by herself now and isolating. There’s nothing I can do about that, and maybe that’s the worst part. Travelling isn’t safe. Driving isn’t practical. I have too many responsibilities otherwise, anyway. Or something like that.

I hope I come back to this entry early next year or something and read it and appreciate how much things have improved and started to maintain some semblance of normalcy again — maybe a vaccine will actually be close — but I’m increasingly worried about how long this will keep dragging on thanks to incompetence and others’ selfishness.

So life goes, I guess.

Life, and life

Life goes. There’s not much to update, but there’s been an update to life. That’s how goes life.

I’ve been feeling really… weird for the past couple of months. In theory not much about my situation has changed: I still work from home as always, the job is pretty normal, and I still have the same access to all of my leisure activities at home (on the computer or Playstation or whatever).

But I feel increasingly stressed out and anxious about things, and it’s been especially bad over the past couple of weeks. I find it hard to do anything over the weekends anymore that aren’t rote “do the dishes” or mindless “watch youtube for hours”, and work on weekdays is now filled with periods of time where I just can’t work. A grocery store trip now has be a mental wreck for the rest of the day.

I keep hearing that people have so much more time now that things are locked down and that definitely isn’t true for me, at least in terms of unallocated time. I cook more now since restaurants aren’t accessible. I didn’t have a commute to eliminate and save time on. Any free time I do have now is spent trying to destress enough to function and do the things I have to be doing. If you asked me what I spend my non-working time doing, I don’t know if I could tell you, but it definitely doesn’t feel like I have any time for myself, to do the things I really want to be doing, these days. We had a three day weekend last weekend and the third day was starting to feel somewhat relaxed, but even that ultimately wasn’t enough.

In any case, Western PA is starting to open back up over the next few weeks. Needless to say, I think it’s wildly irresponsible and extremely premature, and will definitely not be trying to return to any form of normalcy anytime soon. The only thing worse than my anxiety about the current situation is my anxiety about how much worse things are going to get as states open back up.

Locking Down Pittsburgh

I feel like I should be writing in here more given the historicness of everything happening right now. But mostly I’m just tired and want things to stop being so terrible. And it’s only like week three or whatever.

In no particular order, recent things: Consistently passing Expert+ on Beat Saber, started playing board games online via Tabletop Simulator, been consistently getting out of the house for at least a 30 minute walk every day, been cooking frequently and succeeding at only making one grocery trip every 1.5-2 weeks, been feeling utterly weird at work despite always being WFH and therefore theoretically unaffected by any of the office closures and such, tried 2-player Letter Jam and it was terrible, been even more bewildered at how people can still think Trump and Republicans have people (much less the “common” working person)’s interests at heart, been photographing signs for various closures and interesting things as a result of Coronavirus/COVID-19.

So because I am bad at writing, here’s some of the photos I’ve been taking from the past week or so.























Where to even start…

I feel like I owe the internet an update, but what could I possibly say to cover the craziness that has been the past two months?

This Coronavirus thing was a thing. I had a Thailand trip planned for 3 weeks in February for my dad’s funeral, and spent the week leading up to the trip worried… not because I thought I was at risk of catching it, but because the US had just banned travel from China, and I was concerned about being stuck in Thailand (#2 in the world at the time, after China) for an indefinite period of time.

Bought a couple travel-sized containers of hand sanitizer and some travel alcohol wipes, and dutifully went on the trip, flying through what (at the time) was one of the most affected countries in the world (Japan) to what was the second most affected country in the world (Thailand).

The trip itself was good. I didn’t get sick, and it was nice to see my relatives again (for the first time in years), and it was also a good break from work. The funeral itself was also really nice.

The time to return home came basically just as cases around the world were becoming a huge issue. Flew home through Japan (now the #2 most affected place) and through the bay area (the #2 most affected place in the US) to Phoenix, where the plan was to stick around for a week, head to San Francisco for a week for the Architecture Summit, come home to Pittsburgh for another three weeks, then return to San Francisco for release planning.

It was that week that Seattle got really bad, and SF started having more serious issues. I ended up cancelling my SF trip on Thursday evening (the last chance for refunds on hotels and such, since I was supposed to fly out Sunday), and got an email Sunday morning that Salesforce was now prohibiting even domestic travel for work, so it turned out I made the right decision after all. (I was thinking that three days in a conference room with hundreds of people from around the country eating at a shared buffet was not a great idea given the outbreaks.)

One of my coworkers wasn’t quite as lucky: He was stopped at the airport before boarding his flight by the company travel managers. But I dutifully cancelled my other planned trip and spent another week in Phoenix, which also ended up having the nice side effect of being 13 days from my Thailand flight, pretty much ensuring that I hadn’t caught anything in Thailand or on the international flights.

The Southwest flight home was great — the flight attendants came around at the beginning of the flight with a trash bag for everyone’s alcohol wipes, and I was mostly relieved when the day arrived that they hadn’t banned domestic travel, sticking me in Phoenix (after having already been away from home for 5 weeks). Got home Thursday evening in time for board games. Was feeling pretty tired from flying (and stressing), but got some nice gaming in, and made arrangements for games the following week. Also did some stocking up on groceries.

Russell came the following Sunday to work for a week, and there was rock band and beat saber and generally nice socialness. The shit really hit the fan that week, culminating Wednesday night when the US finally started reacting to the ever-increasing cases and locking down cities. We cancelled board games, and then other board games, and started isolating ourselves preemptively. The grocery stores got crazy busy, and Aldi’s was sold out of meat, bread, most kinds of fruit, and toilet paper, kleenex, and paper towels.

Pittsburgh really started being affected this week, starting out with “stay at home” recommendations followed by recommended shutdowns of businesses, followed by restaurants changing to carryout only, followed by (tonight) statewide closure of non-essential businesses.

There’s now 18 cases in the county, including some that are community spread. We’ve been pretty much locked at home since last Thursday, although we make time every day to go on a walk outside (keeping 6 feet away from anyone else).

I’ve been cooking basically daily (multiple times a day, sometimes) for the first time in probably a decade, and working through my 2-week stockpile of food. We’ll need another grocery store trip probably next week, and I’ll try to find a time when not many other people are shopping, if there even is such a time anymore. We have had two restaurant meals (both takeout, of course) since Thursday.

Not much of my work situation has changed, because I’m permanently WFH anyway, but all of my coworkers are having fun figuring out their desk and computer setups and how to handle the different video conferencing systems we have.

My social life has been replaced with video calls and attempts at online board gaming, that we hope to expand in the near future. In theory, the lack of other things to do should mean more time to do computer things (like sort through Thailand photos), but I’ve also been in this weird miasma of worry about the world that makes it hard to actually get anything done other than work. (Sometimes it makes it hard to even get work done.)

We’re supposed to go to a wedding in May, and I’m supposed to go to Origins in June. I have no idea if they’re still on, or if they are, if I’d even be interested in going anymore. I guess we’ll see what things are looking like in a month or two.

This post was supposed to have a bunch of photos from my trip, but those photos are still sitting on my hard drive, unsorted and unedited. Maybe next post.

All I can say is… I hope this huge mess that is the world right now drives the right kinds of changes. Health insurance, and healthcare in general, can’t be tied to work. We need better societal safety nets when people can’t work or lose their jobs through events that are no fault of their own. We need to recognize that the workers that are so often put down as “unskilled” or “replaceable” are also the ones who are the most important right now.

I’m one of the fortunate people since the next few months will be, at worst, a slight inconvenience for me… but there’s too many people in this country (and around the world) for which this will mean a potential loss of their homes and not being able to eat. And that’s really not okay.