Monday, October 26, 2020

The Outer Worlds is awful, we are boned

I rather thought the Outer Worlds to be absolute shit, and am bemused by how little people who review it seem to care that it's such a terrible game. I had expected a fun Fallout-esque romp in space but the experience felt empty, the characters completely charmless, the environments tiny and unimaginative, the action bland and forgettable. Truly, a game built by many committees and little love. 

 I felt much the same about Far Cry: New Dawn, but at least the maps and places were memorable and the characters have defining features that made you interested in what they had to say. My main beef was that the plot didn't make sense. That, and the awful A.I. Is having smart scripted enemies just too much to ask? Did we peak with Half-Life 2? Why do combatants have to shout their intentions and actions? 

Well, that's what you get when you don't update your blog in a while -- outdated video game opinions.

How am I doing? Uhm, we're still under quarantine so that's still hanging over our heads. The daughter is growing pretty rapidly it seems to me, nearly walking, nearly talking. I've been spending more time with my parents, who still manage to surprise me with their reactionary views and casual racism. I mean, I guess it goes with the life they've had but I'm still not really used to it. Not that I had much of a sense for politics when I was younger; indeed, I myself could've been considered rather conservative until my early adulthood, and even then I was just another finger-wagging liberal, no class consciousness, no analysis beyond the surface.

And though I've grown (or so I like to think), it seems the world has not much changed. Sure, we have computers in our pockets and social media reminding us to look at those computers. But is the world as a whole any better from 10 years ago? 20? No, it seems lessons have not been learnt, history has not been heeded. We can't even get people to wear masks during an infectious pandemic.

Basically, we're boned. If we can't get people to do something so easy, so obviously in their self-interest, what hope is there to turn the tide against climate change? I mean, yeah, of course I'll keep resisting and pushing to avoid that fate. But it's not looking good, and I feel bad for those who'll inherit this mess.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

ACAB's Ladder

This year is certainly moving at a brisk pace -- a US drone strike against Iraq, Bernie Sanders gaining steam in the Democratic primaries, COVID-19 and quarantines, Bernie suspending his campaign, an economic recession, a global backlash against police violence, second waves of infection and now the grumblings of the US election. I do hope that we see some lasting change, some momentum towards improving people's safety and inequality in general. This would be contingent on organizing the tangible fervor, lest it fizzle with exhaustion and ineffectual half-measures.

On the one hand, the reaction to COVID has been a rather sad display of the lack of trust in science and epidemiologists, of the speed at which conspiracies flourish, and the partisanship of public health recommendations (a known phenomenon). On the other hand, as a whole we have been successful in participating in the largest voluntary health action in history, a cooperative activity that has likely saved millions of lives:

“I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference. By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”

So I think there's still some hope, but we definitely need to keep rowing towards shore.

I went back to work last week and it's really like riding a bike! A bike that I have to ride, not really one that I want to. Of course in this case I'm working from home, as many of us are, and I do miss the routine of going to work and keeping that environment physically separate from my home one.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Quarantines Gone Wild

Ontario has begun phasing the opening of businesses, and certainly it seems like people are going back out there in search of the new normal. Combined with the lack of contact tracing, I think we can expect a second wave of cases and deaths in a couple weeks. I've read that the modest drop in the rate of new cases can be attributed to institutions - their wave has passed but the broader public's still going up.

Not much new to report from our household as I continue my parental leave/quarantine. The ants are back. Our bird-feeder is very popular and I've seen some cardinals and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Sora is basically crawling, and her first two teeth are peeking out. My health is coasting along -- not great, not terrible, some nights better than others. Quality sleep still manages to escape me, there being so much to do all the time.

I have been getting a fair bit of reading done, mostly fiction.
  • The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. Really enjoyed this fantasy series following a talented, strong-headed child as they get pulled into an adventure spanning multiple worlds. 4/5
  • Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. Beautifully written story of a life told in two parts -- as a child missing his parents and later as an adult, piecing together the mystery of his mother's role in World War 2. 4/5
  • Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I find I cannot recommend this epic, insightful, incredibly detailed and well researched novel enough. Forget this The Martian snack -- Red Mars is the meal deal for a thorough thought experiment into how a colony on Mars would play out. 5/5
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Young man is stricken by an unforeseen, debilitating condition that requires his family to care for him, which conflicts with their and society's expectations of his role as provider. 3/5
  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick. I especially enjoyed that the main character had to plead with his appliances and doors to provide services, as they were on a pay-per-use system. That and the idea of keeping dying people alive in a semi-frozen state, allowing them to slowly talk to people. 4/5
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I didn't know that this was the popular novel by Murakami, whose work I relish. It keeps similar themes to his other works but without the magical realism or violence. 4/5
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang. Awful, just absolute dross. It is a sad state if this work is representative of the coming generation of writers. Or am I wrong in its base, childish treatment of mental illness? 1/5
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Murakami. Twenty years after his high school friends shunned him, Tsukuru confronts them one by one. One of Murakami's weaker works, with a more than usually weak-willed protagonist and frankly one-dimensional women. 2/5
  • Moonshot by Richard Wiseman. I always enjoy Wiseman's books, with their tidbits and trivia into human psychology. Unfortunately I somehow also forget the lessons given. 4/5
  • Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. Young Kafka runs away from his father but is pulled back by a curiously familiar woman and a fateful painting; simple Nakata helps people find their cats but is himself pulled to perform an important task taking him far outside his little world. 4/5
  • Salt by Mark Kurlansky. Reading about the history of salt and its role in commerce and food was interesting but the text was rather dry and lifeless, as if I'd read the result of someone spending hours and hours scouring a library. That is to say, without a broader context I often found the trivia rather unsatisfying. 3/5
  • Killing Commendatore by Murakami. An artist is pulled into a mystery when he finds an ominous painting in the cabin he's renting. Some truly chilling and exhausting dream-like sequences. 5/5
  • Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr. Fascinating memoir by an undergraduate joining a ship's crew as a common sailor, traveling from Massachusetts to California in 1834 to 1836, with intimate and very human detail. 5/5
  • Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami. Shorter Murakami work, with lots of unresolved ends. K is in love with Sumire, a writer, who is in love with the older Miu, a business-woman. K joins them on their vacation and is tasked to solve a serious mystery. 4/5
  • Thunderer by Felix Gilman. I overheard this title on a video podcast, and as such I do not remember the reason for its mentioning, or even if it was indeed recommended. Nevertheless I enjoyed this story of a magical, almost steampunk city, full of ragamuffins, ruffians, heretics and minor gods, and the attempt by an outsider to understand it. 4/5
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami. This tome was originally three books and so is a lengthy read when combined. As unemployed Toru and his wife Kumiko begin to grow apart, a search for their cat leads Toru to become involved with several extremely particular women. It's a tale far too strange to condense easily but it contains many of my favorite Murakami themes including traveling between worlds in suffocating dream sequences. 5/5


Monday, April 06, 2020

on parental leave, social distancing

Well, it's certainly been an exciting few weeks since I last updated! Just when I was really hyped on the US Democratic nominations, COVID-19 rolls in and now we've passed through into a totally new world, a reset of global events. My hope, beyond seeing the curve flatten, is that people learn some lessons on politics, capitalism, epidemiology, statistics, and basic hygiene. Certainly it seems that everyone has an opinion on how things are being handled/mishandled by our governments.

Hwan bottle-feeding Sora.
On the bottle
I started social physical distancing back on March 12th, as MJ had pointed out then how important getting ahead of the virus was, in particular to keep it away from Sora. My work is mostly doable from home but the less than ideal setup makes it a bit of a pain. I definitely miss having a large choice of convenient lunch and snack options. How strange to think that a month ago I was on the TTC going about my day, living my life, washing my hands only after using the bathroom.

On March 30th I started my parental leave, coinciding with MJ's return to work (albeit from home), so I've been spending most of my day caring for the baby -- playing with Sora, carrying her around, changing her diaper etc. It may sound like I have a lot of free time but in reality I only have a couple hours to myself at night, and only after cleaning the kitchen, tending to the cats, and whatever other chores are outstanding for the day. So the days fly by pretty quickly. I do get some reading done but flipping through the news and social media is the most I can hope for.

I did start playing Disco Elysium, which is one of the greatest games I've played in a long while. I'm only a few hours into it but I love everything about it -- the themes, the art, the writing, the voice-acting. I suppose, at its base, it is a point-and-click adventure, but the fleshing out of the world and characters is really impressive, with lots of smart dialogue options that can give one pause to reflect. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea as there are pages of history and details to digest but I find it very nourishing, a welcome escape.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Day by day

Hola The days pass by pretty quickly, each moment slipping by. There is some routine to my week, as you can see:

08:00 Get up, feed the cats, make breakfast (usually oatmeal with toast), get dressed.
09:30 Catch the streetcar, check e-mail.
10:00 Work — meetings, more e-mail, programming, reviews.
13:00 Lunch, sometimes with friends but often listen to a podcast.
14:00 More work. Usually a bathroom break.
18:00 Head home, play Hearthstone on the streetcar. Pick up groceries.
18:30 Help prepare dinner and/or watch Sora. Eat and catch up with MJ.
20:00 Bathe Sora, prepare her for bed by rocking her to sleep.
21:00 Clean kitchen, sterilize baby stuff. Clean kitty litter.
20:00 Evening ablutions, check Twitter, watch Netflix or YouTube.

Pretty hum-drum stuff. Seeing Sora is an absolute joy, to be sure, but I’ve little time for much else as you can see. This may change in April when I take my parental leave for five months, which I cautiously look forward to.

My condition hasn’t really changed but I suppose my ability to manage it has improved. I go to the bathroom around 4-6 times a day which is still quite a bit but I don’t feel too fatigued anymore. I even manage to get some exercise in a few times a week, which is something. Still taking pain killers though I am pushing myself to taper off.

Convoy-age

I absolutely hate how the world is shaping up, just a frog boiling slowly in greed, misinformation, and lack of critical thought. I don'...