Here we are, in the last half of December. The past year (and really, two years) has been a weird mishmash of hurrying up and waiting, with days and weeks sort of blurring into each other. If I didn’t keep a work journal, I doubt I’d be able to tell you what I did last week, let alone a few months ago, and that doesn’t really help with the non-work parts of my life. I doubt I’m alone on this blurring – the pandemic dulls the punctuation of life, barring the occasional exclamation when something finally happens.
What Even Is Time
It’s crazy to think that my trip to Hawaii back in February was this year. Even my annual trip east in July feels like it was ages ago. I’ve been itching for another trip, but I don’t know where, and recognize that right now probably isn’t the best time for whimsical sojourns. It’s a mental health outlet for me, but for a while now, not one I’ve felt particularly comfortable acting upon. Hopefully we’ll get back to a sense of normalcy, at least to the point where it doesn’t feel irresponsible to go galavanting. (Maybe some smaller trips will satisfy the itch for now, stuff I can do in my car without a lot of stops – anyone within a 10-12 hours drive from Portland feel like a visit?)
2021 hasn’t been my most social year, but barring a healthy dose of guilt for those I’ve done a piss-poor job of keeping in touch with, I largely don’t feel too bad about having been somewhat insular. I do regret not writing more on here, and hope to correct that in 2022. Not quite sure what that’s going to look like, but that feels pretty true of 2022 in general – I really don’t have any inkling about what next year is going to look like. Too many variables, too much up in the air (mid-terms could have some rough political consequences, for instance, and the flurry of variants in the past year means the pandemic also feels ill defined and exhausting).
It’s not all doom and gloom and wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. I’ve also been playing games a fair bit, mostly Final Fantasy XIV, Valheim, and No Man’s Sky. The new expansion for Final Fantasy XIV (Endwalker) came out last month, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying it. It wraps up sort of the core story arc set in motion in 1.0, leaving a pretty satisfying conclusion (they plan to continue to do more expansions and content, and teased a number of things and places to see and do, so it’s not the end of the game, just closing out that story arc). The one (significant) bummer with the expansion is that everyone (and I mean everyone) decided to start playing at the same time, and so the servers have been overwhelmed basically non-stop for the last several weeks since release, with queues and wait times lasting several hours just to log in. They’re working on it and I’m sure it’ll settle down eventually, but in the meantime it’s limited how much I want to bother signing on.
The game is satisfying, though. The story is engaging: without delving into spoilers, the theme of the expansion’s main story is about depression and grief and not giving in to despair, which feels, y’know, kind of topical for the current state of the world. They’re not subtle about it, either, which is kind of refreshing. The new mechanics and gameplay added is also interesting and enjoyable.
Earlier in the year, I also played a fair bit of Valheim with some friends. We basically completed up to current content, and have been sort of idling and off doing other stuff until the new biome (mistlands) gets released. They do a pretty solid job of making both the survival/combat and crafting/building side of things fairly engaging and approachable, which is more than can be said for a lot of other games in the cooperative survival game genre.
Filling in the gaps when not playing other things, I’ve also been playing No Man’s Sky off and on. It’s fun and pretty, and it’s interesting tracking down new creatures and plants and seeing what’s out there. It’s technically multiplayer, but the galaxy is so vast that unless you make an active effort to track someone down (through a hub for instance), you may as well be playing a single-player game. It’s an interesting choice, but does mean you generally don’t need to fret too much about interfering with someone else’s game.
Apple finally released the M1 MacBook Pros, and so I finally upgraded my laptop (I’d earmarked funds and planned to do so a year prior, but then they announced the transition and I opted to wait). It’s nice, really nice, one of the best product refreshes I’ve seen them do in quite some time. They caught some flack for the “notch” (rather than have a larger bezel across the top of the screen, they just have a bezel where the camera goes, with the menu bar going where the bezel would have otherwise been), but honestly I adapted to it quickly and rarely notice it’s there (unless I’m actively thinking about it like now).
It’s a bit heavier than my old laptop (which was a bit heavier than my work laptop – someone going from a 2017-2019 models to the 2021 will definitely notice the weight), but also feels just generally sturdy and solid. Performance-wise, it’s a hell of a workhorse, and I don’t think I’ve heard the fans kick on loud enough to be audible even once, even when I loaded up some games to see how it’d handle. While no formal metric, I loaded up FFXIV, with settings on high, and the frame rate was still great (this worth noting because we’re talking about a game that is a cider port of the Windows version running on non-native hardware, so an emulation of an emulation). I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the move away from a discrete graphics card, but seriously, no complaints.
Not a lot else to report that I didn’t talk about while I was writing from Squam. As I mentioned above, I’m feeling pretty murky and ambivalent about 2022, but a part of me hopes that the lack of expectations will leave me pleasantly surprised by what the year ends up offering. I’m puttering on some personal projects (a discord bot, a few website notions, been pondering writing a follow-up essay to my undergrad paper on online communities, as that space has continued to evolve a lot since then), some of which I hope to be able to share when things are ready. I’m still thinking a lot about my life and where and how I want to be, though I don’t really feel any closer to an answer for any of it. I’d be curious to hear how others are feeling about the coming year – do you have a clearer vision of what the coming year will bring?