One Step Forward to Tomorrow

One day I’m going to run out of the energy to find barely adequate allusions for the titles and thematic music videos for the openings of these end-of-year posts, and they’ll just be called “2095 in Review” or whatever. Or maybe I’ll just stop making them. But not today.

Good song. Good animation. Incredibly out of place on its YouTube channel, in the most inspiring chaotic good way.

I closed out last year by saying that I wanted to accomplish a “big milestone” this year. I actually had a specific milestone in mind that I did not actually achieve and will not reveal, but I made good progress towards it, and a lot of other things happened, enough that I think I’ll count that as achieved.

The big thing is that I left my job at Zoom to have some time for myself and family… though not before helping to give feedback on a draft internet standard, publish a cryptography research paper (on which I’m the “first author”, strictly due to the vagaries of the English alphabet), and launch end-to-end encrypted email. It was a productive year! I feel like I should have more to say about all this, but it’s hard to think of anything that I didn’t already write about last year and also doesn’t require a blockbuster-length list of prerequisites. However, if you ever want to hear about the difficulties of actually getting end-to-end encryption into production in excruciating detail, invite me to a cocktail party with a lot of whiteboards.

The other big thing, in terms of absolute number of hours spent, is that I started doing FFXIV savage raids. Wow, that was all this year? My first ever savage raid clear, in early February, was as a tank in a full group of internet randos, of which my only record now is apparently this messy screenshot.

A victorious party of eight FFXIV characters in Asphodelos: The First Circle. Screenshot.
(I’m the leftmost Warrior)
word of god wants me to include the notice: © SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All rights reserved.

That was also the last time I tanked a savage raid — I mainly play healers. Since then, I switched healer jobs and joined a group to do last tier and then blind much of this tier; I’ve also gotten much better at taking screenshots and outfitting my character. The group wasn’t able to clear before people left for holiday travels, but I just got a clear with other internet randos the day after Christmas. For better or worse, I’m pretty sure more than half the people I first met this year were through this game.

In related news, I built my own gaming PC, basically centered around a friend’s secondhand RX 580. The physical assembly took far too long because I took everything apart and put it back together three or four times (all while soft-quarantining due to symptoms that I thought might be COVID but, as far as I was able to determine by testing, weren’t) before somebody pointed out the issue from a photo I snapped.

A half-assembled motherboard with a cooler and some RAM sticks and cables.

I failed to snap in the RAM sticks (the horizontal “T-FORCE”-branded slabs in the middle) — the gold-colored contacts at their bottom are totally visible. This is obvious in hindsight, but given my complete lack of hardware experience, it’s also unsurprising that I missed something obvious. At least the ordeal was educational. (The computer is called zodiark — a pretty uncreative name for a Final Fantasy player, made funnier by the fact that I queued the name up years before I had anything to do with Final Fantasy, via the Dragalia Lost dragon.)

Assorted other things that happened:

  • Owing to a discussion about Adobe Flash’s end of life, I learned that the heroic preservation efforts of BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint meant that I could still play a bunch of games I had fond memories of from my childhood, particularly Spybotics: The Nightfall Incident, a game in the even older Macromedia Shockwave format. I then played through it in a single sitting instead of the couple of weeks or whatever I spent in middle school, proving that I have gotten better at video games in the intervening decade.

    Victory conversation in Spybotics: The Nightfall Incident. Screenshot

    Somehow this is the second most notable video game I played this year?

  • I took the AGI Safety Fundamentals course and wrote a bit about interpreting neural networks.
  • I moved (from one undisclosed location to another). This is the first “real move” I had to handle on my own, for which I had to visit candidate apartments, hire movers, and furnish a living space essentially from scratch. I Googled “how to move things” and waded through a bunch of garbage about telekinesis. I also spent one night sleeping on a makeshift bed of coats on the floor because my mattress hadn’t arrived — 0/10 would not recommend; I should have just spent the money on a hotel.
  • I helped write and run another Galactic Puzzle Hunt. Now that I think back, pretty large fractions of the theme proposal and the metapuzzles were my fault.
  • I visited Las Vegas twice a few months apart — once for MIT’s Pi Reunion, once for a Zoom offsite. During the first visit I netted +$4 on the first slot machine I tried and decided to quit while I was ahead.
    A $5.00 'gaming voucher' held in front of a slot machine with a golden dragon circling two wheels, which is indicating that it costs $1 to pay and just paid out $5.00
  • After years of playing adjacent “fake card games”, I finally learned and started playing Magic: the Gathering. I am quite mediocre at it, but cards I’ve notably attempted to construct decks around and had fun with include Sheoldred, the Apocalypse; Voice of the Blessed; and Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim.
  • I wrote another programming language and then decided to do Advent of Code in it (after also earning all the past stars as well, parts of which I captured on-stream). Between the usual subreddit posts and somebody submitting it to Hacker News, the language’s GitHub repo got… a lot of stars. This is definitely the most objectively notable thing I’ve done this year, although the amount of time and effort I spent on it is honestly not that much compared to some of the other stuff above. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to learn from this.

And, well, that’s another year. I once again have a bunch of plans coming up in 2023 that I don’t want to mention publicly yet, but it might just be for the best if I stop figuring out how to cleverly conclude this blog post and continue chipping away at my backlog of drafts. So:

Happy new year!

(note: the commenting setup here is experimental and I may not check my comments often; if you want to tell me something instead of the world, email me!)