Being Okay in the Age of COVID

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Apr 6, 2021

Filed under: Column 85 comments

I’ve been taking walks lately, trying to make sure I get enough exercise to keep my hypertension at bay. I hate walking for its own sake, but I’ve found I can stimulate the “getting things done” part of my brain if I can turn the walk into an errand. There’s a store about a fifteen minute walk from here, so every day I look around the house, find some random household item we’re low on, and then hike to the store and buy it. 

Technically the errand is pointless. If we’re low on obscure and rarely-used item, then I don’t really need to hike to the store to buy more. I could simply add it to the shopping list and we’d get it with the weekly groceries. Walking to the store for a single item is a silly ritual, but it really does help motivate me. My overall goal is “keep my heart in shape so I don’t die”. That’s a very long-term goal where progress is measured over the course of months or even years. It’s a bit demoralizing to get home from a walk all tired and out of breath, flop down in my chair, and realize I just made 0.001% progress towards my goal. Being able to come home and say, “Hey, we were out of cumin but I took care of it,” is far more rewarding. I wonder what the cashier thinks of the odd man that comes in every morning to do his grocery shopping one item at a time. 

This trip to the store has also been providing me with a daily reminder that COVID is still a thing. I walk in the door, see all the people running around with a mask drooping across the front of their face, hanging far below the nose and just barely obscuring their mouth. This reminds me that there’s a pandemic going on, which prompts me to put on my own mask.In case you’re wondering: I’ve got a quality mask and I know how to wear it properly. The nose-out style drives me bonkers. Aside from negating most of the benefits of wearing a mask, it looks ridiculous. 

Before I started taking these walks, I’d often forget about the pandemic for weeks at a time because it just doesn’t assert itself in my life the way it does everyone else’s. I’m a massive introvert, I work from home, and I’m apparently immune to cabin fever. 

The latest Errant Signal was a sharp reminder that this is not the case for everyone. Chris Franklin is apparently getting worn down by the routine:

Link (YouTube)

He talks about how he spends all day in the same room, and it’s obviously something that he finds stressful or demoralizing. I’ve been doing that for over 20 years now, and I never saw it as anything remarkable. This is apparently a superpower by today’s standards. My wife cuts my hair, so I’m not even suffering from quarantine hair like so many people. It almost feels like the pandemic is happening to everyone but me.

These are strange times, and I really do feel bad for all of the people struggling the way Chris is. It’s interesting how large an impact your personality has on things like this. 

The main point of Franklin’s video is that he’s been playing Fortnite because it offers a steady supply of things to do. He can play a few rounds and check some items off the to-do list, regardless of how well he does at the main part of the game where your goal is to out-live the other players. I can appreciate this drive. It’s the same thing that keeps me going during my trips to the store. It’s nice to have small, short-term goals that can be gradually conquered by low-stress activity.

My theory is that this is the big draw with Ubisoft games. I’ve never really been a fan. (Although I did have a good time with Watch Dogs Legion.) I’m always interested in what the game designer is saying. I’m always thinking about the mechanics, or the art, or the story, and trying to figure out where the designer is coming from and what they have on their mind. Trying to find a message or theme in an Ubisoft game is an exercise in trying to wrestle smoke. Which means Ubisoft games are precision-engineered to annoy and frustrate me. But these games are also incredibly popular, and I’ll bet most of the audience are people in Franklin’s shoes – people looking for a set of clear goals that they can work towards and make meaningful progress in the context of an hour-long game session.

That’s pretty understandable, but it’ll probably always feel a little alien to me. That’s just not why I play games.

Anyway, here’s hoping you find a way to cope with the stress or tedium of the pandemic. Stay safe out there. Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re all out of hydrogen peroxide and garlic powder. Looks like I’m going to need to make two trips.



[1] In case you’re wondering: I’ve got a quality mask and I know how to wear it properly. The nose-out style drives me bonkers. Aside from negating most of the benefits of wearing a mask, it looks ridiculous.

From The Archives:

85 thoughts on “Being Okay in the Age of COVID

  1. Daimbert says:

    I’m similar to you wrt the pandemic, although I do check in on various news sites while working as I have a job where you need to be available for certain times in the day and that gives me something to read while compiling or waiting for an answer, so I’m quite aware that there’s still a pandemic going on. I also find that for exercising I do prefer walking to places instead of working out or even doing a general walk. The difference for me is that I can indeed enjoy a general walk without having to have somewhere to go. I start my day with a walk that’s over an hour long and I find it easy to do, not particularly straining (I’ve been walking places for a long time now), and I think a lot while doing it so that it isn’t actually boring. Getting into a routine really helps with motivation … but then you have to motivate yourself to do it enough times to make it a routine in the first place [grin].

  2. Lino says:

    Really happy that you’re making an effort to stay active. After all, the longer you live, the longer we can rely on you for the best gaming content :D

    Jokes aside, I’m genuinely glad you’re trying to stay healthy. Why doesn’t anyone tell you that life is just a shitty F2P game – it hooks you in by making you feel immortal up to when you’re Level 30, and then you suddenly get hit with all these shitty paywalls! And it only gets worse the higher level you get! Sometimes I wonder, what in the world were the devs thinking!?!?

    As an aside, even though I haven’t watched Franklin’s video, based on your description I think I get where he’s coming from. I’m an introvert as well, and up until recently, I didn’t have a problem with the lockdowns (being fortunate enough to be able to work from home).

    That is, of course, until I got COVID in the middle of last month. I’ll try to keep it light, so I won’t focus on two of the excessively extremely shitty things that happened because of it, but after day 15 of not being able to exit my house, I did start feeling a bit antsy (I’m better now; after all, it’s much easier for us sub-level 30’s :) ). If it wasn’t for Taskmaster[1] and Midsomer Murders[2], I’d definitely be in a worse mental space than I am right now (as good as a place as I can be, given one of the shitty things that happened).

    [1] God bless that YouTube channel! I STILL can’t believe they’ve uploaded all the episodes from all of their seasons, including the current one as soon as the episodes air! And the show itself is amazing – a panel show whose only agenda is being funny. If you’re on the fence, just go to YouTube and search “taskmaster melon” and “taskmaster potato”. Two videos that should give you a good idea of what the show’s about
    [2] Thankfully, all their episodes are on YouTube, as well (though I don’t think it’s on an official channel). In addition to the superb who-dunnit mysteries, what I really like about this series is just how chill it is. It’s really relaxing, thanks to the pacing, and to the little slices of rural British life it constantly presents. It almost makes me want to leave it all behind, and go live in a quaint little village in the British countryside. Almost. Because you’d have to be crazy to live in a place with such a high murder rate! Years ago, I thought British people were moving to London to get better jobs. Turns out, it’s because they don’t want to get murdered!

    1. Matt says:

      I share your appreciation for Midsomer Murders, which I happened upon last year on Prime. They’ve been a comfy way to pass several evenings. There’s just enough variation in each episode’s mystery to keep it interesting while still pretty light viewing and you’re right, the rural scenery is absolutely idyllic. It never seems to become cynical about village life the way I would expect other shows to, or have much of an axe to grind against anybody other than the idle rich.

      I haven’t entirely caught up on the show. After John Nettles’ departure, my wife and I took a break. Do you think the post-Nettle episodes are worth watching?

      1. Lino says:

        I haven’t watched many of them, but from what I remember seeing them as a kid, they were also quite good. But I liked the ones with Nettle the most.

  3. Mephane says:

    In case you’re wondering: I’ve got a quality mask and I know how to wear it properly. The nose-out style drives me bonkers. Aside from negating most of the benefits of wearing a mask, it looks ridiculous.

    I know how stupid and stubborn people can be so I am not surprised by so many not knowing or ignoring how to wear a mask correctly. What I am however surprised about is even though people (yeah, myself probably included) generally are incredibly vain about so many inconsequential things, they don’t mind this most blatant and – quite literally – in your face ridiculousness.

    1. Some+Random+Internet+Jackass says:

      One of the worst things about the nose out style is that wearing masks doesn’t really protect us from others as your eyes are still exposed; It protects others from us if we have something. Leaving your nose hanging out is basically saying “fuck you” to everybody in the area around you.

      1. Mephane says:

        It gets worse. If you are not talking or breathing through your mouth at the moment, the nose is the only thing that needs covering. So having the mask only cover the mouth while breathing through the nose is effectively the same as not wearing a mask at all.

    2. BobtheRegisterredFool says:


      The masks are at best a mechanical separator. Which means that easily available theory describes how well they can function, if you plug particle sizes/masses in. The tl;dr of that theory is that for a mechanical process, you are getting the separation and flow rate from a pressure difference across the mask. Which means that you need the edges to seal, which is a combination of materials, and the forces acting on the edges of the mask. Also, if your face is cleanly shaven when you are a man.

      Since the ‘trustworthy’ information sources are saying lesser masking is effective, that means that if you haven’t studied fluid mechanics, solid mechanics/structure, and life sciences from pre pandemic sources, you have no idea which masks are effective, and which ones are not.

      If you have studied this, you can see two trade offs to the masking problem.

      One, you are covered in bacteria, and these are often harmless and can also cause infections. Staph bacteria are usually harmless, and yet MRSA issues are still a thing. Viral particles suspended in liquid are a problem some of the time, with strains you haven’t been exposed to, that are serious. Bacteria are larger than virii, are present always, so a simple cloth mask will collect them, concentrate them, and also collect dead bits of flesh to feed the bacteria. Trade off one is when the bacterial costs are worse than the viral risk. Remember, risk is chance times cost. Bacterial stuff can be understand as deterministic based on washing, etc, not probabilistic like the viral exposure.

      Trade off two is the cost of physically working harder to ‘pay the price’ for the increased pressure difference of an effective mask.

      Look at four utilities for a masking choice: 1. preventing viral exposure 2. minimizing bacterial/pressure costs 3. preventing people from complaining about you not wearing a mask 4. Offending those who insist on a disparate cost for the effects.

      If you don’t know the pressure difference across your mask, if you don’t know the pore size of the filter, and if you don’t know how the tension of your straps corresponds to sealing pressure, utility 1 can be safely ignored.

      No-nose coverage is almost as effective at 3 as what you think is proper, and is actively better at 2 and 4.

      Possibly instead of the no-nose coverage types being more ignorant than you, you are more ignorant than them.

      Of course, no-nose is very far from maximizing for four either. It is possible that compared to what will maximize for four, you likewise may as well not bother with no nose.

      1. sheer_falacy says:

        Citation needed. How, exactly, is covering only your mouth better at preventing anything than covering both mouth and nose?

        And no nose coverage is utter garbage at 3.

        4 is also just hilarious. Oh no, the disparate cost of… wearing something on your face to reduce the chance of you or people around you dying or being permanently damaged.

      2. wumpus says:

        I second the citation needed.

        You don’t seem to understand the basic idea of the masks is to prevent the wearer’s viral droplets from being projected significant distances during respiration, speech, coughing, or sneezing. This has very little to do with anything other than coverage. Not having the mask over your nose defeats the purpose of wearing it more or less entirely.

        Also, you’re supposed to wash them regularly, just like the rest of your clothing.

        1. Cubic says:

          Last summer I was standing in a properly distanced line behind an old guy with a cough but a mask on. Whenever he had a coughing spell, however, he pulled down the mask so he could get it all out. Thanks, old dude. (In spite of this, I still did not get Covid.)

      3. Richard says:

        Bob, that belief hasn’t been defensible for at least a year.

        There’s been a lot of actual, proper peer-reviewed scientific study. It turns out your suggestion is in fact incorrect, and was based on faulty assumptions.

        It is now proven beyond all doubt that a simple cloth mask covering your mouth and nose significantly reduces the risk of spreading Covid (and flu and a few other respiratory diseases) to others.
        It also has a notable (albeit smaller) impact on the chance of you contracting the disease.

        This is because Covid is primarily transmitted via relatively large water & virus droplets during normal tidal breathing.
        (And yes, also via coughs and sneezes, but people tend to try to catch those anyway)

        Water is wet. It’s not a dry powder.
        That means it sticks to fabric and very little will pass through two layers of cloth. It’s not like vacuuming dust!

        (And yes, a correctly-fitted N95 mask does indeed provide much greater protection, especially to the wearer. Which is why the medical professionals wera the N95s)

        Think of it this way – one would not ignore the plus 5 talisman of protection, or worse, wear it in the 1 location simply because it’s not a plus 20.
        No, you’d definitely equip that talisman and get the plus 5 party bonus!

      4. Lanthanide says:

        What a load of crap. You’ve used all these fancy words and gone on at length about pressure differences and are talking solely about how masks filter air coming out of your face, but you apparently aren’t aware of one substantial role that masks play in preventing spread of germs.

        One thing that masks do, is when you exhale, the air stream stays much closer to your head and goes upwards, rather than forward into someone else’s face. a Lot of this air, that comes up over the bridge of your nose, hasn’t been filtered by the mask at all.

        In commercial buildings with ventilation systems (eg, any large shop), this cloud of exhalation that rises directly upwards from you is more rapidly removed from the air, and isn’t smooshed into other people’s faces in the process.

        If you breathe through your nose and not your mouth and aren’t covering your nose with your mask, then the above doesn’t happen.

        Here’s a whole video about the importance of ventilation in a hospital COVID ward: and it specifically mentions the particles staying close to your body when wearing at mask at the end of the video.

      5. Mephane says:

        You do not need to study fluid mechanics to understand that when a person does not cover the nose at all while breathing through said nose, the effect is the same as if wearing no mask at all.

        1. Cubic says:

          Well, you can do like the buddhists and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth (and into the mask).

          1. Mephane says:

            Yes, I am sure all the people with their noses out are doing that.

      6. Tom says:

        Your entire argument is predicated on the completely incorrect assumption that the purpose of the mandatory public face coverings is to provide air filtration. It isn’t, and to my knowledge has never actually been claimed to be by those passing the laws requiring them.

        Masks worn by MEDICAL PERSONNEL need to act as intake filters, because of the very high viral load in the air they are likely to be exposed to whilst doing their jobs. THOSE masks are of a special type with fine pores that, whilst still too large to entrain the virus particles by direct collision, are ELECTROSTATICALLY TREATED so as to capture the virus as it is forced to pass close by the fibres of each pore. Obviously, specialist equipment is required to manufacture these to very fine tolerances; equipment that people at home making their own masks have no access to. (This is also why the specialist masks can’t simply be washed, sterilised and re-used once they’ve been saturated, as everyone kept helpfully suggesting when there was a world shortage of the damned things; that would destroy the electrostatic coating. IIRC somebody did eventually figure out a procedure and build a machine to re-condition the masks, but the pandemic was already in full swing worldwide by then).

        The “face coverings” legally required of citizens in public in all reasonably sane countries right now, on the other hand, do not act as intake particle filters, but as EXHAUST DIFFUSERS (and they don’t actually have to maintain a terribly high back-pressure in order to achieve this, either, they just need to pass the flow through a tortuous path). They disrupt and diffuse the flow of exhaled air, preventing the formation of far-travelling fast, coherent jets from the mouth and nostrils, this preventing exhaled particles from being carried directly across your carefully-maintained two-metre social distance into the personal space of whomever you might be looking at at the time.

        There’ve been Schlieren videos of how VERY effective they are at doing this, IF they cover both mouth and nostrils, floating around the net for the better part of the past year, at least.

    3. Lars says:

      Wearing a mask uncovering your nose is like a fly grid on half your window.
      Although masks in themself are pretty useless. The only thing that keeps yourself save is distance. A mask may reduce the save distance from 8 feet to 5 feet, but nothing more.

  4. MelTorefas says:

    Same (well, similar) boat as you here re: pandemic. In addition to being an autistic introvert, I became severely ill in 2012. I was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Then at the end of October in 2019 I got a lot worse. By the time the pandemic hit the US in 2020 I had been indoors and mostly in one room for months. This recent bout of awfulness has finally been diagnosed as Hashimoto’s Disease (autoimmune thyroid disorder). Among other things, it makes me way more sensitive to light and noise (even moreso than the autism already did).

    I’ve been staying with my folks since I have been too sick to completely take care of myself. I pay them room and board and they pick things up for me when they’re out. Combine that with the fact that all my friends live in different states these days and I would go weeks or months without leaving the house, and even then only to the latest doctor’s appointment or medical test/procedure (had a couple surgeries in early 2020, really glad they happened BEFORE covid hit).

    I am on thyroid medication now and it helps, in that I sometimes have good days. I actually went to the store to pick up my own meds last month, and it made me realize this was literally the first time I had been in a store since the pandemic hit. I’d read the stories of course, but it was a little surreal being there in person. (There were plenty of folks with the mask-off-nose, or no masks at all; vaccinations had started by then so I hope that’s all it was, but still.)

    Even the times I’ve been out, to the doctor’s, for me, it’s been pretty nice. With the masks I don’t have to look at anyone’s face or worry about my own, no one stands near me, and I don’t have to mentally justify when I don’t want to get in an elevator with other people or use my coat to avoid touching anything with my hands/arms. Like, I hate the pandemic and all the suffering it has caused and I am really looking forward to it being gone, but the day-to-day impact for me has ranged between “nonexistant” and “somewhat positive”. Aside from the stress, of course.

    Heck, I even got to see a concert by one of my favorite bands (the Trans-Siberian Orchestra). They broadcast their Christmas concert online last year. First time I had seen them in like a decade. I won’t miss the pandemic, but I hope some of the online accommodations that have been created will stick around.

    1. Sleeping+Dragon says:

      Yeah, kinda in the same boat, very highly functional autism, I don’t like lights very much and even people I like I can usually only take in at most a couple hours at a time. I still have to go to work but I literally barely feel the difference as far as my daily routines are concerned.

  5. Zaxares says:

    Fellow introvert checking in! ;) I mostly work from home too, and my hobbies are largely electronic (gaming, movies, anime etc.) or sedentary (D&D, books) so even before the pandemic I was quite OK with spending hours upon hours indoors and not being bothered about it. I only tended to go out to buy essentials, or maybe catch the odd movie. So life during the lockdowns didn’t change much for me at all. I did have ONE instance where I had something close to cabin fever, and that was when I had a sudden craving for McDonald’s and then it occurred to me that I couldn’t go out and get one because, at that time, all the restaurants and eateries were closed.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m pretty similar for most of this[1], although I’ve been jogging semi-regularly to try and lsoe weight, plus lifting dumb-bells even less regularly to try[2] and slow down my muscle atrophy. Honestly for me, my job’s somewhat stressful[3] but the pandemic itself has been relatively do-able, except for the occasional bout of loneliness when I forget to contact a friend or family member for more than a week. Working from home instead of a noisy open-floor office? Yes, please! :)

      [1] I mean, this is to be expected from the demographic audience of this site. :)
      [2] I’m slowly getting weaker, but at least not too badly. ^^;
      [3] The things I’m worst at seem to be what everyone else expects / excels at – working in undocumented code, third-party APIs, or debugging with little to no logs or debugging tools. Doesn’t help that there’s not many other software dev jobs in my city to even think of. :E

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    Mostly same deal here. The only way the pandemic has really affected me is that now I can’t go to the theater, which usually was a once-a-month thing for me. Now the exercise thing is more difficult for me. I have the same problem of not being able to take a walk just for the hell of it, but my closest store is at 4 km (about 2.5 miles) from my home, so while it would be very good exercise to do that walk every day it would also be incredibly tiresome and a massive waste of time. My home exercise used to be limited to Wii Fit, which actually proved to be quite effective, until my Wii wouldn’t turn on anymore and I just stopped altogether.

    I honestly don’t know how am I ever going to retake exercise. Even if I get my Wii fixed, there’s barely any space at home where to properly use it now and I have serious trouble talking me into walking without a set goal other than just the act of doing it. But really, all of this is entirely unrelated to the pandemic. I know there’s people out there that are desperate to get out again, even when they used to think of themselves as hermits, but frankly, I barely even miss the theater experience so changes to my life have been almost nonexistent.

    1. Baron Tanks says:

      But when is the last time you took a walk for the hell of it?

      Not trying to be a pain in the butt, but I do find (especially with age) many of the notions and ideas in my head are just accumulated assumptions over time. So you could always take a walk for the hell of it, intend to enjoy it (or to just relax) and see what happens. At worst you end up going on a walk for the hell of it you don’t like for one day, that’s barely a cost. You can then shelf the notion for some time until it’s time to check again if maybe something changed about you or the thing. I find what I appreciate most is that there is so much to see around you that you never take the time to register. It’s also a good time for listening to music or podcasts, if that’s your thing. I find at least exposing myself to things I nominally dislike, has resulted in an increase in the amount of activities and foods and what not that I enjoy and I assumed I wouldn’t or I had a bad experience with in the past, where circumstances in the mean time have change (either the circumstance itself has changed, or my perceptions and tastes have changed since last I dabbled).

  7. Raion says:

    The complete opposite here, I do manual labor, installing closets and cabinets, so the high amounts of stress come from having to go out and mingle, every day in a new stranger’s house, when I’d love to just stay safely isolated at home. But the customers wanting their closets done RIGHT NOW are more important than my life. The company’s profits are more important than my life. Paying rent is more important than my life. Heh, at least I have a job now.
    When the pandemic started, I was let go from my previous employer (they had to close down), who was also going to sponsor me for a work visa to stay in Canada (I’ve been trying to immigrate), so not only I lost my job but also my papers, which meant buying my extended time here with a student visa and paying tuition. While unemployed. Fun times.
    But I’m bouncing back now, it’s been an… interesting year. And now I’m living like a monk and saving money psychotically, because in one fell swoop I lost all the savings I had and barely pulled through my expenses without incurring debt, but what about the hypothetical next time? Shrug.

    On the other hand, restrictions are loose around here (too loose) so I can still live some sort of “normal” healthy life. I can go out, I socialize, all that stuff.

    Speaking of chin maskers, this one time I saw a person with a face shield who coughed. By raising their fist, slipping it inside the face shield to put it in front of their mouth, and then coughing on it. Brilliant.

    1. kikito says:

      I’m sorry about your situation, and I hope things get better for you.

  8. Simplex says:

    I’ve been working my IT job from home for slightly over a year now because of pandemic. I am also an introvers and immune to cabin fever. All those jokes about sitting in my mom’s basement and now it’s a superpower!
    Finally it paid of to be an introvert who hates going out.
    I make similar trips to the store like shamus – for example I could buy everything in one big corporate owned store but I prefere to support the little guys, so I spread my grocery shopping over a few smaller stores (living in a big city makes it easier).

  9. Biggus Rickus says:

    Living in a state where the lockdowns were pretty minimal and being an introvert myself, I have been fine with the whole thing, but I really do feel bad for extroverts, especially living in places with the most draconian policies. It has to be like a nightmare to be isolated when you feed off of social interaction.

  10. Gautsu says:

    I feel you on having games that you enjoy make no sense to others and vice versa. I love Soulslikes and most Ubisoft games and yet cannot fathom how someone can find joy in something like Factorio, Satisfactory, or Kerbal Space Program. But I am glad there are people other than myself with different views and opinions, the world would be much harder to enjoy with 8 billion of me running around.

    I work in the nuclear industry and it’s scary to see how they are compromising around Covid. Last year they put off as much as they safely could, and now it is coming time to pay the piper. Wish me luck

  11. Chris says:

    I’m introverted too and only about 2 months ago did i have a moment where i felt a bit of cabin fever. Although I do notice that in general this whole covid thing does drain me a bit, i tend to need a bit more sleep. But still, hearing of people going insane after a few weeks felt a bit like an overreaction. Like “wow, you already go crazy from that, I’ve had summer holiday gaming sessions that were longer than 2 weeks and that was willing isolation” (I totally get people are different so how i feel isn’t how other people feel. I would go crazy if i had to go to parties and festivals all summer).

    What bothers me more is the concern about how we are going to get out of this situation. It’s been a year and there doesn’t seem to get any better. The vaccines were sold as a solution but who knows if they work against the mutated versions. I think that’s also what makes people ignore the laws of the lockdown. If there is a “it’s 2 months and then everything is solved” line then people tough it out, but now there is a “we are just keeping it up and hopefully we somehow make it out alive” line.

    As for walking. I heard the 10 000 steps rule has worked for a lot of people who didn’t like exercise a lot. It avoids working yourself into a sweaty mess and feeling tired, while still keeping your blood pumping. And you do it daily, and you have a simple goal. And you can push it to get to 11 111 steps, or 12 345 steps. So you could maybe get a step counter and try that out as an alternative.

    I do like ubisoft games a bit because of that laundry list system. You go to an area, tick all the boxes, and move on the next part. It’s similar in quality to putting things in order or cleaning up. I even got pretty far doing all the caches in the witcher 3 before skellige with its waterborne caches turned me off. (I actually 100? assassins creed syndicate and i felt dirty doing something so mundane).
    I also saw a “making off” of COD4 and they mentioned how surprised they were when people got addicted to the medal system. Like getting 1000 headshots or getting your 1000th kill got people excited, even if they were losing a match. Just the carrot on a stick, the new weapon to unlock, kept people hooked for far longer. And it’s this same system that fortnite and gacha games exploit. But then they make you pay to unlock it, or pay to make the grind more bearable, or pay to not lose your progress. (for example in fortnite you need to be a premium member to get more missions).
    The problem is, is that it hijacks your brain’s systems of reward to milk you dry, similarly to how gambling can make you spend more than you want to. (thinking about it a bit more, Shamus linked a video about manifactured discontent once, which explains in loving detail how you get manipulated into paying by making you feel bad).

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Self-imposed isolation (or anything, really) is a lot different than something you’re forced to do. I just hope the extroverts gain some empathy from the lockdowns, for how people like me feel when forced to do extroverted things, like company presentations in front of very large groups. (That we don’t do often enough to get practiced at, but often enough to worry about. :E )

    2. Kronopath says:

      In case it helps, I’ve been keeping up with the situation around vaccines, and although I’m not a doctor, my understanding is that they do work at least partially on the new variants.

      The UK variant is similar enough to the classic variant that there basically isn’t any difference in vaccine effectiveness (despite that variant spreading easier). Meanwhile, the Brazilian and South African variants both have mutations to the spike protein that make the vaccines somewhat less effective, but “less effective” does not mean “ineffective”.

      And it’s worth noting that even when a vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting sick, it can still prevent you from getting extremely sick. Even the vaccines like the AstraZeneca one that are less effective still had a very high effectiveness in preventing severe cases.

      I’m not going to make predictions on when this means we can “go back to normal”, since that depends on a lot of things, like vaccine uptake in the general population and government action around things like border closures. But as someone who’s been being extremely careful around COVID this past year, and who relates to Chris’s video way too much, I can say I’m planning on going back to having IRL friends again basically immediately after giving the vaccine the 2-3 weeks it needs to work its magic.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        “Back to normal” is likely going to be after a majority of the population in any given city / country is vaccinated. Given that some of the variants we’ve already got are easier to spread or more deadly, letting everyone re-infect each other again after when we’re so close to herd immunity doesn’t seem like the best choice.

    3. Sleeping+Dragon says:

      RE Ubisoft games: Having played some AC titles over the last couple of years I’ve been wondering how many people play them in a “come back from work, eat dinner, clean map icons for an hour” way. As in, not attack the game with a 100% completion within a week approach but as something like “dailies” in an MMO, a routine that gives you the (perhaps illusory) feeling of having achieved or progressed something towards a goal.

      1. Rariow says:

        This is 100% my approach. I’m usually playing two games at a time (well, really I’m always juggling like four or five, but I think of two as my “main” games). One will be something I actually care about, like a good long RPG or an intense action game or something, basically something I can really sink my teeth into and fully commit to a focused session of – this is currently Sekiro. The other will be some Ubisoft-style open world thing that I don’t really care about, but it’s a checklist to absent-mindedly tick points off of – currently it’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. I’ll default to the former, but if I’ve had an exhausting day at work or just don’t feel like something that takes mental effort to play I’ll throw the first podcast I find on in the background and sort of absent-mindedly run around collecting things in the latter. It plays a similar function to how I used to play Audiosurf, which is a weird comparison I guess, just some stimuli to make me push some buttons, but with the added benefit of being able to listen to podcasts as well.

  12. kikito says:

    I also have a difficult time “walking or jogging for its own sake” – my brain is aware of the short and long term benefits, but it keeps requiring a huge chunk of willpower to do it.

    A simple mind hack I have for getting it done more often is: every time I go out, I dress for sport.

    Take out the trash? Dress for sport. Take my child to school? Dress for sport. Once I am done with the “primary” task I got out for, it is much easier to convince myself “well, now that I am here and all dressed out and everything, I might as well run 5k”.

    Having the Diecast in the background while I jog also helps :)

    1. Baron Tanks says:

      What a great tactic!

  13. Matt says:

    I’ve had a pretty similar experience as a generally misanthropic introvert. My team at work was about to be moved into a new, much less convenient location downtown before the pandemic began and now it looks like we won’t be returning to full time in the office at all. On a call last week, a colleague asked how I was coping with cabin fever and I told him that, “as an avid gamer since childhood, I’d been training for this my whole life.” Working from home has been more productive and better for my schedule than going in, anyway. Almost all of my hobbies are solitary or can be done in front of a screen about as well. I do miss in-person tabletop RPGs and going out to eat with my wife, but I can get by with Zoom and take-out/trying out cooking new recipes. I have been neglecting my own fitness, but that’s not much of a change from before the pandemic.

    Other than a few months at the start where daycare was closed and my wife and I had to juggle work, chores, and childcare, it’s been a pretty easy transition into pandemic life for my family. I do realize that I’m fortunate that both my wife and I have good, secure jobs in fields related to medicine that can be done remotely. We’re also lucky that my son is still young, so he’s not missing out on school-related opportunities or milestones. He goes to daycare, so he’s not even really missing out on any socialization.

    Sometimes I catch myself empathizing with Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, lamenting that “someday this war is gonna end.”

    1. Daimbert says:

      The biggest problem for me as an introvert was that the pandemic messed with my schedule without giving me any of that “extra free time” that was the bane of extroverts (who had to find SOMETHING to do to fill it) and the benefit of introverts. All of my hobbies are pretty much all things I do around the house (I had started trying to go bowling and take other walking shopping trips RIGHT at the start which I quickly dropped) so none of the things that I in general wanted to do fell off my list, so that stayed as packed as ever. However, the pandemic and working from home added things to the list and since things were more complicated even things like grocery shopping took more time. Since I was going to be at home, I had to make sure that I had stuff to eat, which meant cooking ahead more so that I’d have relatively quick things to eat in the middle of the day or after work. And being at home more meant that I messed up the house more and so had more cleaning to do. So I pretty much completely lost my Sundays to groceries, cooking and laundry, and then had to fit everyone else in the remaining six days while working. One benefit, I guess, was that I simply didn’t have the time to work overtime as much anymore and so was able to carve out some time after work and on Saturdays for more fun things, but working from home wasn’t really a boon for me in terms of scheduling.

      1. Richard says:

        Sounds very familiar.

        I’ve somehow ended up with what feels like no time to do anything, despite spending less time in the “work & commute”.

        TBH, even with my introverted ways the lockdown is starting to grate.

        While in normal times I’d probaby only choose to do people once a month, the fact that I’ve now missed doing 13 peoples is starting to trouble me.

  14. Geebs says:

    Fortunately AC: Odyssey has completely cured me of my Ubi-itis (I got a number of their games very cheap during sales, while extremely broke and under-employed). Even if it was a really good game – and it’s not even as good gameplay-wise as other AC games – it’s still at least good 30 hours too long.

    Oh, and we had a new addition to the family when the lockdown started so, even if I did get lockdown fever at the time, I can barely remember any of it now. Honestly, I can hardly remember yesterday.

  15. John says:

    I don’t have a problem walking or jogging for walking’s or jogging’s sake, at least when I can do it outdoors. As long as the scenery in front of my eyes is changing I’m good. My problem is that I struggle to stay motivated to exercise in the winter when jogging outdoors is extremely unpleasant. Using a treadmill just isn’t the same. Not only is it less effective exercise, it’s deeply frustrating. All that running and yet you never get anywhere! I have a similar problem with rowing machines.

  16. Cilba+Greenbraid says:

    If you’re like me–an introvert who can happily sit in the same room for years as long as there’s a good computer and internet connection–imagine what it would feel like if you were surrounded–relentlessly, unendingly, never a moment’s break–by a big, dense, roiling crowd of people who are all trying to talk to you all the time. All day, every day. For weeks. For months.

    That is what not being surrounded by people feels like to extroverts.

    An extrovert being stuck at home all day every day will literally be driven insane. If it goes on long enough they’ll have a psychotic breakdown, just like you or I would if we could never get away from people for months. Basically all of my socialization needs are met by internet forums and such. But for an extrovert, Facebook and even Zoom/Facetime/Duo/whatever are only the hollowest of substitutes for face-to-face interaction with other humans, like trying to survive getting all your nutrition from pop-tarts.

    For half of us, this past year-plus (with no end in sight) has been an extreme mental health challenge.

    1. Daimbert says:

      I think this is falling into the case of taking the stereotypes too far to the extremes. Most introverts are not that extreme and so will have some trouble not being able to do ANY socializing (but the computer and other means of socializing will probably do for them). At the same time, most extroverts do need some quiet time and would also go insane being surrounded by that many people for that length of time. So I think the biggest issue — admittedly, as an introvert — is that most of their activities were based around socializing with people out in groups and when the pandemic ended that they had nothing to do. So it would be more like the case I had a few years ago where I lost power for a few days and suddenly lost the ability to do most of the things that I usually would do for fun and to fulfill my needs. I was okay because I could still read, but if that had gone on for months it probably would have grated on me as well, while some of the extroverts would have just gone out and talked to others or played sports or cards or whatever and found reasonable substitutes.

      1. Falling says:

        Yeah, I definitely fall in the introvert side of things- the bigger the group, the less I talk and I don’t mind being on my own for long periods of time. But taking out absolutely everything social (except my job, which is fortunately social) has been very taxing. And increasingly so now that we heading for year two of lockdowns. I used to play a bit of volleyball and soccer and see people on Sundays. Now, it’s eat, work, sleep, repeat. Live, Die, Repeat.

  17. Adam says:

    Our whole family (including my wife, who I’ve never known play a computer games previously) have got into Pokemon Go during COVID, initially because it gamifies “go for a short walk to do an errand”. And then it also got us into “go for a longer walk at the weekend” because those 12km eggs won’t hatch themselves…

    1. Retsam says:

      Funnily enough, the pandemic basically killed Pokemon Go for me – there’s a solid community in our neighborhood, and at the height of the pandemic even “meeting a medium group of people outside” felt like risky behavior, and I just haven’t felt the urge to get back into it since.

      Maybe with the weather warming up again I’ll get back into it, but I replaced my phone months ago and still haven’t reinstalled it.

      1. wumpus says:

        You know about remote raid passes, yes? If not, that was the solution to raiding that Niantic eventually came up with.

    2. wumpus says:

      Yep, I use both techniques: Pokemon GO incentivizes walking, but so does going to the store for something. Look! I’m multitasking!

  18. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    The pandemic hits people in ways you wouldn’t always expect. I’m not introverted but I’m absolutely fine being confined as long as I keep playing and talking with my friends online. Other much more introverted and geekier people I know got cabin fever hard.
    About the walk it’s good, but if you want to expand that radius a good way to “justify” a walk is to listen to a good pocast.. Podcasts get me through a lot of things I normally see as a waste of time like walking alone, the dishes…

    1. eaglewingz says:

      I was an intense 24-hour caregiver for years before the pandemic. My few hours of respite occurred during business hours, so it’s not like I went out and socialized. Plus it was easier to do my work-from-home at those hours.

      When my caregiving ended last summer I thought lockdown would be a breeze. But yeah, even the limited possibility of being able to get out gave me cabin fever. I quickly got bored of working from home, which I had previously enjoyed. Funny what your mind can adapt to when forced by circumstances.

  19. MadHiro says:

    I work at a grocery store, and one of the abiding frustrations of the last year and change has been people that frequently come to the store for one thing. Not only is that a body that takes up some measure of our limited capacity (leading to lines to get in, and even less pleasant customers), its one more roll of the dice on ‘is this person the one that’s going to bring COVID-19 into the store’ chart. When the plague first started, we had a sign at the front door that included words along the lines of ‘please try to do as shopping as you reasonably can at once today; aim at two weeks worth of groceries if possible’. It eventually got dropped because it was ‘too rude’ as deemed by management.

    I’ve got one guy that comes in every morning to buy a single serving size container of orange juice. It costs him more, its worse for the world via the packaging accumulation, but it doesn’t matter to him; he had a routine, and a little thing like a global plague can’t be expected to even slightly discomfort him.

    Not even going to get started on the inanity of the pro-plaguers and their inability to correctly dress themselves. The last year has been something like a waking nightmare, in which a pretty decent job was transmogrified into constant fear for my life, constant stress from a sea of ungrateful and monstrous consumers, and the constant tension of management trying to push back any hard won gains in safety to make more money. It has been, more or less, a continuous rollercoaster of nervous breakdowns.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Before all of this, I wasn’t a “one item” kind of guy, but I didn’t worry as much about making sure that I got everything when I went because if I forgot something I could always either stop the next day or walk out to my local store and get it. I also used to be like Shamus in a way and when I was on vacation would add one walk to the local grocery store every day just to see what was there and maybe buy one or two things. Since this, I stopped doing all that, which means that I go once a week to two stores with a long list and get everything that I think I’ll need because the LAST thing I want to do is go back and get something that I forgot. It’s just safer and better for me, let alone for the people in the store.

    2. PrivateSessions says:

      Fellow grocery store cog here, and when this whole thing started I immediately switched my shifts to overnights. I live with my parents who both would have no doubt dropped dead from the virus. Kinda easier for me to do it though since I was an assistant department manager and having me working overnights made a massive difference for the department: I was processing our deliveries, filling holes on the stands, and completely remerchandising our displays when we couldnt get half our produce in because delays in shipping and our warehouse workers all going into quarantine.

      I live in New York and we were hit HARD last March from Covid. They’re still not sure about the real deathcounts here because it was so chaotic. I’ve been working in grocery stores almost a decade now and I sure as hell never seen anything like what we were dealing with those weeks late February and all of March and April. The lifers we got in the stores never seen anything like it. One night the owner of the company came in to check sales and he and I started chatting and even he just went “I’ve never, in 40 years working between 3 companies, seen anything like this.” We had workers having mental breakdowns in the backrooms, people stopped showing up, all kinds of stuff, and the customers were absolutely merciless. Some seriously deranged freaks.

      My management team was behind all of us, though. Even now our store is plastered in passive-aggressive signs, and we got no problems kicking customers out for any nonsense. It’s pretty much a daily occurrence where we’re kicking out unruly customers. But still, the fear and stress of being overworked got to everyone, myself included. I ended up stepping down from my good paying management position back to a basic part time stock boy because I just couldn’t do it anymore. I took a week vacation, came back, went to the office and told my managers I was done. Went back to school full time and that was that. I’m still working there, which got me priority for the vaccine back in January, so I’ve been fully vaxxed since February, so I guess it was worth sticking it out. But a lot of my coworkers are having weird health problems now. Lots of them are a lot more hostile now, lots aren’t nearly as punctual as they used to be, and some have just up and quit. I was dealing with lots of anxiety which has thankfully subsided since December, but that vacation I took in May was spent in bed because the panic attacks were unrelenting. Now I just got a couple of weird new phobias, like a sudden fear of heights, and an intense fear of crowds.

      Stay strong and stay safe, bud. We aren’t nurses or doctors, nobody is gonna be singing our praises, but we have a shared experience, now. Something only us grocery store people will ever be able to understand. That’s a bond that’s gonna last the rest of our lives.

  20. Profugo Barbatus says:

    I’m in the same sort of boat as you Shamus, a natural introvert, work from home, happy to stay indoors for weeks at a time. Covid’s spurred me and a lot of my friends to develop new habits to deal with the situation though. Watching anime for me now involves breaking out the exercise bike and going at it as long as I wanna watch. Without being able to dine out, cooking is a normal thing now, and I’m always going like you, heading out every day for 1-2 small items, for new recipes or just perishables.

    Really, I think gaming is the only part of my life that hasn’t really changed. I already played long engagement titles like grand strategies, idlers, modded minecraft, etc. If anything, Covids gotten my gaming into a healthier state, since I’m regularly stopping to cook, exercise, or leave for groceries.

  21. Henson says:

    I spent most of last year biking through the nature trails alongside a local canal in my free time. I hadn’t seen nearly so much wildlife in such a long time, it was a great boon to my mood to counter the omnipresent talk of doom and gloom.

    I think I’ll make a habit of it.

    1. Baron Tanks says:

      Hear hear. Rediscovering nature and all that your local environment has to offer (while always thinking you have to travel for this) has been a big lockdown boon here too. Especially since I got a touring bike right before everything hit to start commuting with (~10 miles, 45-50 min bike ride). That same bike allowed me to explore so much around me and simultaneously gave me a new appreciation of where I live and was a firm check on how biases and limited perspective allow us to ignore so much of the world around us….

      1. Echo Tango says:

        I’m enjoying just rediscovering my city; There’s some decent trails and parks to bike around in, that I haven’t been to in a long time. Getting out just to avoid the cabin fever has gotten me more exercise than my normal habits! :)

  22. Retsam says:

    Overall, I really can’t complain about the pandemic – it’s hit my wife and I much less hard than almost everyone else we know.

    … but work at home is really starting to grate on me. I’ve always been bad at focusing on work while I’m at home, and while the novelty of the situation helped for awhile, I’m now really struggling just to sit down and concentrate. I’ll be getting my second dose of the vaccine in a few weeks, pretty soon I’m going to need to start working elsewhere (e.g. Starbucks or Panera) at least a few times a week, I think.

  23. Syal says:

    As a new cashier (at an understaffed store), I really like seeing people with one or two items; it means you can clear them quickly and make the line move. Otherwise you get three or four people in a row who all have $200 worth of stuff and #3 is stuck there for twenty minutes.

    I also struggle with walking for walking’s sake; I can kind of hack around it because my post office is less than a mile from the house so I can walk there and confirm I still don’t have mail, but it’s still not ideal. I only got back into walking because I had to watch someone’s old dog last week, and stressing out over whether the dog needed to go outside meant I went on a walk every two hours or so.

  24. Glide says:

    I agree with Shamus – my pre-pandemic habits were close enough to a lockdown that I didn’t feel an immense sense of loss staying inside. The main two things I missed were concerts and plays, which are both good outlets for me to be in people’s presence partaking in the fruits of human creativity without any social participation on my part. But those were a once-a-month thing or less, so my weekly routine was unchanged (even bettered, as I got my life’s first taste of working from home which I quite appreciated).

    Most of the time that was previously filled with commuting and socializing, I’ve replaced with watching gaming on Twitch (only *really* discovered it last year), which has been an interesting venture but not something I plan to spend a ton of time on permanently because I mostly like watching games I’ve played and streamers tend toward the new and popular.

  25. I also have a “what pandemic?” lifestyle. And I’ve also been taking walks lately because we got a puppy, who is super-adorable and just the sweetest dog ever. I’ve spoken more with our neighbors since we got this dog (and he was willing to go outside without freaking out) than in the 20 years we’ve lived in this house prior to it. It’s kinda nice, and of course everyone loves Frisco.

    I saw you had New World on your Steam wishlist (I was looking at it because it FINALLY has a RELEASE DATE), so I shot you a copy. Have fun!

  26. rabs says:

    Not sure if I’m really an introvert, but this pandemic showed me that I liked working from home.
    Don’t know if returning to the office full time will become difficult, but it will be nice having a coffee with my coworkers again.
    Home feel quieter, less stressful and more productive. We were using a text chat system already as we are not all in the same location. But now I don’t have people walking in physically to talk to me or a coworker. I live alone, so no kids running around or other annoyances.

    Almost everything (bed, clothes, computer) is in my only room, where I stay 99% of the time. For a change of scenery, it seems VR is good enough for me. I mostly play solo games, especially simulators, but also some multiplayer games with online friends, or randoms from time to time.

    For physical activity, I had a routine at home before the pandemic, some active VR games and common fitness exercises.
    I also go out almost every day to buy a fresh take-out lunch. But I only go about 5min away as I live in a dense city (reason for the tiny apartment).
    Before I tried almost no restaurants near home, now I’m well known in many of them. They have at lot less clients as most people manage to cook while at home, so they are happy to see me and I enjoy a good meal.

  27. The Rocketeer says:

    It’s funny you mention that about the model of Ubisoft games, because I’ve been playing Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, and that really is what I get out of it, and out of open-world and certain other games.

    Picking a province and seeking out and clearing all the locations is an intensely addicting candy trail that’s repeatedly led me to that “oh, the sun is coming up” moment. But more than that, there’s a nice rhythm of small, interlocking tasks that keep it fresh. You release your drone to scout out enemies and locations, sneak about overland (I make very little use of vehicles) ambushing enemy groups, navigating the rough terrain, arriving at small locations and looting some money or resources, and eventually get to some larger location that you thoroughly scout out and plan a careful assault suited to your class and gear, then go loud and murder everyone with an LMG when that goes wrong. The big base usually earns you a new weapon, accessory, or clothing item, so you can switch up your gear and play dress-up with you and your squad. Eventually you earn enough cash to pop back to the shop and get that thing you’ve wanted. Class challenges keep me trying to engage enemies in particular ways rather than relying on the same strategies all the time, and if I get to Rank 10 in a class I switch to another.

    The game is a mixed bag in a lot of ways. It originally released with leveled gear and enemies, and was built around a Division-style loot grind. Then later, they released an Immersive Mode, aka an actual Ghost Recon mode, with no leveled gear or enemies and the option to reduce or disable lots of features and UI. I’ve been playing with increased enemy difficulty and healing restrictions, with limited UI, and while I’ve been having lots of fun tootling around the world, it’s very clear that the game was not designed around this style of play, and I’ve slowly been re-enabling certain UI elements as it becomes clear that they often don’t push me to play the game differently except to have to repeatedly open my map more than I would otherwise. Behemoth drones are also exceptionally difficult to kill in immersive mode, which I can’t really fault the game for in the sense that it’s a giant armored unmanned tank with dual mini miniguns and mortars, but when I have three drone-killing perks stacked on top of an antimateriel rifle loaded with the sniper’s special armor-penetrating bullets straight to its weakest point, or an entire box of LMG ammo straight to its internals after blasting its plating off with heavy explosives and chain-stunning it with EMPs, and its health bar does not visibly move, I start to wonder.

    Still, even with the jank induced by retroactively imposing a different game mode on the existing game world, I find it incredibly engaging. I’m tempted to suspect that if this team had put their efforts into an immersive, slightly more simulationist vision of this game from the get-go, they could have made something stellar. But you can’t lose what you never had, and as we’re constantly reminded, Ubisoft is the very worst, so I just feel lucky to have got what I got.

    I guess this is more appropriate for one of those “what’cher ben playin'” threads, but I always miss those.

  28. Lanthanide says:

    Shamus, since you’ve got access to a Quest 2, you might consider using that for exercise.

    I’ve personally being playing beat saber for about 1 hour most days (on average it’d work out to about 4.5 days per week). I’ve also done some other exercise but beat saber accounts for about three quarters of it, and I haven’t changed my diet overly much. Since the start of the year I’ve lost 7kg. Even now after 3 months of this I still get sweaty towards the end of the play session, on Expert+ difficulty.

    You should mod Beat Saber so you can get custom songs – far more playable, and the default songs are actually kinda crap in the way they’re mapped anyway. has the songs and links to instructions on how to mod. The only problem is you can’t do this right now if you have the latest version of Beat Saber because an update was released last month and the modders still haven’t updated the mod to work with the new version, usually it only takes a week to 10 days so this is going unusually slowly.

  29. Manwithguapimao says:

    Covid was only where I lived for a month, and I enjoyed it. Peaceful walks. No stress. Public transport was made free for essential journeys.

    2020 new years, my friends and I met up for a fireworks display. We all agreed 2020 was a good year. I guess it might just be our introverted game enjoying nature.

    I always thought it was a funny reflection of how out of touch I am with mainstream culture, just being unable to relate with the zeitgeist

  30. Richard says:

    I regret that I am not able to provide much value to the conversation at large, but it may be of interest to hear about what life is like in a COVID-19 free country–in this case, the Federated States of Micronesia.

    On the whole, life appears to be entirely as it was before the Pandemic–that is, sakau markets are open (think bars, but outside, and with kava instead of beer), restaurants are open (of which there’s, what, half a dozen on my island?), and work is open. You can get a haircut at a barber, as I did the other day, and you can expect your child to mingle with others on the school playground. To an external observer, I imagine the most immediately obvious pointer to the Pandemic is that the country’s only cinema is closed. (Has been since March 2020).

    That said, while much is the same, much is also very different.

    What’s the same, for me, is my daily routine. I wake up at 6am so I can be at my favorite restaurant by 7am so I can chow down a tuna or mahi-mahi omelet so I can get to the office by 7:45. I go to my Government office and have my Government meetings with lots of Government people, where we do important Government things, like having meetings where we discuss the results of previous meetings, and then schedule future meetings to discuss the previous meetings. I conclude the day by either going home to do more Government work, OR by going to the aforementioned sakau market, where strangers ask me about my Government work. If I’m very lucky, I might watch a movie with my spouse, or I might have time to play one of those video games I enjoy so much; or, I might check this very blog, all while wishing that Prey would get a full critique ala Mass Effect, Batman, Final Fantasy 10, etc.

    What’s different is the atmosphere. At it’s best, it’s simply very strange. At it’s worst, I would suggest it’s downright insidious.

    For practical purposes, because our borders have been closed (though people can leave), it means the great bulk of our foreign presence is absent (think Embassy staff, WHO staff, etc), which impacts in-country programming. Major initiatives that were in-progress in 2018 and 2019 have abruptly halted, such as major infrastructure projects, which means we’re not hiring lots of folks to manufacture and then export products using facilities we thought we would have finished building by now. Even moving around our own country has become extraordinarily difficult, as international commercial carriers are not used.

    For familial and/or sentimental purposes, there is a growing feeling of distrust and, I would suggest, an erosion–at least in the perception of–some of our traditional values. Because the borders are closed, it means citizens are stranded abroad; which means bodies can return for funerals, but not families. Meanwhile, because the opening of our border is predicated in part on achieving approximate herd immunity through COVID-19 vaccinations, it means that a growing number of our citizens are becoming resentful of one another, such as for their choice to abstain from the vaccine (which limits progress to herd immunity), or their choice to take it in the first place when the oldest brother, father, or other traditional familial authority figure has otherwise opposed it.

    We are a country of approximately 102,000 citizens, and equally approximately 1,500-2,000 citizens have left from March to December 2020 when our borders were already closed. What that means for Government purposes is that we have a doctor shortage, a lawyer shortage–imagine an essential function, and it’s likely we’re short on it. What that means for my next-door neighbor, who runs a construction company, is that he has a labor shortage, and so is wondering how he’ll finish that critical Government Project he’s been hired to do in the timeline he’s been assigned. What that means for my spouse is that three of her relatives have left to attend to an elderly family member who resides in the U.S. State of Ohio, and we’re not expecting to see them back anytime soon. (If you’re wondering “Why Ohio?”, the answer is that the Federated States of Micronesia has a Compact of Free Association with the United States of America, which is basically a formal way of saying that our countries are super best friends; the practical effect is that we can go to the U.S. for school, work, and healthcare very easily, and are not considered immigrants, and the U.S. has military jurisdiction over an oceanic highway connecting Guam and Hawaii).

    I hope I’m not sounding too political–that’s not the intention, I promise–but the key idea is that COVID-19 has affected the lives of people who reside in COVID-19 free countries. From big picture concepts like “The Economy™” to my personal family, there are impacts that are both measurable and immeasurable.

    1. Lino says:

      Thanks for sharing! It was a fascinating read. I wonder – does New Zealand have similar problems? A couple of weeks ago I saw a photo of an open-air concert there, and it was like a photo from 2019 – lots of people closely packed, having a good time, and not a mask in sight. But I wonder – under the surface, are they having similar issues to the ones you’re facing?

      1. Lanthanide says:

        I wonder – does New Zealand have similar problems?


        Tourism and tertiary education for foreign students are obviously suffering quite badly, but some tourism businesses haven’t been affected too much and a handful are doing better. House prices have gone nuts – largely as a result of the actions of the Reserve Bank (quantitative easing, dropping interest rates to 0.25%) who were predicting price drops of up to 10% in a year, instead we’ve had price growth of ~20% in 9 months. The government has just fired back with some bold policy moves that are likely to take a lot of heat out of the market, but no-one quite knows how it is going to play out.

        We’ve had sporadic lockdowns due to COVID cases leaking through the border – a fairly lengthy one in August-September last year in Auckland, and a ‘yo-yo’ lockdown in Auckland in Feb-March this year. When we go to level 3 lockdown it means most shops are shut except for supermarkets and pharmacies, and restaurants can’t open for dine-in service at all, so the hospitality industry gets really hurt by them.

        But for the most part the rest of the economy is going quite well, and over calendar year 2020 our GDP was only down by something like 1%, because of the massive rebound in spending in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

        The government has finally announced a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia (after Australia really dicked us around on negotiations for it) so the tourism sector are hopeful they’ll be able to make it through the winter, but it remains to be seen how many tourists will actually visit, vs people coming back to visit friends and family.

        1. Lino says:

          Thank you for the exhaustive answer! Good to see at least some parts of the world are doing somewhat fine :)

        2. Rick says:

          I still think we’re going to end up with cases coming in from Australia with the new travel bubble.

          Most of us still realise there’s a pandemic and follow the relevant news updates though day to day life is mostly back to normal except for some not in international tourism or directly related industries. Or industries that rely on international shipping which has slowed.

          Except that I rage when I see people not even to bother covering their mouths even coughing or ridiculous things like that. I had a specialist appointment mid-lockdown and the doctor was wearing his mask on his chin.

          My boss was one of the first round of infections and brought it back to our town from a conference. The promo poster for the conference is still on display at work to taunt us.

          As soon as he said he was still going to the conference (Covid was just starting to spread internationally) I said I’d be working from home for a while.

  31. Philadelphus says:

    I’m an introvert, and discovered I’m almost immune to cabin fever. The one thing I miss, it turns out, is a view, and as my current place looks into the neighbors’ driveway I take a walk most days to a nearby street with an overlook. Give me a place to live with a good vista, though, and I’d probably be fine never leaving the house again (online grocery delivery is pretty great).

  32. I’m an aspie so the lack of interaction with humans doesn’t bother me at all, if anything there’s been too much for me as people feel the lead to talk more then they have nothing new to talk about, lack of interaction with dogs was far worse.

    As an archaeologist I get plenty physical activity as part of the job, a job I went back to in September as archaeology was essential because construction was/is.

    The largest problems was having something production to do, something video games couldn’t trick me at for long so I ended up doing a podcast which was me playing from a text based game whilst reading all the stuff on screen, going off on asides and somethings bursting into song

  33. Guildenstern says:

    The COVID era has been mostly defined by resigned misery for me, so the header image of a bunch of Seattle Mariners fans is particularly appropriate.

  34. evileeyore says:

    I’m a massive introvert, I work from home, and I’m apparently immune to cabin fever.

    Aside from the “massive” part* agreed. Not only has the pandemic radically improved my life economically, it’s… well it’s radically improved my life ‘socially’. I don’t ‘hate’ people, but dealing with them for 8 hours at a stretch, moving around behind me, around me, speaking at me, it’s a drain. I’d get off work and be ‘exhausted’ from dealing the noise; motion, lights, and verbal noise all day.

    The pandemic forced my job to restructure and switch to Work From Home for as many of us as they could get away with, I got a raise, a promotion, and no longer have to go into the offices. Aside from my knee steadily getting worse (still no health insurance and WFH has taken it’s toll on my “I hate exercise” health – since I don;t walk 1/2 mile to the bus stop and back everyday, around the offices, etc), everything else has been a vast improvement.

    It’s weird and I sometimes refrain from saying anything other than “I sympathize” when friends complain about how badly they “need to get out”, or how “lockdown is killing me”, because well… but sometimes I just have to respond with “Man, that sucks, but this has been the best year and half of my life in decades” (but only to the friends who will curse me in good humor).

    * Like, I’m not really an “introvert”. I socialize quite well and handily, it’s all the the other stuff that presses in to slowly make large social or work gatherings intolerable (the “noise”, like motion, verbal noise, noise from people moving around, people moving in my periphery, groups larger than 5-10 are the worst, but sunlight is the cake topper of my banes).

  35. tmtvl says:

    I’ve done kung fu for… over a decade I think? (Time flies.) And I just can’t stop doing some training any time I need to sit still for a while, so I’ve got moving about covered (don’t need much space for some footwork). And while I do miss the social interaction from training in a group it’s not a big deal to wait until all the vaccinating gets done. Being patient for a year or 3-4 is a small thing in a lifetime of 70 years.

  36. Rariow says:

    I’ve always considered myself a pretty massive introvert, but the pandemic has finally cracked through that. Tomorrow is 13 months since I’ve been to work at the office, and I’m officially starting to feel cabin fever. I’m sick of my room and my desk, where I’ve probably spent about 12 hours a day for over a year now. I live with my parents, and my dad’s health is fragile at the moment, so I’ve left the house as little as humanly possible because giving him The Virus would be a disaster. It’s really grinding down on me – it’s not really that I miss people (I chat with friends on the Internet a lot), I’m just sick of my house. It’s actually had a pretty significant effect on my mental well being, I’ve been constantly in an awful mood, and I’ve started fixating on and getting irrationally angry about weird details of my room. The point where I broke and said enough is enough is when I got really upset about a tiny crack in my desk that’s been there for years. I’ve been cautiously taking nature walks where I’m unlikely to meet anyone, and it’s really helped. I used to never go out walking without a purpose (going to buy one item at a time at a shop is more relatable than I would like to admit), but now I’ve started really looking forward to these and missing them when I don’t go for a day. I really never expected to have trouble with the quarantine, and the first 10 months or so were heaven, but I guess even homebodies need to go outside sometimes.

  37. MaxEd says:

    One advantage to living in a soviet block is that we have several medium-sized supermarkets nearby, so we never have to drive to shop for groceries, which means it actually makes sense to buy a little every other day. Also, we can’t place a huge American fridge anywhere in our kitchen, so “buy food at the Big Box Store for several weeks” is never an option anyway – there is nowhere to store it.

    Our company went to work from home scheme from the last April, and THIS is what I’m happy about. It’s not that I don’t like our office, or talking with other guys during the launch, but I HATE commute. The only way to make it to my office in time is to take the subway, but I dislike doing it, mostly because of noise (my ears are over-sensitive for whatever reason) and crowds. On the other hand, now I can’t find time to read – I used to do it on the subway…

  38. PowerGrout says:

    Shamus, did anyone ever mention in your general direction? I see you dabbling with Satis/Factorio recently but don’t see any mentions of this very ‘distilled’ derivative in the last few posts worth of comments.
    I’m not mega invested in it or anything.
    That’s all, keep having a ‘good’ pandemic! ; )

  39. Leeward says:

    Can totally relate to thriving. I normally would walk to work and call that my daily exercise. Then pandemic happened and I’d go 2 months without going outside. Had to buy some exercise equipment to be less of a blob, but weeks when I don’t see the sun are still the more common type.

  40. Mr. Wolf says:

    Australia is doing fine. The government is arguing over how to distribute vaccines, but there are so few active cases that day-to-day life is more or less normal. Hell, I just bought tickets to the cinema! How many places in the world can you do that right now?

    As for last year, I can’t say it affected my life very much but I resented it nevertheless. I wasn’t planning on doing “the things”, so not doing them isn’t a big deal. I did however, dislike losing the option of doing “the things”. Freedom is a key ingredient to happiness, and losing freedoms is painful.

    I don’t blame the government – I don’t blame anybody. These circumstances came about by pure chance and the actions taken were for the safety of everybody. So I complied, and wistfully thought of the things I might, possibly, maybe, want to do sometime in the undefined future.

    Re: improperly fitted masks
    Every time I saw somebody wearing their mask incorrectly I had to resist the urge to ask them why they’re walking around with their dick out, because that’s the mental image that their lack of hygiene gave.

  41. Fortunately/Unfortunately, I work in an Amazon Fulfillment center, so my daily grind remained entirely unaffected…until working in an overcrowded warehouse with lip-service level safety precautions lead to the inevitable. Even getting covid though was mercifully easy to deal with. A couple days of a runny nose and a barely sore throat in exchange for two weeks paid vacation…which ended up extending to three because their internal system for processing my return to work is indicative of their fantastic ineptitude.

    That being said, those two-then-three weeks off ended up being reaaaally taxing for one key reason: laundry. My only access to clean clothes – my local laundromat – was now a no go. Turns out I’m fine being cooped up in my apartment, but I’m significantly less fine when I don’t have clean undies to wear! That was a good long time of not fun.

    Aside from the that, the only affect the pandemic has had is increasing the amount of mandatory overtime as online fullfillment took over the load for…the entirety of the world. When I started, spring was typically when voluntary time off would be at it’s highest, but this will be the fifth week straight of five ten hour days. It wears on ya.

  42. Aussie Bogan says:

    I also hate the look of people wearing masks that don’t cover their nose.

    In Australia, we say it looks remarkably similar to someone wearing a pair of speedos with their penis hanging out.

  43. Paul Spooner says:

    My temperament (leaning toward introverted) and my family (wife and seven children) ensure that I have no lack of social contact. I never really went out before the pandemic anyway, and I was able to work from home, so it was a lot harder on my wife than for me, since she couldn’t see her friends for months. Then I was laid off, only for a few weeks before I found a new position, but it was pretty harrowing. Then, just a couple months ago, my brother decided to move his family to another state, and we took the opportunity to go with him. Still haven’t found a job, so I’m beginning to doubt that this was a good idea. The upside is the state we’re in now has a pretty sparse population, so the COVID restrictions aren’t particularly oppressive.

  44. DaveMc says:

    Loving the incredibly consistent theme in these comments:

    “Hey, I’m an introvert, too! Let’s not get together so we can not talk about it!”

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