Matt Hackmann


The thoughts and goings-on of some programmer dude.

The Corona Report - Day 881

Yes, I verified that number, it's accurate. Over three bloody years into this. And, for three bloody years, somehow Kayla and I have avoided to catching this thing. Even with the reintroduction of travel, trips to Disneyland, and going to restaurants all during both the delta and omicron waves, it seems we're impervious. Sure, we're still good about masking and we're both triple vaxxed, but you'd assume at some point it'd catch up with us.

You can go ahead and change all the verbs in the above paragraph to past-tense, because it did catch up... at least for me.

Last week, during the SurveyMonkey summer company shutdown, Kayla and I treated ourselves to a short cruise to get away from it all before we both returned to work (end of summer break for her). Now, we'd gone on a longer cruise as part of our honeymoon in December, a much longer cruise on a larger boat right as omicron was beginning its meteoric rise. And yet, we somehow escaped that one unscathed, despite the fact that I kept referring it to as the "COVID Cruise"; I was convinced we were going to come away infected. Perhaps its because our booster vax was still fresh in our veins, or perhaps its because mask enforcement was still a thing on cruises at the time, but we walked off that boat with clean bills of health. Whatever the reason, I actually hadn't given that much thought to the "COVID Cruise" joke this time around, despite raised infection rates due to the BA.4/5 variants of omicron currently floating around. But, given the timing of appearance of my symptoms, I most definitely caught it while we were there.

Oddly enough, Kayla is still as-of-yet unnaffected despite the fact that we were pretty much in the same places all the time.

Originally, I thought I had caught something else. I was doing daily self-tests coming off the boat, and those were all turning up negative. I'd spent Saturday helping Kayla pull her classroom together, which, after months of non-occupancy, had become quite stale and dusty. I'm allergic to dust and some of the symptoms lined up. Going into Sunday evening, however, I had that familiar feeling of being internally too warm. A quick IR blip of my forehead confirmed that my temperature as a bit north of where it should have been. Despite my negative test that morning, I decided I'd do one more test that evening.

A deep swab of the nostrils (I'm a masochist), a swish in the test juice, and four drips onto the test pad. Set timer for twenty minutes...

There it was. EXTERMELY faint such that I needed a flashlight to confirm for sure, but the second line was indeed there. I had Kayla confirm as well and then started going through the mental exercises of "oh god, what do we need to do?" Should I isolate? I should isolate. But Kayla's already been hanging around me and should've caught it from the same place I did. She was about to go back to school and be around the public at large, should she go ahead and call out sick? We decided that she would take another test and, if it was negative, I'd isolate and we'd both test again in the morning to determine if I had a false positive and if she was good to head to work.

She tested negative, and, after a slightly tearful "good bye", I resigned myself to the guest bedroom. Luckily, we'd just refurnished it in anticipation of my sister visiting, so I'd have a comfy bed and a TV. Quite cush, really. However, the fever continued to rise, hovering just under 102, and I never really got sleep. Morning came and we did our tests. Kayla once again was negative, I was very definitely positive. I guess my nose was now holding more viral load.

That's pretty much been my life for the last nearly twenty-four hours. I've watched untold amounts of long-form video essays on YouTube and still haven't really slept. My fever broke for just a bit this evening, but now seems to be coming back. The only real down-side (outside of not being able to be around my wife) is the fact that we did not plan meals with the anticipation that I would be at home this week. That's meant a lot of trail and chex mix for me throughout the day. It's definitely gotten old, but I didn't really feel like trying to be clever and cook something either.

So, this is my prison for the remainder of the week. Maybe I'll finish playing Ace Attorney Chronicles. Maybe I'll finish reading Dune. Too bad I won't be able to tell my intern "buh bye" in person, as it's his last week. Despite the fact that I tried to rest today, I'll probably be back WFH'ing tomorrow.

Hopefully I can get some sleep first..

Per Annum

Some things in life are fairly constant. Sun comes up, goes down, things die, people do dumb things, and this blog will be updated no fewer than once per year. And no greater.

Oh dear me, another year, another letter to myself.

I don't blame you for getting everything about 2020 wrong (except where it counted). Everybody did. I want to be optimistic about this year, but also want to keep that tempered in reality.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: you're gonna marry Kayla. With any luck, the pandemic cooperates enough to have a lovely little wedding and a lovely little getaway to Hawaii. Be sure to get down to 200lbs and have a sweet beach bod before you go, though. Thaaaaanks.

Still no reason to believe that you'll be gone from SurveyMonkey by the time you read this. Staff eng? I dunno... some days it sounds nice, some days it sounds like more pain than its worth. Pricing pages have gotten old and I don't know if I want that to be the feather in my cap or if it'd even be enough of a feather. I can do more good elsewhere.

Other things I'd like for you to achieve this year:

  • Finish the SNES boombox and any/all Hakk's Lab videos that would come with that.
  • Get back into running, at least a little. It fucking sucks, but it also works. If you can half-marathon, awesome. I'll settle for a 10k, though.
  • Complete one piece of woodworked furniture, don't care what it is.
  • Go to Disneyland. Really, that's out of your control, but hey.
  • Figure out the damned random blue screening of this computer...

Okay, so that's my letter to you in the most New Year's Resolution form it's ever taken. Have a good 2021, buddy. I'll be you on the other side.

This letter took an interesting form over previous years. Indeed, it really devolved into a "honey do" list for myself. But, what do you even write after a year like 2020? This, I guess. That list is entirely useless, too; due to how FutureMe's email system works, after that letter is written, it waits in the ether until it arrives in my inbox one year later.

But on to the itemized commentary of said letter's comments.

Kayla and I did indeed get married, and very nearly everybody we invited attended in a lovely little ceremony and get together. So much of our year was laser focused on all the bits and bobs that go into making the wedding machine chooch, that I find myself almost at a loss on what to do with time now. Doubly so since the hooneymoon is now officially over. To that point, we were able to lounge the beaches of Kauai, one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen on planet Earth (sorry, Bend). I've made the joke a few times to people and I'll leave it here for my own posterity: I didn't know nature came in those colors. It's liked the big man opened Photoshop and cranked up with saturation and said "yeah... that'll do nicely". After the Hawaii trip, we spent the week leading into Christmas on a cruise ship, avoiding COVID while enjoying the relaxation of having all your whims tended to. Once back in port, we made our way over to Disneyland to spend the actual holiday. It was cold and rainy and probably the closest thing to "seasonal" that you'll see in southern California. This wasn't too much of an issue as far as attending the parks, though, as I'd set up a surprise stay at the Grand Californian hotel on property, complete with a "secret" entrance right from the hotel into California Adventure. It really made that whole experience a little more special and much more relaxing, a great way to cap the end of the beginning of the end of my life.

If last year was the year I lost the staple of "let's theorize about the future of my love life" that's been part of these letters, then this year I lost the staple that was "maybe this is the year for staff eng". After taking the engineering lead position on a project that lasted pretty much the first half of the year, I apparently proved to the suits above me that my work is deserving of that "Staff Engineer" label. It hasn't necessarily changed the things that I do day-to-day, but I do have a new sense of pressure on myself because people _do_ notice the title and I feel like it has changed the nature of coworker interactions, especially for folks I've not interacted with. Or that's in my head. One thing I'm looking forward to changing is the work from home situation. Again, I'm very thankful that my job is such that I can achieve these things from my own house, but my brain needs that mental separation of "work there, live here" that I'm currently not afforded. Supposedly, the office will be opening back up again in two or three weeks, but with the introduction of COVID-19 v3, we'll see.

Okay, let's hit that list of things to achieve and see how I scored:

  1. Not part of the list list, but I mentioned (again) hitting 200lbs. Didn't achieve that this year, but I managed to fall from my Christmas high of 236lb fairly quickly last year and settled in around 217lb going into this Christmas season. I did put on cookie/booze weight, but ten pounds fewer than last year.
  2. Nope. Hakk's lab made zero progress this year. Still have projects, still have scripts, have even more cool camera equipment and access to the nifty tools in the maker space I belong to. Oh, I guess there was that GBA unboxing video I made for Tiktok, but those GBAs are sitting mostly unfixed and unloved at this point, just waiting for their time on camera. Really, my free time efforts were entirely thrown at the wedding and resting from throwing effort at the wedding. I'll really have to do a post on all the things we made for that as it was quite a lot.
  3. I did do quite a lot of running last year, especially in the latter half of it. Accordingly to Strava, I logged nearly 130 miles ran. While I never did anything longer than 4mi, I was doing 5k up to a couple times a week, even an in person race! And while my speed remains shit, and I have a hard time in distance, I've gotten to a point where I don't hate running. Not sure I'd say I enjoy it... y'know, I might actually enjoy it. That's progress!
  4. I actually did this one! I built myself a shelf to hold my record player and records. It's nothing super spectacular and there are some... off measurements here and there, but it works well and I'm actually fairly proud of it. The first of many things, I hope!
  5. Been to Disneyland lots. Went for their outdoor only food fest in March, went for my birthday after they reopened, and we're card carrying members again as of , with trips lined up for the next three months. We've got a lot of Disney to cram in before wee ones enter the picture and make that a trickier situation.
  6. The blue screening computer was an odd item to add to the list. I built this machine in 2017 for video editing and it had the most random blue screening problems. It often happened while using Adobe products, but sometimes it didn't happen for months at a time. I guess when I wrote that letter, the issue was rearing its head again. Well, I did find the root of the problem and it turns out I had a bad stick of RAM. New RAM, not a single problem since. Yaaayyy...

Okay, so that's my look back at my look forward of 2021. What will 2022 bring? Probably 2022 new versions of COVID from the petri dish of an unvaccinated install base of humans...

The Corona Report Day 292 - Past Me Can Only Be Wrong

Per annual, I recently received a letter from my former and younger self. I've been anticipating this one, because... well, didn't really see 2020 coming (eye pun intended).

Dear FutureMe,

Well, that was one hell of a 2019, with 2020 looking even crazier (but in a good way). From my vantage point, these are the big ticket items:

A lot of things lined up for you and Kayla. The cruise should be fun, hopefully not a repeat of her previous cruise experience. Japan via Hawaii had damn well better have happened; it's been far too long since I've been back. Just hope Kayla enjoys Tokyo even a fraction as much as we do. But speaking of you and Kayla, barring anything cataclysmic happening (god, I hope not), she should be your fiance when you read this. I've got a few ideas about the proposal already (Disneyland or her birthday in August, maybe a beach-side proposal in Hawaii), but I'm curious to know how you'll have approach it. Don't do it half assed, but don't make a spectacle.

Assuming SurveyMonkey doesn't go under, you'll still be there and probably on growth. If you play your cards right, maybe a Staff Eng? Will be curious to see if Salesforce makes a move...

In theory, you'll have run definitely one half-marathon, but potentially two if Dennis comes through on his word. I'm hoping you'll have figured out a good workout routine and have broken the 200lb barrier. Do it for me; I worked damn hard this year to get this close.

You'll have probably put out at least one episode of Hakk's lab, the one about the SNES boombox. The house is still a mess at this point, but I'm ready to pounce on that very soon. If things get into a good cadence, maybe a few episodes? Try breaking the 1000 subs barrier this year. That'd be dope.

Okay, getting wordy. I'm not going to leave a cryptic message at the end of this one, because nothing's gonna happen.

Don't fuck up 2020!

(Trump won't get re-elected, btw. Drinking a bottle of cabsav for me if I'm right)

Before I get into the ranting, I should say I'm thankful for what I did have in 2020; namely my own health, the health of my friends and family, a very stable job, and the greatest lady I could wish for to weather out a pandemic with. Okay, that was important to say and now I've said it.

Good god, right out of the gate. "2020 looking even crazier", but it definitely wasn't in a good way. I mean, there were definitely some very high points that I'll remember for the rest of my life, but ugh... What's the opposite of prophetic? And I accidentally turn phrases like this not once, nor twice, but three times over the course of this letter. Shall we get into it?

It's a strange thing to be in this position I am now, writing this usual letter, because it always starts off with "hur hur, how's Matt's love life?" and now I'm in a committed relationship. In fact, one of the two things I actually got right in my future gazing was that we'd exit the year engaged. Arguably, a lot of that happening was in my court. Indeed, on April 12th in front of a green screen in one of the spare bedrooms, I popped on one knee and asked the question (for posterity, she said "yes"). Before that, we did get our cruise to the Bahamas and, even though I was clearly set on it when I wrote this letter, my actual decision to ask Kayla to marry me was made on that trip. Good thing we snuck that in, because it wasn't a month later and shelter-in-place happened and we've not been able to hit a single other thing mentioned in that list. Love that line about "barring anything cataclysmic happening"... I yearn for Disneyland, now nine months closed. I yearn for Hawaii, a place I've never been to. And, of course, I want to return to Japan. Hawaii was in the cards for our honeymoon (bought and paid for), but the ongoing pandemic forced us to push the whole wedding thing to the end of the year... so we hopefully will be chilling on a beach while everybody else is eating turkey and cranberry sauce. And maybe we can go to Disneyland again. Funny the attachment I've developed for the place considering I first went in 2019 (with Kayla, to be fair).

SurveyMonkey's doing fine and I'm more or less where I was, though I've stumbled onto a different growth focus and somewhat different team while at it. I'm being considered a technical lead there, but haven't cracked the Staff Engineer nut quite yet. And there's absolutely no basis for the Salesforce comment. I don't have material information like that and, obviously, you shouldn't trade on anything I say. It's pure speculation on my part, but an acquisition wouldn't be that surprising. I'd prefer it to be MSFT, though, and get roped back into the fold... (again, speculation).

Nope, no half marathons. Once the RunDisney thing got cancelled, I more or less just stopped running. Work from home also threw a bit of a wrench into my exercise routine. Most of my exercise had been done at the office and was quite routine, but that kind of went away with the routine of going to work. Kayla and I invested in a Peloton bike in early summer and that helped get things into a better situation. In addition to that, I got some resistance bands to try and replace the free weights I no longer had access to and also try to get in long walks a couple times a week. Not quite what I'd been doing in 2019 where I was just boredom'ing away free time with random power excursions, but the last third of the year was pretty good. I was making meaningful weight loss again and feeling pretty good... only to literally gain it all back as cookies and beer weight in December. For real. On December 3rd, I weighed in at 221lb (my lowest number since March) and when I stepped on the scale yesterday was at 237lb. Ooops. That 200lb goal is still in place, then, though I'd like to hit that in time for the wedding. Gonna kickstart that this month by going dry, closing my exercise rings every day, and avoiding sweet treats.

Hakk's Lab is 1.5 years without a new episode at this point. I've got projects in flight, I've got scripts written, just haven't shot anything. Some of that can be attributed to the shift away from personal projects to wedding planning/DIY when we're still operating towards our original wedding date of February 13th. Some of that is good ol' perfectionist procrastination on my part. Some of that is I'd rather just hang out with my fiance. I'd like to make more headway on that this year, the SNES boombox at the very least. Once kids enter the picture, it's going to be much harder to pour any kind of time into these endeavors. Though, with a baby chest holster, editing and coding would still be possible...

"Don't fuck up 2020!"... Three strikes, you're out.

Lastly, I was correct in my election call, though not as cush in margins as I would have liked. And, I couldn't have predicted the nonsense train that happened afterwards. You get a secure feeling in the structure of your government when those acting in it at least try to have an outward appearance of civility. Still, when inauguration day chimes in and the power is officially transferred, I do have a bet to call in...

The Corona Report Day 230 - Fuck, whut?

I just went back and re-read my previous posts on the COVID pandemic from what seems like an eternity ago. That I at least partially seriously believed I could pump out a pandemic related post per day until the whole thing was over is laughable at this point. At that point, the relevance of masks hadn't been figured out and the global death count was likely lower than where the States is right now. Jesus.

So, yeah. It's been over half a year since my last post and, at this point, living in pandemic world is just normal life. You wear a mask when you go out, you work from from home and don't really see your friends anymore, and you wait and watch with trepidation to see what the next thing that's going to open up will be. As of this writing, the Bay Area has some dining (indoor and out) open as well as theaters and some outdoor rec. This is nice, because it allows Kayla and I some respite from the house once every other week or so. It feels weird at best and wrong at worst to be going out and doing these things, but I feel we're taking the right level of precaution to keep ourselves and others safe. Words I may eat later, but there it is.

But, 2020 has now become a bit of a meme, and if you thought that the Great COVID-19 Pandemic was the only thing going on, you'd be quite wrong. Over the summer, there were the protests (most non-violent, but also the ones that were) over police brutality that finally put some things into perspective for me. The lightning storm I delighted in one morning turned out to be the literal spark that caught the areas around us on fire, including the areas around where Kayla's parents live, so that was a thing that needed to be handled. And, of course, in the middle of all of this, it's an election year, which has been occupying more time in my brain than I'd honestly like it to.

Prior to 2016, I stayed away from politics as much as I possibly could. I even laid out my grand vision for "not voting is a vote" to somebody on a date that year which, in retrospect, looks mighty ignorant on my part. But after watching those in power demonstrate that they are actually an evil movie villain and the people who blindingly worship said people, I feel a real and genuine fear. Around the last presidential election, I got into a spirited debate with one of my best friends about what a corrupt president could actually do, myself taking the side of "checks and balances will keep the ship sailing in mostly the correct direction." Over the last four years, I've watched those checks and balances be side stepped or strong armed into doing the bidding of an individual and then that individual creating social unrest among those who worship him based on the color of his flag. It's basically destroyed what trust I had in our government's core structure and I yearn for what we had before or, at least, what I perceived we had. But, I'm afraid it's going to take a very very long time to weed through that. And god knows what's going to happen on election day and the days immediately following...

In lighter news, I'm getting married. That's kind of a big deal. Of course, planning a wedding in the middle of a big 'ol pandemic is an interesting thing. We've met very few folks face to face, missed out on any wedding fairs, and are basically laying out concrete plans knowing that everything might backslide and we'll have an event nobody can attend. Still, you get an appreciation for the art of pulling together such an event and it makes me realize what an ungrateful asshole I probably came off as to the various weddings I've attended... But, our wedding will be great. Outside of legally binding myself to the person I love most in the world, it'll be cutely decorated with a million DIY projects we're currently pulling together and, of course, a full bar. There won't be too many guests, which is good because pandemic, but it'll be a great group of people and I'm excited to party with them and celebrate a life milestone that, for a while, I didn't think I'd actually achieve.

It seems my glass of gin and tonic has emptied and, so too, the words that I'm going to write in this post. It's really hard to summarize all the things that have happened between now and my early April posts because it's a fluid future we're moving through. I think once we get past Tuesday and whatever shenanigans come from that, I'll be a little better. Depending on how it goes, of course.

Worse comes to worse, Animal Crossing is still there for me.

The Corona Report - 'Sweet Jesus, that was two weeks ago'

For as slow as time has felt lately, I was genuinely surprised to see that the last time I wrote one of these posts was, indeed, in the vicinity of two weeks ago. Feels like not that long ago but also like a lifetime or two ago.

As I type this, I wrap up week three of working at home. I've more or less settled into a simple routine. It follows such:

  1. Around 7-8a, begin the process of waking up. I like to wake up with cuddles, but to each their own.
  2. Once awoken and cuddled, Animal Crossing commences in bed for a brief period. I'll talk more about the game later, but this is mostly to assess the situation at Nook's: hot item, turnip prices, the usual.
  3. Showers and teeth and whatever generally happen afterwards and then breakfast. This week, I've been binging on sugary cereal. Honestly, a big mistake, because I could eat an entire box in a sitting...
  4. Once that ritual is done, I make a coffee and we "go to work"... about fifteen feet from where everything else has taken place. We generally try to start working around 8:30a, but it's pretty easy to be lazy when you don't have to contend with a morning commute. This week especially, since Kayla's on spring break, I've been started more around 9a...
  5. "At work", I just work. Honestly, even though I'm at my own desk in my own house, when I'm in work mode, it feels like I'm "at" work. If I've not said it before, I'm damn lucky that my job is almost entirely unaffected by this work from home world we currently live in. The lack of in person face time with my coworkers is a massive bummer, but I still get to chat with them online. This is something I'm comfortable with as I've fostered many long distance friendships entirely over chatroom.
  6. Around noon, we generally break for lunch. Lately, I've been blowing through some homemade pizza dough I've had in the freezer for a few months. Not only is a tiny pizza for lunch cute as shit, it's also delicious. I can put whatever leftover toppings on that I want. Barbecue chicken, ranch dressing, fancy cheese, carnitas, taco sauce. I've not had a dud yet. To go with food, Kayla and I have taken to watching an episode or two of a show or, since it came out, yet more Animal Crossing.
  7. By 1p, it's back to work until 3:30-4p. A coworker of mine has setup a recurring 3p meeting for our team to talk about whatever, a digital replacement for yelling over the desk divider. I've come to enjoy that as it adds a little bit of spice and levity to the isolation.
  8. After work, we try to get in some sort of outside time. Walks, bike rides, running after Kayla while she bike rides, these have all been done. I'm super comfortable with walking, so if I'm off on my own, I try to push the mileage and speed up. It's cathartic and adds in that nice break that otherwise would have been the commute back from the office.

After that, it's more or less business as usual. Make dinner, play Animal Crossing, watch a show, play Animal Crossing, eat ice cream and probably play Animal Crossing at the same time.

...gonna have to write about Animal Crossing in my next post, methinks...

Really, that just reads as any old day, as far as a weekday goes. The only real difference is lack of travel and location. And I like it that way; helps keep my context of what needs to be done properly framed.

We have also formed a little bit of routine for the weekend. Generally on Saturday, we'll make a run to the store for groceries, per usual. The stock levels in stores has mostly levelled out, though TP still proves to be elusive. Actually being in the stores is a little weird, being much emptier than usual and, thus, quieter. Makes it a little eerie, especially with people largely avoiding each other and walking around with masks (which only feels weird being America; I got pretty used to seeing the masks in my trips to Japan). We also use this time out to "eat out", meaning grab take out from some fast food type establishment. It's the only real outing we have during the week as far as going to social centers is concerned.

Outside activity is generally on the plate for the weekend, as well. I guess we've gone on a hike once... okay, I think that may have been it. And I swear, it was much harder social distancing on that hike than it's been at any store due to the amount of people. Even the house park has seen a massive uptick in folks wandering around, that I've noticed. It's good to see.

Yeah, that was a long ass post. This is pretty much going to be my life for the weeks to come as I don't see people being allowed to re-emerge for another couple months. And then we'll probably have to do it again when the second wave of infections starts..., I miss Disneyland...