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As we all know, the world has been gripped by a pandemic since the winter / early spring of 2020. The high infection and mortality rates of the novel caronavirus and its associated disease, COVID-19, lead to a mass panic that resulted in governments all over the world completely shutting down economies and recommending social distancing measures intended to mitigate the spread of the disease long enough to get it under control. This seemed to work up through April, when declining cases and general public boredness and frustration lead to the premature re-opening of businesses, and a few weeks later we started seeing huge increases in cases. As a society, we put money before the life and dignity of people, and tens of thousands of people have unnecessarily died because people couldn't wait three more weeks before going to the hair solon or the beach.

I wanted to write about the pandemic back during the height of the lockdown in April, but I kept putting it off until it seemed like a resolution was in sight. I didn't want to publish my thoughts on the issue until I actually knew how it would all turn out, and whether or not I would be personally affected by it. But now it appears that we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic, and the general public and our political leaders have seemingly lost all will to take any meaningful steps to deal with it. I guess now is as good a time as any to start talking about it.

The Las Vegas Strip was shut down for over a month. Shortly after it re-opened, casino workers started getting sick.

I want to talk about the broader socio-political impacts of the pandemic, but I want to take more time to get my thoughts together and do the proper research to make sure I get the facts right. So I'll be writing later about the lessons that I think society (American society more specifically) should have learned from this pandemic (but apparently didn't). First, I'm going to write about the impacts that the pandemic had on me, personally -- which (admittedly) isn't particularly dramatic.

We had a couple of minor scares, but they all turned out to be false alarms. Early in the pandemic, a friend had cold or flu-like symptoms within a day of us having her husband over. Turned out, she just had tonsillitis. Though a regular cold seems to have gone around their house a couple times over the months of the pandemic. We had another friend who works in a local supermarket and had a co-worker test positive for COVID. Her and her roommates all had tests and all came back negative, thankfully. I also had a couple work colleagues who had direct business contacts who got sick and tested positive, though none of my colleagues ever showed symptoms. As I said, multiple close calls.

Commuting from the Bedroom to the Living Room

Unlike many people who were furloughed or laid off, I was fortunate enough to keep my job and be able to work from home during the lockdowns. We were scheduled to re-open the office in mid-July, but the resurgence in local cases prompted our boss to keep everyone working from home indefinitely until new cases drop again. It was a good call.

Many of my friends and family weren't as lucky. I had several friends get furloughed, and most of them ended up being permanently laid off. My mom was also furloughed, and she does not expect to go back to work. Well, I guess she gets an early retirement. My sister also works in a health clinic, so was an essential worker who was potentially at high risk. Her clinic shortened its hours and only takes patients by appointment, so it wasn't nearly as stressful or dangerous as it could have been if she had been working at a hospital, but she still had a very rough few months.

Thankfully, I had my partner and proxy-daughter to keep me company while locked down in work-from-home mode. As for my partner, she's a teacher and was doing the whole tele-education thing over Google classroom, phone calls, and emails for the few weeks that were left in the school year. Then she got the summer off anyway, so she was even less impacted than I was. She was going to have paid vacation for the whole summer anyway. As for what's going to happen when the 2020 school year starts ... that's still up in the air as of the time of this publication. Our local school district has a plan for re-opening, but it's not ideal. I don't think any plan would be ideal in this situation. It's just all different degrees of bad.

Public schools are the last thing we should be re-opening during a pandemic.

This isn't the first time I've worked from home for a long stretch of time. About 10 years ago, the first company that I worked for was slowly going broke. One of our largest clients decided not to renew a software and consulting contract that we had maintained with them for years, which forced our company to close its office, lay off most employees, and had the few of us left over having to work from home on other small contract projects. That went on for about 8 or 10 months before the company finally went under, with me collecting unemployment off and on when I didn't have a contract project to work on. It got awfully lonely sitting around my empty house at the time, but thankfully I was getting regular socialization from weekly or bi-weekly board game nights. At the time, I had two different groups of friends who were addicted to the Battlestar Galactica board game, and I was playing a game with one group or the other (or members of both groups) almost every week -- sometimes multiple times per week!

This time, however, my social interactions were limited almost exclusively to my partner and her kid, and one family of neighbors who chose us as the one "safe" contact that they were willing to have during the pandemic in order to avoid going stir crazy. Sadly, they do not play tabletop games. My partner and I both have elderly grandparents, as well as some other friends and family with underlying health conditions. We took the social distancing guidelines very seriously at first so as not to risk spreading the disease to our loved ones who are particularly susceptible. As time has gone on, we've been slowly broadening our "safe" social circle.

In any case, deadly pandemic aside, I have been thoroughly enjoying all the extra free time. Even though I have been working remotely from home, the simple fact of being at home has opened up a lot of extra free time. First and foremost, it saves me from the daily commute to and from the office, which feels like it basically adds about two whole hours to each weekday. Another huge perk of working from home is the efficiency with which chores can get done. It's easy to take a mental break or step away for a few minutes during compile-time in order to load the dishwasher or laundry or to tidy up around the house, then get back to work.

Pandemic or not, we should have "work-from-home month" every year!

More time for personal projects?

Viewers of my YouTube channel probably noticed that all the extra "me time" translated to the prolific production of new video content. I had been releasing video content at the rate of about one every month or month-and-a-half, but I popped out four whole videos (and a few Patron-exclusive previews) between mid-March and the end of April. I took the extra time to put together some shorter, more impromptu videos that I would likely not have otherwise taken the time to create. But then I went back to working on bigger, longer projects, and I'm back to a schedule of roughly one video per month.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, I had to put some other projects on the back-burner. I had planned on writing reviews of some new board games and expansions, but the social distancing measures of the lockdown meant that my regular tabletop gaming activities were on indefinite hiatus. I had wanted to review the huge ships and Epic Battles expansion for Star Wars: X-Wing Second Edition, as well as some of the expansions for Star Wars: Armada (including the Super Star Destroyer expansion). But since I couldn't get my usual groups together to play those games, I had to settle on reviewing the open alpha for X-Wing's solo rules. Hopefully I'll get to the other content later in the fall, assuming that we don't get stuck with a second round of quarantine lockdowns as cold and flu season starts back up.

There were a few other board games that I had wanted to review. I was finally hoping to get reviews of the expansion content of Sails of Glory, which has been sitting as an incomplete partial draft for about three years now due to a lack of opportunity to play. It's not that it's a bad game, it's just that Napoleonic sailing ships just isn't a theme that appeals to most of my game-playing friends, who almost exclusively prefer sci-fi or fantasy themes for their games. I was excited that I had finally found a couple of people who were actually interested in Sails of Glory -- one of which is a colleague at work, and the other is a co-worker of my partner. I played one learning game with each of them, they both liked the game (both of which having inherent interests in military history and/or sailing), and we were planning on meeting up to play the expansion content in the near-term future when the pandemic finally started spreading in the U.S. and the quarantines became imminent.

Social distancing put table-top gaming on the back-burner for several months,
but I still played a few games with my partner.

The makers of Photosynthesis (which I quite like) released a new game called Planet that I wanted to review as well. I played one or two small test games back in the winter, but not enough to warrant a full review. My initial impressions are that Planet is not nearly as good as Photosynthesis. It seems much simpler and lacks the strategy and forward-thinking that helps make Photosynthesis so good for both children and adults. And it's certainly not nearly as pretty as Photosynthesis, nor does it seem to have the same level of educational appeal. But I'd like to play a few more games with larger groups before I commit to a review.

As for video games, I played some Civ VI and have been re-playing Fallout: New Vegas in preparation for the Steam release of The Outer Worlds later this year. So I haven't had many video game reviews over this time because I've been trying to catch up on games that take a long time to play.

My partner has been practicing her sewing skills by trying to learn to make facemasks. So she's been doing much more practical personal projects than I have.

All the extra time at home also meant that we were able to work more persistently on correcting some of the remaining problem behavior from our dog. We were able to more often catch her in the act, and were able to discipline her immediately, as well as being able to reinforce good behavior. I may write more about our experiences training the dog during the lockdown at a later date.

This doggy was very happy to have her humans home full-time.

An on-going situation

All in all, we were fortunate so far to have had a mostly uneventful lockdown [so far]. I am not aware of anyone I personally know having gotten sick to date, but we have heard a couple stories of someone we know who knows someone who tested positive or who died -- usually a co-worker. Unfortunately, the end appears to be nowhere in sight. A vaccine is unlikely to be available for another year -- if ever -- and cases nationally are sky-rocketing due to the lifting of official restrictions. Some states are seeing thousands of new cases being reported daily. It seems that further business closures will be necessary to stem the tide, but I'm not sure if our political leaders have the will to sacrifice economic health in order to preserve public health.

School is supposed to return to session in a month, which is a terrifying prospect for both public well-being, and also for our household.

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A gamer's thoughts

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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